Upgrade Your Approach to Equipment

by Darren Jacobson on Nov 24, 2009

The equipment innovation trend has unlocked the ability for us to “play” more--let’s take advantage of it.

Service-oriented personal training directors excel when they develop a knack for recognizing innovations and trends in programming and equipment. Are you evolving? As you branch out into new areas of growth, it’s important to get intimately acquainted with the trends and fads within the equipment realm and train your staff accordingly.

View your equipment selection as an extension of your professional services. While many “trends” are commercial marketing gimmicks that entice members with quick-fix promises, educated decisions about equipment upgrades reflect your focus and brand. As the industry’s technical ability and understanding has evolved with exploration of triplanar movement patterns and integration, the equipment world has struggled to keep pace. Many of the larger suppliers have had a “slow to change” mentality and have continued to rely on traditional pieces of equipment and consumer ignorance. Smaller niche offerings, such as suspension training and multiplanar-focused small equipment, have led the charge. Personal training directors who stay abreast of research developments are able to make informed decisions that improve member experience.

While traditional pieces of equipment have their place and many people benefit from using them, a new breed of equipment—coupled with higher-quality education and training—is entering the industry and our facility floors. Be discerning and calculated. Your positive and professional attitude and approach to equipment orientation will help clients avoid confusion and frustration as they re-enter a somewhat different and potentially foreign environment.

Creative Small-Group Training

The equipment revolution has brought with it a number of opportunities for us to break away from the formality of the nonfunctional, isolated, single-plane selectorized pieces into the realm of the triplanar, functional integrated approach. Capitalize on this trend with innovative programming that fully uses your equipment to generate interest. Create a boot camp-oriented class, niche activities such as skill zones; and functional choices, including the TRX® Suspension Trainer™, speed ladders, sport walls, functional cable pieces and more. Not only will this differentiate your club with a space that costs a fraction of what a selectorized circuit costs, but it will also showcase you as providing a forward-thinking and member-focused facility.

The programming opportunity in terms of classes and challenges is endless, as long as you have a motivated and skilled staff. This drives revenue straight into the club through small-group oriented training with an emphasis on fun and involvement.

Lost in Translation

Fitness professionals often lose touch with the primary realities of new members or clients. The health club environment can be intimidating and frustrating—we have a responsibility to break down barriers. This takes a great customer service ethos and a high level of empathy and understanding. Deconditioned or intimidated individuals may need an extra ounce of care and attention when deciding whether or not to simply walk through the door. The business-savvy trainer provides a soft landing and handholding, which will allow the individual to feel comfortable.

Not only must you be cognizant of translating the fitness terminology and slang you throw at members and clients, but you must also explain and translate equipment choices. A core aspect of this involves revisiting the basic principles of physiology, rest, overload, progression and regression. As clients jump into the training sphere, their bodies go through the shock or alarm phase—especially if it is with a foreign or new piece of equipment. A client may have been very successful using a selectorized equipment circuit, but he might be a bit surprised that a hanging piece of cable paired with multiplanar movements can make him so sore the next day.

The client’s perception may be that the level of intensity required on the new equipment choice is not suited to him. This is a risk we run as the equipment choices evolve, and the body begins to function in the correct manner. The take-home point: realize the effect these new equipment choices have on the demands of the body, and communicate or translate that effectively so that members are aware of the challenges.

Be the Change

Drive the change in equipment offering from a powerful perspective of knowledge and ability. Start “how-to” or “fast classes” where you initiate and introduce members to the new product in a nonintimidating and open environment. Foster an attitude of “we’re all in this together.” Ensure that when the new piece hits the floor, you fully understand all the intricacies of set-up, calibration, programming, progression, regression and variety—to the point when members might ask if you are getting kickbacks from the equipment supplier!

Train your staff to “own” the new equipment. Promote an aggressive, knowledge-driven attitude among trainers, and position your facility as the equipment-education specialists. Make your members talk! Word-of-mouth referrals are the Holy Grail of the personal training world and members who try out the new product under the guidance of your expert trainers will spread the good word beyond the facility walls. Your goal is to “be the change” and to position your facility as first in the minds of consumers when they come into contact with a piece of equipment. It’s about brand recognition and immediate brand recall. Top-of-mind awareness is one of the most important keys to success in any industry, and “being the change” will position you for success.

Driving the Bottom Line

Regardless of the size of the facility and the membership base, your clients’ experiences—positive or negative—will drive the bottom line. Members who have great sessions will be advocates and will spread the message. Those whose experiences are lacking will vote with their feet. The equipment choices and class structure directly relate to the member experience. While cash flow may be the handicap of the smaller facility, it is the ability to be quick, nimble and flexible with new trends and innovations that allows the smaller entity to mold and adapt with the times. One mistake I see is when smaller facilities try to compete with bigger ones by choosing large, traditional pieces of equipment. This does not demonstrate innovation, and the pieces are extremely costly. Usually, the result is that the facility enters the constant spiral of revenue in, payment out for depreciating equipment. Differentiators are tossed aside due to lack of funds.

Focus on well-researched, sensible purchases that provide members with a stellar experience. If you do this, regardless of your facility’s size, you will be well-positioned to capitalize as the industry evolves.

Upgrading your attitude to equipment requires a proactive and forward-thinking approach. If you’re able to sift through the mass of quick-fix gimmicks and nonscience-based products to find those equipment diamonds in the rough, then you can set up your department, facility and members for success.

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About the Author

Darren Jacobson

Darren Jacobson IDEA Author/Presenter

Darren is the Vice President of instructor Programming for Zumba Fitness LLC. Prior to this he was the Head of Product for Virgin Active South Africa. He holds a bachelors degree in Human Movement Science and is a featured writer for numerous industry publications. In addition, Darren sits on the IDEA Program Directors Committee and was a finalist for the IDEA Program director of the year award 2009. Darren is a well respected industry speaker at major international fitness conventions including IHRSA, IHRSA Asia Pacific, IDEA, CAN-FIT-PRO, FILEX and MIOFF.