Peter Sosa, LMT, began as an instructor and personal trainer in 1983 with New York Sports Clubs as well as his own company, BodyCorps, Inc. For the past 15 years he has been involved in the spa industry, working as a massage and spa therapist, spa and fitness trainer and manager. He has been involved with companies including Disney, Westin Resorts and Hotels, Marriott Corporation, and the Ritz Carlton and has worked with celebrities and athletes including Shaquille O'Neal and the Harlem Globetrotters. With his new company, SpaFit Consulting, Peter focuses on bringing together the best of the spa and fitness industries. He can be reached Spafit@cfl.rr.com.

Anyone who’s been in fitness long enough remembers a time when personal training was not very common; it was exclusive to the likes of celebrities and the wealthy. It has since shed its persona as an extravagance of the elite to become a widely used, indispensable part of the fitness industry.

Similarly, massage therapy in the United States has undergone such a transformation. Regulation, licensing and educational standards on the state level legitimized massage, in turn sparking the growth of the spa industry, which embraced massage for its relaxational and pampering qualities. But as its popularity grew, it became clear that massage was more than just a “feel good” indulgence. With health clubs moving toward more holistic approaches to wellness, many are now incorporating massage.

Massage is ideal for the gym. The misconception that massage is simply for relaxation has changed and it is now accepted as legitimate therapy with many health and fitness benefits. Along with machines, personal training and group classes, it gives your members another way to improve or maintain their health, strengthening the results of their current fitness program.

Fitness publisher Jon Gestl wrote: “Ask someone their reason for getting a massage and you’re likely to hear because it feels good. Research shows that the massage you get to relieve stress can also have a positive effect on your muscle-building capabilities and fitness level.” The article goes on to state that massage improves the circulation and nutrition in the muscles as well as its range of motion and flexibility, shortens recovery time between workouts, prevents overtraining, aids in fat loss and helps prevent and heal injuries. In my 15 years as a massage and spa therapist, more fitness-minded individuals are now using massage for these very reasons.

Many of your members are already getting massages. According to industry statistics, twelve percent of U.S. adults visited a massage therapist in 2005, receiving about 130 million sessions and generating $8 billion in revenue. Ninety-six percent surveyed reported having a positive experience.

You’re losing revenue. Local day spas, salons and chiropractors are providing a service to your members that you may be perfectly suited to offer. In almost any health club setting, the outlook for massage as a revenue-generator is excellent.

Consider the facts. Using the statistics stated earlier, if 12 percent of your membership have received massages, most with positive results, that’s 12 percent who are likely to be the first to take advantage of massage at their regular gym because they recognize the benefits and you’ve gained their trust regarding their health.

Massage is making an effect on the gym industry. The trend toward wellness is causing many health clubs to look at massage as a fitness service. For example, the New York Sports Clubs’ Web site states, Improve your workout and your outlook. Massage feels great. Maybe that’s why people mistakenly consider it a luxury as opposed to what it really is—a very necessary component of your fitness program.

Competitive advantage. Offering in-house massage will help your facility stand out from the competition, and it’s also a great sales and retention tool. Like your best personal training clients, regulars of massage are fiercely loyal to their therapists—and vocal about it.