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Taming Group Exercise

The crazy pace and momentum of the business is disruptive.

For the past 30 years the club industry has been obsessed with management, sales, front desk and marketing protocol, which are detailed with daily guidelines for success. Having employees follow these systems that are in place makes it easy to measure who is successful and who isn't.

Yet, the industry has created the almighty group exercise beast. In most clubs it exists with no rhyme or reason. Many club owners and managers feel good about their exercise programs if the instructors just show up for class. Do you know the formula for structuring a schedule for your members' benefit? Are your exercise directors qualified to do the job? Do they understand how to deliver customer service in the group exercise setting? Are they giving you monthly reports that deliver tracking systems on the success of your programs, which includes class attendance? Is membership growing? Are there monthly goals? Are you treating your group exercise department just like your other departments with guidelines that all instructors must follow?

Your group exercise room is your biggest marketing tool. Eighty percent of club membership comes from buddy referral. Is your membership team in that room taking the exercise class? If not, there should be a new rule — all sales teams must take class twice a week. It should be mandatory and part of their job description. Be a business-person not a “club owner.” The potential for growth through group exercise could be financially and culturally astronomical. If you have a strong group exercise culture in you club you will have committed members for life. Try these tips for ensuring that success:

  • Treat your group exercise program exactly like your sales department.

  • Offer a group exercise tour. Sit down with members, establish their needs and schedule availability.

  • Your exercise director should be a full-time employee. This is a big department with many management needs; find that person who can deliver growth and success for your club.

  • Have the group exercise director call each new member to confirm a class time and to assist in explanation of classes, how to read the schedule and what to plan for maximum results through group exercise. If this is done daily it will be easy to keep up with. Watch your class participation and culture grow.

  • Make sure that there is a seven-, 14-, 30- and 60-day follow up with new participants by the department via thank you notes, e-mails and phone calls.

  • Run specific buddy referral programs through group exercise and do at least two group exercise specific mailings to the community a year — you will be surprised at the return.

  • Insist that your instructors work together. Follow specific guidelines and requirements for being part of the team. No divas allowed.

  • Get rid of your diva instructors who don't chip in, are unwelcoming to new members, and who always show up late for class.

  • Identify problem areas with your director and fix them. Don't put problems on the back burner. Whether it be maintenance, acoustics, new equipment or just stripping the floor — do it.

  • Get involved. Set a structure in this fast-paced club environment. It will help guarantee a successful group exercise program, as well as satisfied members.

  • Lori Lowell owns two clubs in northern Virginia. She serves as the national group fitness director for Gold's Gym International and was recently awarded the 2002 “Visionary of the Year” award for Gold's Gym.

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