Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Total Fitness for Women, leads a team of 16 fitness managers and more than 250 personal trainers and group fitness professionals. She is well known as a presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year Award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Fitness Academy, an educational resource for continuing education in the Tampa Bay area. She can be reached at annfitt@verizon.net.

Although many club operators have taken action to fill in pools or are decreasing the number of aquatics classes on their schedule, fitness entrepreneurs are seeing the wet area as the new hub of member activity. The goal for most is to rekindle interest, increase usage and introduce specialized programming. The results are in, and revenue, retention and referral are on the rise. Here are 10 ways to increase member usage of your aquatics area:

1. Launch new members into water fitness programming. When you implement an introduction to water fitness programming as part of your new member integration system, the member can experience the benefits of resistance and cardiovascular training in a welcoming environment. A program like this allows participants to gain confidence while learning the fundamentals. Upon implementation, most clubs have found increased membership referrals and duplication numbers.

2. Introduce small group personal training options in the aquatics area. This option assures that members can exercise in a group setting with those of similar need. Most agree that small group training sessions assure that members receive personalized coaching and total health and fitness benefits at an affordable price. Many are now calling the wet area the water fitness area, and introducing fee-based personalized options once only found on dry ground. Creating a water fitness menu of services will assure professional marketing of the options available to your membership base.

3. Introduce popular land-based programming in the aquatics area. In clubs across the country, you are apt to find Aqua Kick Boxing, Aqua Pilates, Aqua Yoga and Aqua Dance as staples on the group fitness schedule. A focus on upbeat music and choreography is no longer exclusive to the land programming. Although beginners will feel comfortable with basic movement patterns repeated more often, the regulars will be asking for more when those creative turns, jumps, kicks and spins can be added.

4. Add aquatic-style seasonal, birthday and anniversary celebrations to increase usage during non-prime time hours. Whether renting the area for a fee or expanding the club’s monthly party to the area, the excitement of the pool party is felt by all. Kids and adults alike find the pool the perfect place to celebrate their special event, increasing non-dues revenue opportunities within the facility.

5. Offer one-on-one personal sessions in your aquatics lineup. Many trainers have stepped up, seeing one-on-one training in the pool as a way to grow their careers. Most trainers know the benefits of transitioning in the pool after an injury, therapy or a major sporting event. As doctors direct their patients to the water, personal trainers who have established themselves as water fitness experts will reap the benefits of having taken the aquatics trainer certification.

6. Introduce a rapid weight-loss aquatics program. Classes and groups focusing on rapid weight-loss programming, including water walking, intervals, drills and endurance workouts, are now popular. Marketing your water fitness programming as more than just the aqua class of the past and including it in all local and social networking sites will create a member experience like no other, while drawing nonmembers to the club.

7. Offer specificity aquatics training to increase retention, revenue and referrals. When clubs add mind/body classes, people will come in, pay for value-based programming and tell one and all about the options. Many clubs schedule stress-relieving workouts as part of weekend member parties or “pamper me” events. Light the candles and dim the lights, and watch the referral numbers climb. Many facilities combine these unique trainings with stretching demos, foam rolling clinics and “try me’ training sessions, in which fitness professionals can introduce their workout’s softer side.

8. Offer boot camps, aqua marines and swim competitions. The key to increasing usage in the aquatics areas of your facility is to frequently change your options or menu selection. Introduce a fee- and non-fee-based menu, recruit the best of the best trainers and instructors, then educate your members about the benefits of adhering to all aspects of fitness in the pool.