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TALKBACK everyone’s talking about . . .


is fi tness still fun? T


wenty years ago the industry was young and spontaneous. If it had been a person, it would have


been game for an impulsive drink after work, or popping away for the weekend. Now, in comparison, it’s married with children, a mortgage and responsibilities. The industry has become smarter, it has weathered the recession and it knows about market segmentation – but has this come at the expense of the fun element? (see also HCM May 10, p3). Club business models have also


changed: budget chains, for example – many of which offer 100 per cent online


joining, no tours, automated entry and, essentially, a lack of the personal touch from the word go – are now gaining a prominent foothold. What they provide is a markedly different experience from the casual, personal welcome of the owner-operator who set up a gym as an extension of his or her hobby. Generally, though, the industry is


constantly coming up with new ways to engage its members, whether that be new classes or social events. Nevertheless, many members see clubs as a place to spend as little time in as possible: they dash in after work, but really want to be at home or at their next engagement. They don’t want to get


ARE HEALTH CLUBS AS MUCH FUN AS THEY SHOULD BE? EMAIL US: HEALTHCLUB@LEISUREMEDIA.COM


david stalker fia • executive director


“I


think we have become more professional, strategic and serious


about the business, but I think the industry still has the energy, dynamism and excitement of a young industry. People come to our clubs for different


reasons, so we can’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach – we need to understand their drivers. Many of our members are


time-starved, they want to get in and get out, and our role is to be supportive and give them counsel if they want it. Some people, perhaps those who come during the day, might want to be more sociable. And then there are the novices who don’t understand what they need, so do require more support. The challenge is to become a master of segmentation, and


we can learn from other sectors here. Shops in airports change their window displays from the morning, when the flights go west to the US, to the evening when flights go east to Asia: those passing through the airport at different times want to buy different things. We have to think of the facility as more than a backdrop and, as the audience changes, we have to change the set – the music, the approach, the classes and possibly even the personnel – to reflect the needs and interests of the users.


” 28


christina deguardi crunch • vice president marketing


entertainment into the workout space, and we’re still as packed as ever with people enjoying themselves. We continue to set the bar in the


“W


fitness group realm by launching classes with a twist. For example, we’re teaming up with Broadway to offer dance routines


from shows, and running 80s prom nights where people come dressed up in leg warmers. There’s also ‘BOING with Kangoo’, which uses bouncy boots so members can jump around like kids. We have a live DJ on Tuesday nights and we’re always coming up with new ideas to stop the club from getting stale. Social media also helps to create the fun element: you can


post amusing things on Facebook and lots of our instructors have followings on Twitter. We work hard to get members to interact, so they aren’t just coming in and working out with their iPods on – our instructors encourage members to talk to them and to each other. We run partner yoga classes and even did a popular speed dating yoga class, where members had to do a pose with the person to their right and then change round. There was a mixer after, but I don’t know what happened later!


” Read Health Club Management online healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital july 2010 © cybertrek 2010


e’ve built our reputation on being fun and bringing


kath hudson • journalist • health club management


Are health clubs still jolly places to visit, or has the natural maturation of the fitness industry into a serious, preventative healthcare-focused business caused a change in atmosphere?


involved in conversation, with staff or with other members, and they zone out while they exercise alone, contributing nothing to a convivial atmosphere. That’s one side of the coin. The other


side is that the industry has evolved to the point where it can read its members and give them the experience they want, respecting those who want to exercise on their own but also offering the opportunity for a social experience. Aware that we now live in a society where most people are happy to talk to a stranger online, but are suspicious if someone talks to us on the bus, it has also adapted, making use of social media to emphasise the club aspect.


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