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
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.