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TALKBACK Everyone’s talking about . . .

Gym fl oor skill sets T

he group fi tness director of a national health club chain recently suggested to Health Club Management that, in an

age when people can download workout programmes from the internet – with videos showing how to do the exercises – fi tness know-how is less important among gym staff than soft skills. Indeed, he questioned whether we even needed qualifi ed fi tness people on the gym fl oor. His view was that you have to build

a relationship with members before they will accept help from you: you can have the most in-depth physiological knowledge, but unless you can chat to someone – and have the ability to push

them out of their comfort zone – then all that knowledge will go to waste. So does this mean the fi tness industry

can start skimping on the wage bill, employing people with a winning manner even if they don’t know much about fi tness? Or does it mean that, in addition to employing fi tness instructors, we need hosts as well: people who will give members a warm welcome and have a friendly, motivational chat with them each time they come in? Alternatively, should we be ramping

up the training in soft skills to ensure fi tness instructors are able to offer the full package? Should we be more selective in our interviewing process,

Dave Stalker ukactive • CEO

necessarily accurate. I think we would be going down a dangerous route to employ less skilled people on the gym floor: if anything, we need more skilled people. We can never expect to be seen as a priority sector if we don’t consider skills in our field as anything other than


hugely important. I’m a strong believer in the importance of technical-based roles for fitness professionals. That said, soft skills do need to catch up. The ability to

communicate with a mass audience, especially those who lack motivation, is important. As we grow our market, we will have more people as members who are there as a requirement to change their lifestyle – because they have underlying health problems – but who don’t really want to be there. That’s where having qualifications, as well as soft skills, is crucial. Soft skills can be taught. The Olympic 2012 Gamesmakers,

trained by McDonalds, are a fantastic example of soft skills in action. There’s a lot we can learn from other industries, and to this end ukactive is now talking to McDonalds and many others who work in the hospitality industry.

here’s a lot of information on the internet, but it’s not

Andy Brown FitPro • Editor


he short answer to the question is yes. Yes, gyms and fitness

centres still need qualified fitness people on the gym floor, with a strong knowledge of anatomy and physiology. If members who are working out have any questions, they need to be answered by a qualified professional. However, just because these trained

professionals can tell members whether they should be super-setting or not, and about the metabolic benefits of HIT, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t also have great soft skills. Why should the proposition be either/or? We strongly believe that the successful modern instructor has a well-rounded skill set, and part of this is soft skills. The ability to communicate comfortably and confidently, to build rapport, and to know how and when to approach members is key. PTA Global, the training provider powered by FitPro, has

a strong emphasis on training soft and business skills. These skills are like anything – with the right training and hard work, anyone can learn them. Fitness professionals who walk our gym floors need to have a well-rounded skill set to take themselves, and our industry, forward.

” 28 Read Health Club Management online at March 2013 © Cybertrek 2013

Kath Hudson • Journalist • Health Club Management

So much fitness information is now available on the internet that it begs the question: do we even need instructors with fitness know-how on the gym floor, or are communication skills more valuable?

actively choosing people with soft skills to work our gym fl oors? As the sector strives to encourage new – less gym- savvy – audiences into its facilities, will it become more important to have both sets of skills? Will service increasingly be the differentiator between operators? The tourism industry realised the

importance of soft skills almost 20 years ago, working out that, unless the bar was raised, the UK would lose customers to other countries who prided themselves on customer service. So what can the fi tness industry learn from other sectors? Can soft skills be learned – and if so, who should teach them? We ask the experts...


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