Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Merry Christmas

We wish you a very Merry Christmas
and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year

Monday, 21 December 2009

Pru cuts gym discounts

Interesting news last week in the Observer that PruHealth is cutting discounts on gym memberships. From policy renewal, the maximum gym membership discount available will be 25%. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened earlier, or that better processes haven’t been put in place to check on members’ commitment to their fitness.

Several club managers that I’ve visited have told me of members who seem to visit gyms just to swipe-in and maintain their level of vitality points (or similar at other providers). Some occasionally work-out, but there are a lot of people cheating by giving false data. A director at PruHealth who I spoke to last year said they were most interested in building critical mass, and not so worried about people exploiting the system. Now it seems that both the clubs and PruHealth will be losing members.

I think that the practice of discounting either gym membership or medical insurance in a partnership is a great one, but it clearly needs more monitoring than the current “visits per week”. Full health screening is expensive and does not necessarily link to effort. However, if the gym measured members’ performance with an exercise management system, it could report calories burned, weight lifted, or any other exercise parameters, rather than simply visits. This data would be appealing to the right kind of members/policyholders, and invaluable to the insurance company.

Sure, there would be a big brother aspect about this information, and I expect that the health informatics guys would have something to say about it, but I believe that it would work better than the models tried so far. It would also need much closer partnerships between the insurance providers and health clubs, but that would be another good thing, and might even lead to more healthchecks being carried out at the gym.

Friday, 27 November 2009

10k along Brighton Seafront

Up early this morning to get down to Brighton for a breezy 10k run along the seafront with Brandon, owner at FitForAll, a friendly, results focused gym in Hove.

A couple of FitForAll members joined us, and we headed down to the bracing seafront, running from Portslade eastwards past the old pier, and up to the new pier. Brandon certainly extolled his “local gym” image by saying hello to most of the people we passed, runners and pedestrians alike. The wind on our backs helped on the outward 5k, but it was a different story on the way back.

I wasn’t allowed to stop for a breather, so we slowed the pace for a few minutes before picking it up again. Cutting inland by a couple of blocks reduced the wind resistance, and Brandon kept me going with local knowledge and points of interest.

Back at the club 50 minutes later, I have to say it was a tough run but very enjoyable, and set me up for a good day’s consulting (and a good nap on the train home that evening!)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Measuring Retention

We hope you’ve been reading Melvyn Hillsdon’s retention series in Health Club Management about outlining your retention strategy and measuring effectiveness. The articles help to demystify retention calculus, setting out four measurements:
  • Member Retention
  • Member Attrition
  • Membership Length
  • Dropout Risk
Using some or all of these metrics, and setting clear targets is the key to improvement. As long as you measure consistently, you can check on progress.
You will need a system to measure effectiveness, but it doesn’t have to be a high tech computer based tool; a system could be a spreadsheet or a list. The secret to a successful system is to get the buy-in from the people using it and feedback the results.

HCM July 09 p37 – member retention
HCM Sept 09 p45 – member retention part 2
HCM April 09 p69 – retention software

More next time on member contact and communications.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sell software downstream to achieve results

Why do so many software packages fail to deliver the solution promised? How come you’re struggling to achieve the amazing results that were presented in the case studies? Where is that return on investment?

One key factor is that the sales process often stops when the deal is done. The price is agreed, contracts signed, and management happily looking forward to the results and performance improvements. Next, staff are subjected to training and told of all the new tasks that they now have to do. There’s no need to sell to them, right? They’re just the staff, and the hard work has already been done getting the price right and contract signed.

Consider these alternatives:
  1. Management involve staff in the sales process and also get involved in the training to show their buy-in, and ensure the staff buy-in to the solution
  2. The sales process continues through the implementation of the system, ensuring needs are met and everyone realises the benefits (personal and corporate) of the new tasks that they have to do
  3. Goals are set throughout the implementation, to show quick wins and ongoing benefits, to ensure everyone continues to buy-in to the new solution

The hard part often comes after the financial & contractual sale is complete. Focus on continuing to sell the solution throughout the organisation and you will have greater success, and possibly even exceed the promised ROI.

There are other alternatives and other important factors, such as not overloading on training. Why not add a comment with alternatives you’ve experienced?

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Exercise Management Systems - the bees' knees

At GG Fit, we think that Exercise Management Systems are the bees’ knees. Systems like Technogym’s Wellness, Pulse Smart Centre and FitLinxx help to improve the gym experience in many ways, and any serious health club or gym should be using a system to help track member workouts and trainer interactions. Here are a few reasons why:

  • More personalised service
  • Easy to follow workout
  • Enjoy coming to club to record, achieve & review goals

  • Better member knowledge & contact
  • Easy to ensure member programs are up-to-date
  • Track new members visits & performance

  • Know what your members are doing, not just when they arrive
  • Set and measure staff performance
  • Provide a better member experience

Of course, any Exercise Management System needs to be used properly, with the relevant components understood by the relevant staff, which starts with good implementation and training.

If you have any positive or negative experiences of Exercise Management Systems as a member, trainer or club, please let us know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Win a Caribbean holiday!

Really pleased to see the British Heart Foundation and Fitness First getting together to encourage the nation to run and cycle one million miles during May & June. This is a great example of a two companies with common interest in wellness getting together and setting goals to make people fitter and reward them.

Next they could use some technology, an exercise management system, shoe chip, or similar, and this would make it even easier and more interesting than log cards and online forms.

Monday, 8 June 2009

When will it get better?

I was with a coaching client (manager at a gym) recently, and she asked me before our appointment “When will it get better?” I asked her what she meant, and she said “I’ve got more responsibility, less resource, and more is expected of me each week… when will it stop?”

The short answer that she came to herself after a few minutes discussion was, “It won’t stop”. This was not very motivating, but knowing the answer to the (second) question was a start, and we moved back to making it “get better”.

Any number of time management courses or productivity techniques might help, but the first point we came to was to accept that you’re not going to get everything done. This lifts a weight from your shoulders, removes the worry of the never-ending task list, and frees you to get on with the most important task(s).

Mentoring over, we went back to coaching, and found (through some challenging questions) that there were quite a few areas that could be delegated, as well as some tasks that weren’t as critical as first thought.

We all seem to have more and more to do, and seemingly less and less time. There will never be enough time to do everything you have to do. Just don’t let this get you down. If you know what the most important things to do today are, there will always be enough time to do them.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Canary Wharf 10k – British Heart Foundation

Knees hurting. A lot. Running on roads & pavements bad for joints.

The 2008 Canary Wharf Jog was my fastest, but in 2009 it was my slowest. Without my GPS buddy, I’m not certain, but the fact that it was 11 laps of the Canary office blocks tells me that it really was 10k this time around. My time was a paltry 57 mins 12 secs, so there’s plenty of room for improvement at the next 10k!

As usual, registration closed a few weeks before the race, which left a few people disappointed on the sidelines, but 1,000 eager runners (10% apparently from Barclays) set-off at 6:30pm after a good warm-up.

Running on the roads and pavements rather than in nice grassy parks (or moats) really did take its toll on my knees this year around the wharf. I’m not one for stopping in a 10k race anymore, but had to take a couple of pauses to ease the pain – goodness knows how marathon runners do it!

Sponsorship total stands at £946, hopefully one more nudge to my contact list will tip it over the thousand pound mark. Any suggestions for more 10k runs over the remainder of the year would be welcome, please leave a comment!

Friday, 29 May 2009

“If you do not measure it, you can not improve it”

…as Lord Kelvin (Sir William Thompson) once said.

Is this why so many health clubs struggle to improve their member (and staff) retention and are so focused on sales?

Sales are very easy to measure in any industry, hence the focus, I guess. However retention seems to be much more difficult, particularly in the relatively young fitness industry. There are many different ways of working out member retention figures, and countless experts to tell you how to do it. A relatively straightforward formula is explained very clearly here.

Most retention definitions look at a 12 month membership percentage retention, which is a good measure, but this can be difficult to affect in the short term. Improving your 12 month retention from 60% to 70% will not happen overnight, but is a good target for 6-12 months time.

Member attrition is a more fluid metric, and more straightforward to calculate. (Attrition rate – The [average] number of members per thousand who cancel every month)
Attrition is easier to affect each month, and it's also easy to set individual or club targets. If you improve (reduce) your attrition rate, you will increase retention.

Ultimately, as Lord Kelvin told us, if you want to improve something, you need to measure it. Work out how you’re going to do this to start with, then set your targets, and you’ll soon be making a difference.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Tower of London 10k - British Heart Foundation

This week marked the third of my six 10k runs, and the second leg of the British Heart Foundation London trilogy, this time 10 laps around the moat of the Tower of London. The GG Fit team consisted of Kate & Emily from CEC, and Brent & Richie, with Bill taking photos. The sun was shining, and there was a great turnout noted to be around the 2,000 mark by the BHF officials.

The boys stretched their legs halfway around the first lap, but the girls didn’t let us get too far ahead. Brent stopped for a quick pause on the seventh lap to let Richie catch him up, but all this helped keep my pace and spirits high, and I finished in 45mins & 45 secs. Rich then Brent came in on a sprint finish about a minute behind, with Emily & Kate a minute behind them.

Immediately after the run, as we were stretching, there was some debate about the distance, with the girls surprised at their time, and Richie’s GPS phone/mainframe claiming that the run was slightly less than 10km. I put this down to the hooky software he was running, and he wasn’t able to confirm the accuracy of the app, so we’ll just call it 10 laps. We were all very happy to have finished, and no-one considered running around again.

Mr Steve Niker, my original inspiration for the Tower Jog, had very kindly provided for us all at the Abbey (part of the Santander Group) refreshment tent as usual, and we left a couple of hours later feeling very refreshed.

We are now up to £891 in sponsorship, and looking forward to the final jog at Canary Wharf on 3rd June.

Friday, 1 May 2009

How can a personal trainer make more money while their clients pay less?

It sounds like a conundrum, however it is possible for personal trainers to take less money from their clients, and yet increase their own revenue. Do you know how? A simple answer is to work longer hours, but there is a way of doing the same amount of work, charging each client less, and making more money.

Let’s say as a PT you see 5 clients per day, 5 days per week for £50 per 1 hour session (to keep the maths simple). That’s 25 sessions per week, making £1,250 each week.

Here’s how to make up to another £500 each week. Firstly, you need to find out more about the systems in the gym and work out how to monitor your members performance, and how to e-mail or text them from those systems.
The secret is to see each client less often, but contact them more regularly with feedback on their workouts, and charge them a little more.
Starting with 5 weekly clients, explain that you’ll see them every two weeks instead of every week. However, in between PT sessions, you’ll monitor their workouts and send them a motivational mail, tips, and inspiration. Charge £70 per session with the value added feedback included. Each client is now paying £70 every 2 weeks, instead of £100.
Now you can gradually double your client base, and increase the value of your PT, while clients pay less. Eventually, you could have 50 clients every 2 weeks, charging £70 per session, making £1,750 each week!

Note that the feedback is the most important part and something that you should set time aside for (probably at the start of the day). You might spend 10-15 mins each morning looking at a client report and adding a personal note to your template, but making sure that the client gets the text or e-mail from you via the system is crucial.

The better the system you work with, the more feedback you can give, and the more you can charge. This could range from “You’ve worked out 4 times this week, well done” to “You’ve improved your Perfomance Index on cardio by 5%, and lifted an extra 1,500kgs with your legs today, keep up the good work!”

Friday, 17 April 2009

BHF Hyde Park jog - warm up

So the warm-up for the BHF Hyde Park Jog was a strange affair led by Fitness First.

For those not in the know, the warm-up normally consists of 5-10 minutes of organised stretching, bending, and making friends, led by a couple of people from a local gym with a microphone, PA and some loud music. It’s good fun and hopefully reduces the pulled muscles and general aches and pains after the run.

So in Hyde Park on 15 April, a couple of girls from Fitness First got up into the bandstand as the crowd of 2,000 or so people all gathered around, and they launched into a Boxercise class! A few people joined in by following the moves, punching and kicking, but fortunately for the gathered masses, most just did their own stretches and I didn’t see any injuries.

I think that Fitness First missed a great marketing opportunity this year at the Hyde Park Jog. Promoting the local gym and brand in general is easily done with a good warm-up, and then by actively participating in the jog, if possible with a few members and trainers.
I doubt very much that they sold any Boxercise classes, and I’m pretty sure that the girls didn’t take part in the 5 or 10k run themselves (based on their boxing shoes & tape around their hands)

Let’s hope that the BHF invite a more pro-active gym to do the warm-up at the Tower of London on 6 May and Canary Wharf on 3 June.

Hyde Park 10k - British Heart Foundation

I ran in the second of my six 10k runs on 15 April, this time in aid of the British Heart Foundation, in Hyde Park as part of the BHF London trilogy. I was joined by my colleague Nigel who travelled up to London from Hastings to support me for the first half of the run, as it turned out. There was a great turnout of around 2,000 people mostly kitted out in red BHF t-shirts.

After a questionable warm up from Fitness First, we set-off and I decided to keep to Nigel’s pace to begin with, particularly as he had travelled up specially. We were slightly below my normal speed but the conversation and spirit was good, up until about the 4k marker, when both the banter and Nigel started to flag.

A two lap 10k run is always tricky at the halfway point, and even I wasn’t able to motivate Nigel to start the second 5k, so he called it a day and collected his medal. I plugged the music into my ears and stepped up the pace, managing a 24 minute time on the second 5k, after running 30 mins on the first 5. I’m reasonably happy with 54 minutes, which is the same time as I did last year around Hyde Park, and I think I may have struggled more had I started faster.

Sponsorship is now just past the £650 mark, so roll on the next jog at the Tower of London where I’ll be joined by a few more GG Fit team members.

Friday, 3 April 2009

2009 Goals update

How are your personal targets for 2009 looking? Completed, not started, or a quarter of the way there? It’s the start of April, spring has sprung, and it’s a good time for a review.
If you don’t have any, get some, and write them down now! Mine are here.

And here’s how they’re going…

  • One 10k done, 3 lined up for April, May & June in aid of the BHF, so will be past halfway in Q2
  • Knees feeling the pressure of snowboarding & running, but warming up properly for both!

  • Life coaching starting to have effect on staff in gyms & clubs, but at least 6-9 months needed demonstrable results on motivation and member retention

  • Guitar going well, helped by new guitar for birthday!
  • Charity events – join me here

Next update June, or sooner…

Monday, 2 March 2009

Gym 2.0 - Motivating Sedentary Users

Ann has been going to various gyms on-and-off for a number of years now. Her favourite equipment is the exercise bike; she finds it easier to read Grazia magazine. She doesn’t really like classes, and avoids the instructors because they’re quite toned and much thinner than she is, so tends to sit on the bike and read her magazine.

She likes going to the gym, but she never seems to get any results, which is why it’s been an on-and-off relationship. Until now…

This January, she was attracted to the New Year New You offer at a new local club. Deb, the (toned, thin) instructor showed her round all the cardio equipment and explained a new system for recording her exercise. Instead of giving her a program card (which Ann had previously ignored), Deb said she could use any of the cardio equipment for as long as she wanted, and get a printout or e-mail of how many calories she burned.

Ann goes straight for her comfort zone, spending 30 minutes on the exercise bike with her magazine. As she leaves, she gets a printout showing that she’s burned 120 Calories. This doesn’t mean much to Ann until she goes to buy her sandwich on the way back to the office, and finds that her normal post gym Tuna Mayo Baguette has 535 calories in it! She opts for a Chicken Fajita Wrap instead at 263 calories.

On her next visit, she spends 15 minutes on the stepper, and pedals a little faster on the exercise bike for a further 15 minutes. Her printout shows 140 cals on the stepper & 110 on the bike, and 250 cals total burned, which feels like a better balance for her lunchtime fajita wrap.

Now it’s March, she only spends 5 minutes on the bike at the beginning & end of her 40 minute workout, with 10 minutes each on the stepper, rowing machine and elliptical trainer. She regularly burns over 400 calories, and never has mayo in her sandwich. Next she wants to try the treadmill, or perhaps even a group class, as Deb says they count even more towards results, and towards the monthly graph that she receives by e-mail.

a follow up from Harbinger Scenario - Gym 2.0

Disclaimer – it is not the intention of this blog entry to balance “calories out” with “calories in”, but rather to raise awareness of possible applications of technology and motivation of the more sedentary gym user.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Battersea Park 10k - Action Duchenne

Took part in the Action Duchenne Valentine’s fun run in Battersea Park on Saturday. There was a great turnout early on a cold February morning, an electronic timing chip for your shoe, and a nice yellow t-shirt to run in.
I was pleased to get round 4 laps of the park in just under 50 minutes, (49:52) according to the text I received from the (very clever!) chip, which also told me that I came in position 299!
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a severe and progressive muscle wasting disease. Young boys will face much of their life confined to a wheelchair and without treatment will die in their late teens early twenties. Find out more here. It’s time to stop wasting.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Gyms - 10 ways to beat the crunch

  1. Incentivise your staff on member retention
  2. Offer existing members a new benefit for free in order to make them feel at least as important as the new members
  3. Invite recent cancellations back for free session or two, & a coffee & chat
  4. Contact the customers about to cancel. You know who they are
  5. If someone asks to cancel, offer to reduce their payments for 3 months
  6. Show fitness improvements or offer refunds
  7. Entice recent redundancies into the gym during the day (for less?)
  8. Set an attrition target. You don’t have to reduce drop-out, your target could be to keep it the same for now
  9. Demonstrate value to all members, all the time
  10. Incentivise your management on staff retention
…or you could spend more money trying to get new members through the door with “no joining fee” offers, give them a free rucksack, and keep repeating the mantra – “the fitness industry is not affected by the recession”

Some of these ideas may seem controversial, in which case, terms & conditions would of course apply, but please feel free to comment on any of the points.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Jog Blog - Feb 09

I hate treadmills. Not only are they boring but I also find it harder to run 5k on a treadmill than outside in the real world.

Last week there wasn’t a lot of choice though, unless I was going to dig out the old football boots and slide round the park in the snow, and I really didn’t fancy that. So I added in a treadmill run to my regular gym workout and did a couple more 5k treadmill runs at a couple of the clubs where I was working. Not fun, although on Friday, I had a good view of the gym’s fish-tank, and the fish looked even more bored than me!

The snow’s almost gone in North London today, so I went for a beasting around Ali Pali again, and while it was far from easy, the treadmill runs have certainly helped my fitness levels, which is good ahead of the Valentine’s Love Run in Battersea Park this Saturday. It’s in aid of Action Duchenne, a muscular dystrophy charity. Come and join us!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Gyms using technology – for new members

Some of my local gyms are starting to embrace technology in the quest for new members. Phone calls, e-mails and even a few text messages have been coming over the networks trying to persuade me to join up for 2009.

Most impressive is David Lloyd, who on top of a couple of nice personal phone calls and e-mails, have texted me about once a week since I filled in an online form back in December for a 12 day free pass. Unfortunately, the free pass was not forthcoming (the offer had already expired, and seems to change daily), so I’ll probably be texting STOP DLL soon.

LA Fitness (was Dragons) has called and e-mailed a couple of times, again in response to an online form, but when I did visit, I was shocked by how incredibly rude the staff were, confirming what I’d heard from friends and neighbours.

Also texting and calling is Movers & Shapers, a brand new powerplate/fitbug concept gym, who have been trying to persuade my wife to join since she had a trial session in December.

Although I’ve not visited since at least September, the Laboratory have finally done something with my e-mail address, and sent me an e-mail detailing their New Year offers.

At the end of the day, although they've not contacted me once lately, I’m happy going to Park Road Pools, and will be even happier when they start to e-mail or text the results of my workout post visit or at the end of each month. They have the technology, but don’t know how to use it… yet.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Facebook as a business tool

Facebook is banned in several organisations I know. However, facebook can be a great tool for improving your focus at work and being more productive.

A few (very few) of my friends aren’t on facebook, mainly because they say they don’t have time. There were 22 million people on facebook in the UK at the end of 2008, and 54% of them are over 35 years old. The way I use facebook means that I fear some of those friends may soon start to lose out. Here’s how to use facebook to be more productive…

The key is to manage your notification settings. Only set notifications for things that are really important to you. This is where you find it:

Most of the personal e-mails I get each day are created by me. No, I don’t e-mail myself, what I mean is that I e-mail different groups of friends about meeting up for a beer, dinner, game of golf, holiday, party, etc, and then they reply. When I initiate the message through facebook, they reply through facebook.
When I want to see who has replied, I open facebook. I no longer get e-mails every time someone pokes me, tags me, sends me a beer, or bites my zombie.

There is no doubt that facebook can eat up hours of time (as the internet in general can) and if that is a problem, then you probably need help defining what’s important in your life (or at work). LinkedIn is seen as being more of a business tool, and is therefore more accepted in work, but it can also fill up your inbox if you don’t manage the settings correctly.

Facebook is a great tool, particularly when is it used as a tool, rather than it using you like one.

Toby Beresford explains this in a different way

Monday, 12 January 2009

New Year's Revolutions

Lots of people set New Year resolutions, but it seems to me they are in decline. There are a couple of problems with resolutions – firstly, they are often resolutions rather than goals (I will give up/I will do less), and normally set out verbally over a glass or two of something fizzy during the celebrations.

So make your resolutions into goals and write them down. Only 3 percent of adults have clear, written goals, and these people achieve 5-10 times as much as people of equal or better education and ability who have not written down what they want.

Just because you’re reading this in February, or September, don’t let that be an excuse – write down a few positive things that you want to achieve by a certain date. Better still, share them with someone you know, or don’t know!
Here are some of my goals for 2009, in three groups of three (3 being the magic number)

  • I will run in six 10k events such as charity runs, fun runs, etc
  • I will take more effort (including asking for advice) in order to prevent those silly little injuries that could scupper my fitness goals
  • I will get an independent healthcheck to ensure that I am really fit and healthy

  • GG Fit will improve member retention in gyms and health clubs through life coaching, especially with respect to motivation of staff and management
  • GG Fit will increase the return on investment that clubs get from Exercise Management Systems by enhancing reporting and understanding of the exercise data
  • GG Fit will be an ethical, environmentally friendly business

  • I will take more time over, and put more effort into things I enjoy – reading, learning the guitar, and most importantly, spending time with friends
  • I will campaign to raise more money for charity – not necessarily to donate more, but to persuade others to part with their cash for the causes I support
  • I will buy a new car (conditions apply)