The traditional fitness facility has typically been viewed as a place to work out and play sports in order to change one’s physical appearance. However, this has shifted. Wellness—which includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness—has become the buzzword of the decade, and today’s fitness facilities have begun offering a myriad of services, hoping that people will view these locations as the local wellness center. To cover the full wellness spectrum, however, you need to combine forces with other health modalities.
Why would you want to transition your fitness facility into a full-fledged wellness center? You’d do it because you want to create a sense of community, which in turn gives your clients a strong emotional connection to your business. The emotional connection retains them; they return to receive more support, motivation and inspiration. Discover how you can turn your business into a true wellness center and keep clients coming back.
From Fitness Facility to Wellness Center
Offering all aspects of wellness in one location can differentiate your business. People want to live the best life possible, and you can help them. Transitioning from a generic fitness facility into a complete wellness center tells customers that you want to be their partner in their wellness journey.
When I began working at the Kennedy Space Center’s gym, we offered a lot of options with different classes and personal training, and over time we added fun extracurricular fitness activities and other programs that helped people reach their goals in different ways. What really opened up the center’s fitness facility to encompass wellness was joining forces with specialists from other modalities of health. On-site we added a massage therapist, physical therapists and athletic trainers, along with occupational and medical health professionals. This was a great start. But you can do even more.
Consider these areas as you think about transitioning your gym into an all-encompassing wellness space.
Find Fitness Facility Experts
Many fitness facilities don’t employ credentialed wellness professionals, but it’s likely there are highly certified health coaches, exercise physiologists and wellness professionals in your community. Of course, it can be difficult to get loyal, certified staff if your facility charges low fees. With boutique studios and gyms popping up all over the country, some clients have no issue with paying upward of $200 a month. If money is an issue for your facility, consider these strategies.
Open Up Your Business to Boutique Studios
Renting out space within your fitness facility to studio owners helps both of you. It allows the boutique studio to save on overhead. (Since the majority of specialized boutique studios are 800–1,000 square feet, they don’t take up an enormous amount of space.) It provides another workout option for your clients, and it helps differentiate your business. Having access to boutique workouts like barre-inspired programs, aerial fitness, mind-body programs and other popular branded programs could keep members using your facility. You can create tiered memberships for your members and the studio members to use each other’s space.
Bring in Wellness-Oriented Independent Contractors
Certified health coaches, massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and counselors may be a good fit if you have extra space in which to house them. Offer loyal clients of these professionals a discount to use your facility, and see if the contractors will offer your members a lower price as well.
Create Partnerships or Set Up Affiliates
Associating with local hospitals is another way to bring traffic into your wellness facility. You could arrange for medical professionals to lead health seminars and/or provide monthly health screenings. These experts could follow up with proper medical recommendations within their scope of practice.
Find Fitness Facility Volunteers
Many medical professionals are so passionate about their choice of medicine that they want to go out into the community to educate people on the importance of certain disease prevention screenings. They are eager to speak and are willing to do so for free. Gym members appreciate this type of education because they want to understand and become advocates for their own health. In the past the doctor’s word was final, but some patients are starting to question the why behind a diagnosis and to do their own research on alternative methods for treatment or prevention. Many people are afraid of or intimidated by medical and healthcare professionals. When you bring the medical advocates into your facility to talk with your members, answer questions and provide education, your business becomes a safe, high-quality space.
Set Up Internships
Think about partnering with local universities. In return for your help in educating interns about the fitness industry, the interns can provide a fresh perspective and outlook on the health and wellness field. You can give them ideas for different wellness programs, and they may be able to offer suggestions of their own. For example, nutrition students could work with nutrition professionals in your facility or at local hospitals to conduct weight loss programs. They can do some of the legwork for your wellness programs, including marketing the events and promoting your facility’s mission. This gives interns valuable experience.
Create a Wellness Library
Help members educate themselves with a library full of wellness pamphlets, articles, books and DVDs they can borrow. A space dedicated to wellness content—both written and online—can feature health and wellness articles, medical information, special reports from scholarly published research studies and access to health documentaries. The publications could focus on all kinds of health: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.
Many people feel that the world is missing a sense of community. They want to feel fellowship with like-minded people, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals. Providing connections in a fun, healthy and safe space while providing an educational foundation helps provide a wellness orientation. See below for some examples of what you can do to build community:
Bring Support Groups Into Your Space
Welcoming support groups into your gym provides a service for the community. Support groups can help people find strength, friendship and hope without judgment at a time when they are struggling. Bringing people together who understand someone else’s pain helps promote healing on a completely different level. You can partner with counselors or professional facilitators to lead the groups. The groups touch on an aspect of wellness that many business owners tend to ignore.
Consider support groups for caregivers, for people experiencing grief or loss, for people with cancer, for people who struggle with eating disorders or for members of 12-step programs. A colleague of mine started a support group for disabled persons and people with special needs. Our fitness facility was able to work with these individuals and teach them how to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
Provide Space for Sports Teams
Partnering with professional or amateur adult or kids’ sports teams/coaches adds another wellness element for the community. If you have a lap pool, for example, you can host a swim team. The team pays the gym to use the space on a regular basis and/or to host competitions at your pool. Swimmers may end up joining your facility. If you host kids’ sports teams, you are helping children get active—and as an added benefit, you are bringing their parents into your facility as well. Teams can rent your space for sport-specific training or general training on your equipment.
Embrace the Whole Person
The main goal of transitioning from a fitness facility or studio to a full-fledged wellness facility is to create a sense of community, which in turn gives people a strong emotional connection to the facility. The emotional connection will retain people as members, since they’ll want to return for more support, motivation and inspiration.
Fitness Facility Event Ideas
If you are struggling to find a focus for events and are looking for fresh ideas, consider following the National Health Observance calendar. Every month (and sometimes every week) the calendar includes a different focus, from American Heart Month to National Nutrition Month. Consider these possible offerings:
- screenings, including cardiovascular, memory, balance, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and fitness
- ongoing educational classes and one-time workshops (classes could be ongoing nutritional education classes; a workshop could be led by a medical professional coming in just once)
- seminars on nutrition, wellness, integrative medicine, sleep, healthy hearts and healthy joints
- cooking demonstrations
- children’s programs
- different fitness activities—from salsa lessons to karate