Fitness Veterans Explain How Gyms Can Attract All Generations

With 30+ years of experience between Sarah and Sal Pellegrino, their joint session at IHRSA 2023, 4 Gens by 2 Gens: How to Drive Four Generations to Your Gym, is sure to leave you with a toolbox of ideas to attract consumers of all generations.

Last June, I took the stage for the first time at IHRSA 2022, speaking on “The Value of Podcast Marketing to Create Brand Awareness.” My Dad, Sal Pellegrino, a seasoned speaker himself, was the first one to show up to the session room—the best cheerleader!

This year, we’re co-presenting a session at IHRSA 2023 in San Diego, “4 Gens by 2 Gens: How to Drive Four Generations to Your Gym.” Currently, we have four living generations that are potential customers of your fitness business:

  • Boomers,

  • Gen Y,

  • Millennials, and

  • Gen Z.

With 30+ years between my Dad—a Boomer—and myself—a Millennial—we both pay attention to various ways fitness business operators attract or, in some cases, repel specific generations. We gathered insight from the past year of interviewing the brightest fitness business operators and gathering all the data needed to ensure that your business strategy considers the generational gaps.

How I Got Into the Fitness Industry

“Are you Sal Pellegrino’s daughter?” is a question I am always proud to answer. Growing up with Sal as my Dad meant a garage full of fitness equipment, never cars. I loved waking up to the sound of the garage doors opening and him “throwing weight around” in the Pellegrino Fitness Institute.

As a 7-year-old girl, I fully understood what IHRSA was and why it was important to my Dad. My parents raised me never to be afraid to flex my biceps for a photo. From day one, I understood the importance of living a healthy life—a big piece of that meant working out.

How Gyms Can Attract All Generations Column Width

For years my volleyball teammates called my Dad “Buff Daddy” every time he walked into the gym, and my parents always opened their gym to our friends in the neighborhood! Over the years, and still, to this day, our family has gained so many close, personal friends because they were Dad’s customers. If you’re lucky enough to have worked with him, you know that he treats everyone he works with like family. Ultimately, having Sal as a Dad means I have one of the very best role models anyone could ever ask for.

Someone asked me once if I was intimidated to begin my career in fitness because I had such huge shoes to fill. My answer was that I loved having the bar set so high for Pellegrinos in this industry because it meant I’d have to work harder to be great. I knew I wanted to follow in Dad’s footsteps, but not too close, so I began my fitness career on the billing and software side.

Starting my career in billing and software is an experience I’ll forever be thankful for. For years, I had a front-row seat to the decisions that club operators are tasked with daily. When an operator chooses to switch billing and software companies, they are either growing or in pain. The complex conversations and the questions I had to ask in order to be a good partner are skills I rely on heavily in my current role as the host of The Value Proposition by The Fitness Business Podcast.

The Value Proposition is a monthly show on The Fitness Business Podcast created for industry suppliers to showcase their value to health club owners and operators beyond their product or service. Being a supplier myself for years and now representing them on the podcast are accomplishments I’m proud of. It all stems from seeing how fulfilling my Dad’s career was as a supplier in the fitness industry.

How Gyms Can Attract All Generations Column Width2

Sal Pellegrino’s Passion & Expertise for Fitness

When you think of Sal, you think of his infectious smile, willing-to-help-anyone attitude, and passion for the fitness industry. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has caught a glimpse of Sal teaching aerobics at his first health club, Jefferson Valley Racquet Club, in the early ‘80s—yes, he was actually certified in group exercise at Cooper Clinic—you know that he was serious about identifying fitness trends.

For over four decades, he shared his passion for fitness and his ability to build deep relationships, making him an incredible health club owner and fitness equipment supplier. He understands the hardship fitness operators face, and he'll go the extra mile to help anyone who needs his expertise.

He’s always learning—if you’ve witnessed him in action at an educational event, you’ve seen him voraciously taking notes and using this new information to educate the industry. He commands a room when he’s speaking, and I truly think it’s because of his unique perspective on this industry—being on both sides as an industry supplier and working directly in the gym setting.

What to Expect During Our Session at IHRSA 2023

It’s important to both of us that we review each generation’s key factors when considering a place to work out. Then, we'll dive into marketing material and follow-up methods to ensure that you are advertising and communicating with your potential members in ways they prefer based on their generation.

How Gyms Can Attract All Generations Listing Image

We’ll plan to provide programming tips all generations can benefit from and discuss supplemental support methods outside your fitness business’ walls—nutrition programs, at-home programming, and member engagement. These programming tips will ensure that each generation feels connected to your business. You'll leave this session with a toolbox of ideas to help you retain all generations and attract specific generations you're not even considering!

We hope to see you in San Diego on Monday, March 20, at 2:45 p.m. to learn more! Say hello and introduce yourself if we have yet to meet and please ask Sal if he’s Sarah Pellegrino’s Dad…that always gets him fired up!

Author avatar

Sarah Pellegrino

Sarah Pellegrino is the host of The Value Proposition by The Fitness Business Podcast.