Think of this article as a User's Guide to Mind-Body Fitness for the Fitness Professional. It was created to help you assemble your mind-body program correctly, with each piece in its proper place. This user's guide shows you how to choose the right alternative fitness classes for your facility and build them into a program that will attract new clients and continue to service current ones. The guide also explores a new way to market such classes, because without a marketing plan that matches your program content and flavor, people won't come.
What mind-body classes can you offer? Let's look at the possibilities. If we gathered together all the group fitness classes in the world, they could be laid out on a continuum, progressing from those that are least integrative (i.e., least likely to treat the individual as a whole rather than as a collection of body parts or body systems) and purely mechanical to those that are most integrative and based on inner energy. (For a look at this range, see the "Workout Continuum" below.) Along the continuum, workouts fall into three distinct categories, starting with those that are least integrative. Conventional workouts, such as step, emphasize primarily psychomotor results. Modern mind-body workouts, such as Nia, focus on emotional and cognitive experiences. Classical mind-body workouts, such as tai chi, are ancient workouts originally designed to place equal emphasis on (and to integrate) physical, mental, emotional and energetic results.
While you may be inclined to select particular workouts--such as yoga and exercise based on the work of Joseph Pilates-- because they are hot, it's better to choose activities based on the clientele you want to attract and retain. What's hot today might be as cold as a week-old fish tomorrow and attract just as many people. We need to guard against becoming too identified with any specific activity. Yoga, while a great workout that I personally practice, is simply a wave on the tide of the wellness movement. It's important to create a broader program that is not identified with just one class modality.
In creating a mindful exercise program, are you just trying to retain current clients or do you also want to attract new ones? Part of the beauty of mind-body workouts lies in their potential to reach new clients. However, what may motivate current clients may not inspire other people, and may even strike them as boring, exasperating or stressful. Each of us has a set of physical, mental and emotional characteristics--a "psychophysiological profile."
While you can't know each person's exact profile, understanding the diversity that exists among clients is the starting point for designing mind-body workouts. Fortunately, although everyone is different, we are enough alike to be loosely separated into distinct divisions. I have devised a system to group clients into five categories called "BodyMind types." These are based on people's genetics and are named after the seasons of the year: Spring, Summer, Indian Summer, Autumn and Winter. Here is a brief description of each type:
- • Springs are exercise oriented and do well in workouts that emphasize challenge, muscle/cardiovascular speciﬁcity, goals and possibly advanced techniques.
- • Summers are play oriented. They like movement that emphasizes fun, spontaneity, emotion, beauty and experience.
- • Indian Summers are people oriented and thrive in envi- ronments that emphasize relationship, fun, support, community and opportunities for outside contact.
- • Autumns are tradition oriented. They value workouts that emphasize very speciﬁc arts and approaches, exotic ﬂavors, strictness, inner energy and meditation.
- • Winters are priority oriented. They tolerate workouts that emphasize an appropriate strategy for exercising in the right place at the right time and do well with an authority they can respect, like a personal trainer.
Spring types, while they appear to be everywhere because they are extremely active and achievement oriented, make up only about 20 percent of the U.S. population. On the other hand, Summers and Indian Summers together make up as much as 60 percent. Because most ﬁtness environments cater to Spring types, it’s no surprise they form the core membership of most facilities.
Depending on which category you designate as your target market, you should choose mind-body activities that meet the wants, needs and motivators of that type. Look around your facility. What BodyMind types make up the bulk of your regular clients? Do you want to keep satisfying existing members and bring in more members of the same BodyMind type? Or would you rather attract new members who are different from your existing members? Both marketing and programming should revolve around your demo-graphics, or the people you envision your clients to be.
To satisfy your core membership, keep offering conventional ﬁtness activities. If you want to attract new members of the same BodyMind type as you already serve, then offer new activities from the same region of the continuum. This has been the strategy of most facilities recently, which accounts for the explosion of new step choreography, BodyPump™and indoor cycling classes. These workouts are all from the conventional category of the continuum, but they look different and satisfy the “newest fad” need of Spring types.
Of course, you probably want to open up your business to everyone, so let’s look at this from another angle. To attract new members who are different from your existing clients, you’ll need to go after people of another BodyMind type. Are most of your classes likely to exclude non-Spring types? Many conventional classes chase away a lot of people, in particular Summers and Indian Summers. Also, ﬁtness-style classes often don’t appear valuable to Autumns and Winters, because the design and marketing of these classes emphasize achievement, power and excitement, which by themselves don’t sway these types. (Autumns and Winters make logical decisions about exercise based on their values systems and life priorities scales, respectively.)
When you know what BodyMind types you want to attract, how do you determine which workouts to offer them? Perhaps you want to attract all types, but need to focus less on Springs, who are already clients, and more on Indian Summers, whom you’ve chosen to be your new target market. If possible, don’t choose mind-body workouts at random. Using the workout continuum, match your target audience with the design elements that will appeal to that market. Your goal here is to align work-out components with the target group’s motivators, wants and needs.
Let’s look at a speciﬁc example. For years, the ﬁtness industry has chased after the “overweight market” (usually Indian Summers),but I think we’ve taken the wrong approach. From our point of view, it may seem obvious that overweight people should ﬂock to ﬁtness facilities because we have the technology to help these people get thinner and ﬁtter. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Well, perhaps many large-size people would like to be thinner on some level, but their most powerful intrinsic motivator is prob- ably something other than appearance. If you try (as facilities do every year during the New Year’s Resolution membership frenzy) to get them into challenging, high-intensity, goal-oriented classes, you will chase these potential clients away.
Many overweight people turn out to be endomorphic and tend to have a slow metabolism—a description that ﬁts the Indian Summer type. Indian Summers are motivated by relationship, comfort and group identity. If you want your classes to appeal to this type, you should look at where these characteristics appear on the continuum. Lo and behold, you ﬁnd them in the “modern mind-body exercise” category, so you should include classes like Nia or Jazzercise®to attract your new market. The classes you offer to entice Indian Summers should de-emphasize complex choreography and challenge, and instead focus on fun, companionship and a sense of success for all.
When looking at what people in each season want, know that they can enjoy workouts outside of their season. There are no absolutes; it isn’t true that an Indian Summer can’t or shouldn’t lift weights or that a Spring could never do yoga. However, the following recommendations are intended to help you guide previously inactive people into “successful” ﬁrst-time exercise experiences.
- • Springs enjoy all workouts, particularly conventional, ﬁtness- based exercise. They beneﬁt from a goal-setting process.
- • Summers like hatha yoga, low-impact, dance, Jazzercise, Nia and circuit training.
- • Indian Summers enjoy walking, Jazzercise, tai chi chuan, swim- ming, tennis, cycling and circuit training.
- •Autumns like tai chi chuan, weight training, hatha yoga, exer- cise derived from the work of Joseph Pilates and cycling.
- • Winters enjoy bodybuilding, Ashtanga yoga, martial arts, car- dio kickboxing, tennis, golf, swimming and Chen-style tai chi chuan.
As I describe methods for expanding your reach into untapped markets, please don’t assume I don’t care about the regulars who have already been coming to your facility. You may ﬁnd that while some of them will make faces at the thought of your new mind- body classes, others will want to take part in them.
Once you have decided which classes to offer, how do you put them onto your schedule at times that match your members’ BodyMind habits?
Consider that most current ﬁtness environments are built around the Spring type. Springs, typical of regular ﬁtness facility mem- bers, often show up during what we call “prime-time” hours: 6:00 to 8:00 AMand 5:30 to 7:30 PM. Keep your most conventional, ﬁtness-based classes at these times, and also make personal train- ers available during these slots, particularly in the morning. Springs often like faddish workouts, so make sure you include, for example, martial-arts-based kickboxing or power yoga classes. The times of day we identify as “prime” are related partly to the workday, but also to the times of day when Springs are at their peak.
Other BodyMind types may also like to exercise at these times, but the energy of the Spring prime-time workout hours can be stressful and even exclusive of other types. In other words, Indian Summers, Summers and Autumns may ﬁnd it more comfortable to work out when Springs are not around. (Winters and Springs tend to be compatible.) However, people of any season may needto work out during prime-time hours, so they can’t be limited to any one BodyMind type. A good way to sat- isfy everyone is to offer a mind-body combo class that intro- duces yoga, tai chi and kickboxing.out. In practical terms, this means sell thetrend, not the fad. According to Al Ries and Jack Trout, authors of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, the more hype you give a fad, the sooner it passes. Then you’re stuck with all those yoga mats you bought, with no one to lie on them (remember slide?). By focusing on the trend of wellness, you make a statement about your mission, and your marketing sends a message that your business is about supporting health for all. Older adults, who comprise a mixed bag of BodyMind types (but tend to be Indian Summers), may take advantage of mid- morning and noontime slots. Stay-at-home moms also have lots of Indian Summer characteristics and need quick, in-and- out classes. You might do well to schedule gentle yoga and easy tai chi classes at these times, but mix in at least one high-ener- gy, dance-based class like Nia. Nia does well at noon because noon is an attractive time for Summers. They are looking for a change of pace and an emotional pick-me-up in the middle of the day, and Nia meets those needs. Mat classes based on the work of Joseph Pilates also do well at noon because Autumns (and other types) appreciate challenging, speciﬁc, structured workouts offered at a logical time of day (one that doesn’t interfere with the rest of the day’s work.) but you’ll be hanging out with a lot of skinny 20-somethings, and you’ll feel fatter and more awkward than ever.” Think about the words and images that are most powerful in the minds of your target market. In practical terms, treat this mar- ket as if its members spoke a foreign language—Swahili, for exam- ple. To be a successful marketer, you must learn to speak (at least a little bit) in the language of each BodyMind type. Here are some distinct words and images that match each type’s inner language: • Springs. The high-energy look and feel of most conventional ﬁtness facilities appeal to Spring types. There is something excit- ing—almost dangerous—in a facility ﬁlled with bright lights, loud music and machinery. That’s why television advertising that Step Six: Choosing Messages to Convey To market your new program, you need to throw away all your old marketing strategies. Traditional methods to bring in new clients are designed to appeal only to Springs. Be aware that despite your best intentions, when you advertise, “It’s time to get in shape for summer,” a lot of potential customers run that slogan through their own BodyMind language ﬁlter. “In shape for summer” trans- lates as “You are fat. You’ll always be fat, and you look terrible