It's been written about time and time again in both trade and mainstream media that fitness consumers are looking for the “magic pill” that will bring them fast results. Just turn on the radio and listen to DJs touting this pill or that pill that helped them lose weight while they slept or let them eat as many carbohydrates as they wanted while shedding unsightly pounds. Yet we, as a nation, are FAT.
I have a little secret for you — fitness professionals are often looking for the same thing.
Well, maybe not exactly, but they are looking for the next hot class or new technology that is going to drive the 90 percent of the population that isn't exercising into their facilities. I'm not saying that bells and whistles don't help, (I wish the clubs I train at would keep up with new products and technologies), but they aren't going to work magic or serve as the Pied Piper for the inactive masses of the country.
The good thing is that some in the industry are starting to believe that.
In fact, at last month's Club Industry 2002 show held in Chicago, I had the good fortune to moderate a panel entitled “Upcoming Innovations that Will Change the Face of the Club Industry.” And much to my surprise, and possibly many of the attendees, most of the discussion centered on non-equipment and non-technical aspects of growing the industry.
Speakers such as Rudy Fabiano of Fabiano Designs spoke about fitness facilities becoming softer and trying new things and looking at other industries despite the misconception that the industry isn't broken because of its “success.”
Other speakers, such as Michael Scott Scudder and Ronale Tucker, brought up points about attracting new demographics, becoming more wellness-influenced and family-friendly and specialized centers.
Even equipment manufacturers, such as Roy Simonson and Ken Lucas, of FreeMotion Fitness and Matrix Fitness, respectively, spoke more about facility design, increased programming and making fitness more accessible and fun than they did new equipment technology and equipment introductions.
It seems, according to these industry vets, that the future of the industry lies in the creativity of club owners and operators in driving in new business and retaining members once they've joined (although technology and equipment will play a part in that, of course). I couldn't agree more.
Are they right? Am I right for agreeing? No one can know for sure. But it is time for the industry to re-evaluate itself and decide what it is going to be next year and for the next several years and to take a leap of faith.
The image of the industry is constantly evolving (does anyone remember the sweat-and-grunt era of pumping iron or the leg warmers and high-impact filled '80s) and to continue growing and attracting those that are inactive will take a concerted effort by the entire industry. An effort to morph into one that is in touch with the needs of its current potential customers, be it by reaching out to families, special populations or to the community (member or not) to teach them how to lead a healthier and happier life.
Perhaps Lynn Swann put it best during his keynote speech when he said that we are in a good business, which gives us a good way to help others — now it's up to all of us to get out there and get the help to the entire community.