There are three possible ways to approach programming your club in the future. You can either do nothing different, you can add more of what is already popular, or you can implement innovative, new programs and equipment that are readily available to club operators.

Of the three, the last is undoubtedly the best way to set your club apart from the competition. But the question remains, what trends are going to be the next rage? While it is close to impossible to make a prediction, there are several trends that might lead to an educated guess, and hopefully a successful record.

Group Fitness Programming

With group fitness programming, variety, time-efficiency and mind-body are leading the way in 2002. At Crunch's trendy Los Angeles location, fully 28 different types of classes are offered. Classes such as Washboard Abs, All the Right Moves and TNT see high participation among Angelinos making the fitness scene.

At the four Las Vegas Athletic Club (LVAC) locations, 41 different types of classes are offered with many varieties of sport-specific training on the schedule. Triathlon Training, Sports Conditioning and Dryland are examples of classes that members are taking more frequently and in larger numbers, according to the chain's management.

At Bally Total Fitness, one trend that is creating a spike in group exercise participation is the addition of their Quick Fitness classes.

“Quick Fitness classes are intense 30-minute classes designed to get our members maximum exercise in a shorter period of time,” said Bally's Vice President of Fitness Services Tia Willows. “They're also great for that person who may be intimidated to take a full hour class,”

LVAC's Group Fitness Director Melanie Byrne agrees with Willows. “Anywhere we have added a 30-minute class it has worked well in terms of both participation and scheduling.” LVAC also offers a full complement of mind-body classes including Yoga, Tai-chi and Woga, a Yoga class done in water. Byrne adds, “Yoga, boxing and cycling make up a significant portion of our class participation, which is now up to 4,500 members a week.

Weight and Resistance Training Programming

Resistance training for both form and function continues to be a popular and ever growing mode of exercise for Americans. Rick Wallace, president and CEO of Fitness Products International (FPI) sees a strong movement toward functional and core training and FPI is developing equipment that keys in on the unique movements of the hips, legs, abdominals and back. Wallace also believes that strength training will prevail with gym-goers in all demographics far into the future.

“Strength training is absolutely critical in any fitness routine today. Studies are clearly showing the tremendous health benefits from a consistent strength-training program,” Wallace says. “FPI is bullish on the future of strength training, and as specialists it allows us to focus 100 percent of our resources on improving the strength tools.”

Life Fitness' Jon Thorsell, vice president of West Coast sales foresees a change in the design of weight training equipment due to the significant increase in personal training services being offered.

“Very recently, equipment had to be designed so members could use it with no instruction,” he says. “Now, with the movement toward personal training, equipment can be designed to meet the needs of personal trainers, as well as health club members.”

Aquatics Programming:

Clubs with swimming facilities have a distinct programming advantage. As America's population continues to creep up in age, aqua-oriented fitness classes will be one genre that will grow in demand.

LVAC's Byrne says, “Seniors tend to enjoy the comfort of the water, as well as the socialization of the class format.” Byrne adds that the turnout for LVAC's Hydrofit class is so high that they have had to turn a few members away.

Programming for the future will always require some guesswork, but providing your members with innovative programs and equipment that makes their lives better will almost always shows up as black ink on the bottom line.

Bret FitzGerald is vice president of corporate communications for Las Vegas Athletic Clubs and is editor and publisher of LVAC Lifestyle Magazine. He can be reached by calling (702) 734-8944.