I really like lifting weights and building mass. It’s a lot of fun and I like having a nice body. The experience of building muscle is fantastic because it looks and feels good, it makes doing physical things easier and it gives you a huge lesson in body awareness. I’m going to stick with building muscle.
But I’m also a cycling instructor. Riding an indoor bike is an athletic activity, like running fast on a tread mill, but it isn’t a mass building activity. In fact, of the 6 different fitness classes that are offered at our gym, only one of them is geared towards mass building. And there is very little cross over between the fitness class participant members and the mass building members. I’m one of the rare members who participates in both weight lifting for mass and group exercise. But I’ll do whatever is put in front of me to do. And that brings us to cardio equipment.
There is a third type of exercise that people come to the gym for and that it cardiovascular exercise. This is the middle ground between lifting and Group Ex. Many lifters and Group Exers use the cardio equipment to burn extra calories. Some people actually use it as cardio equipment, working at high enough intensities to dramatically improve their cardiovascular health.
So of these three types of members, lifters, group exers and cardio freaks, what drives the bottom line of a gym? Well, moving forward I think it is going to be group fitness and here is why:
Lifters are always lifters. There are a few people who turn to the plates later in life. It’s a lifestyle if you want to make it work and most people don’t get that much out of it to start doing it when they’re any older than their 20’s. This group more or less stays the same size and grows or shrinks based on the number of people who are in the lifting age range. The point is, don’t count on there being a big increase in the number of lifting only members at your gym. The good news is they cost very little to keep once the initial over head has been laid out. Their retention depends more on the initial cash outlay for equipment than anything else. Keep the equipment working and leave them be.The cardio only people are the same way. Buy enough good equipment when you open your club and you won’t have to worry about this group. Cardio only people train themselves and they keep to themselves. Their numbers are dependent upon the age of the population.
This leaves Group Ex. Group Ex is where you need to focus your effort because it entices members who need more than just the equipment to perform a workout, it grabs them because Group Ex provides the motivation and education to help members get their workout. Along with helping to get people involved, Group Ex makes it fun. It adds enjoyment to an otherwise joyless experience which will help to ensure participant retention. Since the classes are very effective at building fitness, making them fun is going to improve your bottom line.
Group Ex will open your gym up to a much larger audience than the traditional group of users, thus driving your bottom line.
The beauty of it for a gym owner is that there is very little overhead associated with group exercise. The initially start-up costs are marginal in comparison to resistance training or cardio equipment. Operating costs are also low when compared to cardio and only slightly larger than resistance training costs.
The only cost that group exercise has that the others do not is the cost of the instructor. This is were you are going to need to invest the most effort to ensure that you maximize the growth potential of the group exercise market. Good instructors will facilitate exceptional experiences for participants, turning them into vocal advocates for the classes. They generate really positive word of mouth opinion about your club.
I compare instructors to personal trainers because both serve a very similar role and appeal, to a large extent, to the same type of people, those who need social accountability or external motivation in order to engage in fitness activities. Group Ex is going to do to that fitness studio what personal training has done to your lifting section, turn it into a money maker.