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How to launch group fitness classes in your gym

How to launch group fitness classes in your gym
Written by GEORGE Published on 2020-08-21 12 minutes read

The fitness industry is going through a profound shift, and the way people are working out is continuously changing. One of the most significant and most persistent trends in the fitness market in the last decade has been group fitness classes.

Whether we are talking about classes filled with energy, for relaxation, or with specific machines, group training is beloved by fitness lovers everywhere and, now more than never, they forge real communities.

Recent studies say members that attend group fitness classes are the most valuable for a gym. According to IHRSA, a member training solely in the gym area is 56% more likely to drop out than a member who attends group fitness classes.

Most people who prefer this type of training are Millenials and Gen Z'ers, which are also more inclined to invest in this aspect and promote a brand they genuinely love.

A Les Mills study says that members who frequently participate in group fitness classes are incredibly loyal to this workout. They are so loyal that 57% say they would altogether drop out if their gym would completely cancel their favorite class.

Therefore, group fitness classes are the most beloved workout regimes that have even withstood the COVID-19 crisis. Our clients' experience shows that gyms that launched group fitness classes via live streaming saw an overwhelming adoption rate, impressively fast. This means, even when they must attend from their living room, members love this type of workout.

So, what is stopping you from launching group fitness classes in your gym?

What are group fitness classes?

There is a wide range of group fitness classes, and almost every day, someone comes up with a new type.

Usually, a group fitness class takes place in a dedicated area or room, and it has a specific length, like half an hour or an hour, and just like in school, it has a "subject." That could be any workout, and it can focus on a particular muscle group, an essential benefit, or a workout style. Therefore, you could have yoga classes, cycling classes, aerobics, dance... the sky is the limit.

One of the essential characteristics of a group fitness class is that, as the name suggests, members train in a group with one or two instructors. That is also the secret of their success. When members train in a group, they forge a community, motivate each other, and contribute to a joyful atmosphere. That way, workouts become fun, and members are always looking forward to attending and don't see it as a task the dread each week.

The class instructor plays a significant part in growing this community and creating an upbeat atmosphere. Of course, it's just as important that these classes take place in large areas well vented, with proper equipment. But, if the instructor doesn't' know how to coordinate the class so that members are motivated, the awesome facilities will be meaningless. It's the instructor's responsibility not just to perform the exercises right but to also make sure people train in a fun way.

The benefits of group fitness classes for your business

It's true, launching group fitness classes at your gym also entails some costs. Most of them are one-time only, to set up space and create the process. But, once you figure out all these aspects, you will immediately see that this service will become your members' favorite.

Group X classes require a high engagement level, combined with music, a wide variety of exercises, and motivation from the instructor and other participants. This formula will immediately attract the attention of members because this way, working out becomes fun.

As I just mentioned, group fitness classes have a major impact on your member retention, and you don't have to do much. Communities that are forged around a class ensure the necessary incentive for members to renew their memberships, without having to convince them.

This service will also increase member satisfaction and they will be more likely to recommend your gym to others. What is more, since these classes are based on socialization, they will be willing to bring their friends along, and thus gaining new members. This way your members become promoters of your business, and their recommendation will matter much more than any advertisement or special offer.

Group fitness classes add value to your gym membership, making it a good reason to increase the prices or to have different prices for memberships that offer access to classes than for those that do not.

If you want to improve your gym’s reputation or just to promote your business more efficiently, group fitness classes are an excellent method for achieving that goal. All you must do is to organize a few outdoor classes open to anyone, to promote your gyms’ services more efficiently and in an interesting manner. But if you don’t have a well-structured class schedule, your members will be reluctant to attend such an event.

On the other hand, if you already offer such services, you can select some of the most popular classes, which will certainly be attended by the loyal members. It will create a special vibe that will catch other fitness lovers’ attention, who haven’t been at your gym yet.

How to launch group fitness classes at your gym

The most important aspect to keep in mind when considering the launch of group fitness classes is that you need to have a consistent schedule that should have at least three classes per day.

You definitely don’t want to rush and start only with one or two classes. Generally, it is good to be cautious when launching new services and not to invest too much in something that might not bring any profit. Most of the time, I agree with this strategy, but not in this case. The cost differences between one and three classes per day are very small, but it has a significant impact on the success of these services. 

When it comes to new services, getting members used to it is the biggest challenge. Thus, most probably, the first classes will not be fully booked. By providing a greater diversity of workouts, more members will be curious to try this new service. On the other hand, if you offer only yoga and Zumba classes, those who are interested in weightlifting will not be interested in this service.

Once you have decided which class types will be organized, you need to find the right instructors who have the right experience, and not just people that watched a few YouTube videos and now they think they can coordinate a class. Even though you can’t afford to hire experienced instructors, make sure the people who will oversee classes know what they are doing and will not train the members wrong.

The next step is to determine the area or studio where the classes will take place. It is essential that the space dedicated to classes is separated from the rest of the gym. If you do not have a separate area, you can build it by moving large equipment or placing shields to create a dedicated space where only class participants have access, and it is not a passing-by area.

After you have set all these details, it is time to announce the new service. One of the biggest mistakes gym managers can make is not promoting new services enough. If a member asks you why you don’t organize group fitness classes and you have already been doing it for a while, then you have a communication issue with your members.

So, once you have established the class schedule and how the classes will be held, make sure each member knows about this service. Your team at the front desk should talk to each member about these classes each time the member comes to the gym. Post the class schedule and participation rules in dressing rooms, fitness area, reception, and other areas with heavy foot-traffic.

Post about this service on your social media accounts and the gym’s website and invite members to join. Also, don’t forget to make the class schedule public and tell members what they need to do so they can participate.

No matter your long-term policy for this service, the first few classes should be free for all active members. It’s the only way to attract them. Especially if you don’t have experienced instructions, members will understand that this service is at its starting point and will improve in time.

Although group fitness classes start being successful, don’t stop promoting them. Most of the time, gym managers promote a new service in the first weeks then assume all members know about it. First, you can attract members who don’t know too much about this service even after the classes have been launched. And it is important to constantly tell members about the membership benefits and other services included to pique their interest.

Group classes are also a reason to be proud of, especially when you want to stand out from the competition and attract new members.

The resources you need to launch group fitness classes

As I said before, it is good to start your strategy with the type of classes you wish to offer. If your trainers already have experience in this field or want to gain experience, they will help you choose the classes that will attract more members. In the end, they know better how members train and what they like.

Then, depending on these classes, you need to make sure that you have all the instructors you need and that they know how to set up a correct and interesting workout for the entirety of the class. If you want to improve your class schedule the right way, then you should help your instructors get various certificates for Group X classes. You don’t have to start directly with Les Mills programs, that can be quite the investment. There are plenty of fitness schools out there that will help you improve your classes.

Next, you need to decide on the training area. If you are lucky and already have one or two studios in the gym, then those are the perfect places. Fitness classes should take place in separate studios, where you can play a different music form the rest of the gym, and only participants can access the space.

Online bookings classes

If the workouts take place in the middle of the equipment room, class participants will feel uncomfortable when the rest will stop their training to look at them. Also, make sure that the area doesn’t have a lot of foot traffic, or you are not using an access path for other gym areas. If people constantly pass by those who train in a group, it will be annoying. It is essential that each participant has enough space, so they won’t injure each other.

As I mentioned before, in the beginning, you could arrange an area for classes in the gym using with screens or large equipment.

Ideally, for an average of 8 classes a day, you would need an aerobics studio with equipment for various classes and a cycling studio, where bikes are correctly positioned and are not moved. For less than 8 classes, one studio is enough.

The next step is to purchase the equipment and necessary accessories. If you organize cycling classes, you must have enough bikes for the maximum number of participants. If you organize yoga classes, you need mats and other accessories, and for the weightlifting classes, you need weights. Make sure you have enough equipment for the maximum number of participants for each class and have some extra ones, just in case. Don’t expect members to bring more than a bottle of water and a towel.

Also, you need to consider the fact that these classes are extremely dull if you don’t have entertaining music. To use a particular playlist, you must have a special license, or you could use free soundtracks that could be found on such websites as Free Music Archive

Next, you need to set up a class participation process. Even if access is free for all members, this does not mean that the number of participants is unlimited. To avoid situations where members crowd to attend a class and then not have enough space in the studio, you should implement a class booking system.

Although it may not be necessary initially, it’s best to have such a system from the beginning. Thus, members get used to this system from day one, and then it is not necessary to educate them along the way. A booking system means that members must make a booking prior to attending a class. Then, you have a list of bookings that is caped at the maximum number of places available for the class and a waiting list with about a quarter of the maximum number of participants.

When the booking list is filled, members are added to the waiting list. If a member on the booking list cancels, the first one on the waiting list is bumped to the booking list.

For this system, you must persuade members to cancel the bookings for classes they cannot attend. Otherwise, if a member didn’t get a spot on the waiting list but sees that the class is almost empty because the majority on the list didn’t show-up, they will certainly be unhappy.

Your gym management software should offer all the tools you need for the management of class bookings. Of course, you can also make lists on paper and try managing your bookings like this, but these operations are very complicated and prone to human error and dissatisfaction. 

The gym management platform should give you the option to configure the class schedule with all the necessary details and save the bookings in the member’s profile. This way, you will have a complete history, and you can figure out which classes are popular and which classes are not very interesting for members. Then update the schedule according to their preference.

When group fitness classes attract a good number of members, you can move to the next step and implement an online booking system, that will allow members to book their favorite classes themselves, online, and receptionists will not waste time on calls and lists.

A quick catch up…

Group fitness classes are a smart investment for any type of gym. All the studies show that members who participate in the group training tend to renew their membership, and the community spirit, formed around the class, motivates members to come more often to the gym and even bring their friends.

There is no hard and fast rule for the way you should organize classes. One thing is for sure – they must be entertaining. Only then will you be able to persuade members to join. Start with a few classes a day, diverse enough to please most, and make sure the instructors know what they are doing. Even if you don’t have instructors with a lot of experience in this field, they can always improve, and you can help them obtain various certifications.

After choosing the types of classes you want, set up the space in which they will take place. It is important that these classes are held in a spot separate from the rest of the gym area, even if this place is bound by only space dividers and large equipment.

Purchase more than enough equipment and accessories for the maximum number of members who could attend classes and don't forget to use music during group training.

To be sure that members access the class in an orderly fashion, implement a booking system from the beginning, even if it is not necessary right away. Then, you won’t need to teach members how to use the system along the way.

Make sure you can manage the booking lists directly from your gym management software, so you don’t get tangled up in paper sheets or .xls files. If you can configure the class schedule using your software and save bookings in the members’ profiles, you could figure out more easily which classes are more popular and make changes to the schedule according to members’ preferences.

When your fitness classes become more popular, you can implement an online booking system, which will allow members to book classes themselves, online, and your team at the front desk will not waste time on calls.

Group fitness classes have a lot of benefits, and the costs are not that big, considering the extra revenue it can bring.

It is important to organize them in a coherent manner from the beginning and always take into consideration your members’ feedback. In the end, they are the ones who attend in these classes.


George works in the fitness industry for over 12 years, during which he combined his advanced IT skills with the ability to solve problems with ingenious tech solutions. As a result, he has become very familiar with the challenges that occur during gyms' daily tasks and their solutions. His experience always takes shape into practical features for our platform

Fitness Business Romania
Fitness Business Romania

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How to set up an online booking system for your gym
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