As the fitness industry progresses, today’s personal trainer has evolved into one of the most versatile and sought after professionals, with no shortage of opportunities to share their services. Today’s trainer has evolved into what is now known as a “Hybrid Fitness Professional.”
From teaching classes in the aerobics room, to training a small group of people and even performing some one-on-one sessions, the hybrid fitness professional has become the chameleon of the fitness arena. They encompass a skill set that connects people while delivering a product that makes every client feel important, whether they are training individually or in a group.
Until recently, the hybrid trainer was fairly uncommon in the fitness industry. In fact, it is the clients who have initiated this evolution of hybrid training.
- Recognize the drivers behind the evolution of hybrid training.
- Learn the key reasons why clients are attracted to group training and the benefits included.
- Understand the benefits of becoming a hybrid fitness professional.
Where has Personal Training Been? Where is it Going?
Personal training in its history is actually quite young, to scale it, personal training is only a few decades old (Holt, 2011). Within its short lifetime, the personal training profession has already undergone much evolution. While keeping up with the trends of the world and responding to the motivational drivers behind a human being’s health and fitness, personal training and how it is offered is changing shape to meet the needs of the population.
There are currently over 7 billion humans that grace this earth and over 314 million in the United States (US Census Bureau, 2012). Of the 7 billion people on earth, one in three adults worldwide suffers from high blood pressure, one in ten from diabetes, and 12% of the population are considered obese- that’s half a billion people (World Health Organization, 2012).
With statistics like these, the personal training profession is undoubtedly in high demand. This leads the personal trainer to look at how their services might be offered to meet this demand while shaping to the very lives of those clients who partake in the service.
Currently, there are just over 250,000 personal trainers in the United States (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012), to service a whopping 50 million gym members across the country (Hopson, 2012). To put this into perspective, if every gym member participated in personal training, there would be 200 clients per trainer. If each client came twice a week, trainers performing a one-on-one session would potentially work for 400 hours per week. Given that there are only 168 hours in a week, and the world’s health crisis is only getting worse, the army of personal trainers should not fall short of making a decent living.
Now, let the reality set in. The numbers vary, but on average only 8-15% of members participate in personal training services (Hopson, 2012). This leaves a maximum of 16-30 potential clients per year for each of the 250,000 trainers in the US.
It is easy to argue the stats for these numbers, as many variables can come into play regarding the participation of a member within personal training services. Instead of pointing the finger as to why one-on-one personal training is only enticing a small amount of those card swiping members, the focus should be turned to what the members are seeking to satisfy their personal training needs and desires. This will shed a whole new light on the evolution of personal training.
The trend changes and group training is in demand
The fitness industry saw a drastic decline in participation of one-on-one personal training during the economic downturn of 2008-09. Members who originally opened their pocket books to spend their money on the service were suddenly more hesitant and selective in what extra amenities they spent their money on. This left many personal trainers to scramble for other solutions that offered health and fitness solutions, without asking clients to break the bank.
What is unique about this time period is that despite the lack of people eager to spend money on extras, the personal training industry continued to boom. According to IHRSA’s fitness trends for 2011, the main factor for growth, even in the recession, is the trend away from one-on-one training toward small-group or semi-private training, which increases the fun level while mitigating expenses. The member pays less, so he or she has a greater value experience. The trainer makes more per hour and the club makes more per hour. All around, it is truly driven by financial incentive (Steinbach, 2011).
The financial attractiveness of small-group and semi-private personal training are a no-brainer, but what makes these numbers more compelling is that the trends are showing even more staggering statistics around client retention. More than 15 years after its initial burst onto the scene, group exercise programs are exploding. The statistics that have been coming in over the past couple of years are absolutely compelling (Steinbach, 2011). When the most successful facilities are driving around 10% of membership to personal training… On the other hand, facilities with even moderately successful group exercise programs achieve 30% of total visits for group exercise and up to 50% and more in some cases (Mills, 2012).
So, what is it beyond monetary value that attracts people to workout in groups? There is a long list of reasons, but all can be ultimately tied to how a human being is wired to survive and thrive through social interaction.
The Attractiveness to Group Training
Within Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, we learn that a human being seeks love, belonging, respect of others and respect by others. This can only be achieved through social interaction. So we search for opportunities to engage with other people, and the gym is no different.
People join a health club to be with others like themselves, with similar interests, skill levels, schedules, personalities, ages, and genders. No one joins a club to be alone. It doesn’t make sense (Steinbach, 2011). Clients participating in group training, whether it is small group training or a group fitness class, are able to experience just this. Although the factors may sometimes vary, they are joining others with similar interests, schedules, and many other factors that allow them to connect and have a sense of belonging. Although one-on-one training fosters a sense of belonging, group training gives people the ability to accomplish tasks together. When the task is completed, all who participated feel as though their efforts contributed to the end result. Without that contribution, the result may have varied, and through this association one belongs simply because their input matters.
Social interaction increases the support group
A sense of belonging does not occur without social interaction. Within small group training and group fitness, there are numerous opportunities to engage with those in the group. When clients participate in similar activities with others, they are provided with the opportunity to overcome challenges, face obstacles, and reap the rewards with others. It is through this participation that the clients will experience sensations of one another’s emotions through body language. Reflectively through one’s experience, when another is involved in the same action, the mirror neurons of the human brain kick in and a client has the ability to know what the other person is feeling or doing (Carter, 2009).
To give an example of mirror neurons at play within group training, envision a circuit workout. There are three stations laid out: push-ups, burpees, and squats. All stations last for one minute. The client who is first at the burpee station is experiencing fatigue at 45 seconds and has to push through the last 15 seconds of the set. The group rotates, and everyone changes exercise stations. The client, who just previously performed the burpees, looks over and recognizes that their exercise partner is beginning to struggle with the burpees and exhibits discouraging body language. It is this recognition that elicits one’s mirror neurons to come into play and the first client might burst out saying, “You can do it!” This response is warranted through their previous association with the exercise and their feelings of overcoming the challenge.
Creating an environment in which the group overcomes challenges together allows for a greater support system among all participants. When there is an increase in support, there is an increased opportunity for greater results.
Social interaction increases exercise frequency
A 1995 USC study titled, “Social Relationships and Physical Activity in Health Club Members,” found that when people met at the club, it was the best predictor of exercise frequency. Meeting friends at the health club was also the best predictor of exercise satisfaction. These findings suggest that friendships that involve exercising together and the social contacts that result from exercising in public places, such as health clubs, may motivate exercise behavior (Steinbach, 2011). Motivation encourages continued participation, and feeds into client results and client retention.
When looking at the neuroscience of how humans are wired to interact and how it produces motivation, it’s a no-brainer for any personal trainer to consider other avenues of delivering their fitness services outside of one-on-one personal training.
The Benefits of being a Hybrid Fitness Professional
A client is a trainer’s best business card (Brown, 2007). Isn’t it better to have more than one business card to hand out?
Small group training facilitates an environment for a trainer to help more clients at once, while developing a bigger database of people who have experienced the service. When a trainer predominantly trains one client at a time, their reach is diminished drastically. On average, one satisfied personal training customer will refer 1-3 clients. A trainer who trains 30 hours per week of one-on-one sessions (client trains two times per week) is limited to 15-45 potential leads, and it will take more hours worked and more time to develop that clientele. A trainer who trains 30 hours per week predominantly in small groups of 3 (groups training two times per week), has the potential client referral reach of 45-135 leads, while working the same amount of hours as the one-on-one trainer, and has the opportunity to build a clientele faster.
Along with an increased number of referrals, group training leads to a quicker return on investment, whether that investment is time or money. Training more people per hour leads to higher pay per hour, and more money per hour for the facility as well. With group training, businesses and trainers quickly start seeing profit margins rise.
Connect with more members
Not only is small group training an aspect of the hybrid fitness professional’s offerings, but group fitness is another source of income. When a personal trainer steps to the front of the class to lead members through a workout, that trainer is providing a sample of their coaching skills. From motivation, to cueing, to personality, and even communication skills, the member walks away having an impression of the trainer, and if nourished by the trainer, a relationship can follow. These new formed relationships create new raving fans, as well as potential clients for the trainer.
A trainer who teaches group fitness increases the awareness of who they are to the members, while at the same time gaining an interaction with those participants that they might not have had otherwise. A member who regularly participates in group fitness may not normally experience other services or places in the gym, but the hybrid fitness professional can help to bridge that gap, and in some ways start to build a community between members of the club who wouldn’t typically workout together.
Although a hybrid fitness professional has been born out of necessity, its birth has brought attention to aspects of training that this industry has yet to capitalize on. The human interaction in group training is just as important as the physical exertion when it comes to program success. This interaction in a group training setting enhances the client’s sense of belonging, increases the client’s support group, and increases motivation and exercise frequency. All of these factors lead to greater results for the client. In addition, the hybrid trainer experiences increased revenue, more referrals and connects with more members.
The evolution of a personal trainer is not guided by the popular equipment found in state of the art facilities, but it is shaped by the very world outside of the gym walls. A hybrid fitness professional should consider the external world drivers of cultural change, behavior, and social realities, in order to provide the consumer with the best solution to their fitness goals. A group training solution that encompasses a human being through providing individualization within a crowd will be paramount to the client’s, trainers’, and facility’s success. (PTA Global, 2012)
- Brown, G. (September 2007) Fitness-Boosting Personal Training Profits. Athletic Business Journal retrieved from http://www.athleticbusiness.com/articles/article.aspx?articleid=3263&zoneid=22
- Carter, R. Et al. (2009) The Human Brain Book. London, UK: DK Books
- Holt, B. (2011) The History of Personal Training Retrieved September 26th, 2012, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/366979-the-history-of-personal-training/
- Hopson, S. (September 2012) Personal Touch. Health Club Management Magazine 54-56. Retrieved from http://www.health-club.co.uk/digital/index1.cfm?mag=Health%20Club%20Management&codeid=27565&CFID=34796186&CFTOKEN=71768290
- Mills, P. (2012) Group Exercise for Growth and Strength. Onsite Fitness GroupEx Magazine 20-24. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/stevenrenata/group-exercise-growth-in-2012
- PTA Global Group Training Solution (PTA Global) (2012) Retrieved from http://www.ptaglobal.com
- Steinbach, P. (2011) Social Environments Help Health Clubs with Member Retention. Athletic Business Journal retrieved from http://www.athleticbusiness.com/articles/article.aspx?articleid=3733&zoneid=22
- US. Bureau of Labor Statistics (US Dept of Labor) (April 26th, 2012) Retrieved September 25th, 2012, from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm
- US & World Population Clocks, US Census (US Dept. of Commerce) (September 27th 2012) Retrieved September 27th, 2012, from http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html
- New Data Highlight increases in hypertension, diabetes incidence (World Health Organization) (May 16th, 2012) Retrieved September 27th, 2012 from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2012/world_health_statistics_20120516/en/index.html
- Smart Alternatives, Et al. (2012) What is Personal Training? Retrieved September 26th, 2012 from http://www.altmd.com/Articles/What-is-Personal-Training