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Bringing Back Old-School Aerobics Classes to Your Club Programming

Bringing Back Old-School Aerobics Classes to Your Club Programming

Many veterans of our industry remember the health club scene from the 1980s and 1990s—the excitement, the energy, the dynamic flow of the well-planned aerobic classes of those decades. Some of those veterans may feel nostalgic when speaking of the music, the group instructors and the sense of accomplishment after completing choreographed routines to popular tunes. That nostalgia has led some programming experts to add those choreographed masterpieces into the fee-based lineup at their clubs. However, if you are going to do this, you must follow a few simple tips:

Program the classes around themes. Your themes could include disco, 1980s, 1990s to the max, Broadway, swing, hip hop or country with a twist. These themes are dance-based and will keep students wanting more. Once the word is out that the club offers cardio dance lessons and that members are getting results from these classes, most club owners will see an increase in referrals, renewals and revenue.

Market your lineup as a new level in fitness. Bill the programming as a personalized progression. “Sell” it as a way to enhance their health and fitness status. Market it for those with skill sets beyond the skills needed in the general classes, which include beginners. Educate members and nonmembers that the choreographed class lineups of the 1980s and 1990s include movement patterns that address advanced aspects of fitness: speed, power, balance and coordination.

Hire masterful instructors. Think outside the box when hiring. Recruit the popular cardio jazz teacher, the studio ballroom champ or even a local dance contest winner. Pay on performance and create a bonus system for recruiting participants from outside the membership to class. Increase the percentage when members re-sign or bill on an EFT system, as you would for small group training programs.

Hold a recital or make a video. Empower the fee-based class members by creating a video or planning a recital. Invite friends and family members. Broadcast the video throughout the club and on your website. Showing the video in your club is one of the best ways to market ongoing programming to existing members.

Promote the flashback classes within other master classes. Plan try-before-you-buy master classes on a regular schedule for four to six weeks. Offer “buy now” specials. Always show the number of remaining spots before and after each master class. This lets members know how popular classes are and promotes the urgency of signing up for them. Ask several teachers to instruct the master classes together. The team teaching method increases energy and makes sure one can generate leads, collect contact information and invite students to bring a friend to the next master class or promotion.

Include options for personal training. Successful cardio flashback programs spin students off into one-on-one instruction or personal training. Many clubs have seen an increase in revenue from the small group options. The recruitment of the staff to the personal training lineup will increase as this pattern grows.

Assess your community. Assess the membership, age of the members, community and the competition in your area. Poll members to find out who remembers the grapevine, the hustle, the pivot, the stomp and the jive. Those polls will help you decide whom to target and how to fill the popular cardio flashback lineup.

Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 350 fitness professionals. She is a well-known presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Shapes Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. She can be reached at

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