Creating a Group Fitness Advisory Board

If you're a group exercise director/coordinator and programming is your main task, then you know that scheduling classes is a daunting duty. Pleasing the ever-demanding member can be frustrating and exhausting.

I've learned that most members are very willing to provide you with suggestions on how to “improve” your class schedule. As the director of a large facility, I often found my suggestion box overflowing. Members were leaving me anonymous and sometimes critical notes. Talking to every member was impossible. I needed an express line to members. Doug Steinly, the general manager, suggested putting together an advisory board or panel of members who could provide feedback for group exercise.

To begin the task of assembling an advisory board, you need to select a date for the board meeting, explain what the board is, describe how it will improve the lines of communication, and ask members to participate.

Once you have volunteers, don't expect everyone to show up. You need to keep the excitement going by calling to remind everyone who signed up the date of the first meeting.

During the first meeting, you should introduce all the members to each other and select a secretary. Explain the purpose of the advisory board and what you will require of participants. Then you need to prepare a mission statement.

The mission statement of our club's group exercise advisory board and its participants is to:

  • Act as the liaisons between the group fitness director and other health club members.

  • Provide the group exercise director with requests, suggestions, complaints.

  • Represent themselves as members of the board.

  • Promote all aspects of group fitness and pass along pertinent information.

After your mission statement is created, you should discuss new business and general information. Make sure your board members understand all rules and procedures of the facility and go over them in detail.

Then you need to dissect your group exercise schedule. Board members need to know why you can't schedule certain times or instructors.

Getting the Word In and Out

Use your board for information. Ask about school schedules and kindergarten drop-off times, special holidays, early dismissals, etc. I have a teenager on the board who can tell me what teens want and put up signs in the high school for a fun hip-hop class.

Older board members are imperative, too. Thanks to some of my older board members, I now know why not to put the word “senior” on any schedule. (Older adults don't like to be called “seniors.” So on our class schedule, we use a little red heart to mark programs suitable for new exercisers, people over age 50 and those with arthritis.)

While you use your board to get information, you should also use the board to spread information. Make sure all board members know the details about promotions and upcoming events so they can disseminate the club's activities. You should also discuss all schedule changes with them before they take place. This way, problems, issues and questions can be addressed before they occur.

Here's an example of how our board helped us address a problem. The numbers for our 6 a.m. Aqua Class had dropped dramatically in September. To find out why, I asked my board members. One member, an avid aquatics exerciser, said the temperature of the pool was too cold and was preventing older members from taking the 6 a.m. classes. I was able to discuss the issue with the aquatics director and the pool temperature was raised two degrees. The problem was addressed, researched and solved.

Provide Privileges

Members may like to voice their opinions, but they may require incentives to dedicate time to an advisory board. Therefore, participants should be entitled to special privileges. Allow board members to call in advance to reserve equipment for classes (e.g., indoor cycles) and automatically give them spots for special programs and classes. You can also give them a 10 percent discount off of pro shop items or give them a discount on their membership price.

No matter what the incentive, the key to a successful group advisory board depends on two things: keeping your board members informed and following through on the board's suggestions. If the members feel you aren't taking their advice to heart, they will lose interest and drop off the board. But if you take the time to listen, you might be surprised at what an awesome group exercise schedule you can create.

Victoria Stodart is the group exercise director at HealthQuest of Hunterdon. She can be reached at (908) 782-4009, ext. 259.