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Small group exercise was a top trend in 2015 and will continue to gain steam in 2016. One of the primary reasons small group fitness, which typically involves less than 10 participants, has gained so much popularity over the last five years is because exercisers receive one-on-one attention from personal trainers or certified instructors in a nurturing, motivating and fun environment. This kind of workout experience is a key point of differentiation for gym-goers — if they’re having fun during a workout, they’re more likely to achieve their goals and remain satisfied gym members.
Although many boutique fitness facilities are leveraging the popularity of cardiovascular and small group training, many small-, mid-, and large-sized fitness facilities are slow to offer these types of classes because they are daunted by the prospect of getting their own cardio-based small group fitness offerings off the ground. Gym owners often believe that they need to invest in new equipment and staff training to create a small group training program that attracts exercisers, but that is not the case. Many operators already have the tools they need to launch a unique and value-adding cardio-based small group training offering. Below are a few ways that operators can use equipment they already have on hand to create unique small group fitness programs that will fit the needs of any exerciser and keep them coming back for more.
The treadmill has long reigned supreme as the most popular piece of gym equipment among trainers, exercisers and gym owners because it provides an effective workout for exercisers of all abilities. Despite the treadmill’s ubiquity and popularity, its use case has remained narrow. Exercisers, operators and personal trainers still see it as a cardio-only piece of equipment despite its versatility. However, the rise of small group training has caused many boutique facilities to re-evaluate and expand upon the role of the treadmill in the gym.
Treadmill-based small group fitness, such as Mile High Run Club in New York, have put a unique spin on treadmill running by turning a solitary workout into an engaging small group fitness experience. Classes are led by a certified trainer and feature high intensity interval training (HIIT), another popular 2016 fitness trend, as well as strength-based movements on and off the treadmill. These classes are a great starting point for operators who are hesitant about starting their own cardio-based small group training class offerings. These classes combine many popular trends (HIIT, strength training and small group training) and have the potential to attract a wide variety of an operator’s membership base. In addition, treadmills are among the first pieces of equipment an operator invests in, so there is little to no up-front cost to getting a treadmill small group fitness class started.
Similar to the case of the treadmill, indoor cycling has often been pigeon-holed as a cardiovascular activity done alone or in a more traditional group setting. However, the popularity of group classes that incorporate HIIT, strength training and even yoga have expanded the range of applications for indoor cycling.
Hybrid classes such as yoga-spin offer exercisers a unique two-in-one class experience. This type of class is divided into two sections: the cycling portion of the class gives exercisers a challenging cardio and lower body workout, while the yoga portion focuses the mind and body.
A hybrid can benefit the operator in several ways. First, hybrid classes appeal to a wider range of a facility’s membership base — it will attract yogis and cyclists alike. Second, hybrid classes have the potential to introduce members to a new mode of exercise; a yogi who has never tried indoor cycling might come to the class for the yoga but leave the class loving indoor cycling. Finally, running a hybrid class allows operators to use indoor cycling equipment they already have on hand, but make it different from other experiences exercisers have had in traditional group cycling classes. All of these elements will equate to happier, more engaged members who will return for more.
Strength training using equipment, bodyweight or both has risen in popularity among exercisers over the past decade. This can be attributed to the CrossFit craze and exercisers realizing strength training gives the most bang for their exercise buck because it delivers an effective cardiovascular and strength workout. Some gym owners might look at the growing popularity of CrossFit and strength-training workouts and think that they are unable to get a piece of the strength-training pie, but it’s relatively easy to use the staple pieces of gym equipment to build a cardio-focused small group training class offering.
If an operator’s membership is interested in offering users a CrossFit-like experience, they can use on-site strength equipment such as dumbbells, medicine balls and Olympic weight-lifting equipment to run small group classes. If an operator is looking to make a larger investment, a functional training system is a great option for bringing functional training and weightlifting to a facility. Functional training systems can be designed to fit any size space and give a training space a unique look. From a training perspective, functional training systems allow many exercisers to do multiple exercises at once, creating the perfect space for circuit-based classes. Circuit-based small group classes offer exercisers a cardio and strength workout and give them the ability to participate in workouts supervised by certified personal trainers. To add, holding classes in a group-based environment makes strength training accessible to all levels of exercisers and creates a feeling of community, which is one of the reasons why CrossFit has been so successful.
If an operator’s members are more interested in using selectorized equipment, a circuit-based small group training class might be more their speed. To get this type of class started, operators can collaborate with personal training staff to create a circuit on selectorized equipment and incorporate cardio bursts in between each exercise. These exercise circuits can be done in a small group training setting, or they can be posted near the equipment so members can complete circuits at their own pace.
There are a variety of ways to take everyday cardio equipment and use it to create a small group training offering that attracts members and delivers an effective cardiovascular workout. Giving your members a unique cardiovascular experience will allow them to change up their exercise routine, avoid boredom and keep working towards their fitness goals. It also will keep them engaged and excited about being a member of your facility. The versatility of cardio-based small group training is a double-edged sword. There are so many ways to create a unique offering that the sky really is the limit. However, make sure that whatever offering you choose to implement at your gym fits the needs and desires of your membership base.
Precor offers a variety of strength and cardio equipment, including the Queenax functional training system, which recently became part of fitness solutions provider Precor. Queenax has a variety of configurations that can be adapted to fit any size space and accommodate any exercise activity.