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Focus on Programming

Understanding the Nature of the BEAST

Question: What will make your club stand out?
Answer: Innovative club programming which is simpler than you think!

Innovative programming attracts nonmembers to a club and is a major factor in member retention. Inevitably, when a good program takes off, it increases the name recognition of the fitness center and opens up off-site revenue potential all of which adds significantly to the club's bottom line.

St. Mary's Health & Fitness Center in Powell, Tenn., was open nine months when the BEAST concept was brought to me. Corinne Witherspoon, a successful personal trainer in Knoxville, developed the program, and was looking for the backing to implement it.

BEAST stands for Basic Exercise And Strength Training. BEAST is a military-style fitness program combining several modes of strength training and aerobic conditioning. The program provides the benefits of one-on-one personal training with the camaraderie and motivation of working in a small group. There are two different camps, depending on the participants level of fitness: Unleash the BEAST and Taming the BEAST.

I jumped on the idea because, at every level, the BEAST program matched my personal blueprint for a successful program. However, a program with great potential still requires some creative design and promotion.

Here's what every successful program needs, and how we applied these ideas to the BEAST.

  • A themed experience. A program's theme should be compelling, fun and full of marketing potential. One customer told us he signed up for BEAST because the name intrigued him. I wanted to take my own personal workout regimen to a new level, he said, and it sounded like it would be an interesting experience no matter what happened.

    Whatever your theme, find creative ways to engage your clients, keep them motivated and make it an experience rather than just another fitness class.

  • Guarantees. Our center promises the BEAST participants that they will see results. That could be a loss of weight, body fat, etc. And we deliver.

    After completing the program, the previously mentioned client said, I recommend this class to everybody! Any program that helped me drop 3.1 percent body fat in six weeks needs to be talked about to anyone who'll listen! That's the kind of endorsement any program can use to boost enrollment!

  • The basics. All of our programs meet regularly, have options which allow for different intensities and include a variety of workouts (circuit, strength, speed and agility). Participants can be at any level of fitness, and their workout will be adjusted for them. Fitness evaluations are given at the beginning and end of the program. Participants are given a log to keep track of goals, the results of fitness evaluations, daily exercise routines, and food and water intake.

  • Visibility. Good programs can fail if members never see them in progress. Instead of using a closed-off aerobic studio, run the program in the open, such as on a basketball court. Conduct the program during peak attendance periods to maximize its exposure to your clients.

  • Patience. I offered the first BEAST camp to my staff free of charge to get the program seen. Only three staff members signed up. Other clubs might have cancelled a program with such low enrollment. We went ahead. The employees felt they had received a perk in taking the class for free, and the visibility of the class stirred up a lot of interest. Today, we just started our third camp, and we have 43 paying participants.

  • Rewards. Each program graduate receives an I Conquered The BEAST T-shirt, an inexpensive, yet effective advertisement for the program. Other ways to publicize client's successes include posting pictures on a center bulletin board, listing graduates in the member newsletter or posting their names on your center's Web site.

  • Outside opportunities. Programs like BEAST are perfect to take to corporations, community colleges, churches, high schools, teen centers and other off-site facilities because you don't need a lot of equipment and they are simple to run. We supply the staff, and the facility provides the participants. It's that simple.

    In addition, the off-site option is a significant revenue producer for our center. We currently take our BEAST program to seven local schools.

  • Marketing. There are all kinds of ways to publicize a unique program. We challenged our local evening network news anchor to take the BEAST. We also enrolled the hospital's marketing representative in the program, and we offered the class free to anyone who brought an off-site opportunity to our attention. In addition, we do a press release for each new offering of the program.

    Developing revenue-generating programs at your center is not as difficult as people think! You can create and re-create successful programs using this simple blueprint and the wealth of ideas your staff, clients and community members are more than willing to share with you.

Sue Johnson works for Lakeshore Medical Fitness and is the executive director of St. Mary's Health & Fitness Center in Knoxville, Tenn. For more information about BEAST, e-mail Corinne Witherspoon at cwitherspoon@stmarys

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