The room is packed elbow to elbow. Sweat dripping. Muscles pumping, and over the blaring music you hear, “C'mon you sissies! Kick like you mean it! You punch like a bunch of girls!” Chances are….they all ARE a bunch of girls. The “boys” don't know what they are missing.

Traditionally, classes at a fitness facility have been perceived as something that “girls do.” Jane Fonda, bless her heart, helped kick off the aerobics frenzy of the 1980s, but we were left with the image of leg warmers with leotards and matching headbands. But thank goodness that “we have come a long way, baby” since 1980. It's no longer aerobics. It is now group fitness. (Don't even say the “A” word around a fitness instructor these days unless you want to endure a lecture and perhaps a demonstration of a jab, cross or a challenge to cycle at 100 rpms for an hour.)

Group fitness now encompasses a wide variety of challenging cardio and strength workouts that even the most athletic, conditioned male would find challenging. With everything from Boot Camp, to cycling, to cardio kickboxing to Sports Zone, group fitness offers a smorgasbord for the fitness-hungry male. So why aren't men knocking down the studio to get in? Chances are they are not aware of the change that has taken place over the past 20 years.

MARKETING MANAGER

It has become the group fitness director's job to not only provide excellent instructors and up-to-date programming, but also to be an aggressive marketing director.

In-house marketing is crucial to successfully filling classes with male members. Educating male members about just what to expect in class may be as simple as posting “reality check lists” in the men's locker room or as complicated as providing a video of classes on a television in the lobby. Developing in-house displays that are non-gender specific is also crucial to reaching the male member (don't put group fitness schedules on pink paper, keep bulletin boards filled with information and pictures of both sexes). After developing an in-house marketing strategy, be certain that you are marketing programs that will appeal to the men in the club.

One-time-only classes or short-run classes (two to four weeks) may be the ticket to providing the male member with that extra push to “go ahead and do it.” Programming with a specific goal in mind — like improving one's golf game — can also become added incentive for men to take that first step through the studio doors. “Spring Training” workshops can be the link between the studio and summer softball leagues. Sports Zone classes can connect the former high school athlete with his desire to perform.

Don't be afraid to reach the dads through programming for kids and dads together. Most dads will dance on the head of a pin for their children. Take advantage of that connection and offer rewards to the children when they bring dad in to participate. Offer dad and daughter Body Pump classes with each daughter receiving a “Girls pump iron too!” t-shirt. Don't forget father and son cardio kickboxing classes with “I worked my gluteus maximus off for this shirt!” rewards.

If your club has a lot of members without children, take the initiative to program on the cutting edge and offer “Flex In the City” classes for singles or couples.

All in all, men no longer need to be concerned that they will be put on the spot to learn mambos and cha chas in class. Dance aerobics has been, for the most part, replaced by athletic-style classes comprised of basic movement and music that appeals to men and women. Most men can remember the thrill of pedaling up hill faster than the kid down the street or jabbing like Ali or Tyson in the backyard. They just need that little extra incentive to get into the studio where they can relive that in a class. Program, educate, and market, and you'll find that the group fitness studio is “where the boys are.”

Wendy Jett is Global Fitness Holdings/Gold's Gym group fitness director. She can be reached by phone at 859-983-8384 or via e-mail at wjett@ggtko.com.

What Most Men Think about Group Fitness Classes Reality Is
1. It's about dance, dance, dance. 1. These days the only dance-oriented class is often hip-hop.
2. I'll look stupid, like I don't know what I'm doing. 2. It takes MOST participants three classes to “get the hang of it.”
3. I don't need much cardio. Weights are it. 3. Minimum of 30 minutes three times a week. We all need it to stay fit to combat illness and the effects of aging.
4. I won't get anything out of the muscle classes. 4. Even serious weight trainers of the world marvel that Body Pump is a great way to train the muscles in a different way.
5. I won't get a challenging workout. 5. With classes like Spinning and Body Pump, you have 100 percent control over the intensity of your workout. No excuses.