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Come January every year, we set aside time to take stock ofour lives. Whether it’s our business, career, fitness, or personal relations,the New Year brings a time for reflection. How can we step up our game? Whatcan we change to move to that next level? Are there ways to improve andaccomplish even bigger and greater goals? The New Year is a harbinger for abrighter, more prosperous future.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s(ACSM) “WorldwideSurvey of Fitness Trends for 2018, published in the November/December issueof the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®, group personal training ranks 13thamong the top 20 fitness trends for 2018. Small group training (SGT) or grouppersonal training was first recognized by ACSM as a top 20 fitness trend in2007. Since then, SGT has managed to stay among the top 20 trends. In 2010, itjust made the top ten list coming in at number ten. In 2012, it placed eighthand continued as one of the top ten fitness trends from 2012 to 2015.Small group training remains a program staple offered byhigh-end clubs, gyms, and boutique studios.

How does small group training evolveto stay on trend and to continue to delivery what members and exerciseenthusiasts seek?  Influential Fitness Trends – Potential Impact on Small Group Training We’ve witnessed recently the creativity and ingenuity ofhealth clubs and gyms to harness the best of what powers the boutique studio toremain competitive. So, it’s not unusual that club operators and gym ownerskeep a watchful eye on industry trends to continually shape the direction ofthe member experience, fitness programs, and member services offered. Thisarticle will examine the potential impact on small group training ofinfluential characteristics that drive personal training, group fitnessclasses, a newly-emerging aging fitness market, and wearable technology. As a well-established fitness program and revenue center inmost health clubs and gyms, group personal training programs are exceptionallypositioned to evolve by drawing from these various trends in fitness.

It will require owners, program managers, and trainersresponsible for developing, designing, and delivering small group training to fusetogether key fitness trends: the personalized distinction and communityexperience of boutique studios and group training; the fitness educationdelivered in personal training; and the enhanced performance-driven data withfitness technology. The Next Level in Small Group Training ProgramsThe valuable benefits of small group training for healthclub owners, fitness professionals, and exercisers are well established. It’struly a win-win.

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Exercisers gain the benefits of individualized andpersonalized training from talented and motivated fitness trainers at a moreaffordable cost than personal training. Fitness professionals effectivelyincrease their personal income, credibility, and reputation. Club and gymowners improve retention rates and see increased revenues, reaching well into$1 million annually for some companies.We should, however, never become complacent with ourachievements and comfortable with the experience we’re providing our members.It’s essential to stay aware of trends in the market, both locally andnationally, to remain relevant, innovative, and competitive.  Four Trends to Invigorate a Small Group Training Program1.

       Leverage the Power of Boutiques Take a page from the boutiquestudio playbook to revitalize your small group training experience. Boutiques doseveral things right. One of those is customer-centered and results-driventraining. Boutique members are uniquely cared for.

Make sure your small groupprogram demonstrates accountability to its clients. Know your client’s fitnessgoals. Work closely with clients and make sure they know you recognize theimportance of their contribution to their health and fitness.

Boutiques create a community – atribe. In re-envisioning a small group training program, create an intimate teamenvironment. Build a sense of support and community amongst participants.Consider aspects of commonality: group types, age, and activity interests. Specialize in a few formats.Popular training formats are sport-specific such as running, strength training,yoga, boot camp-style, and weight loss. Consider any special certifications yourfitness trainers may have, e.g.

kettlebells, boxing, Pilates, etc. in offering uniqueformats.  2.       Adapt to An Emerging MarketDespite the attractiveness of capturing the millennial market, any “futureforward”-designed small group training program will have a format focused onthe active aging market.

Ray Algar’s Health Club Industry Active Ageing Report –Harnessing the opportunity of an ageing society takes a deep dive intothe implications of a globally aging society and how the health and fitnessindustry is responding. Algar argues a longevity economy is emerging, whichoffers people products and services to enjoy life much longer and includes technology-enabledphysical activities that transform the lives of older people. Aging baby boomers are the fastestgrowing health club member group. Baby boomers represent 29% or one-third ofthe American population and are the wealthiest population group. There are 75million aging boomers, between 50 and 70 years of age. 35% of baby-boomersexercise and represent the beginning of an active-aging trend.According to Algar’s report, notonly is life expectancy increasing, but populations are aging faster. Consideringthese two factors, more and more of us will hope to enjoy a longer life withmore of those years spent in good health.

Any health club, gym, or studio thatwants to stay relevant and innovative will program a small group trainingformat for this growing market.  3.       Blend Quality Education and HighlyInteractive Motivation for A New SGT ExperiencePersonaltraining is increasingly focused on an educational experience.

Personal fitnesstrainers help clients understand their fitness physiology and how best to independentlymaintain lifelong fitness. Personal training professionals require moresophisticated skills in identifying an individual’s postural and movementquality concerns to set them on the path to reaching their long-term goals. Group fitness classes, on theopposite end of the training program continuum, are where exercisers connectwith like-minded individuals to get a high-energy workout experience led by amotivational instructor. Group training, though it’s been around for manyyears, first made ACSM’s top 20 fitness trends in 2017 at number six.

In 2018,group training climbed to second place, behind high intensity intervaltraining. Although unsure of the rise in its popularity, it’s easy to attributeit to the strong growth in boutique studios, which has revolutionized the grouptraining experience.Gym operators and group fitnessdirectors should look to artfully strike a balance between these two opposing trainingprograms to boost their offering of the small group training experience toexercisers. Heading into 2018, consider reviewing your small group trainingprograms with a vision to blend the successful traits of both types oftraining: the high quality educational experience of personal training and thefun, vibrant, highly interactive, community-oriented nature of a group fitnessclass.                 4.

       Embrace Wearable Fitness Technology In 2017, wearable technology heldthe top spot in the ACSM’s “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends” and continues asa major disrupter in group fitness, witnessed by the success of Orange TheoryFitness studios. Indoor cycling has also taken up the charge with suchcompanies as Spivi and Performance IQ tracking and displaying a rider’sperformance data. Companies such as MyZone, Heart Zones, and Fitmetrix offercomplete group fitness technology solutions for health clubs.  Increasingly members are accustomed to strappingon a heart rate armband sensor to track their intensity during their workout.  Studies conducted on the use ofwearable fitness technology show a correlation between an exerciser’s use of awearable device and the valuable interpretation of the data to engage andmotivate the exerciser. In a study from Indiana University, 90% of participantssaid that even though both their activity tracker and their trainer werehelpful over a 10-week training period, it was the combination of both that helpedthem maintain their goals over time. Another study by the University ofPittsburgh on how wearables affect long-term weight loss showed that if simplygiven a device and asked to meet an exercise quota, there was no noticeabledifference between two random sample groups, one of which was given fitnesswearables.

Notable from these two studies isthe importance of both the fitness trainer and education when incorporatingwearable devices into group training. To facilitate that connection, the fitnesstrainer needs to know how to interpret the information, explain what the datameans and apply it to adjust a participant’s workout to achieve desired results.When small group training programsincorporate wearable fitness technology, and use it to benefit their members bycapitalizing on the ability to interpret data and prescribe individualizedworkouts, it can improve a club’s revenue, member retention, and deliver newlevels in the small group training experience. Small Group Training Program ModelsThe structure of small group training programs varies in purpose, format,and the type of fitness training.

SGT consists of from two to fourpeople which differs from group training that can have from 5 upwards of 30people. Smallgroup training programs center around three general areas: equipment-based,technique- or skill-based, or outcome-based.·        Equipment-based small group training appealsto exercisers who prefer a certain style of training or equipment type, such askettlebells or suspension training devices.·        Technique- or skill-based small group trainingallows for a targeted approach to individuals preparing for an activity orsport, such as a marathon, CrossFit® championship, or triathlon.

·        Outcome-based small group training is forthose clients who are looking for a specific physical result or change from theprogram, with weight loss typically being the primary goal.  Often, grouppersonal training is modeled around a progressive structure of workouts over agiven period, typically 8-10 weeks or with a seasonal focus. Yet, small grouptraining can also take on a structure that resembles group fitness classes inwhich members attend either an unlimited or a set-number-per-month of smallgroup training sessions offered on a perpetual basis.

Many boutique studios offer regularly scheduled, optional drop-insmall group training sessions, such as training slots at 9 AM, 5 PM, and 6 PM,every day. Anyone with a small group training membership or short-term packagecan attend, with or without pre-registration, allowing for more schedulingflexibility for clients.A Progressive Model Progressive small group training programs havefixed start and end dates, and typically meet for less than two months, atspecified times (e.g., every Monday at Wednesday at 6 PM). Progressive smallgroup training programs will have the same personal fitness trainer and thesame participants each session. A club or studio may include pre- andpost-assessments in an eight- or ten-week progressive small group trainingfitness program.

As the title “progressive” denotes, the activity and workoutload or intensity each week builds upon the previous week’s. 85% of most studios, gyms, and premier clubs dedicatetheir personal group training programs to a progressive model. Members seeresults. Trainers, as well as management, can more easily forecast income. One keyvalue in a progressive design is accountability.

 ·        Exercisers and athletesworking toward an event—a 5K race, triathlon, or wedding day perhaps—arecommitted to a period in which the intensity of each session increases toward adesired fitness peak or goal. The positive feedback and weekly results maintainsthe motivation to stick with it.  ·        Trainers improve their coaching skills and accountability to theirclients. The interpersonalskills and technical knowledge required to train four to eight people aredifferent from those needed for personal training or a very large group fitnessclass.

Specialized, short-term programs permit fitness trainers to develop arapport with clients, building confidence in their client’s skills andabilities to gradually increase workload intensity and introduce more complexsmall group training activities.  ·        Short-termprograms may seem less intimidating to a client than a long-term commitment.They present a lower barrier to entryor commitment for members. Plus, clients can experience training atan affordable price.  Small Group Membership Model: Ongoing and AutomatedIn this model, a client pays a regular fee to attend either anunlimited or a set-number-per-month of small group training sessions on aperpetual basis.

These are typically scheduled at preset times, in a mannerlike a group fitness class schedule. Whether a participant must come at thesame time each week or can drop in on any SGT session varies by gym or studio. Offering small group training in an ongoing membership model enablesmembers who can’t commit to a structured program due to work or other commitmentsto participate. It offers the desired flexibility for members who still want toattend small group training.

Some clubs will have both an ongoing “drop in” model and a progressivemodel. This allows flexibility for those members participating in a progressivesmall group training program the chance to make up a session or two from the “dropin” scheduled training. Plus, it is great way to gradually introduce exercisersinto small group training who eventually may sign up for progressive small grouptraining.There isn’t one model that is the right way to structure smallgroup training. Different models and a few different formats may work betterfor different member groups, facility types, or locations. Know your membersand understand the dynamics of your location. Offering members, a choice in howthey participate in their own personal fitness program keeps them engaged,exercising, and coming to the gym.  Regardless of the direction you choose to create a small grouptraining program, it is important to remember that success can lie ultimately inthe professionalism and expertise of the trainer.

A Club’s Best Asset: The Professional Fitness TrainerThere is an increasing importance within the fitness industry toemploy educated, professionally trained staff. These fitness professionals area critical link in delivering a quality member experience and play an essentialpart in member retention. They are the outward expression of your health club. Tothis end, the degree of professionalism and level of education for a fitnesstrainer who works with clients one-on-one or in a small group is more demandingthan that of an instructor who leads a group exercise class. Fitness trainers are the epicenter of the shared experience. Theyare the natural “leader of the tribe” and should possess the capabilities to createcommunity within the small group environment. They not only make it personalfor each individual, but can play upon the motivations and human nature tobring the group together.

Fitness trainers are a club’s best asset inleveraging the successful tribal nature of boutiques for their small grouptraining program. Mastering Wearable Fitness Technology Wearables devices can help fitness trainers easilyincorporate into their small group training program the high-quality expertise soughtafter by their clients. In using heart rate sensors with SGT participants, forexample, fitness trainers can measure in real time the functional states of anindividual’s mechanical, neurological, metabolic, and psychological systems. Bygathering and interpreting the data, a fitness trainer has the knowledge tomake recommendations based on each client’s individual baseline, stress loads,and functional states.

The use of wearable group fitness technology elevates thesmall group training experience. It’s a tool that provides the fitness trainer theability to offer a high-quality educational experience and level ofpersonalization on par with personal training in an energetically motivatedgroup experience. Keeping Small Group Training Innovative, Relevant, and Competitive Nothing exists in a vacuum nor should our fitness businesses.Take the complex nature of our bodies for example.

The heart, the mostsignificant muscle in our body, continually adjusts to an information networkof metabolic systems. It’s constantly busy managing and adapting to underlyingphysiological functions: food digestion, temperature adjustment, stress,fright, and yes, physical intensity. Fitness businesses require these same qualities of surveillance,interpretation, and response to remain relevant to its membership andcompetitive in the market. It’s critical that health clubs recognize thedifferent movements and trends within the industry to enable innovations indelivering the fitness lifestyle experience. And, reflect the distinct natureof their culture and values.In what ways will fitness facilities integrate these four 2018fitness trends to influence the design, development, and implementation ofsmall group training programs? Or, potentially even in other health clubprograms and services? What impact on small group training can we envision in2018?