Satisfying Members With Group Exercise

What happened to group exercise? You know, kamikaze aerobics where we burned holes in the carpet. When everyone was part of the "clique" and brought all their friends to class. Well, what happened was choreography and complicated classes and, poof, we lost 80 percent of the hole burners. Now many of us are regrouping, simplifying programs, and focusing on using group exercise as an avenue for retention.

Group exercise is the core of your club. Members don't look at their watches and say, "Gee, my elliptical is waiting for me. I better get to the club." However, they do say, "Gotta get to the club. My class starts in 15 minutes." And because of that, our classes are becoming more simplistic and fun for all. (Yes, even for the choreography diehards.)

The following points are some suggestions for putting the sparkle back into your group exercise program and keeping your instructors and members motivated. All of this, in turn, will help your retention efforts.

* Start out by writing a letter to your instructors, telling them how much you appreciate all their hard work in ensuring a positive experience for your members. They may not really be doing that yet, but there's nothing like positive reinforcement to wake them up.

* Make sure your instructors are showing up 15 minutes before the class starts. This gives them time to set up the room, play welcoming music if there isn't a prior class, greet old participants by name and learn the names of new participants, and make your members feel comfortable and safe by ensuring them success and fun for the next hour.

* Have all participants sign in before class and write down their e-mail addresses, so their instructors can keep in touch with them. Receiving an e-mail from your group-exercise instructor is extremely motivating. Make it a requirement that all your instructors communicate via e-mail to their participants. Have them send encouraging words of support, invite members back and ask for feedback. Make sure that the members feel important and that their opinion matters.

* Take surveys quarterly to find out how the group-exercise schedule is accommodating your members. This will help keep your members happy with the times and types of classes offered. If you respond to their needs and communicate changes in advance, the members will appreciate your desire to keep the programming strong, and be thankful for having the opportunity to adjust their schedules in advance.

* Make sure there is always someone on staff who can teach various classes. Emergencies do occur, and it's great to have someone who's able to jump in.

* Employees should be required to take every class quarterly so they may communicate their experience and give concrete explanations of the classes to members and potential members.

* Breed your own instructors from within. A member who becomes an instructor is the most positive example to other members.

* Make sure that your programming director knows what she's doing. The group-exercise schedule must be laid out properly and with variety.

* Communication must be good between the owner/manager and group-exercise director, and positive/productive meetings should occur regularly.

* During an orientation, the trainer should always lay out a group-exercise schedule for the member. Remember, it's not just about sets, reps and a little cardio. Teach your members how to use the entire club - including group-exercise programs.

* Your class instructors are your newsletters. Make sure they know all the activities that are occurring in the club so that they may make announcements. This is the most underused opportunity to communicate to your club members. Don't miss out.

* Family fitness is making a huge impact on the industry. Try it. Welcome all ages to take a class. Parents and children in a class together is a powerful retention tool. (See Focus On Programming.)

* Most importantly, know what's happening in the industry regarding group fitness. Attend the trade shows and read industry publications. That way you will know what's out there and can choose to bring it to your club.

By following these few suggestions, you will be able to wow your members, and retention will heighten. By using group exercise and giving it tons of recognition and visibility, your members will discover a feeling of belonging, have a destination when they come to the club and be happy exercisers.