Sparks of Inspiration

A roundup of 6 innovative programs for different markets.

By April Durrett
Sep 23, 2014

Looking to make more money in your training business? Trying to shake up your programming? Want to bring the benefits of fitness to a certain population? Here are examples of interesting programs that personal trainers invented to meet a specific need. See how they developed their ideas, and get inspired to start a new program of your own.

#1: FitGuy, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Why did the women-only AlamoShape studio start a men’s group? “FitGuy evolved 5 years ago after we were asked to train the top members of a high school football team. That team went on to win the state championship in their division, and word spread about our business,” explains Rosemarie Ferrara, owner of AlamoShape. “Also, the husbands, sons and friends of our clients saw them getting faster and leaner with our programs and wanted to experience the same results.”

Program description: This small-group exercise program for men meets six times a week. Four of the 55-minute sessions involve resistance training using free weights and body weight exercises interspersed with high-intensity intervals using equipment like battle ropes, TRX® Rip™ Trainers and jump ropes. The remaining two sessions are yoga classes. “We space the FitGuy session about 15 minutes after the last women’s session
so there is no ‘mixing of the species.’ We want to keep true to our women-only aspect but still provide the benefits of our program to the men who are related to our clients.”

Target population: Men of any age and any fitness level.

Program fee: AlamoShape charges $129 per month for the program. “Because the guys are sharing the cost of training with 11 other men, it brings their cost down to $5 a session,” says Ferrara. “They still get very individual attention because of the 12-station circuits.”

Why the program is successful: “We have allowed the program to grow slowly, so many clients are now well versed in the equipment,” Ferrara says. “That allows us to teach the newer guys how to use it properly without holding up the advanced exerciser. Plus, men enjoy the social aspect of training. They are supportive of each other and patient with newcomers.”

How the program helps business: “FitGuy participants are husbands and sons of our members,” says Ferrara. “FitGuy helps the whole family commit to exercise and be excited about their fitness results.”

#2: 10-Week 40+ Female Group Training Program, Online

“The majority of my in-person clients are women in their 40s and 50s, and their fitness challenges and goals are often different from those of younger women,” says Tamara Grand, a personal trainer from Port Moody, British Columbia. “Most online programs are geared toward a younger demographic, so I created an online program for menopausal women.”

Target population: Women in their 40s and 50s who are experiencing mid-life hormonal change and are healthy enough to exercise on their own.

Program fee: Grand charges $70, but that may change. “In retrospect, I should have charged more,” says Grand. “I’ve found that when a service is too affordable, it’s easy for people to register but not follow through.”

Why the program is successful: “Women in this age group often feel unheard,” explains Grand. “While they may not be interested in exercising like they did in their 20s and 30s, neither are they ready for programs for ‘seniors.’ I offer something in between.”

A private Facebook group for program members is also appealing to them. “Women interact with one another, sharing their successes and challenges,” she says. “Several have stated that this group alone is worth the price of admission to the program.”

How the program helps business: Grand works as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer at a city facility. “My hourly wage is capped, and the only way I can increase my income is by working more hours. Offering online group training helps me break free from the ‘trading time for money’ model. It also allows me more flexibility in my work hours and the opportunity to reach my target audience. It’s been a great cure for burnout.”

#3: Attorneys ‘Time-Share’ Training™, Alexandria, Virginia

When LaRue E. Cook, CSCS, MHA, JD, was a practicing attorney, he had little time left at the end of the day to exercise. When he started LEC Fitness LLC, he wanted to help his former colleagues and others in the legal profession to fit exercise into their daily routines in an efficient, cost-effective way. So he created a program that brings exercise to the office.

Program description: Several attorneys share an hour in a way that works with their schedules and time restraints. “So, for example, three attorneys could share the hour by each doing a 20-minute individual training session,” says Cook.

Target population: Attorneys in particular, but also physicians, executives and other busy professionals.

Program fee: The charge varies depending on whether clients are seeking a single session or a package of sessions.

Why the program is successful: “As a licensed attorney and business professional, I can personally relate to the challenges that these clients face and, as a result, have created a program that speaks directly to those challenges,” he says.

How the program helps business: “It provides an additional revenue source; it establishes me and my company as a specialist in working with these professionals; and it allows for additional referrals from the attorneys to some of their legal clients,” Cook explains.

#4: Next Level Plan, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Meredith Deckert of Next Level Fitness LLC wanted to offer her clients something more than personal training sessions. “I wanted a way to become more influential in their lives,” she says. “I wanted to help them with lifestyle habits so they could realize faster and better results.”

Program description: The program includes two 30-minute personal training sessions per week, grocery store trips, weekly meal planning, weekly food journaling and review, monthly compositional analysis, an activities calendar for the month, and more.

Target population: Anyone wanting to make a physical and physiological change. “We aim the program at people who want direction and are looking for more than just a workout buddy,” says Deckert.

Program fee: Deckert offers many variations of the program. Clients who do solely in-studio training pay less than those who do in-home training, but clients may do some of each.

Why the program is successful: “We strive to give clients our utmost focus [so we can] help them reach their goals,” she says. “We keep in contact with clients on the days we do not see them, to ensure success. Clients also love the monthly activity calendars we create for them based on the activities they like.”

How the program helps business: “This program helps our business stand out in an area with many other personal training businesses,” Deckert says. “Since our program has been accessible via our website, we’ve received over a dozen inquiries, and almost all of them have [resulted in] dedicated clients. For a small, two-woman operation, 10–12 new loyal clients in 1 year is a lot!

#5: HEAT Training System™, Chicago

When Frank Nunez of UNICUS Fitness® was working at a large health club, he met a firefighter who was a safety training officer. “That person was responsible for doing annual physicals and performance reviews, and I did a workout boot camp for his firefighters, which they loved.”

Fast-forward a few years and Nunez has started his own business. The fire-fighter wanted to do the boot camp again, tying it to the Candidate Physical Ability Test, which is like an obstacle course that measures firefighter candidates’ physical ability to perform essential job tasks. Nunez created the HEAT (Health Evaluation And Training) Training System, and it went so well that he began to offer it for other fire departments.

Program description: HEAT is a 60-minute small-group workout done at the firehouse or at the UNICUS studio; the class focuses on anaerobic training and flexibility because firefighters need to be ready to respond to a fire at a moment’s notice. “The workout includes 45-, 60- and 90-second protocols for doing each movement,” says Nunez. “The program can run from 4 to 52 weeks, because it’s custom for each client.”

Target population: Firefighters, police officers and security personnel.

Program fee: “Most firehouses purchase at least one or two classes a week,” says Nunez. “Depending on the number of times per week the group comes, the program might cost $4,000–$5,000.”

Why the program is successful:
“Firefighters are often plagued with injuries to their backs and shoulders, and this becomes a huge drain on insurance,” notes Nunez. “We show them how to prevent the injuries so their departments can save money on the preventive side. We figure we can save them $4 for every dollar they spend.”

Also, because Nunez worked to get the HEAT Training System recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a grant-ready program, groups such as fire stations can purchase the program with DHS grant money.

How the program helps business:
HEAT has become quite a profit center for UNICUS. “We also created HEAT DVDs,” explains Nunez. “Wives and girlfriends saw these videos and then asked if we could create a program for them. We designed the Wedding Boot Camp and Beach Body Boot Camp, which became successful divisions of our business.”

#6: Mind Body Blast, Online

Luci Gabel, MS, MBA, of LuciFit™ LLC, wanted to help people who couldn’t afford an in-person trainer learn how to make healthy food and exercise decisions on their own, so she created an online program.

Program description: Mind Body Blast participants learn to clean up their diets and ramp up their exercise with Gabel’s help and the support of a group. “Students can access course materials such as videos, recipes and checklists and even have conversations with me and their peers 24/7 from anywhere in the world,” says Gabel, who is based out of the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC, metro area. “The course is 6 weeks long, since 40 days—or 6 weeks—is the minimum time it takes to create a new habit,” she says.

Target population: People who want to adapt healthy habits that work in their busy lives—for the long term.

Program fee: For $297, students can participate in the group course that Gabel leads two or three times per year. Students can also choose the membership option,
starting when they’re ready and going at their own pace. For $37 per month, they get access to course materials, online group meetings and support forums, plus a reduced rate for one-on-one online sessions with Gabel; for $17 per month, self-starters get all of the materials they need, without the personal attention.

Why the program is successful: Many people want to be healthy without being tied to a diet or specific exercise program, but they don’t know how to do it on their own. “When students take my course seriously, they leave with lifelong lessons and tools to [help them] feel better and more confident,” she says.

How the program helps business: The program has attracted a new clientele from around the world, and Gabel has expanded her client base.

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April Durrett

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