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Why Health Clubs Need a Fitness Recovery Strategy

Post-exercise therapies are actively sought by both hard-training athletes and wellness advocates. It’s time clubs took better advantage of it.

As the wellness trend continues to make an impact on traditional health clubs, many consumers are finding the terms “mindfulness” and “self-care” in their everyday vocabulary. It’s in this category that the concept of recovery has begun to trend in mainstream health and fitness topics.

How pervasive is it? Just a few months ago, Boston Magazine confidentially predicted that recovery was poised to be the “biggest fitness trend of 2020.” The publication quoted personal trainer Michael McKinney, who summed up this new consumer obsession: “In 2020, we will see an increase in emphasizing the stress-relieving component of workouts. The amount of time we spend recovering from exercise is just as important as the amount of time spent training…”

“In 2020, we will see an increase in emphasizing the stress-relieving component of workouts.”

Michael McKinney, Personal Trainer

Then there’s Good Morning America, the highly rated morning show on ABC. Late last year they ran a segment titled, “Is Recovery the New Cardio? How taking time for yourself is taking over fitness.” In the report, GMA noted that there are studios dedicated solely to recovery, including ReCover in New York City.

Part of the increase in the interest of recovery is simply because many gymgoers are training harder. HIIT, functional training (FT), heart-zone training: these modalities can get great results but they place enormous stress on the body’s musculoskeletal and adrenal systems. This has increased awareness of the body’s need to recover before jumping into the next workout.

As Amanda Vogel writes for American Council on Exercise (ACE) publication Certified: “More fitness pros than ever are viewing exercise recovery as integrated with, not tangential to, clients’ and their own workout programs. The result is better overall performance and health.”

Fitness programming foam roller column

Of course, personal trainers and serious athletes have always understood the body’s need for recovery from hard training. This combined with the proliferation of wearables have made people more aware about their body’s reaction to stress, whether it’s from exercise or everyday pressure. But even as the awareness of the need for recovery has increased, most people still have difficulty defining it or knowing exactly what recovery is best for them.

This is where health clubs can step in. Recovery has the potential to be a perfect complement to your HIIT and FT group training, but also as a wellness stress-relief service. And, if part of a well-marketed “recovery zone,” it can become an added revenue stream.

Creating a Recovery Zone in a Health Club

So what does a recovery zone look like in a health club setting? According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), there’s two ways to go: active recovery and passive recovery.

The “post-workout cooldown” has long been a part of fitness culture and falls under active recovery. This includes stretching, foam rollers, light exercise, massage, and myofascial release, among others. Passive techniques are more in line with self-care and stress management: sauna/steam rooms, hydrotherapy, compression technology, cryotherapy, hot/cold packs, meditation, and even napping. Any recovery zone in a health club should have elements of both.

Mike Feeney is EVP of New Evolution Ventures (NeV), a high-profile player in the industry that’s innovated a number of significant chain concepts, including UFC Gyms and Crunch. He’s seen the learning curve of mainstream consumers arrive at the notion that recovery is an essential part of the workout process.

“We build fitness centers for the public with a performance-based mindset, but recovery is a hot topic for everybody these days,” says Feeney, who also helps create NFL-branded fitness centers for the public (e.g., Cowboys Fit, 49ers Fit, etc.). “People who go to health clubs know the benefits and are looking for ways to recover, whether it's a workout or a long week on the road. And as we get older, we want to find a way that can help our bodies recover quickly. Some people just want the ability to feel better.”

“People who go to health clubs know the benefits and are looking for ways to recover, whether it's a workout or a long week on the road.”

Mike Feeney, EVP

New Evolution Ventures

One of NeV’s properties, UFC Gyms, are unique environments that attract seasoned athletes as well as everyday consumers. This is line with the trend of more casual exercisers adopting the training techniques of advanced athletes, including cross-training, FT, and HIIT.

One of recovery method favored by both athletes and everyday consumers is massage therapy. But Feeney notes that there are setbacks to clubs providing massage services beyond the high cost of hiring in-house professionals.

“There may be a large amount of people who may think that getting a massage is a great benefit, but they just aren’t comfortable going to a massage therapist,” he says. “People are looking for a recovery technique like massage that’s delivered in a non-obtrusive fashion.”

The Perfect Union of Wellness Self-care & Sports Medicine Recovery

What clubs need is a turnkey solution to providing high-quality recovery techniques like massage that don’t break the bank but can become an extra amenity that moves the needle on membership recruitment and retention. Feeney says that his clubs found that with HydroMassage units.

“I have built or been involved in remodels or designs of thousands of gyms, and I would not build a club today without including HydroMassage,” he says.

Fitness programming man using hydromassage bed column

HydroMassage beds and lounges are premium recovery devices that were first utilized in rehabilitation and physical therapy facilities before finding a home in health clubs. They satisfy the need for active and passive recovery techniques, while also appealing to a wellness audience looking for self-care options for stress management.

Greg Cenatiempo, director of development for Club Fitness, is another proponent of using HydroMassage beds and lounges in his gyms. Club Fitness is an employee-owned chain of 24 clubs in the St. Louis, MO, area, and each location has HydroMassage as an added-value feature. At first, Cenatiempo says that the clubs used HydroMassage as part of a bundling strategy before realizing the members would pay a higher premium for the recovery devices.

“We had basic memberships for $10, but for $20 you got more benefits, including access to HydroMassage,” he says. “Then last year we went down to visit HydroMassage at their headquarters in Tampa. We talked to them and some other club owners and they believed that we could be charging more for our HydroMassage alone.”

Club Fitness then increased their premium membership package featuring HydroMassage to $29. It worked beautifully.

“Most of our members upgraded to the $29 membership without hesitation,” says Cenatiempo. “People are buying them all day long because of the HydroMassage benefit.”

What makes HydroMassage lounges and beds ideal for health clubs is the cost/benefit rewards and ease of use. They don’t require technicians to operate. People simply request access from the front desk staff or enter a six-digit code to activate the HydroMassage units. And besides regular cleaning, maintenance is minimal. The units have real-time monitoring and any repairs required are quickly attended to by HydroMassage’s trained staff.

Fitness programming Hydromassage logo closeup column

So durable and cost-effective are HydroMassage machines that they’re appearing in both high-traffic budget chains, along with high-performance premium clubs. And they’re still valued in medical facilities as well.

HydroMassage presents a rare opportunity for today’s clubs. It’s a wellness-focused relaxation therapy that fits in perfectly within any club’s expanding wellness and recovery services. Yet at the same time, it’s a favorite of hard-training men and women who compete in combat sports or specialize in HIIT and FT workouts.

To find out more about HydroMassage beds and lounges and how they can help you complete your recovery zone, visit their website or call them at 800-699-1008.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org