Gathering group exercise staff for meetings is a challenge. Part-time status, jobs outside your facility and family obligations place time constraints on most team members. It may be hard for staff to justify returning to the center for a meeting that typically turns into a review of club policies and events—or into a gripe session. General information like club policies and events is better shared via e-mail, notes attached to paychecks or newsletters posted in studios or employee lounges. If you expect team members to attend, meetings must be more productive.

Here’s a novel idea: Why not approach meeting planning the same way you design a group fitness class? People attend a class because they’re seeking results and they view that hour as an opportunity to learn something or improve their lives. Staff meetings are no different. The same time and care that goes into planning a fun, motivating class can be used to prepare a staff meeting.

Opportunities to Play

Group exercise instructors find it hard to sit still and be lectured to for an hour. Their bodies and brains crave activity. They also enjoy having a voice and being acknowledged for their efforts. Retool your staff meetings by incorporating interactive games. Use meeting time to bolster a sense of teamwork while sharpening fitness skills and building knowledge.

Look to popular television game shows and board games for inspiration when planning a meeting. Fitness Feud, Fitness Jeopardy, What’s My Line, Wheel of Fitness, Props (from Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and simple scavenger hunts all offer an abundance of tools for team-building and knowledge-building. Read on for details about presenting the first three of these.

Fitness Feud

This game borrows from Family Feud. The group exercise director acts as the game host and producer. Prior to the meeting, research and prepare a list of questions and assign point values to the multiple answers for each question. A sample question might be, “We have surveyed 100 fitness professionals who have determined the top four answers to the following question: What are the four abdominal muscles?” Predetermine the point value for each answer and award the highest point value to the most unlikely answer. Most people would answer “rectus abdominis,” so its point value would be 5. Assign 10 points to “external oblique,” award 25 to “internal oblique” and save the big points—60—for “transversus abdominis.” Add an extra ounce of education by asking why the transverse carries the most weight; what the muscle’s location, function or purpose is; or what exercise engages that particular muscle. Use a flip chart as your game board, with answers preprinted on the sheet. Simply cover each answer with colored paper so contestants can’t peek!

When the staff arrives, split the group into two teams. Divide the teams so that each one has a mix of skills and knowledge. Separate people who teach the same format or who already know each another. You also wouldn’t want to pit your indoor cycling team against your aquatics instructors. The goal is to build relationships and respect, not foster competition and separation.

Begin the game by explaining the rules and giving each team a device to use to “ring in,” such as a bell or a party horn. Ask the question clearly. The first team to ring in can choose to play or pass. Encourage the individuals on the team to work together to determine the answer. The first team is allowed three strikes. If the team strikes out, the second team can “steal” the pot with a correct answer. If the second team also can’t answer the question correctly, the first team gets the points. The winner of the game is the team with the biggest point total.

Fitness Jeopardy!

The game show Jeopardy! features three individuals competing against one another. To maintain your team-building objective, select three teams of instructors to ensure a good balance of personalities and knowledge. Create your Fitness Jeopardy! game board on a sheet of a flip chart, marking out 25 blocks on which to write in the answers.

Choose five categories—for example, “Lower-Body Muscles,” “Back Exercises,” “Beats per Minute,” “Cycling No-Nos” and “Club-Specific.” (That last category might include questions such as “Who is the club’s owner?” or “What class combines strength, step and flexibility training?”) Create five questions and their answers for each category, assigning a dollar amount to each of the question-and-answer pairs. Post this dollar amount on the paper that covers the answers. Remember that in true Jeopardy! style, the answers must be given in the form of a question.

Assign each team a name, such as “Fit-Funatics,” and place those names in a hat. Draw a team name to begin the game and have that team choose a category and a dollar amount—for example, “We’ll take Lower-Body Muscles for $200.” Remove the cover of that category/dollar value and read the answer: “I am the longest muscle in the body.” Note the correct answer on a master sheet, or simply write it on the back of the paper that covered the category. The team’s members may interact with each other to decide on an answer. They’ll need to respond with “What is the sartorius?” within 30 seconds in order to win the points. If that team doesn’t respond in time or answers incorrectly, the other teams can chime in. Continue to pull team names until all answers are unmasked. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

What’s My Line?

This is a great game-show theme to use as an ice-breaker or a chance for your staff to get to know each other more personally. The bonds that are created help grow a more cohesive, professional team.

Prior to your meeting, gather information from team members by providing each of them with a list of questions, both personal and professional—for example: “What do you teach? How many children do you have? What is your favorite color? What was the most embarrassing moment you had leading a class? Tell us a fact about yourself that probably no other teammate knows.” End with “Who am I?” Keep the questions broad enough that the staff will have to really think about which team member is being described.

Record the questions and answers on note cards. At the beginning of your meeting, hand the cards out, making sure you don’t give a card to the person it pertains to. To show staff how the game works, take the first turn. Read the information from a team member’s card as if you were that person. For example, “I teach many classes here at the club, but my favorite is Groove. I have one child. My favorite color is red. The most embarrassing moment I had in class was when I turned around to stretch and realized I had taught class with a giant hole in my pants. Most people would be surprised to know that in college I sang and played guitar in a rock band. Who am I?”

Invite your staff to guess which person you are talking about. That person should play along without disclosing his or her true identity. This light-hearted game helps your team identify with one another and get to know each other more intimately.

Rewarding Outcomes

For games that have winners, the winning team may be rewarded in a variety of ways. Passing out small treats or candy is always a popular and inexpensive option. You can also reward the winning team with club merchandise, such as logo T-shirts or gym bags. Another idea is to reward them with merit points (if you are using the merit system).

The amount of premeeting preparation needed in order to make these games happen may seem daunting, but it’s important to look beyond those 2–3 hours of work each quarter to see the end result. You can find information to use in your games through a host of professional magazines and websites, as well as continuing education workshops. Making flip charts for game boards is simple and inexpensive, and they can be used multiple times.

Investing those few hours enhances the strength of your team and their knowledge. Bringing fun, value and opportunity to the fold will make meeting time more meaningful. In turn, this affects the bottom line of the club (retention of both staff and club members) and, ultimately, your participants’ class experience.