At the beginning of a new year motivation is at its highest, and fitness is continually at the top of the list of priorities for the coming months. Websites and social media streams are full of tips for setting and keeping fitness-minded resolutions, and gyms and fitness facilities are the busiest they’ll be for the foreseeable future. How do fitness facilities managers take advantage of the “high season” and keep clients coming back?
#1: Be Accessible
If they don’t know that you’re there, or what you offer, they won’t visit or value you. According to WebMD about 15 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions vow to get fit and even more than that value the convenience of having what they want easily accessible. Do your community members know what fitness options you offer? Do they need to be reminded how to use the fitness assets you’ve invested in on their behalf?
Beyond the well-used motivational statements about getting stronger (or just getting moving) in the year ahead, most people need reminding that available fitness options even exist. Today’s consumer is bombarded with online advertising messages and, with Google itself prioritizing local search results, fitness facilities should claim their space in the world and just let patrons know where to find them. Even if the facility is part of a school or an apartment complex, consider naming it and registering the facility as a location on Google (if it’s big enough and contains enough fitness options for the facility to be competitive with other local gyms). Even multi-family housing communities that have private fitness facilities can showcase the amenity online, possibly attracting new tenants who want access to the facility. “It’s not as simple as encouraging people get moving. It starts with promoting the opportunities and locations for that movement to take place.”
Studies show that “82 percent of renters across the U.S. are interested in having a fitness center at their community” and they’re willing to pay an additional $31.75 in rent each month to have access to it, so why not capitalize on that interest and demand if you can? Many New Years resolutions also include finding a new place to live, or finding a new job, so if you can offer a compelling reason to attract new tenants, students, employees, etc., why not share it?
Awareness of accessibility can also be achieved by simply sharing and promoting your January hours of operation on social media, with pictures of any new equipment or advancements that you’ve made recently. If you have non-busy hours, it may be well worth your while to promote less-crowded times for your community, as attendance at fitness facilities “can increase by 25 percent during January” or even more.
If there are fitness options available in the workplace, are they available even when many workers are out for the holidays? As corporate wellness programs have become the norm, knowing when these programs are accessible, especially if that availability goes beyond normal work hours or expected holidays, adds to their value for employees. Like retailers extend their hours in November and December for shopping, corporate fitness facilities should consider the same tactic in January to entice usage of fitness facilities during the highest point of interest.
#2: Be Prepared
If you’re planning to host hordes of fitness enthusiasts and keep them coming back for more, make sure that the user experience is what you promise it will be. Take a look around and make sure that the equipment you have is in good working order, or take the steps to make it that way, before you promote your offering publicly. If equipment needs to be replaced or updated, realistically assess your needs and act on those you can to keep your facility updated. If technology is important to your community, is it integrated in your fitness options? This is a tricky one, as wearable technology and popular fitness apps are changing the face of fitness at a lightning pace, and if you’re not tying technology into your fitness space you’re behind (even if it’s just offering WiFi so that users can listen to their own music).
Updated cardio equipment offers technology tie-ins that are impressive and continually evolving, like Life Fitness’ newly released Integrity Series improvements (which are useful for both end users and facility managers trying to effectively manage equipment use):
“With most workout facilities having access to standard WiFi connectivity, end-users can save and track their workout data directly from the equipment with the free LF Connect app. This cloud-based fitness data bank allows end-users to track their exercising, while at the same time allowing facility managers to track which pieces of equipment are used most frequently, to update the fitness software to make new programs available, and even to get proactive service prompts to keep equipment working in top shape. Technology services can be costly a la carte purchases from other equipment providers, so the added value is nice for those who select Life Fitness Integrity equipment.”
It’s not just the latest and greatest that you want to be prepared for though, as crowded January fitness spaces means that users are looking to try options that they don’t regularly use. Experts suggest that users look for new options to avoid the crowds, as “chances are there’s a free bike or rowing machine you’ve never tried before” that might be free.
Despite frigid temperatures across most of the country, be prepared that fitness facility users might want to explore some outdoor options to mix into their fitness routines as well. Outdoor options are growing in popularity, regardless of the climate or season, and fitness equipment is starting to pop up in local parks, along established trails, on rooftops, or in available green spaces all over the country. If you want to offer outdoor options to your fitness users, “companies who are creating outdoor fitness equipment are combining scalable body weight training stations with extremely durable construction and galvanized, weatherproof materials so that equipment can stand up to all of the elements.”
#3: Make It Easy
Though the New Year seems to be the most popular time to start something new, there can be drawbacks.
“For the inexperienced, the gym can pose unexpected hazards. Many fitness wannabes are not familiar with how to use exercise machines and other equipment and can easily sustain head, eye, back, neck, hip, leg and ankle injuries. ‘Right after the holidays, there’s a mad rush of people who have never exercised before or haven’t exercised in a long time,’ said Leon E. Popovitz, a veteran orthopedic surgeon at New York Bone and Joint Specialists in Manhattan. ‘That leads to a lot of injuries that normally could be avoided.’”
Even equipment manufacturers are responding to feedback about making equipment easier to use and more intuitive. During the development of the Integrity Series, Life Fitness engineers spent hundreds of hours observing users of all types. During their research, “seemingly simple issues came up, including numb feet using ellipticals, improvements in accessing the deck on treadmills, a recumbent bike that is now easier to use and ellipticals with stride lengths that needed to be longer.”
Fitness facilities can easily add onto these improvements by simply communicating how to use the equipment (and equally importantly in some areas, how not to use the equipment).
Communication and information-sharing can go beyond safety to lessen the intimidation factor around fitness routines and equipment, making the adoption of healthier lifestyles both safer and longer lasting. Posters around an unmanned facility can help with basic information, some technology solutions can help easily explain how to use equipment on site, and hosting introductory training sessions (even if they don’t last all year long) can be effective draws to get newbies into fitness facilities. One example of how some equipment manufacturers are helping to “make it easy” includes the use of QR codes, that users can just scan with their smartphones to literally see how to use the equipment. LFCodes, created by Life Fitness, “are small, scannable QR codes placed directly on each piece of Signature Series strength equipment. Once scanned, users have access to a variety of tools to help better target muscle groups and become the master of their gym.”
Fitness and muscle movement trends are heading towards simplicity as well, as “The latest annual survey of fitness professionals suggests 2018 will find more of us ditching the gadgets and getting back to basics in the way we work out: more resistance training, yoga and jump-ropes; fewer earbuds and iWatches.”
Group exercise classes, body movement programs and other basic exercise programs are gaining in popularity because of their simplicity. “This means more simple things like body weight exercises, lunges, pushups and planks.” Using weights, body bars, kettle bells and even old-fashioned jump ropes, many fitness facility users are opting for easy, simple-to-understand and use fitness options, as they’re quick and less complicated than other options can be.
Fitness isn’t about one type of program, as the definition of fitness and wellness is expanding beyond workout routines to whole body and lifestyle considerations. Fitness is being looked at as more of an experience, which includes nutrition, sleep patterns, and other elements beyond working out.
Even fitness pros are looking at new options beyond PRs and high intensity goals. Amy Jordan, founder and CEO of WundaBar Pilates, admits that she’s backing off in the year ahead:
“Take it down a notch! As a fitness pro, I often push myself as hard as possible in every. single. workout, choosing the most advanced poses or sequences. Movement is my ‘drug of choice’ and I’m working on sometimes allowing that movement to be peaceful or restorative rather than only the most intense.”
—Amy Jordan, founder and CEO of WundaBar Pilates
It turns out that restoration is becoming a vital component to fitness programs, alongside encouragement to “head outdoors” and explore a diverse set of fitness routine options so that boredom doesn’t set in as quickly.
If you manage a fitness facility, it’s wise to be on the ball and provide a diverse set of fitness options to meet the needs of the majority of users. At Ohio State, they see more than 11,000 out of 58,000 visiting their fitness facilities during the first month of the year, and students face long lines and frustration.
“January and February are definitely our busiest months of the year,” said Marci Shumaker, senior associate director of programs and administration in the Office of Student Life’s Department of Recreational Sports, citing cold weather, New Year’s resolutions and wanting to see friends as the main reasons for crowds on the fitness floors. A large diversity of activities works well for them, as students who find their favorite classes or machines full up are advised to try something new. “Try swimming or rock climbing,” Shumaker said. “There are so many different activities at our facilities to keep students engaged.”
If you’ve got a fitness facility to offer, now’s the time to showcase it, to achieve dividends that may pay off all year long.
About Advanced Exercise
Founded in 1986, Advanced Exercise is a leading fitness equipment and facility design resource, representing more than 30 equipment brands to bring clients the best new or used equipment solutions to maximize the use of available space and meet the needs of a diverse community of fitness amenity end users. For more information on fitness equipment and facility design services, visit www.advancedexercise.com or call 800-520-1112 to connect with one of Advanced Exercise’s experts.