When I picked up my August edition of Athletic Business magazine from my mailbox yesterday, I was immediately drawn to the cover photo and headline, "Group Fitness: The Prepackage Deal." As a group fitness instructor myself for the last 19 years, I have taughts every format and program imaginable, both freestyle and pre-packaged, and I wanted to hear what the authors, both owners of Elevations Health Club in Scotrun, PA, had to say about the subject.
Mr. Bishop and Mr. Klein wrote about their investigation into using a pre-packaged group fitness system for their club, saying that they were "intrigued by these pre-packaged programs because "traditional" group fitness instructors seem to be becoming an endangered species." How can pre-packaged group fitness programs help increase the number of available instructors and have more flexibility with scheduling? It's all about staff development - both for the instructor and the group fitness management staff.
When I attended BODYPUMP training back in 2003, it was not of my own choosing - I had been teaching my own formats for 12 years, but needed to attend this training to be employed by a new gym in my area. I felt that my classes were just fine - why did I need another certification? The answer became clear as the weekend developed -
- Instructors are taught around 5 Key Elements of a great class - immediately, the instructor trainees were given objectives to strive for each time they put on a mic. Not only did we talk about physical execution, which is quite common in group fitness workshops, but we also talked about how we could guide the members to be successful - to connect with members and coach them through the class, whether a newbie or a front-row groupie.
- Practical application and practice, practice, practice -with each key element, we would have a lecture session with our trainer, then we practiced each element immediately, to cement the concepts. Broken into small groups, you worked with your fellow trainees to figure it all out, then help each other as you presented in these small groups. Seasoned instructors and newbie instructors were often paired together and learned from each other.
- Feedback and action plans - after presenting in their small groups, the trainer showed videos of each presentation and gave feedback to each trainee. The other trainees were also asked to give their feedback, and the feeling of team grew as trainees supported and helped one another to improved. At the end of the weekend, each trainee was given a written action plan with items to work on to improve their use of the 5 Key Elements.
- Continued quality control - a last step - perhaps most valuable for owners of facilities - is the video assessment. Each trainee took their action plan, went home and practiced for up to 90 days, and then had to submit a video to Les Mills. If the trainee taught a safe and effective class, then that trainee achieved status of a certified BODYPUMP instructor.
That one weekend changed my career - both as an instructor, and as a management professional. Using the key elements I learned in BODYPUMP training, I was able to improve the quality of all my classes - freestyle or pre-packaged - and saw the numbers in my classes continue to grow. I then became a regional group fitness manager, using my management skills from my prior career along with the management system provided to owners with a pre-packaged group fitness program. Numbers in our overall group fitness classes grew from about 400 weekly visits to over 750 a week, and by providing continued development for our instructors and instructor trainees, we went from always needing instructors to having reserves, ready to teach when called upon.
If you are looking for ways to improve your group fitnes attendance, membership and retention, take a look at pre-packaged group fitness....you might be surprised at what you find.