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Group Exercise

by Daniel on July 9th, 2012

Back in 1988, shortly after I first started working at Fitness Management, I was an avid participant of high-impact aerobics. There was a small gym down the street from our office where I was a member, and I would attend a lunch-time aerobics class that was popular among the local women. Our instructor spent a great deal of time choreographing each workout, adding onto a routine each day, until he got tired with that one, and he would start over with a new routine. One day, he was really excited that he had just gotten his hands on a copy of the newly released Michael Jackson Moonwalker video, which he announced he would play for us after our workout. But on that day, no matter how hard each of us tried, we just couldn’t get in sync to his choreographed routine. Well, this really upset him, and by mid-workout, he exclaimed, “That’s IT! We’re NOT going to see the Michael Jackson video.” Suddenly, I was 10 years old again, being yelled at by my gymnastics coach about my tumbling routine. And I realized that my aerobics instructor didn’t choreograph those workouts for my benefit; what he cared about was accomplishing his work of art. And that was the last time I went to that gym.

As Kat Ricker, a personal trainer at a Gold’s Gym in Salem, Ore., says, “things now look a lot different from the early days of high-impact aerobics, Jazzercise, pink leotards, leg warmers, terrycloth headbands and Jane Fonda” (see Group Fitness Today at
features.html). During those days, it was common to experience what I did, because quite frankly, participants didn’t know what they should expect. But today, Ricker points out that a successful group fitness program helps meet the goals of participants, provides both challenge and achievement, and provides a social outlet.

Group exercise classes have evolved far beyond “high-impact” and “step,” and the demographics are changing as well. Amanda Vogel points out in her article, Group Muscle Conditioning (p.48), that classes are providing a venue for women to take part in activities, such as strength training, in which they were too intimidated to participate before. And, with the introduction of more sport-related activities, like group cycling (pp.38 and 44), men are now participating in group exercise classes, whereas their participation previously was almost nonexistent.

But even more important than programming is the support by your staff of your members’ exercise efforts. The studies cited in Jim Annesi’s article, Reducing Attrition with Group Exercise (p.30), point out that members need to feel like they are part of a group to keep them coming back to your club. And, they need a leader to initially facilitate their involvement in the group.

Many clubs are now catching on to the importance of making members feel like they “fit in.” And it’s not just the staff who has to take a role in making group exercise programming a success.

Group fitness is a core part of each facility’s business that must be tended to from management on down. Those who realized this have seen their membership and programs grow by leaps and bounds.

For instance, CourtSouth in Knoxville, Tenn., earned $120,000 in membership sales after they launched their group fitness program; Gold’s Gym in Douglasville, Ga., experienced a 242-percent increase in its group fitness participation; and Gold’s Gym in Worcester, Mass., experienced a 33-percent decrease in cost per member served in its group fitness program in one year.

Group fitness is no longer just “aerobics”; it’s the key to keeping members motivated and coming back to your facility.

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