Maintaining a Competitive Edge

Keep up-to-date with the gym world to stay ahead of other facilities.

As fitness professionals, we must provide our members with the best and most innovative environment in which to achieve their health goals. This mission means keeping current on all the latest in equipment, training aids, operational systems and facility design. Ideally, the environment and the particular tools and equipment you offer should motivate people to behave in certain desired ways—specifically, to spend more money, stay longer and refer friends to your club. By assisting members in achieving their own fitness goals, you in turn achieve your business goals.

Providing the optimal member experience takes a special effort on your part. You must create an inspirational atmosphere that attracts people back to exercise regularly and helps them enjoy the overall experience of simply being at your facility. Keeping current on new advances in equipment, training aids, operational software and locker room design will help you stay ahead of other local gyms.

Equipment

Revolutionary advances in fitness equipment rarely happen. However, it is essential to incorporate new equipment and equipment add-ons as they become available. Whether this means purchasing new machines or integrating new technologies into existing equipment, keeping your equipment as up-to-date as possible goes a long way in retaining members.

First, make sure your equipment offers personal choices for your members. This is extremely important. Simply offering individual viewing screens on your equipment is no longer enough. Innovative offerings that you can add to your current equipment include on-demand movies and TV shows, podcasts and a full cable option.

Second, consider getting equipment with personalized Web-based workout monitoring and tracking systems. These newer versions of cardio equipment allow users to save their workouts to a USB stick and then download that information to a website, where they can monitor workout length, distance and intensity. This information can be saved so that users can compare workouts over time and view their progress. These pieces of equipment also allow members to download iPod music and videos right into the machines.

Third, think about offering equipment with virtual-reality cardio programs. For example, several companies produce virtual-reality exercise bikes. The type of experience they provide is the next best thing to riding outside. Although virtual-reality capabilities have been around for several years, the quality of the programs has improved. Today, the graphics and options are significantly better. These programs allow users to become fully immersed in their workouts and challenge themselves in unique ways. Similar programs exist for newer treadmills and elliptical machines, allowing members to skirt boredom by continually varying their workout routines.

Training Aids

Technology and exercise complement each other very well. Training aids keep members motivated to continue exercising for the long term, thereby optimizing their health while also enhancing your retention rate. Training aids can track, measure and quantify exercise endeavors, as well as provide a change in exercise regimens.

For example, Web-based fitness tools (e.g., Gyminee™) track goals such as pounds lost, changes in resting heart rate and other common fitness measurements. Members can also participate in social networks through some of the more advanced online tools. Clients can be paired up with an online workout buddy and participate in message boards where users share success stories, provide support or plan group workouts. Some Web-based tools even aid in planning meals, checking calorie content and keeping track of individual successes through a Web-based training journal.

Downloadable workout routines are another novel way to pair technology and exercise. Members can view a wide assortment of free workouts online, download them and then bring these routines with them to the gym. This gives clients lots of variety in their workouts. Keep in mind that when your members do bring in a workout routine they have obtained online, it is important to ask if they have any questions or need direction before they begin. Without a trainer there for guidance, they might misuse the equipment, which could lead to personal injury.

Operational Efficiency

We all know that time is money and that efficiency equals cost savings. The more you can do to implement technology in the daily operations of your facility, the more the club will run in a professionally organized and cost-effective manner.

These days, Internet-enabled handheld technology is a way of life for most people. With a smart phone or PDA, we can do almost anything—check e-mail, update our calendar, access the Internet and more. All of this functionality can apply to the fitness industry, making for a more streamlined system of club management.

Several companies offer remote-access management software that takes advantage of this current trend. A simple version of the software can give personal trainers and fitness instructors access to their schedules via a cell phone or PDA. Setting and updating schedules becomes much easier for staff members if they have remote access to your management software. Many clients do not see their trainers on a set schedule, but instead contact them directly to make appointments when desired. That means trainers' schedules are not always consistent from week to week. Remote access is a great way to ensure that staff members and management receive schedule updates immediately (Peavey 2008). And allowing trainers remote access lets business owners stay more up-to-date on appointments scheduled and cancelled directly through trainers.

Remote-access software products decrease operating costs by streamlining most activities related to scheduling. The products reduce administrative time so that valuable staff may focus on other activities, such as customer service. In addition, these products can provide staff with on-demand access to information with point-of-sale capabilities; give operational data regarding booked services and facility trends; and automatically manage wait lists to keep classes at capacity (Peavey 2008).

Locker Room

Often overlooked, the locker room is the transition area before and after exercise. Thus, it provides the first and last impressions of any health club. It is therefore crucial to put significant effort into creating a locker room that offers privacy, comfort and different amenities.

Many people are not comfortable in the traditional locker room atmosphere because of the lack of privacy. One remedy is to install partitions after every 10 lockers or so. Individual changing rooms are also an important factor in creating adequate privacy.

One of the best improvements you can make to your facility is to give the locker room the feel of an upscale spa. You can accomplish this by making a number of changes, either all at once, or one at a time, depending on the club’s budget. Consider installing granite countertops, oversized showers and separate lounge areas. Improve your shower stalls by adding an attached private dressing room with a water-treated bench, hangers and frosted glass to allow private showering and changing in a closed-off area. Create separate makeup areas with bright lighting in the women’s locker rooms. If you happen to have a large budget to work with, why not consider adding a steam room, sauna or whirlpool?

If your current budget does not allow for big changes in your locker room, you can still make some inexpensive changes that will have a big impact. For example, repaint the room, using color creatively; install digital locks on your existing lockers; and add several well-placed artificial trees and plants to give the area a more welcoming feel. Offer amenities such as shaving cream, deodorant, hair spray, blow driers and lotion. And consider locating some smaller “express” lockers outside the locker room—this will decrease traffic in the room and give more privacy to those changing there.

To provide the best possible fitness experience for your members while generating a successful business experience for your club, it is crucial to invest in continually updating your facility in all areas, from equipment to amenities. If you do this, members will keep on walking through the door and referring others to your club. And you can keep on watching your membership and profits rise.

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Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES

IDEA Author/Presenter
Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES, is a certified health education specialist with a master’s degree... more less
Peavey, H., 2008. Get in sync with management software. Athletic Business (Dec.).
January 2011

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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