My personal frustration with the fitness industry began a very long time ago. I just couldn’t understand why so many people joined fitness clubs at the start of every New Year, participated for a short time, and then dropped out. Moreover, why they spent so much money year after year only to never reach their goals. What was it that kept them from moving forward? Why do they start with such good intentions and then disappear within weeks?
In 2001 people were paying upwards of $50 per month just to be a member of a fitness facility and less than 15% showing up to work out at best. Thirteen years later the competition in the fitness industry has doubled from approximately 16,000 to nearly 30,000 health clubs and fitness facilities in the US. Along with this increase in competition the cost of operating has increased significantly while the fees associated with membership dues has declined by more than 50% while the size of the market remains virtually the same.
How did this happen? About a decade ago I was having a discussion with one of the owners of a fitness franchise with a very well known reputation for their $10 membership rates. Back then he like many other fitness center owners was frustrated by the lack of attendance at their (at that time) $29 per month club. He candidly said; “I don’t understand why our members don’t come to exercise.” He also shared with me that their cancellation rate was pretty high.
Before too long they dropped their membership dues to $19 per month and more members joined, but that didn’t increase member participation. With this statistical data the rule in economics 101 appeared, the lower the price, the larger the market. Eventually they reduced the price to $10 per month gaining more market share with still no increase in member participation. These operators realized they could make money via membership dues (cash flow) without having to deliver anything more than fitness facility access. Genius.
I remember my own special lesson so clearly. It was September of 2007, I was beginning the third year of operating my first women only “fitness” center and it was growing quite profitably when I heard the news that a $10 per month club opened just 4 miles from my location. Back then our membership fees were $49 per month. As the days went on in September our phone stopped ringing except for some members wanting to cancel and by the last day of the month I hadn’t signed up one new member. I was devastated and depressed; I needed to change my business model.
Soon thereafter I began to see other fitness centers “copycat” this low price model with the mentality; “If you can’t beat em, join em”. In my estimation this had changed the value of “fitness clubs” or “gyms” for many years to come. I myself couldn’t buy into such an absurd idea. I believe the greatest wealth anyone could ever ask for is his or her health, so instead of trying to compete with low price we decided to create a different approach to servicing the member.
After many meetings and surveys with current members and prospects we reinvented and branded ourselves as “health coaching centers”. We learned that people had to “experience” the value of the services we were providing and obtain the results they were hoping for. Our philosophy became even more focused on what took place after the sale. In other words, we converted our leads based upon the benefits to the prospect versus the features of our facilities. Then we created a different experience which focused on providing fitness prescription and coaching to our members.
One of our biggest challenges was the cost of providing these benefits to our members and still having a margin of profit to continue in business. We needed to create a protocol that would benefit the members in several ways. This protocol would have to focus on behavior modification; the psychology of changing habits, education; the knowledge of proper exercise and nutrition, and practical application; the correct way to execute these necessary actions synergistically.
It also became apparent to me that hiring a few personal trainers to accomplish this task would not be the answer and the cost would be too much for our facility to incur. Besides, I’d been on that side of the industry for most of my life and I was never overly impressed by what I saw or what positive results were ever produced by most. Although I do believe there is a need for one on one coaching but not cheerleaders or rep counters with no investment in the actual business.
The real answer to this challenge was technology. Behind the scenes we spent nearly a decade designing the EZ Coach Fitness Prescription System. The EZ Coach System allowed us to offer what our members needed (a prescription to reach their fitness goals) at a price that is very affordable. This technology allows us to service over 150 members with the labor of just one coach. This technology also supports the club owner in a way that he has control over his training staff and not visa versa.
The science behind the system is based upon true exercise science principles, the encouragement from a coach to affect behavior, and the delivery of a very specific fitness prescription that leads to member engagement, competency and a predictable fitness outcome. After several years of beta testing and procedural documentation we made available our EZ Coach Fitness Prescription to the Fitness Industry.
Today we are proud to say that there are more fitness club operators utilizing the EZ Coach Fitness Prescription paradigm to deliver what members are looking for, a program that helps people learn to change their old unhealthy habits and attain their health and fitness goals.
Our vision is to “Make the world a healthier place”. Today only about 17% of the population are members of fitness facilities with the majority of them not consistently attending. We are a nation whose health care crisis is at center stage yet we haven’t done much to attract those with conditions related to lack of exercise and poor nutrition. Many see this as a problem; I see it as a new opportunity, a new and exciting market of people waiting to regain their health.
Our challenge in the fitness industry is to show the value of fitness by way of what we can offer our members to help them change and reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and to increase the quality of their lives. But if they are expected to change and frequent our businesses then we must also be willing to change our approach.
Sure it’s an incredible task but whoever said this or any other worthwhile endeavor would be easy? I know there are many great fitness club operators out there who strive to make their communities a healthier place. Many have great business acumen but some lack the technology necessary to deliver affordable fitness-based solutions to their members. The EZ Coach Fitness Prescription System provides that technology. The other challenge is the courage and belief that we not only have to "seem" better by slick personality, we have to “do” better via exceptional character.
Presently things are much better than they were just a few short years ago. Our entry-level membership price is $79 per month and our members see and appreciate the value in what we offer. Our business is thriving and we are helping our communities become healthier and for this I am so grateful. Henry Ford said it best; “Whether we think we can or we think we can’t, either way we are right.” I think we can!
Integrity Health is a franchise company residing in New Hampshire. We specialize in health coaching centers combining fitness with weight loss to optimize and promote optimal health.