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08 Apr 2019

The rise of the group exercise gurus
BY Andy Knaggs

Group exercise classes have grown in importance for health clubs

Group exercise classes have grown in importance for health clubs
photo: Pure Gym

A new breed of health club professional is starting to make its presence felt in the industry. Increasing numbers of operators are appointing a “head of group exercise” or similar job function, recognising the contribution that group exercise now makes to their success.

Health Club Management spoke to three such rising stars in its March 2019 issue, finding out what is driving the trend and what impact this level of commitment to group exercise can have on their organisations.

One such is Antony Stewart, head of group exercise at Third Space. He explained why the development is becoming more and more commonplace, saying: “Without a direct revenue line, group exercise has historically been a neglected part of the product offering, with only lip service paid to the huge role it plays in retention and profitability. But, in recent years, the boutique market has really set the standard in terms of immersive experience, with nightclub sound systems, lighting, cool instructor style and service.

“With growing recognition of its importance, it’s a great time to be involved in group exercise.”

Pure Gym’s national group exercise manager Dave Cross adds that since group exercise is a constantly evolving area, it is important for the business to have “someone at the forefront, tracking those trends and aiming to catch those waves”.

Both of these operators have gone through a process of rationalising their group classes and instructors to deliver a better experience. In Third Place’s case it has almost halved the number of instructors it works with, while significantly increasing the number of classes it provides at each site.

“We believe fewer instructors delivering fewer programme types is key to getting more people doing group exercise,” said Stewart. “Our instructors teach between six and 20 classes per week, meaning our members see familiar faces, who are passionate about the club.”

Cross said that educating fitness professionals across Pure Gym has created a much stronger commitment to group exercise, and has “highlighted the incredible engagement that classes bring to our gym”.

Virgin Active’s recently-appointed group exercise head, Israel Rivera sees the role very much in terms of helping the company’s fitness professionals to feel engaged and empowered, with a clear career trajectory ahead of them.

He said: “I’m committed to helping our teams maximise the skills they bring to the table, so we create member experiences that actualise our mission to make exercise irresistible.”

The way to do that is to also make it immersive, enjoyable and convivial, while extending the reach beyond the club, and building communities, Rivera continued: “The Virgin Active customer experience will be much more personalised, by acknowledging, respecting and celebrating uniqueness and individuality.”

To read the full article see Issue 3 2019 of Health Club Management here



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