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Small group training is one of the most powerful tools for club operators to engage members in their fitness journey. Intimate, instructor-led classes give members the focused knowledge and skills they need to reach their goals. When members feel like they are making progress, they are more likely to be satisfied with their club, visit more often and maintain or renew their memberships. It's no wonder operators are hopping on the small group training bandwagon.
Some of today's most common small group sessions use equipment, such as functional training units. They can focus on circuit-type workouts or delve into specific skills, including Pilates and kettlebells, or they delve into goals, such as ski conditioning. Classes are typically held on the perimeter of the facility or in private rooms.
"Group personal training continues to make our annual ranking of top worldwide fitness trends," said Michael C. Harper, associate director of education at The Cooper Institute, Dallas. "It gives trainers creative ways to package their sessions and market themselves, while exercisers benefit from one-on-one personal training but at a lower cost and often more efficient duration."
The specialized nature, seasonality and location of classes, however, can make it tough to attract new exercisers and sustain attendance year-round. This is leading savvy operators to bring classes to the cardio floor, the most consistently utilized part of the club. By making sessions more visible, staff can pique the interest of more members.
One of the biggest upsides of small group cardio training classes is it does not require an investment in new equipment, so trainers can use the equipment that their clubs already have. Equipment does not typically need to be moved around and around. Four to six pieces are all that is needed.
To develop programming, operators are advised to bring in equipment coaches to refresh staff on training techniques and important features.
There's no question classes held in a facility's main hub bring a wave of energy. This creates interest in the club, classes and the instructors. Classes can vary in duration, but many operators find that classes that run several weeks give the best chance to connect with members and produce the results that ensure exercisers will come back for more.
"Small group training is excellent for reaching more exercisers with less staff," Harper said. "It provides greater utilization of equipment so that exercisers know how to get more out of a workout in a shorter time frame. It's also a way for operators to distinguish their facility from the competition."
Operators starting small group cardio training are encouraged to offer a variety of courses that can be taken sequentially or at random to jump-start or improve an exerciser's routine. Personalized and progressive experiences are a great way to retain members throughout their fitness journey.
Through class diversity, operators send the message that expert-led training is not just for athletes or those under doctor's orders to begin working out. The training is for anyone who wants to have a different experience, reach new goals or get better results.
The small group setting also creates opportunities for instructors to tailor workouts to the individual exercisers in each class. This helps each student walk away with an arsenal of new techniques and tips they can take into their personal workouts.
The Mission Valley YMCA in San Diego was one of the first to extend small group cardio training to its approximately 30,000 members. Some of that training occurs on cardio equipment.
“Members love participating in expert-led workouts that help them realize their fitness goals, while trainers feel more empowered by helping members experience a completely new and different workout on a unique piece of equipment,” said Alex Ciambrone, fitness director at Mission Valley YMCA.
The classes are an effective way to bring independent cardio exercisers together into a community that shares the same interests. Exercisers are more likely to look forward to their next visit and feel an increased sense of accountability for their workouts by meeting peers and bonding with staff.
The advantages of small group cardio training are too big to ignore for operators. Having happy, engaged members in a central location is the best advertisement for your facility.
Erica Tillinghast is global education manager at Precor. A certified personal trainer, Tillinghast is responsible for developing the education that operators need to help clients get the most out of their workouts on Precor equipment. Her training videos and workouts, located in the Precor Coaching Center, are grounded in exercise science and inspired by popular trends and proven training methods. Precor recently rolled out AMT Team Fit, a small group training program that is designed for the Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT), a product that offers a low-impact workout and on which the stride length, height, resistance and motion path can be adjusted quickly.