“I consider gyms and studios to be the frontline of preventative health,” says Pam. “We need advocacy to push our industry forward as the bigger solution to our problem because regardless of where COVID came from, it's highly likely that we're going to be faced with other pandemics in the future.”
A Lesson in Changing the Conversation
One of the biggest lessons Debra and Pam have learned during their time advocating for the fitness industry is that a collective voice can be enough to change the direction of a conversation. And there’s no better time to get involved than the present.
“It’s a very, very interesting national conversation. I’ve really enjoyed the different perspectives and the different markets that are represented,” says Debra. “The fitness industry is extremely vast so you have everything from thousand square foot facilities to smaller community-based centers and everything in between. The National Health & Fitness Alliance is truly helping others understand what the market looks like across the country so we can best boil important industry issues to the top that are going to help it persevere.”
A collective voice needs collective action. Debra and Pam both emphasized how easy and worthwhile it was to get involved in industry advocacy and encourage anyone who is interested to follow in their footsteps.
It’s not enough to simply rely on the actions of others to ensure that your message is seen and heard. Pam says, “It wasn't in my mindset to sit on the sidelines and think that they [everyone else] have got this. We need to make sure that we've got ways for people to get involved so they're not standing still and lingering on mailing and emailing lists. We need to have an on-ramp and a way to organize our industry.”
If you’re stuck and need tips on how to get involved. Starting with and following your passion is the best place to begin. Debra echoed those sentiments by saying, “It's [your passion] the reason you're in this business in the first place. Reach out and find other people that are fighting the same fight or taking the same path or journey. Be a part of the overall efforts, because when you do, you will feel much more on purpose and on passion.”
Addressing the issues that matter
Anyone who is actively involved in the fitness industry knows that advocacy stems from the desire to bring awareness to the issues that matter most.
Debra believes the most pressing issue is finding more ways to bring acknowledgment to the good work the entire industry performs.
She says, “As we’ve seen throughout COVID, the best thing we could do is to be known for our importance and the good that we bring. We want to always be considered to have a legitimate seat at the table because how issues will be handled across different localities and places will be different. That's also the role of IHRSA and the National Health & Fitness Alliance—to lift the perception of the industry.”
With help from IHRSA and like-minded organizations, both women have been present during conversations happening across state alliances and hold an expert understanding of the power players involved in the constant fight to make change happen.
“I think IHRSA is a great organization and we really need to make better use of it. That's my feeling from being on the ground,” says Pam. “I knew about IHRSA but was not a member and now I'm really excited that I'm able now to participate at the state and national level and really move our industry forward. I think IHRSA is a perfect vehicle for that, and I'm excited about everything that is going on.”
Rebuilding the Industry
It’s no secret that the way we go about our day-to-day lives has been forever changed as a result of the pandemic.
On the fitness business side of things, this is also true. Owners, operators, and fitness professionals need to come together to create a strategy for renewed growth and development as we enter this new era.
Part of this strategy involves a change in the way we are communicating about the importance of regular physical activity. Pam agrees with this mentality wholeheartedly and believes it is the way forward to restore the industry to its pre-pandemic heights.
“We have to figure out how to strategize and work with experts on how we present our own public health message. We as an industry can work together to bring people back and figure out the right messaging around this,” she says.
As we continue telling people to be safe, Pam says the mind-shift the fitness industry needs to go wild with is that we want people to feel resilient.