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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Group exercise: Get ahead

‘Head of group exercise’ is an emerging job function, as more operators invest in this previously undervalued area of club operations. Kath Hudson reports

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 3
Third Space has invested heavily in group exercise / PHOTO courtesy of THIRD SPACE
Third Space has invested heavily in group exercise / PHOTO courtesy of THIRD SPACE
Third Space
Antony Stewart, Third Space

“Without a direct revenue line, group exercise has historically been a neglected part of the product offering, with only lip service paid to the huge role it plays in retention and profitability,” says Antony Stewart, head of group exercise at Third Space. “But, in recent years, the boutique market has really set the standard in terms of immersive experience, with nightclub sound systems, lighting, cool instructor style and service.

“With growing recognition of its importance, it’s a great time to be involved in group exercise.”

Third Space is one operator realising the benefits of investing in group exercise: both through the creation of immersive environments and the appointment of Stewart to provide leadership and innovation.

"My role is to make Third Space an amazing place to teach classes, so we retain the best instructors" Antony Stewart, Third Space

He compares the chain’s approach to creating a group exercise function as being at the same level as an efficient sales department – it has a team of five full-time master trainers, who each look after a category, develop signature products and constantly upskill instructors.

“My role is to make Third Space an amazing place to teach classes, so we retain and attract the best instructors in the UK,” says Stewart. “The commitment, professionalism, retention and happiness of our instructor team guarantees a great member experience, leading to higher attendance and more recommendations.”

As well as making sure the instructors are well trained and supported, another change Stewart has implemented is to develop an in-house signature programme – currently 15 different classes are offered – which helps keep the standard high, and makes the timetable less overwhelming for members.

“We believe fewer instructors delivering fewer programme types is key to getting more people doing group exercise,” he says. “We have almost halved the number of instructors we work with, while significantly increasing the number of classes taking place at every site. Our instructors teach between six and 20 classes per week, meaning our members see familiar faces, who are passionate about the club.”

In the last 12 months, group exercise penetration at Third Space has increased from 35 per cent to 40 per cent, along with improved NPS scores and reduced attrition. The new City site has a 50 per cent group exercise penetration rate.

Investment in group exercise spaces has also helped to increase numbers. The City club offers immersive HIIT and cycle studios, while an indoor basketball court at Canary Wharf has been converted to a space for signature cross training classes called Yard WOD and Yard Strong.

Third Space’s new City site has a 50 per cent group exercise penetration rate PHOTO courtesy of THIRD SPACE
Pure Gym
Dave Cross, Pure Gym

With group exercise an integral part of Pure Gym’s offering, Dave Cross was appointed as national group exercise manager, in order to keep track of trends and drive forward innovation.

“Group exercise is an area that is constantly evolving, so having someone at the forefront, tracking these trends and aiming to catch those waves is really important,” he says.

“We’re constantly innovating and thinking about our members. The next three to five years are going to be truly exciting.”

Cross is responsible for creating workout content, choreography, education and playlists for the teams to learn and teach, as well as making sure that training standards are maintained.

"We’re constantly innovating and thinking about our members. The next 3-5 years are going to be truly exciting" Dave Cross, Pure Gym

In a similar move to Third Space, Pure Gym has introduced standardised and choreographed workouts across the whole estate.

“Our club PTs receive coaching on these from our team of trainers, the group exercise champions who have completed additional training,” says Cross. “Cascading this education and content nationwide has proven to create a much stronger commitment to group exercise from our teams and has highlighted the incredible engagement that classes bring to our gyms.”

Pure Gym has introduced standardised, choreographed workouts PHOTO courtesy OF PURE GYM
Virgin Active
Israel Rivera, Virgin Active

Another chain to appoint a leader at the helm of group exercise is Virgin Active, which hired Israel Rivera into the role recently. Last year the operator added 24 more programming spaces across its estate, as well as a number of new group exercise programmes, including Reformer Pilates, hot yoga, barre and boxing. Its Mayfair club also debuted an immersive strength and conditioning studio for workouts called Row Strong and Shift Strong.

"The customer experience will be much more personalised by acknowledging and celebrating uniqueness" - Israel Rivera, Virgin Active

Rivera says his primary role is to influence change in areas that help engage, empower and excite Virgin’s fitness professionals and ensure there’s a career trajectory for his team. “I’m committed to helping our teams maximise the skills they bring to the table, so we create member experiences that actualise our mission to make exercise irresistible. I’ve inherited the legacy of the lone wolf – leading the industry through innovation.”

Rivera says Virgin Active will be continuing to focus on making its exercise experiences immersive, enjoyable and convivial, as well as extending the reach beyond the club and building communities. “The Virgin Active customer experience will be much more personalised, by acknowledging, respecting and celebrating uniqueness and individuality,” he says. “Our first Club Crawl helped us to interact and connect with members more meaningfully.”

Virgin wants to ‘engage, empower and excite’ its fitness professionals PHOTOS courtesy of VIRGIN


The future

Rivera says group exercise is no longer just about fitness, but about experience, with customers looking for authenticity and a place to belong. “We’re seeing more and more people looking to meet each other at a fitness class to socialise, rather than at a bar,” he says. “Additionally, the digital stratosphere is beginning to cause some major disruption – whether it’s via an app, pre-recorded or live streaming, the industry is expanding beyond the four walls.”

Cross agrees that technology will have a massive impact going forward, as it opens up new opportunities for group exercise, with live and digital workouts. He says there is also a growing desire among members for workout efficiency, meaning more HIIT and functional training elements will be introduced.

Stewart says the future of group exercise lies in making workouts fun, social and effective. “The group exercise I grew up with in the 90s was driven by the social elements of fun, musicality and the joy of meeting people,” he explains. “It will be the businesses that are able to combine the social element with the sexy spaces that will stay in the market. It’s not enough to build a great studio and then move on.”

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https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/imagesX/24218_398953.jpg
More operators are appointing heads of group exercise, evidence that this is more than just a trend. We talk to those from Third Space, Pure Gym and Virgin Active
Kath Hudson, Journalist, leisure Media Antony Stewart, Third Space Dave Cross, Pure Gym Israel Rivera, Virgin Active,group exercise, The Third Space, Pure Gym Ltd, Virgin Active Limited,
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Indoor group exercise can recommence in England and Scotland today (17 May), as part of ...
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Thousands of health clubs, swimming pools and leisure centres are under the threat of permanent ...
Latest News
Fully vaccinated people in the US no longer need to wear a face mask whether ...
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Anytime Fitness UK has revealed that April was its busiest month for new memberships since ...
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HCM understands that Fitness International, which operates more than 700 health clubs under the LA ...
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Opinion
promotion
The UK’s first dedicated leisure development framework has completed its first four-year term with £144m committed investment in public leisure projects.
Opinion: UK’s first leisure framework celebrates £144m investment in public leisure
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Connect for success with Precor
Members are returning post-lockdown expecting a fully integrated service, meaning digital connectivity has never been more important.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: New consumer expectations demand an exceptional customer experience
fibodo believes that providers who meet consumers needs of service, flexibility, richness of content and accessibility will thrive as we build new and different models of working in leisure, health and fitness and across all sports and activities.
Company profiles
Company profile: Proinsight Research Ltd
We take time at the outset to understand your unique customer journey. Then we work ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Pulse Fitness
With an award-winning portfolio of over 450 pieces of cutting-edge, premium fitness equipment, Pulse Fitness ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Salt therapy products
Saltability: Salt therapy products
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Fitness equipment
Precor: Fitness equipment
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
07-09 Jun 2021
Virtual summit,
Diary dates
12 Jun 2021
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
13-14 Jun 2021
Online,
Diary dates
01-04 Jul 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
18-19 Sep 2021
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
28-29 Sep 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2021
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates

features

Group exercise: Get ahead

‘Head of group exercise’ is an emerging job function, as more operators invest in this previously undervalued area of club operations. Kath Hudson reports

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 3
Third Space has invested heavily in group exercise / PHOTO courtesy of THIRD SPACE
Third Space has invested heavily in group exercise / PHOTO courtesy of THIRD SPACE
Third Space
Antony Stewart, Third Space

“Without a direct revenue line, group exercise has historically been a neglected part of the product offering, with only lip service paid to the huge role it plays in retention and profitability,” says Antony Stewart, head of group exercise at Third Space. “But, in recent years, the boutique market has really set the standard in terms of immersive experience, with nightclub sound systems, lighting, cool instructor style and service.

“With growing recognition of its importance, it’s a great time to be involved in group exercise.”

Third Space is one operator realising the benefits of investing in group exercise: both through the creation of immersive environments and the appointment of Stewart to provide leadership and innovation.

"My role is to make Third Space an amazing place to teach classes, so we retain the best instructors" Antony Stewart, Third Space

He compares the chain’s approach to creating a group exercise function as being at the same level as an efficient sales department – it has a team of five full-time master trainers, who each look after a category, develop signature products and constantly upskill instructors.

“My role is to make Third Space an amazing place to teach classes, so we retain and attract the best instructors in the UK,” says Stewart. “The commitment, professionalism, retention and happiness of our instructor team guarantees a great member experience, leading to higher attendance and more recommendations.”

As well as making sure the instructors are well trained and supported, another change Stewart has implemented is to develop an in-house signature programme – currently 15 different classes are offered – which helps keep the standard high, and makes the timetable less overwhelming for members.

“We believe fewer instructors delivering fewer programme types is key to getting more people doing group exercise,” he says. “We have almost halved the number of instructors we work with, while significantly increasing the number of classes taking place at every site. Our instructors teach between six and 20 classes per week, meaning our members see familiar faces, who are passionate about the club.”

In the last 12 months, group exercise penetration at Third Space has increased from 35 per cent to 40 per cent, along with improved NPS scores and reduced attrition. The new City site has a 50 per cent group exercise penetration rate.

Investment in group exercise spaces has also helped to increase numbers. The City club offers immersive HIIT and cycle studios, while an indoor basketball court at Canary Wharf has been converted to a space for signature cross training classes called Yard WOD and Yard Strong.

Third Space’s new City site has a 50 per cent group exercise penetration rate PHOTO courtesy of THIRD SPACE
Pure Gym
Dave Cross, Pure Gym

With group exercise an integral part of Pure Gym’s offering, Dave Cross was appointed as national group exercise manager, in order to keep track of trends and drive forward innovation.

“Group exercise is an area that is constantly evolving, so having someone at the forefront, tracking these trends and aiming to catch those waves is really important,” he says.

“We’re constantly innovating and thinking about our members. The next three to five years are going to be truly exciting.”

Cross is responsible for creating workout content, choreography, education and playlists for the teams to learn and teach, as well as making sure that training standards are maintained.

"We’re constantly innovating and thinking about our members. The next 3-5 years are going to be truly exciting" Dave Cross, Pure Gym

In a similar move to Third Space, Pure Gym has introduced standardised and choreographed workouts across the whole estate.

“Our club PTs receive coaching on these from our team of trainers, the group exercise champions who have completed additional training,” says Cross. “Cascading this education and content nationwide has proven to create a much stronger commitment to group exercise from our teams and has highlighted the incredible engagement that classes bring to our gyms.”

Pure Gym has introduced standardised, choreographed workouts PHOTO courtesy OF PURE GYM
Virgin Active
Israel Rivera, Virgin Active

Another chain to appoint a leader at the helm of group exercise is Virgin Active, which hired Israel Rivera into the role recently. Last year the operator added 24 more programming spaces across its estate, as well as a number of new group exercise programmes, including Reformer Pilates, hot yoga, barre and boxing. Its Mayfair club also debuted an immersive strength and conditioning studio for workouts called Row Strong and Shift Strong.

"The customer experience will be much more personalised by acknowledging and celebrating uniqueness" - Israel Rivera, Virgin Active

Rivera says his primary role is to influence change in areas that help engage, empower and excite Virgin’s fitness professionals and ensure there’s a career trajectory for his team. “I’m committed to helping our teams maximise the skills they bring to the table, so we create member experiences that actualise our mission to make exercise irresistible. I’ve inherited the legacy of the lone wolf – leading the industry through innovation.”

Rivera says Virgin Active will be continuing to focus on making its exercise experiences immersive, enjoyable and convivial, as well as extending the reach beyond the club and building communities. “The Virgin Active customer experience will be much more personalised, by acknowledging, respecting and celebrating uniqueness and individuality,” he says. “Our first Club Crawl helped us to interact and connect with members more meaningfully.”

Virgin wants to ‘engage, empower and excite’ its fitness professionals PHOTOS courtesy of VIRGIN


The future

Rivera says group exercise is no longer just about fitness, but about experience, with customers looking for authenticity and a place to belong. “We’re seeing more and more people looking to meet each other at a fitness class to socialise, rather than at a bar,” he says. “Additionally, the digital stratosphere is beginning to cause some major disruption – whether it’s via an app, pre-recorded or live streaming, the industry is expanding beyond the four walls.”

Cross agrees that technology will have a massive impact going forward, as it opens up new opportunities for group exercise, with live and digital workouts. He says there is also a growing desire among members for workout efficiency, meaning more HIIT and functional training elements will be introduced.

Stewart says the future of group exercise lies in making workouts fun, social and effective. “The group exercise I grew up with in the 90s was driven by the social elements of fun, musicality and the joy of meeting people,” he explains. “It will be the businesses that are able to combine the social element with the sexy spaces that will stay in the market. It’s not enough to build a great studio and then move on.”

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/imagesX/24218_398953.jpg
More operators are appointing heads of group exercise, evidence that this is more than just a trend. We talk to those from Third Space, Pure Gym and Virgin Active
Kath Hudson, Journalist, leisure Media Antony Stewart, Third Space Dave Cross, Pure Gym Israel Rivera, Virgin Active,group exercise, The Third Space, Pure Gym Ltd, Virgin Active Limited,
Latest News
Indoor group exercise can recommence in England and Scotland today (17 May), as part of ...
Latest News
Thousands of health clubs, swimming pools and leisure centres are under the threat of permanent ...
Latest News
Fully vaccinated people in the US no longer need to wear a face mask whether ...
Latest News
Anytime Fitness UK has revealed that April was its busiest month for new memberships since ...
Latest News
HCM understands that Fitness International, which operates more than 700 health clubs under the LA ...
Latest News
A court has given Virgin Active the green light to erase the rent arrears it ...
Latest News
The Swimming Teachers' Association (STA) has partnered with a psychologist to provide new mindfulness and ...
Latest News
A report commissioned by Parkrun has estimated that allowing mass-participation outdoor events carries an "exceptionally ...
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Jan Spaticchia, founder and chair of énergie Fitness has died aged 51 following a short ...
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Peloton is recalling all of its Tread and Tread+ machines in the US, after striking ...
Opinion
promotion
The UK’s first dedicated leisure development framework has completed its first four-year term with £144m committed investment in public leisure projects.
Opinion: UK’s first leisure framework celebrates £144m investment in public leisure
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Connect for success with Precor
Members are returning post-lockdown expecting a fully integrated service, meaning digital connectivity has never been more important.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: New consumer expectations demand an exceptional customer experience
fibodo believes that providers who meet consumers needs of service, flexibility, richness of content and accessibility will thrive as we build new and different models of working in leisure, health and fitness and across all sports and activities.
Company profiles
Company profile: Proinsight Research Ltd
We take time at the outset to understand your unique customer journey. Then we work ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Pulse Fitness
With an award-winning portfolio of over 450 pieces of cutting-edge, premium fitness equipment, Pulse Fitness ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Salt therapy products
Saltability: Salt therapy products
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Fitness equipment
Precor: Fitness equipment
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
07-09 Jun 2021
Virtual summit,
Diary dates
12 Jun 2021
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
13-14 Jun 2021
Online,
Diary dates
01-04 Jul 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
18-19 Sep 2021
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
28-29 Sep 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2021
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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