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Fitness Directors and Group Exercise Program Managers have an exciting task: to keep the group exercise schedule fresh. However, when class attendance begins to drop and fitness trends shift, it can be a daunting task to launch new group exercise programs.
While the promise of attracting more members, rejuvenating Instructors and creating buzz-worthy announcements with new classes is thrilling, self-doubt can creep in:
“What if the members don’t enjoy the new class?”
“Did I pick the right program?”
“Can I get enough Instructors to teach the new format?”
You likely know there are a plethora of new group exercise programs you can bring to your gym: Les Mills, Tabata Bootcamp, TRX, ViPR and more. However, what works in one gym doesn’t guarantee a smash hit at another.
That’s why I reached out to Jill Brown. She’s an experienced workout designer, educator and fitness consultant to some of the hottest fitness brands around: Spinning, Step Aerobics and Core Fusion. Having worked at all of Los Angeles’s most prestigious fitness studios and health clubs, she’s seen both new group exercise programs launched with wild success and others flop on their face.
In this interview, Jill Brown revealed a wealth of information on how a Group Exercise Program Manager or Fitness Director can launch a winning group x program. From that interview, I created this step-by-step success guide to launch a new group exercise program at your health club.
Step-by-Step Success Guide: How to Launch New Group Exercise Programs
Step #1: Consider Your Target Audience & Business Goals
It’s important to understand the long-term goals for adding new group exercise programs. Are you looking to fill an “empty” time at the gym? Do you want to attract a younger/older crowd that has recently moved into the neighborhood? Will the fitness program be included with membership or a separate profit center?
First, “Really think about what will speak to people in the time slot that you want to fill, ” says Master Trainer Jill Brown. “People who attend classes in the evening tend to want the high-intensity or trendy classes.” The new fitness program you bring to your gym should fill a specific purpose.
Step #2: Consult with Operations & Facility Management
Your Operations Team could play an integral part in which new group x programs are allowed at your gym. “If you add a barre class to the group x schedule, will the walls need to be reinforced to hold the weight? Can you fit a jungle gym S-Frame into your fitness studio for a TRX class?”, asks Jill Brown. “These are things you need to consider.”
In addition to coordinating with your Operations Team, you’ll also need to organize a proper storage area. Some group exercise programs require special equipment with a large footprint, like Spinning bikes. Also consider where you will safely store medium-sized fitness equipment like a BOSU or ViPR, so that is easily accessible.
Step #3: Find the Perfect Spot on Your Group X Schedule
Now that you know WHO you want to attract to your studio with the new group exercise program, determine WHERE it makes most sense to add it to the group fitness schedule. This can be a difficult decision as many of your long-time members won’t like change. Often the perfect spot is at a prime time where things are already shifting.
“It’s an easier transition if you have a time slot where the current Instructor is getting burnt out or leaving soon,” Jill Brown suggests.
Step #4: Certify Your Instructors
Now that you know how many times per week the new group x program is scheduled, it’s time to certify instructors. Since Group Fitness Instructors are required to obtain Continuing Education Credits (CEC) to maintain their main certification, many enjoy getting additional certifications to fulfill the CEC requirements. This means they will be eager to get certified in the new group x program if they can find it at an IDEA or ECA Conference.
However, you can always bring the certification to you. “If you’re purchasing fitness equipment, you can sometimes negotiate for a Master Trainer to host a certification class at your gym for free or a small fee,” reveals Jill Brown.
Step #5: Promoting New Group Exercise Programs
Arguably marketing your new group exercise program is the most important part of its success. Create a BIG BUZZ up-front and you’ll reap the rewards of a snowball effect. Jill Brown had some great in-house promotional ideas:
- If the new Group Exercise Program involves a new piece of equipment, arrange it front and center so everyone can see it. Next to the equipment, place a poster or flyer announcing the new class, time slot and start date.
- Team teach in a prominent spot. Gather your newly certified instructors and have them teach classes to each other. Not only does it allow for practicing cues and proper techniques, but creates a chance for Members to see the program in action.
- Invite any instructor or staff member to the Team Teaching classes. Invite them to blog about their experience or post it on whichever social media platform they enjoy most.
- Host a special “Launch Party” on a Saturday afternoon or Holiday and invite all the members and staff.
In addition to these promotional ideas, try these additional marketing ideas:
- Send out an e-newsletter blast.
- Invite VIP Members or Media to try the class with a hand-written note.
- Mention the new group exercise program at least 2x per week in social media posts for the month leading up to the launch.
- Create a referral Marketing Campaign: “Bring this postcard to get 3 free TRX classes. Membership not required.” Sprinkle the postcards throughout your facility so that current Members can give them to non-members.
A special thanks to Jill Brown for her ideas and advice. You can reach her at: