What would it be like to go to the Super Bowl and then see that some of the players have decided to sit in the stands rather than play because it is easier to just watch the game? What would you think of those players? What would you think of a coach and team owner that would allow such a thing?

Imagine visiting an Italian restaurant in Little Italy in New York and asking one of the waitresses how the food is only to hear her respond, “I don't know. I don't like Italian food.”

Now shift to a recent trade show where a club manager was kidding about the fact he had no time to work out and laughed about the extra pounds he was carrying. Yet, he was looking for the latest equipment for his club.

Although I know of no studies on the percentage of club personnel who don't work out, I'm sure it would be a substantially higher number than the general public would ever believe. Yes, even being in a club and surrounded by equipment every day does not ensure that a person will have a healthy lifestyle and a fit body.

Does it make a difference when the staff at a club — front desk, sales, management and trainers — exercise regularly? It would be easy to find examples of clubs where many of the staff don't exercise, but the club still makes money. The question is, can a non-exercising staff be bad for business, or is no harm done if members (or potential members) don't know that the staff doesn't work out?

Let's look at two clubs in a marketplace. Both have about the same programs, facilities, location and management capabilities. At one club, some of the staff exercise but just as many don't — using the very same reasons most people use for not exercising. Do nonexercising salespeople at this club find themselves subconsciously agreeing with prospects when they start hearing certain objections? Does the fact that the nonexercising salespeople don't believe in exercise (at least enough to actually exercise themselves) affect their ability to convince people to join and exercise?

At the other club, the vast majority of the staff exercise regularly and love it so much that they wouldn't dream of going without it. After all, they reason, they can't see why they would want to increase their stress, lower their energy, stop fitting into their clothes and lower their self esteem by not exercising.

Of these two clubs, at which one do you think members would get the best results, refer the most people and stay the longest?

The owner of one of the most profitable clubs in the country (and in a very competitive market) clearly sees the connection between a staff that “walks the talk” and his bottom line. He knows that it all starts with his personal commitment to regular activity. He doesn't try to “force” people to exercise (and he knows he can't legally anyway) because he knows force doesn't work with people “inside” the industry any more than it does with people “outside” the industry. Instead, prior to hiring people, he finds out their fitness goals, habits and beliefs. Before they are hired, he makes sure they understand that as employees of his club, they need to become regular in some kind of activity program. To further his commitment to them (and as he sees it, his commitment to his members), he provides all employees with free nutritional programming and a number of free personal training sessions. Both members and staff love being at his club. It is all done with a sincere compassion and strong desire to keep making substantial profits.

To many, the idea that we set the example may seem like a trivial concept that doesn't affect our ability to make money, but the example we set is critical. It helps inspire our members to exercise. A recent Department of Health study showed that most people now have a “what's-the-use?” attitude when it comes to exercise, which means that out-of-shape club personnel can only reinforce such an attitude. It shows that if health club employees can't find a way to exercise, then there is little hope for those who aren't employed at a club.

Club staff members that don't stay active and fit are not “bad” or “wrong.” However, having more staff getting fit is as positive for a club as having more members getting fit at the club.

It is motivating to know that many of those in the industry are on the cutting edge of fitness and our industry is probably the “fittest” in the world. Therefore, when a staff member is inactive and out of shape, it sends a confusing message to our market. And, yes, we can be fit but not necessarily be a size 6, have a 34 inch waist or exercise hours every week — which is an important message that our market is happy to know. However, commitment, rearranged priorities, fitness integrity and the love of what we are selling can only add to the strength of our industry, our club, our members — and yes, ourselves. Who could possibly have no time for that?


Bruce Carter is the founder of Optimal Fitness Design Systems, a leading health club design and consulting firm that has created approximately $400 million worth of clubs in 44 states and 26 countries. He also is the president of GetCYCED!, a company specializing in providing motivation programs for people to reach their fitness goals.