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Sidestepping Fitness Faux Pas

Sidestepping Fitness Faux Pas

One last thought about fads. Trends and styles come and go from decade to decade. A good look through an old photo album will show you how fads change. I shudder to think of the pictures of me donning hair-sprayed, sticky mall bangs, neon green and pink shirts tied to the side, and tightly rolled stone-washed jeans from the 1980s. And don't even get me started on crimped hair. Why anyone ever thought that was a good idea, I'll never know.

Fitness has been along for the ride when it comes to these trends. In the 1980s and early 1990s, teal and purple were hot colors for club logos (some still use them today with pride), and club interiors were filled with splashes of bright colors. Our fitness facilities were packed, aerobics boomed (both in participation level and in helping to spur leg warmers as a fashion craze) and Olivia Newton John's “Let's Get Physical” blared over the 1981 airwaves.

Although today's group ex instructors may no longer be required (or choose on their own accord) to wear a leotard, and fitness facility décor has generally become more subdued, the industry is still quite influenced by trends. Like any good business, we try to keep members happy and interested by maintaining a contemporary look, pioneering programming and using the latest technology.

In fact, fitness is a “faddish” industry to begin with. Take, for example, just a few workouts that have gotten plenty of mainstream press lately: the Masala Bhangra workout, Zumba, the Fireman's workout, Bikram yoga, Gyrotonic and Forza. It's tempting to jump on the latest craze or biggest bandwagon — many new classes can bring quite the buzz to your facility. And, no one can argue with finding more creative and fun ways to get our sedentary population up and moving. But just like parachute pants and mullets have come and gone (or at least should have gone — for good), you have to wonder if these trends will disappear with the times, too.

However, not all trends die young. Some styles have overcome fad status and transformed into semi-permanent formats, if not mainstays, in a club's programming. I would contend that group cycling, a wide range of dance classes, yoga, Pilates, boot camps, and core and functional workouts have gone from trendy to standard offerings, meaning members expect them. Fusion classes are hotter than ever now; only time will tell if they'll be around for good.

But how do you know what to invest in, what to try and when to let the fads pass right by you faster than a slap bracelet can hook around your wrist? While it's all a guessing game, knowing your members is probably the best way to ensure success in your programming. Always ask yourself, “What would my members enjoy?”

For example, if women 55 years and older make up a sizeable part of your membership base, investing in dancer poles for striptease aerobics might not be the best bet (although you never know how a low-impact version might do). Or if most of your members are moms who barely have the time to comb their hair in the morning, working out in stilettos might not be the best move (unless you market it as a fun way for them to glam it up and you provide day care — and the shoes). These examples might seem pretty commonsensical, but I've seen clubs make poor business decisions just because they got wrapped up in the hype of a new trend without stopping to think about not what they or their employees wanted, but rather what their members would enjoy.

Bottom line? Know your members so you won't get tripped up by trends. Although members occasionally could lead you astray (I'm still upset that I thought stirrup pants and scrunched socks were cool), most of the time they'll provide the answers you need to make wise business decisions rather than trend-related faux pas.

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