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As fitness and wellness trends continue to evolve across the globe, conversations around these amenities in private clubs do as well. Many club leaders often grapple with whether or not they should incorporate a fitness facility into their private club offerings—some are skeptical about whether their members will ever utilize the facilities; others fear there is too much competition from local area gyms and fitness clubs; and some feel the task is too daunting and it’s just not the right time for their club.
These are all valid considerations and concerns—but today’s private club fitness facilities aren’t like those of the past. To learn more, we spoke with Steve Alvezi, Manager of the North American Country Club division at Precor—a leading brand in the fitness equipment space that’s dedicated to creating personalized fitness experiences. With over seven years of experience in the private club fitness sector, Alvezi offers a great perspective into the world of health and wellness and valuable insight into what today’s active private club member is looking for in a fitness facility (Hint: it’s not just fitness anymore!).
Times have changed—and so have private clubs. More and more, we see the need to offer multi-generational experiences, promote year-round utilization, and update policies and procedures that better reflect today’s lifestyles and provide greater value for the whole family. As such, the idea of offering fitness in private clubs has been around for many years; but today, it’s much more than having a few pieces of equipment in the basement of the clubhouse. “Clubs used to install a few treadmills and some weight sets in a small room so they could ‘check the box’ and say they offered fitness as part of their amenities,” Alvezi recalls. “But that doesn’t work anymore. Today, clubs must provide a fitness facility that’s in line with what members are seeing at other gyms and health centers outside of their club.”
Many used to shy away from having fitness in private clubs thinking this would attract intimidating body builders grunting as they lift weights. But the fitness centers found in private clubs today are nothing like those power lifting gyms. In general, as awareness and education surrounding the importance of practicing healthy lifestyles continue to increase, private clubs should take notice and incorporate these elements wherever possible. This means offering fitness and wellness amenities that harness opportunities for members to focus on both their overall well-being—both physically and mentally.
So, who is using these facilities? Certainly, it’s important to consider catering to Millennials, understanding that health and fitness are at the forefront of their priority list. But maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be—and should be—an important goal for all ages. Whether considering active youth programs to involve children at the club, or offering physical therapy for more senior members, private club can enrich members’ lives by offering facilities and programs that help them achieve these goals.
A typical fitness facility should have your standard free weights, strength training equipment, and a variety of cardio equipment that is inviting to all types of users. Indoor cycling bikes, for instance, are a great cardio option for senior members because they alleviate pressure that certain equipment can put on various joints. Whereas, ellipticals target specific muscle groups, acting as both a cardio machine and weight training vehicle that is extremely popular with younger members. But today’s private club fitness facilities are taking a more progressive look at fitness equipment and embracing changes in technology.
“In general, selectorized equipment and free weights don’t drastically change other than updating the look now and then,” Alvezi remarks, “but cardio equipment is constantly evolving and has become more interactive than ever before.” Forget an old-fashioned treadmill and stationary bike that simply track progress and monitor heart rate. Many cardio machines now boast what Alvezi refers to as “networked fitness” with the ability to track workouts and immerse users in a Virtual Active program. “Whether users wish to virtually bike up the Alps or run along a lake in Arizona, they can select any destination they choose to truly personalize their experience,” Alvezi notes. Other virtual experiences like on-demand coaching are also available, enabling users to reap the benefits of having a virtual personal trainer at any time of the day.
“These capabilities weren’t available a few years ago,” Alvezi adds. “Today, equipment styles and technology are changing so rapidly that it is often tough for clubs to keep up with the trends.” As a solution, Alvezi recommends that clubs consider leasing their equipment through companies like Precor so machines can be swapped out easily and frequently. This way, members always have access to the latest and greatest. While private clubs shouldn’t aim to outperform the most elite gym in the area, it is essential that they strive to consistently provide a modern and reliable fitness and wellness facility so members want to spend their time there.
Just as clubs must offer modern equipment, they must also keep abreast of the latest trends in programming. “Boutique fitness—like SoulCycle, Orangetheory, and Pure Barre—is really hot in the industry right now and many compete directly with private club fitness centers,” Alvezi says. “Most members would rather use the club’s fitness facility rather than spending money elsewhere, so clubs must make sure they are offering programming that competes with those outside the club.”
Some of the hottest trends? “Multi-generational programming and small-group training are two really important areas of focus in the club industry right now,” Alvezi says. “Group exercise is becoming increasingly more important because it promotes camaraderie among members—and it is always evolving.” In fact, group exercise can be appropriate for all ages, including youth-oriented fitness programs that help tween and teenage children find their place at the club.
“It’s also important to develop cross-training programs to help golfers and tennis players with conditioning,” says Alvezi. “Clubs can also implement programs like Cardio Tennis as a fun activity for tennis and non-tennis players alike.” Additionally, mini-gyms and highly versatile bodyweight training systems such as Queenax allow members to use one space in many different ways while targeting a variety of muscle groups. In general, the key is to provide programs that are more inventive, whether adding a new twist to an old idea—like Wall Yoga, interactive spin classes, and ballet barre classes—or developing entirely new forms of exercise that focus on total mind and body wellness—like Reaxing and the ELDOA Method. (Click here to learn more about the inventive programs in bold!)
And once clubs plan to incorporate these programs, it is equally important to plan space requirements accordingly. “Spin is still one of the most popular group exercise classes,” Alvezi notes. “However, clubs often neglect to break out multiple spaces for group exercise so they are left moving bikes back and forth constantly to accommodate other classes. In reality, clubs should plan for two group ex spaces at a minimum, or three if they have the room.”
When assigning square footage, Alvezi also stresses the importance of multi-purpose open space. “In the past, clubs would cram as much equipment into a room as possible with just a small area for personal training and little to no open space,” he recalls. A space like this lacks functionality and diminishes the full-service capabilities your fitness space could otherwise have simply by offering more square footage. In reality, Alvezi recommends that fitness designs incorporate 1,000-1,500 SF open area for stretching, functional exercises, or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).
To help keep up with programming trends, Alvezi advises that clubs consider hiring a dedicated Fitness Director as well. “Group exercise classes and fitness trends evolve at an even faster rate than equipment,” says Alvezi. “What is trendy now may not be trendy even nine months from now.” Just as a club would hire a Golf Pro or Superintendent for the golf course, or a Chef for the F&B department, a Fitness Director has knowledge of this specialized niche, enabling them to bring the latest trends and insights into the club’s programming and deliver a smooth and fulfilling operation.
And as the industry is changing and equipment evolves, the overall fitness experience is also becoming more and more personal. Those new cardio machines with HD screens? They’re also wirelessly equipped to provide members the ability to sign into their personal accounts like Netflix and Spotify as well. This way, members have more entertainment options than ever before, whether they wish to continue watching their favorite shows or listen to one of their own personal playlists while getting their steps in for the day.
Technology also offers branding opportunities with machine screens that are completely customizable. This means clubs can add their very own logo and club colors, giving the machines a more personal feel. Clubs can also use these screens to display information about certain upcoming club events or special announcements. “It’s all about touchpoints,” Alvezi adds. “Members love seeing their logo and it’s a great way for clubs to really push data they feel is important to share. Not as overkill, but as a gentle reminder.” These reminders can be changes as often as clubs feel necessary to communicate with their membership appropriately.
Incorporating wellness elements like physical therapy, dietician services, or other spa-like amenities elements is also a consideration for today’s private club facilities to offer personalized services that can help members get the most out of their experience. Adding a Smoothie/Juice Bar where members can order their favorite post-workout beverage or a quick, healthy meal is also a critical component to offering a well-rounded fitness and wellness experience.
All in all, today’s private club fitness facilities are much more robust and personal than in the past. And in reality, it’s not a question of if private clubs should incorporate fitness and wellness, it’s a question of how. From new equipment and technology, to inventive programming for all age groups, private clubs have an exciting opportunity to offer their members a modern fitness experience in the comfort of a club they already hold near and dear. After all, why should members pay for a separate gym membership when they could save money and spend more time at the club with friends and family? So, start planning today—and soon you’ll be winning the race!
How has your club embraced fitness and wellness trends as part of your offerings?