Introducing 28 Best Practices to Operate a Fitness Facility

Welcome to the Playbook for Best Practice Guidelines, an evolving product that will be the ultimate go-to resource for ensuring best practices in health and fitness club operations.

Over 40 fitness industry professionals from across the globe volunteered to help IHRSA develop an easy-to-use resource for sharing best practices on running a fitness facility.

These volunteers are some of the top minds from health clubs, gyms, studios, community fitness centers, recreation complexes, and medical providers of all shapes and sizes. In early 2020, they formed the IHRSA Standards Headlight Team, which focused on developing and launching the Active & Safe Commitment.

Subgroups of the headlight team focused on different areas to identify and share information on over 25 topics that are most useful to the fitness industry right now.

"The IHRSA Playbook for Best Practice Guidelines will be a key resource for fitness facility operators around the globe as we continue our recovery and once again thrive as an industry," says Aaron Moore Director of Operations at VIDA Fitness and IHRSA Board Member. "We encourage everyone to use this playbook as a best practices guide to perfect your existing systems and consider developing additional services, amenities, or profit centers that can make your facility even more relevant in your market."

The Playbook for Best Practice Guidelines will be a downloadable resource full of tools and templates for fitness professionals who want to learn more about a specific topic.

28 Best Practice Guidelines for Fitness Facilities

  1. Accounting & Finance

  2. Aquatics, Pools, & Hydrotherapy

  3. Children's Programming & Safety

  4. Customer Experience

  5. Customer Retention

  6. Customer Reviews

  7. Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI)

  8. Emergency Preparedness

  9. Employee Recruitment, Training, Development, & Leadership

  10. Energy Efficiency & Environmental Safety

  11. Facility Layout & Design

  12. Fitness Inclusion

  13. Food & Beverage

  14. Group Fitness

  15. Information Technology Systems

  16. Liability, Risk Management, & Security

  17. Marketing
  18. Medical Fitness

  19. Nutritional Counseling

  20. Outdoor Areas & Courts

  21. Personal Training

  22. Physical Therapy & Chiropractic Services

  23. Sales & Customer Acquisition

  24. Saunas & Steam Rooms

  25. Security

  26. Spa Services

  27. Strategic Partnerships, Advisory Groups, & Advocacy

  28. Virtual Offerings

As we release the articles and resources on these topics, we will update this page to include links for easy access.

Once every article is published, operators can read the complete playbook as an e-book from cover to cover or skip straight to the most relevant best practices.

Part of the recovery effort is the rehiring and retraining of good employees. Aaron says the IHRSA Playbook serves as an onboarding guide to ensure your new hires receive the necessary training they need to elevate the customer experience.

Developing a Playbook for a Global Fitness Industry

"Although innovation typically grabs the headlines, the very best operators in our industry balance the pursuit of new and creative ideas, with flawless execution of proven best practices," says Brent Darden of Insight to Influence, Brent Darden Consulting, and former IHRSA Interim CEO & President.

For many years, IHRSA has been a part of the committees and working groups that have developed—and continue to develop—new standards with the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) and CEN (Pan European Standards).

In July 2020, IHRSA successfully applied to be an official CEN Liaison Organization, and we will continue to work collaboratively with RESNA and CEN.

Bill McBride, president & CEO of Active Wellness & BMC3, believes the IHRSA Playbook for Best Practice Guidelines will provide valuable resources to deliver exceptional operational excellence for your members, guests, and community. He says, "It's comprehensive but not so detailed that you are in the weeds on implementation."

Introducing 28 Best Practices to Operate a Fitness Facility Column Width Listing Image

Bill shared with me a famous quote from legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." But, he says, "[Drucker] didn't mean that strategy was unimportant—but a powerful and empowering culture was a surer route to organizational success. Culture comes from who you are and how you do things."

I'm honored to be leading these efforts alongside industry leaders like Bill and Aaron. I am also grateful for all the support and contributions we're receiving from Blakely Sullivan, IHRSA's director of membership research & analytics, and our volunteers.

IHRSA would like to thank the following individuals from across the globe for their incredible support in providing valuable content for this project.

  • Chris Alexander

  • Richard Beddie

  • Paul Bedford, Ph.D.

  • Kari Bedgood

  • Michaela Brown

  • Catherine Carty

  • Jarod Cogswell

  • Larry Conner

  • Meredith DePersia

  • Sandra Dunne

  • Rudy Fabiano

  • Scott Gillespie

  • Paul Hackett

  • Cher Harris

  • Jenny Hymer

  • Aida Johnson-Rapp

  • Christine Kao

  • Alan Leach

  • Kevin McHugh

  • Addie-Claire Jones

  • Lisa Lipscomb

  • Mike Mesmer

  • Wayne Morris

  • Chris Murphy

  • Paula Neubert

  • Elaine Perhach

  • Ralph Rajs

  • Ken Reinig

  • Jari Ristola

  • Jen Poljacik

  • Mike Rucker, Ph.D.

  • Connie Ruiz

  • Pedro Ruiz

  • Eric Schmitz

  • Jeff Skeen

  • Justin Tamsett

  • Milos Toth

  • Sean Turner

  • Cheryl Ward Barnett

Lead Team:

  • Kilian Fisher

  • Bill McBride

  • Aaron Moore

  • Blakely Sullivan

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and expertise in elevating the industry. Generations of fitness professionals for years to come will benefit from your leadership.

We greatly appreciate your unwavering loyalty in continuing to grow and improve our trade association. You are all truly inspirational.

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Kilian Fisher

Kilian Fisher previously served as IHRSA's Director of International Public Affairs and Manager of the Global Health & Fitness Alliance, IHRSA's international advocacy arm.