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Capture the Power of Small Group Training for Better Retention at Your Fitness Facility

Small group training is one of the most powerful tools for club operators to engage members in their fitness journey. Intimate, instructor-led classes give members the focused knowledge and skills they need to reach their goals. When members feel like they are making progress, they are more likely to be satisfied with their club, visit more often and maintain or renew their memberships. It’s no wonder operators are hopping on the small group training bandwagon.

Some of today’s most common small group sessions use equipment, such as functional training units. They can focus on circuit-type workouts or delve into specific skills, including Pilates and kettlebells, or they delve into goals, such as ski conditioning. Classes are typically held on the perimeter of the facility or in private rooms.

“Group personal training continues to make our annual ranking of top worldwide fitness trends,” said Michael C. Harper, associate director of education at The Cooper Institute, Dallas. “It gives trainers creative ways to package their sessions and market themselves, while exercisers benefit from one-on-one personal training but at a lower cost and often more efficient duration.”

The specialized nature, seasonality and location of classes, however, can make it tough to attract new exercisers and sustain attendance year-round. This is leading savvy operators to bring classes to the cardio floor, the most consistently utilized part of the club. By making sessions more visible, staff can pique the interest of more members.

One of the biggest upsides of small group cardio training classes is it does not require an investment in new equipment, so trainers can use the equipment that their clubs already have. Equipment does not typically need to be moved around and around. Four to six pieces are all that is needed.

To develop programming, operators are advised to bring in equipment coaches to refresh staff on training techniques and important features.

There’s no question classes held in a facility’s main hub bring a wave of energy. This creates interest in the club, classes and the instructors. Classes can vary in duration, but many operators find that classes that run several weeks give the best chance to connect with members and produce the results that ensure exercisers will come back for more.

“Small group training is excellent for reaching more exercisers with less staff,” Harper said. “It provides greater utilization of equipment so that exercisers know how to get more out of a workout in a shorter time frame. It’s also a way for operators to distinguish their facility from the competition.”

Operators starting small group cardio training are encouraged to offer a variety of courses that can be taken sequentially or at random to jump-start or improve an exerciser’s routine. Personalized and progressive experiences are a great way to retain members throughout their fitness journey.

Through class diversity, operators send the message that expert-led training is not just for athletes or those under doctor’s orders to begin working out. The training is for anyone who wants to have a different experience, reach new goals or get better results.

The small group setting also creates opportunities for instructors to tailor workouts to the individual exercisers in each class. This helps each student walk away with an arsenal of new techniques and tips they can take into their personal workouts.

The Mission Valley YMCA in San Diego was one of the first to extend small group cardio training to its approximately 30,000 members. Some of that training occurs on cardio equipment.

“Members love participating in expert-led workouts that help them realize their fitness goals, while trainers feel more empowered by helping members experience a completely new and different workout on a unique piece of equipment,” said Alex Ciambrone, fitness director at Mission Valley YMCA.

The classes are an effective way to bring independent cardio exercisers together into a community that shares the same interests. Exercisers are more likely to look forward to their next visit and feel an increased sense of accountability for their workouts by meeting peers and bonding with staff.

The advantages of small group cardio training are too big to ignore for operators. Having happy, engaged members in a central location is the best advertisement for your facility.

Read the original article at Club Industry.


Fitness Options Added for Churchill Jockeys

Planet Fitness Louisville and Churchill Downs announced April 28 that enhanced fitness options for the jockeys who compete at the racetrack will be added.

The fitness partnership includes a completely renovated on-track fitness facility in the jockeys’ room called the “Jockey Fitness Club presented by Planet Fitness, with state-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment identical to that found in the eight Louisville, Southern Indiana, and Elizabethtown Planet Fitness clubs, according to a release.

“We are honored that Churchill Downs put their trust in Planet Fitness to support the fitness needs of its jockeys,” said Rick Kueber, who along with his brother, David, leads the local Planet Fitness franchise group. “These world-class athletes deserve the best as they condition their bodies.”

In addition, the jockeys each receive a complimentary membership to the new Planet Fitness at Central Station near Churchill Downs.

“Physical fitness is vital to these athletes as they meet the day-to-day rigors of Thoroughbred racing,” said Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery. “Giving them access to first-class fitness facilities is very important to us.”

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Why Traditional Health Clubs May Stay the Course

I began this column by thinking of lines from an old song Harry Nilsson made popular: “Everybody’s talkin’ at me. I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’.” That is how a lot of fitness club operators seem to feel right now.

So many sources are offering so much input to health club owners about how they should get with the new times, ramp up with social media, jump on the app bandwagon, etc. that the possibility exists that many of these operators will resist and do nothing.

One could make the case from a long-term historical industry perspective to simply stay the course. After all, haven’t we previously been through recessions, falling prices, disruptively innovative competition, fads and trends,  and consumer fickleness? If we look at the early 1990s and then the tech bust of 2000-2002 as evidence of a certain deja vu, we’d have to say yes.

Add to this the fact that apparent industry leaders such as Planet Fitness, LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and Life Time Fitness are embracing much the same operating philosophy as other leaders from other times did. Some would say they are just doing it bigger and with more money behind them.

The standard model of fitness delivery is still arguably the same. Take a retail box (of varying square footage), decorate it tastefully, put in the latest equipment, and add some group exercise classes, perhaps a daycare, maybe a couple of other amenities and there you have it. That model has been repeated thousands of times over the years and seems to still work. Some could even contend that it’s what the public expects. So why change it?

It’s actually a rational argument. After all, in the last 25 years, haven’t we increased national health club membership by more than two and a half times? And hasn’t the parallel increase in the number of clubs contributed to that customer growth?

Shouldn’t we just wait it out until the dust clears? When our economy finally revives, won’t our depressed prices do the same? Isn’t survival of the fittest (no pun intended) an appropriate system in a chaotic market?

This is the thinking of many health club operators. It is why traditional fitness may not change. It is why the big clubs are taking over. It is also why the model is broken and is no longer working for the vast majority of independent clubs.

What’s your opinion? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read the original article at Club Industry.


‘Cadillac tax’ the next big Obamacare battle

A mix of business groups and labor unions are pushing to tee up the next big Obamacare fight: killing its so-called Cadillac tax.

It is, they say, the type of Obamacare “fix” that Republicans and Democrats can agree on — notwithstanding the problem of filling an $87 billion budget hole that nixing the levy would produce.

Many expect it to be the next protracted battle over Obamacare — one that threatens to become a headache for Democrats, many of whom never liked the tax despite supporting the law more generally.
It’s one of the last big parts of the Affordable Care Act to go into effect — lawmakers delayed the levy until 2018 in part because it is so controversial — but companies are wrestling with it now as they plan employee benefits. Some are already negotiating with unions over benefits that could spill into 2018.

“This is going to have a life of its own as the clock ticks closer to 2018,” said Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), a critic of the tax.

Though the nickname suggests it will apply to a select few, experts say a majority of employers could eventually face the prospect of imposing what will be the first-ever tax on health care benefits.

The IRS began last month spelling out the nitty-gritty of how exactly the tax will work, though it left out many of the details employers say they need.

At issue is a 40 percent excise tax on the health benefits companies provide their workers above a certain threshold. In 2018, the tax will hit insurance and related perks valued at more than $10,200 for singles and $27,500 for families. So for family benefits worth $30,000, the tax would apply to the $2,500 that’s above the limit.

Taxing those benefits represents a major shift in generations-old tax policy.

The government has encouraged companies to offer health insurance by letting them write off from their taxes the cost of providing workers with coverage for more than a half-century, a byproduct of World War II-era wage controls.

Eager to attract workers and unable to increase pay, companies turned to expanding fringe benefits such as health insurance. But economists of all stripes have long complained the open-ended tax break companies get for providing that coverage drives up health care costs while disproportionately benefiting the affluent.

Nonetheless, it’s a major reason why millions of Americans get coverage through their jobs. So for lawmakers, it’s long been all-but-politically untouchable. Ironically, Barack Obama as a presidential candidate attacked Sen. John McCain in 2008 for proposing to tax health benefits.

Unions, which often have generous health benefits and have opposed the tax since the law’s inception, say the looming levy is already becoming a factor in their contract negotiations.

“Employers are coming to the table asking for cuts in benefits based on their preliminary projections around the tax,” said Shaun O’Brien, assistant policy director for health and retirement at the AFL-CIO, which backs repeal.

The National Education Association, which is also demanding the tax be rescinded, issued a report Thursday complaining it would disproportionately hit women and older workers.

“We continue to support the Affordable Care Act,” said Kim Anderson, senior director of the group’s Center for Advocacy and Outreach. But “the excise tax on high-cost plans can randomly and unfairly cause hardship to American workers and their families” and “Congress must repeal the excise tax.”
The administration has long argued it is a modest step to get health care costs under control. It “will affect only a small portion of the very highest-cost health plans — a total of 3 percent of premiums in 2013,” Obama economic adviser Jason Furman wrote in a 2009 White House blog post.

The threshold at which the tax kicks in is higher than current average premium rates, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. The typical family plan cost $16,834 last year, according to Kaiser, while the average individual plan cost $6,025.

But the tax is more onerous than it appears, experts say, in part because it hits more than just traditional health insurance.

It also applies to health savings and flexible spending accounts, including money workers now sock away tax-free for medical expenses. Supplemental insurance plans will also be included and, potentially, on-site clinics companies set up for their workers, the IRS said last month.

What’s more, even if a company ducks the tax in 2018 — and many have been trying to wring savings out of their plans in anticipation of the new rules — they may only get a temporary reprieve.

That’s because Congress pegged the tax threshold to a relatively slow measure of inflation.

It’s linked to the consumer price index plus 1 percent, even though medical costs typically grow much faster. Private health care spending per enrollee will grow by an average of 5.6 percent annually over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while inflation will increase by 2 percent per year.

That means the tax will ensnare more companies over time, with some likening it to the alternative minimum tax, originally aimed at the very wealthy but which trickled to those further down the income ladder.

About one-third of employers will be hit by the tax in 2018 if they do nothing to change their plans, according to a March survey by Mercer, a benefits consulting firm. By 2022, almost 60 percent will be facing the levy.

“‘Cadillac tax’ is really a misnomer,” said Beth Umland, Mercer’s director of research for health and benefits. “Potentially any employer could be hit by this tax.”

Former Obamacare adviser Jonathan Gruber, in one of the now-infamous videos that emerged late last year, said rising medical costs ensure the Cadillac tax will eventually all but eliminate the break companies get for providing health insurance.

Economists in both parties have been pushing the idea for decades as a way to slow health care costs, because it amounts to a cap on benefits.

That’s a good thing, many say, because overly generous insurance shields beneficiaries from costs, which encourages them to use more services, driving up prices for everyone else. It’s also a matter of fairness, some say, because forgoing taxes on health care benefits amounts to a major break for those with jobs offering coverage.

“Capping the tax benefit for employer-sponsored health insurance, I think, is a great idea,” said Len Burman, head of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. “Providing an open-ended subsidy for health insurance, which encourages people to get plans that do less to restrain spending, contributes to rising health care costs. Most economists who’ve looked at health care spending have concluded that.”

The tax could eventually hit all health plans, “although you probably wouldn’t get policymakers to admit to that,” Burman siad. He added he doubts Congress will allow that to happen, saying lawmakers will come under substantial pressure to ease the tax.

It’s a big reason why Congress’ independent budget scorekeepers have said Obamacare won’t add to the deficit, and why the tax will be tough to repeal. The levy, which is projected to generate $87 billion over a decade, ramps up slowly, but is estimated to eventually produce so much money that it alone will cover the cost of providing insurance subsidies through the program’s exchanges.

“This provision is one of several in the ACA designed to promote fiscal responsibility and slow the growth of health care costs,” said White House spokeswoman Jessica Santillo.

But as the tax begins to loom larger, the criticism is getting louder.

Some say it will punish companies that have been trying to rein in costs.

Businesses have been pushing their workers out of high-cost plans and into ones with bigger deductibles while simultaneously offering them health savings accounts to help them cope with the increased costs. That may be for naught, because both would be subject to the levy.

“If employees participate in HSAs and FSAs through payroll deductions, which employers have been encouraging them to do — now it’s going to hurt the employers,” said Rick Grafmeyer, a tax lobbyist and former Republican tax aide. “So now they’re putting the employers in the position of having to say, ‘No, no, no, we don’t want you to participate as much in these things because it will likely cause us to pay the Cadillac tax.’ It’s crazy.”

Others complain the tax discriminates against those in the Northeast and West Coast, because health costs tend to be higher there than in the South or Midwest.

“You could have parts of the country where [they] have the most lavish coverage and not be subject to the tax,” while in other areas “people will get hammered and forced into some pretty bad choices,” said Courtney, the Connecticut lawmaker.

Republicans grouse about parts in the law providing higher thresholds for when the tax kicks in for those in high-risk professions, such as law enforcement and fire-fighting, which they call a sop to unions.
Last month, Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) introduced legislation to cancel the tax.

“It’s going to undermine the employer-sponsored system, and it’s going to do the exact opposite of what anyone’s vision of health reform would have done, which is to provide greater access to health care coverage,” said Katie Mahoney, director of health care policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “This is something that we are really trying to educate folks about.”

Read the original article on Politico.


The 4 Pillars of Prosperity All Entrepreneurs Should Attend To

Many entrepreneurs are wealthy and powerful in the business aspects of life but poor in the others. Some feel fulfilled in a work context but hollow in a personal one. “Is this all there is?” is the question that gnaws at them.

We too have ridden the business roller coaster. Josh, for instance, says that he once asked himself, “What do I need to be 100 percent authentic and put 100 percent into each aspect of my life every day?” From this question sprang the four pillars. We’ve listed them below in order of importance — and their order will probably surprise you.

The pillars are your foundation for living a harmonious life in contrast to one in which you’re attempting to cobble together pieces from four different puzzles.

1. Health
Without you, there is no business, so you have to put the pillar of health first. You can only achieve your best productivity and vision for your business when your wellness score is close to 100 percent. At one point, Joshua says, he was spending so much time on his business that he ballooned to more than 40 pounds overweight. And that weight gain had a toll: He felt he was operating at about 60 percent.

One cause of this was convenience foods. These may be “convenient” in terms of time and price, but they make you look tired. They hamper your creativity. Eating energy-rich foods, in contrast, makes you look and feel good. Your energy “pops,” and people notice. They feel confident doing business with you because most view staying healthy while running your own business as a Herculean feat they themselves want to emulate.

So, how do you achieve good health? One simple change is to make a habit of moving your body the first five minutes at the top of each hour.

2. Vision
Vision is next on the list because of the morning ritual it involves and the importance of launching your day in the right way. It’s about tapping into universal creativity so you can solve the problems that arise.

Here’s a brief overview of a useful four-phase, 20-minute meditation we learned from life coach Jesse Elder. You can set up iTunes to change music at the end of each five-minute segment so you know to move into the next phase.

Phase 1 entails concentrating on your breath. Breathe in power. Breathe out energy. Phase 2 is about feeling full of gratitude because of what you’ve accomplished. Visualize an event or time when you felt overjoyed. Phase 3 is “pre-paving” where you project getting to in the future.

The one rule is that this vision should make you feel good. Go to this future point where you have what you desire, then move backwards step-by-step to understand how you got there.

Phase 4 is allowing all the information and experience from phases 2 and 3 to sink in. Then write those ideas down on a legal pad or in your idea journal so you have a road map for the rest of your day.

3. Relationships
Relationships are your support system. They can include your family and/or spouse and/or a peer group(s) you choose. These are the people who pick you up when you fall. They hold you accountable to be better today than you were yesterday.

Relationships are mandatory for success because so many entrepreneurs take on the woes of the world along with their businesses. They feel the need to protect those around them.

That’s a fine objective, but so is disclosure. Disclosure is usually the best policy with those closest to you. These are people who may well have insights that help you solve problems.Having social interactions with no business agenda is key to creating harmony in your life. After all, you schedule business meetings, right? So, why not schedule personal meetings so your relationships don’t slip through the cracks?

4. Business
Why is business the fourth pillar? Nobody we know wants his or her business to be a “favorite child.” The other three pillars provide a stable foundation and fuel for ideas and business breakthroughs.

Add in a vision tool
A journal is a great tool to provide clarity. It allows you to see where you’re going, in the larger sense, as well as to see the specific things you’re looking to accomplish in the near-term. A journal helps you focus your thinking “on your business” instead of “in your business.” The big 5X or 10X opportunities leap out at you like the Aurora Borealis. Your mind can then make the short hop needed to the relationships you can activate or ramp-up to transform those opportunities into big profits.

Without the other three pillars, yours will likely be weak business teetering on the brink. It’s like straining to reach that Golden Apple from a ladder that’s too short and has only one or two legs. As our mentor, Jesse Elder, says, “Life is not a knockout punch. It’s a combination.” The combination of these four pillars is how you knock out challenges and live the stand out life you desire, in order to leave a positive and lasting legacy.

Read the original article on Entrepreneur.