We are facing disruption in our industry with increased segmentation and specialization. Our challenge as operators is to discern trends that have longevity with fads that will be a “flash in the pan.” Studios and specialization are now everywhere! What should we do? Should we create a program or programs that attempt to compete directly with the studios with specialized offerings that are popular today? When it comes to trends and programming, this is the fundamental question we operators are asking ourselves… or need to be. Do we CREATE completely new programs to follow trends (and possibly fads), or do we stay fresh on our current traditional offering while EVOLVING with elements of efficacy from new technologies and consumer-adopted preferences?
- We have seen the surge in Small Group Interval Training (SGIT) with Heart Rate (HR) technology. This space is currently in full adoption mode. Most forward thinking clubs are implementing SGIT with multiple apparatuses: Cages, TRX, Sleds, Balls, Slam Bags, Ropes, Kettlebells and everything else imaginable. Many have added turf and open areas and are utilizing MyZone, Polar or one of the other technologies now available for heart rate measurement in class and beyond. This type of programming, while efficient and getting a lot of attention, can still be somewhat intimidating to a large group of people. In this arena, it is imperative to make it mainstream and use the HR technology as an equalizer for all to be able to succeed based on their own effort. The routines must be doable and user-friendly. A lot of focus has to be given on the regular exerciser, not the somewhat more extreme fitness enthusiast. A lot of operators are seeing success in this arena with the more advanced exercisers. But, let’s not forget about the less advanced in functional movement; making simpler while using all the camaraderie and technology of the HR measurement is the great equalizer. Team/Group exercise does increase efficacy and adherence and should not be minimized. Figuring this out is important.
- We have seen a surge in Yoga offerings. Remember, Yoga is a practice, not a trend or fad. People spend a lifetime practicing yoga, mastering Yoga. They have a noun: Yogi. It means a person proficient in Yoga. Yoga isn’t going anywhere, and it cannot be faked. To have a viable Yoga program, you have to have stellar Yoga/Yogis teaching and a variety of offerings. YogaFit.com is a great resource in finding Yoga instructors and obtaining training for your Yoga program. There are others as well. The point being that, to offer Yoga in clubs that compete with the specialization of Yoga studios, you need to have high quality Yoga classes with high-quality, well-trained Yoga instructors/practitioners.
- We have seen a surge in cycle offerings. Cycling has also proven not to be a fad. Outdoor cycling is actually a sport. Thus, we can presume that cycling isn’t going anywhere. There are so many levels of cycling. Some cycle indoor to augment their outdoor routines. Some are committed just to indoor cycling as a fitness activity in and of itself. For the most part, when you look at the cycling studios and space, there are fundamentally two varieties: “Dance Party on a Bike” and “Cycle Training.” Of course, this is an oversimplification of the spectrum. Various studio models focus on variants of each. They range from “Exertainment” to active fun and cycle training. My advice to traditional club operators is that we have 2 – 3 varieties of cycle class formats with very strong charismatic personalities teaching all.
- We have seen a surge in boxing offerings. I think that most clubs should offer some boxing training formats. A lot of times, this can be done within hybrid classes or as a part of your Small Group High Intensity Interval Training (SGHIIT) program. But, boxing modalities are currently attractive and engaging. While boxing is a sport, boxing training seems to be much more than a fad and more of a trend in class formats.
- We have seen a surge in Barre offerings. Barre draws a mix of individuals who may have enjoyed Pilates, other mind/body activities and some components of ballet or even dance. A big component of this modality is the community of like-minded individuals. In many case, the popularity of Barre programs is provider-driven. From the origins of ballet, the allure of muscle elongation, flexibility and muscle firmness (toning) has a wide appeal and is most likely a trend (in some format) versus a simple fad.
- We have seen a surge in almost every imaginable twist to programming. The takeaway here is creativity. How do we make our class schedules “pop,” not only in membership-included offerings but also in fee-based offerings? We need to be creative, evolve and experiment. Change regularly (quarterly).
- We have seen a surge in High Value / Low Price (HVLP) offerings. We have to find our differentiation and be committed to what we do internally. Do our clients/members get what they pay for plus a bit more? If we do this consistently, we will be okay. The newer HVLP entrees to our markets will hurt in the short term, but in most cases, they will expand the market. But, we will continue to grow if we pay attention to the programmatic opportunities in the marketplace. Also, remember that great companies pay more attention to what they are doing than what their competitors are doing. Knowing what the market offers is important, but staying true to WHAT we do and WHY we do what we do are the most important components to long-term success.
- We have seen a surge in residential, corporate, multi-tenant and medical locations. Fitness is becoming more available on every front. From technology to public spaces and every conceivable entity that has a vested (and in many cases a financial) interest. So, with all the hype on new models and all the pressure on the traditional club model, there is a natural tendency in our industry to follow with a lot of “me too” copying. I think it’s critical to stay relevant and offer the latest in best practices (and trends). But, it can be dangerous to try and offer what others are offering when they may just be “fads,” even if you know how, unless you are very clear about WHY you are doing it. Many times, we jump straight to execution and don’t take the time to create the strategy around WHY we are doing what we do the way we do it (how). So, do we create a whole new approach, or do we evolve our current approach? I think that, for most of us, it will be a combination. But, let’s not “throw the baby out with the bath water” on what we do that works. Creatively, let’s do some new stuff and evolve our current stuff. Remember, the body craves and needs variety. Traditional clubs provide variety like no other solution.
Bonus Thought: Low Intensity Interval Training (LIIT) is an opportunity. I know there is no clear-cut answer to this disruption for every operator. But, with all the new models and substitute offerings, we should all spend some strategic time thinking about who we are, what we want to do and WHY we are doing what we do.
I wish you all continued and even more success as our industry evolves for the better!