There are two types of clubs growing in our economy: boutique centers, and low-cost, bare bones gyms. Many of those in the middle – think Gold’s Gym, 24-Hour Fitness, New York Sports Club, and Town Sports – found refuge in the bankruptcy courts as COVID-19’s shutdown ravaged their business models.
So what can you do to ensure your gym’s future in this difficult market? One method is to create a vertical within your facility by hiring personal trainers with nationally-recognized, specialized certifications. Expanding this way boils down to two questions: Who do you want to attract as a customer and how will they help your gym grow?
First, Double Checking Certifications
A serious challenge for any gym considering building its personal training staff is deciding which certifications to accept. As Walter Thompson, president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), stated, for many certification programs the only real qualification is a credit card and access to a computer. That type of lean knowledge base won’t cut the mustard should an injured member sue you and the personal trainer.
Today, many business owners only hire personal trainers certified by an organization that has been accredited by a third party. In 2017, the IHRSA formally recognized the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), and ANSI / ISO Standard 17024 as acceptable accrediting organizations. According to a 2018 Club Industry article, the International Association of Continuing Education and Training also accredits training programs that meet standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
This emphasis on third-party accountability in training standards is being adopted by organizations across the globe.
An interesting place to start is with cancer rehabilitation, where fitness professionals assist patients during and after treatment. Specialized certifications are available through ACE (American Council on Exercise) and ACSM. The Cancer Exercise Training Institute, aligned with ACE, provides courses in becoming a Cancer Exercise Specialist and manages an online directory of CET-certified trainers. As well, ACSM collaborates with the American Cancer Society with its own program of Certified Cancer Exercise Trainers.
Both ACE and ACSM, as well, maintain certifications accredited by the NCCA, including Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, Clinical Exercise Specialist, and two levels of Certified Exercise Physiologist. All these certifications allow personal trainers to build and design exercise programs for individuals who are challenged with limitations due to disease or injury.
This integration of fitness and health has worked out well for some gyms during the Covid shutdown. Although he is admittedly biased in this sponsored article Dr. Raj Gupta, founder of Soul Focus Wellness Center Franchise, discusses how he survived the shutdown specifically because of his affiliation with the medical community. In his case, he partners with nurse practitioners, chiropractors and/or physical therapists who run their practices from his facilities, allowing his centers to generate income in spite of a government shutdown.
Were you to fully utilize a crew of well-educated personal trainers, you could create a business within your center that supports itself through an alliance with the healthcare industry.Our recent blog post “Healthcare & Health Clubs”, covers this concept.
Other compelling specializations include functional fitness targeting individuals struggling with the aging process as well as strength and conditioning for the youth athlete. Inclusiveness is an emerging market specialization focused on those challenged by physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.
The Achilles Heel
The biggest problem with building a business around personal trainers is they leave – frequently. Trainer turnover is estimated at 80 percent or higher. However, if we consider the original intent – design a niche market within your gym – then integrating specialty-certified trainers becomes a business model, not just a service listed on a website.
Your center becomes the place to find exercise specialists schooled in cancer recovery. Your gym builds a reputation among the exceptional education community for understanding special needs populations. Internists recommend your facility to healthy, but physically-weak clients requiring functional fitness training.
You define your boutique and build on its energy to attract clientele whose requirements support and supplement your facility. With this commitment and direction, it will be simpler to keep personal trainers as they will earn steady money, and easier to replace them if they leave. You decide which certifications reflect your company’s best interest and invest in trainers accordingly. In the end, you’ll be carving out a long-term, sustainable profit center within a health club you’re proud to lead.