Laurie Cingle, M.Ed., is a fitness industry consultant and coach specializing in the business of personal training, weight management, developing program champions and all aspects of club programming that result in profit, participation and renewing the “wow” factor in your members’ experience. She can be reached at Laurie@lauriecingle.com.

Programs can set you apart from the other clubs in your market. They include core programs such as personal training, group exercise and membership-oriented programs such as guest passes and new member integration.

They also include special one-time or quarterly offerings that are outside of what is normally offered at your club. These programs may be unusual, fun and off-the-wall, or they may be educational in nature, addressing members’ health concerns or targeting special interests. These programs require planning several months in advance. So, if you are planning that far out, why not create a calendar for an entire year? Here’s how:

1. Start with a blank 12-month planning calendar. This can be purchased at any office supply store, or you can use a calendar tool on your computer. Whichever you choose, make sure the date squares are large enough for you to be able to write in.

Write in national and religious holidays, local school teacher in-service days (kids are off of school on these days), specific days of the week and other special dates. Contact your local school district for a copy of their teacher in-service days and mark them on your calendar.

Take in to account your own schedule—your brother’s wedding in April and your two-week vacation in August. If you are planning to be out of the club during one of your scheduled events or if you are just returning from being out, you will be asking for trouble.

2. Select the categories of programs that you will be offering. Creating your calendar will be much easier once you establish a list of consistent program categories that you repeat each month. Here are some ideas:

  • How-to clinics
  • Health screenings
  • Alternative health seminars
  • Cooking demonstrations
  • Fun one-day fitness activities
  • Nutrition education seminars

The categories are endless. If you are new to these types of programs, don’t get too crazy. Offer one or two programs a month until you learn what works at your facility.

3. Select specific topics under each program category. Here are some examples:

  • How to: meditate, massage your spouse’s feet, increase your metabolism, etc.
  • Health screenings: body composition, blood pressure, flu shots, bone density, cholesterol, etc.
  • Alternative health seminars on acupressure, Rolfing, cranial-sacral therapy, etc.
  • Cooking demonstrations: Thai cooking, healthy barbecuing, large-batch cooking, etc.
  • One-day fitness activities such as a weekend group dog walk in the park, a special group exercise class on the tennis courts, an indoor biathlon, etc.
  • Nutrition education seminars on healthy dining out, choosing the right supplements, fats, etc.

Select your topics based on the experts you have available to you to deliver the information. Sources can be physicians, physical therapists, alternative health care providers, chiropractors, nutritionists, people in business and your staff. Look within your community and club for people who would like to be involved in your calendar. Make sure their intentions are honest, check their references and make sure they have good speaking skills.

On your calendar, choose a date for the event or program and write the title, who is delivering it, the time, the location (conference room, lobby, fitness floor) and any special equipment or supplies needed.

4. Create a budget. What will you need to make your calendar happen? Will you need to contract a nurse to administer flu shots in October? Will you need to purchase the ingredients for your cooking demos or will the ingredients be donated? What expenses are associated with your group dog walk in the park? Will you need additional insurance? How much will you charge the members to participate in specific events? Will your organization require you to make a profit or break-even on all programs? What is the cost of providing refreshments such as bagels, juice, fruit and water for your special group exercise class?

This is a discussion you should have with your supervisor, hopefully before the budgets for next year are final. If you missed getting your programs into the budget, assure your supervisor that you will at least break even on every offering—and make sure that you do.

5. Allow room on your calendar for additions throughout the year. A new best-seller, ground-breaking health research, new diet crazes…no one can predict future hot topics. If an opportunity presents itself, schedule it.

6. Each month, print a copy of the calendar for your members to pick up. Physically highlight the special offerings on the calendar and advertise each one individually. Track attendance and interest. If you see that any of your offerings are not going over well with your members, discuss making a change with your team. They may be able to give you feedback that will make a difference.

And lastly, good luck and have fun!