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The Future Is 'Fitness Anywhere'

Health club operators can take cues from retailers and bankers who have learned that success requires offering ease, convenience and results for customers wherever they may be.

The “fitness anywhere” movement is here. Truth is, fitness anywhere has always been around, but it has never been as accessible as it is today.

Advances in technology that led to the sedentary lifestyles and health risks we have today are now enabling a growing list of options to help people get back in shape.

As fitness club operators, we’ve spent decades developing facilities and programs that enable and even inspire healthy lifestyle activities. What we all have in common is that customers must come to our facilities to partake in those activities.

The fitness industry is much the same as retailers during their boom years when they developed increasingly spectacular malls and shopping centers that turned shopping into an event or adventure.

But how is that going now? With technology improving and time pressure on the rise, the convenience of shopping online is skyrocketing, causing a growing number of brick and mortar stores to close. Here's a test:

  1. When is the last time you made a trip to the mall?
  2. When is the last time you ordered something online?

Rather than looking forward to a trip to the mall, many people these days view it as a hassle. The same could be said for banking. How well would you expect a bank to do in the next five to 10 years if the options they offer are only available at the branch? How has that industry evolved? Banks that are thriving have put services at their customers’ fingertips, wherever they may be, 24/7.

The retail and banking industries offer lessons for the fitness industry. Here are some options to consider:

  1. One primary competitor of fitness these days is time. Making it easy for people to be healthy right where they are and enabling the achievement of their goals will move your health clubs up the value chain.
  2. Offering guided fitness activities in smaller portions with 30-, 20- or even 10-minute exercise routines is another attractive option.
  3. Motivation and inspiration are two big benefits people find in a health club environment. How can we make those available to members even when they are not with us? If I can get a message that someone I don’t even know has updated their Facebook picture, then I should be able to get a healthy inspiration message from your club. If your messages help me to feel better and remain diligent, you get the credit and become increasingly relevant in my life.
  4. If it’s hard for people to find the time or motivation to exercise, then it’s even harder for them to eat well. But good nutrition is essential for good health. Making it easy for people to get this can be a valuable benefit.
  5. Accountability is another important ingredient that clubs offer. People stick to their routines and get results better when they make a commitment to a trainer, a workout partner or scheduled classes.
  6. Affordability is just as important. Price tends to be one of the main objections people give for not joining a club. New channels using dedicated apps and private social media groups can bring the cost of communicating and delivering fitness to near zero and make your services available to a much larger portion of the population.

Ease, convenience, guidance, motivation, nutrition, accountability and affordability. Players such as Nike, Peloton, Aaptiv and a host of others are bypassing the commercial fitness industry and offering these benefits direct to consumers. So can we. Clubs that want to thrive in the future will need to evolve from being a place where members must go to get in shape to a resource for some or all of these options that members can access at the club or on demand.

There are vendors bringing partnerships to our industry that should be embraced. And there is little to no risk. The value many of these partners can provide is often at little or no cost, while some even generate additional revenue--they just need to be embraced.

With new technology options, clubs, trainers and instructors can stay connected helping members between classes whether they’re at home or traveling. Rather than seeing a person once a week, they're connected to you every day.

Don't be replaced at home. Drive retention through relationships that are enabled and enhanced through technology. The best experience is always in person - but that's not always feasible, so show members that you understand by extending your assistance (and therefore your value) when their only option is to work out at home or on the road.

Don't be afraid of being compared to your online competitors. Embrace it. People will naturally gravitate towards, and stick with, relationships that resonate with them. Use technology to give new people a window into your reality. Help them overcome the countless mental barriers from the privacy of their own homes. You may even attract a whole new channel of customers for whom it’s not easy to get to your facilities.

Although benefits of going to the gym aren’t going away any time soon, accessible alternatives are rapidly gaining favor. The good news is that we can ride this wave rather than being disrupted by it. Vendors are available right now to help your clubs make classes and trainers available to your customers anytime and anywhere. The same is true for branded apps that offer inspiration and accountability. Resources are available to arrange prepared meals or curated meal plans, recipes and shopping lists.

When you imagine our industry five or 10 years from now, one thing is for sure: it won’t look the same as it does today. Some operators will be stuck in the past. Others will be shaping the future. Fitness anywhere is good for consumers and good for population health. How can you use it as an opportunity for your organization to become the obvious choice for good health in your market?

BIO

Tim Rhode is the CEO Summit director. He is a fitness industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience, managing, developing, owning, growing and consulting health clubs. Since 1986, as an owner and manager, he has personally operated health, wellness and racquet sports clubs from 8,000 to 120,000 square feet with teams of 20 to more than 300, and more than 100 personal trainers. As an industry innovator and consultant, Rhode has helped small, large and multi-club operators visibly improve their businesses with strategy, systems, training and motivation. Email tim@RMCmail.net. Call or text him at 443-324-0580.

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