Personal training represents a significant profit center for many fitness facilities. A few years ago, I recognized that by only offering private one-on-one training, I was limiting personal training only to the very wealthy who could afford it. I encourage personal training programs to expand to include one-on-one, partner and small and large group training options. And I'm not alone. A recent IDEA Fitness Programs Survey found that 42 percent of fitness facilities offer partner training and 33 percent provide small group personal training. Group personal training is a growing trend that will ensure the continued success of the industry. It's an approach where everybody wins!
Group training works because the client, trainer and fitness facility all benefit.
The burn out rate in the fitness industry is high. We are constantly giving and inspiring and motivating and by the end of the day, we're exhausted. Whether you teach back-to-back fitness classes or train 40 hours per week, your body can only keep up for so long. The key to longevity in the fitness industry is living a balanced life and so the message is, we have to learn to work smarter, not harder. I encourage trainers to develop a personal training career that allows for a maximum of 20 to 30 private-training hours per week and then to complement their career with other opportunities within the fitness industry. By incorporating group training into their repertoire, they can earn more than double their normal hourly wage, and therefore they can feasibly work 20 hours and earn the same as training 40 hours.
A career with numerous responsibilities is far better than doing the same old thing every day. I love to see personal trainers taking exercise to music courses to learn how to teach group exercise classes. I find that it helps them as a personal trainer because it increases their exposure to potential personal training clients and it also adds variety to their career so that they're not doing the same thing all the time. And of course, instructors will also benefit from taking courses on how to become a personal trainer, because you can't obviously teach six classes a day but you can train six hours a day and thus, make a pretty good living. In my career I am a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, lecturer/presenter, consultant, running clinic leader and writer. I never feel bored with what I'm doing and I love it! If I can encourage trainers to adopt the same type of working style, I feel they'll have a better chance of staying happy and motivated. Group training is perfect for adding excitement and diversity into a fitness leader's career because the options are limitless. A trainer could be involved as a private trainer, running clinic leader, a boxing camp instructor and an abdominal conditioning presenter. Trainers also have the opportunity to earn more money because more clients are paying for their time.
In addition, because clients are experiencing such variety in their programs, group training can also enhance client retention which will definitely provide consistency in a trainer's income. Group training is excellent for personal trainers because it provides greater exposure to a larger market of potential clients. I've found that by offering group training programs, many of the participants will purchase a few additional private sessions to custom-design their programs. Group training has become a fabulous feeder into one-on-one private training. Group training also satisfies most personal trainers desire to want to contribute and make a difference in people's lives. Instead of appealing to only one person, you now can make an impact on 10 people during the same amount of time.
Clients enjoy the cost-effectiveness of group training allowing many to participate who could not afford to otherwise. Others like the more affordable options because it allows them to partake in more than just one program. Clients love the variety and when they feel successful and are constantly stimulated, they are more likely to stick around! Not to mention, the social aspect of group training. So many of group training participants develop strong friendships that enhance client retention.
Keep in mind, though, that group training hasn't worked for everyone. Some clubs have experienced poor response from members. So don't get down on yourself if you try a number of different programs and nothing seems to work. And keep in mind, most personal training revenues are still generated from one-on-one training programs, so private training is still your "bread and butter!" But personal training programs will experience greater success and growth by offering the different types of group training programs.
The Benefits of Group Training
Personal Trainer Client Fitness Facility
- Job becomes more exciting and diverse
- Increased income without increasing time
- Trainer has more energy, enthusiasm, and focus during all training sessions
- Longer career expectancy
- Balance in life
- Trainer can contribute and make a difference in more people's lives
- Group training offers feeder into private training
- Provides exposure to a larger market
- Client retention
- Trainer is happier and more focused and therefore can better service their client
- More cost-effective
- Exciting programs
- Social aspect
- Increased revenue
- Provides greater exposure to a larger range of clients
- Client retention
Group Training Ideas
Here are some ideas on how you can add variety to your programs:
Large Group Training: (10-12 clients/1 trainer)
These types of programs provide an economical route for someone to receive regular motivation and education. Because clients are splitting the costs of training between 10-12 people, they enroll in the program at a fraction of the cost of private or small group training. The format can be similar to a muscle conditioning group workout, a circuit class using no machines or a circuit class using machines. Because the program is limited to 10-12 people, each person receives a lot more attention than if they attended a group exercise to music class. The instructor/trainer also brings educational handouts to each session and also has each participant sign in and record how they did for the week with regards to their goals. Many of the programs are packaged so that each participant also receives a private training session before the program begins to establish goals and after the program finishes to reassess.
Here are some of the details:
- 10-12 clients/trainer
- Two private sessions/client
- Eight weeks group training
- Cost: $170.00/person (once per week)
- Expenses: Wages and promotional fliers
- 10-12 clients/trainer
- No private sessions
- 10 weeks Group Training
- Cost: $150/person (once per week)
- Expenses: Wages and promotional fliers
- 10-12 clients/trainer
- No private sessions
- 6 weeks Group Training
- Cost $100/person (once per week)
- Expenses: Wages and promotional fliers
The format can be repackaged and expanded it into other areas. Training Camp, Boxing camp, Stretching camp, Ski and Boarding Camp, Golf Conditioning Clinic, Tennis Conditioning clinic, Outdoor Cross Training Workout, Summer Sports Conditioning Workout, Abs 101, Legs 101, Back Care 101 and Feel the Burn are all group training programs that are easy to implement. Each has its own focus, design and package. Some offer private training sessions and some don't. Some programs stay indoors using minimal equipment, others involve extensive use of equipment and some take the clients outdoors. The key is to be creative!
Group Fat Loss Program
This program has been a huge winner both from a financial and a client success perspective. The format of the program starts with each registrant receiving a fitness assessment to establish baseline fitness and body composition measurements. Each client also records a 3 day food record which is analyzed by a nutritionist (this is optional). Each registrant also receives a Fat Loss Manual which includes various articles and handouts relative to fat loss. The first week of the program I assign partners who will review each other's daily activity and diet logs and provide support for each other. I establish the expectations and guidelines for the program and assign reading material for each week. Each additional week we cover material ranging from designing a fat loss exercise or nutrition program, portion control, to the psychology of fat loss and body image. Each week the participants record a synopsis of their week so I know how they are doing in relation to their goals. At the end of the eight weeks, we perform another fitness assessment to measure their progress! Here's some of the benefits and feedback that I've received from this program. I took these comments directly from evaluation sheets:
- Motivation, support and accountability to the group
- Information through articles and homework
- Encouraged by small victories and not overwhelmed by final goal
- Liked hearing about the struggles that others have and how they deal with it
- Liked the company of others who experienced similar and different problems
- Learned painless things that I could do to decrease the amount of calories I eat each day
- Realizing that a 20 minute workout was better than no workout
- Keeping track of what I ate daily helped me to be much more aware of what I ate
- By setting up my own food planning and exercise program, I created the route to success by myself with the support and guidance of the leaders and the group members.
- I feel much healthier and in control of my life. Extra energy a plus for my kids & husband. I lost 15 pounds, better yet, I'm fitting into all the clothes in my closet, an economic plus. Also, I've been changing the way I cook and think about meals. I am way more veggie-centered. 80/20 rule
- Feeling of self worth - I'm worth it!
- I became convinced at an emotional, rather than at just an intellectual/theoretical level, that the key to being content with my body is to eat well, get lots of exercise, and generally treat it with respect. The emphasis on weight training also helped me to feel stronger and more confident physically and psychologically.
- Learned to focus on physical /psychological health and to let go of my neurotic obsession with the pursuit of a perfect body (which doesn't exist anyway) and with an unhealthy relationship with food.
Here are some of the details of the program:
- 10 clients/trainer
- Pre/Post Fitness Assessment
- Nutritional Analysis
- Eight week program
- Cost: $295.00/client meeting once per week
- Expenses: Wages, promotional fliers, manuals and polaroid shots
About three years ago, I started a running program that now attracts 60+ people per session. I offer it three times per year, and each session is for 12 weeks. Each week, we teach the participants a different way to train their body as a runner (steady state, track workouts, Fartlek, interval training, hills etc). I recruit a number of volunteers to lead the different pace groups from a run/walk to a seven minute mile pace. Each week, we start with a group warm up, then the cardiovascular training portion and a cool down. We finish with a stretch and an educational presentation with a handout. I budget into my expenses a gift for each of my volunteers (pair of shoes, fleece sweatshirt, etc) and a coordinators fee for myself. I have hooked up with a local running footwear and clothing store that also promotes our event to their customers, and we use their space as a meeting place before the run.
Here's an outline of the program:
- 60+ registrants
- One coordinator and five to 10 group leaders
- Cost: $60/person running once/week
- Expenses: Coordinators fee, volunteer gifts, promotional flyers, running logs, year end party
You can also modify this concept and offer a run/walk clinic, a walking only clinic or a hiking club.
Putting It All Together
Club based versus home based vs sole proprietorship:
The programs I've listed in this article function very well in a club based setting where the trainers work as employees. But that doesn't mean if you train in people's homes or own your own private training studio, these programs can't work for you. You just have to be a little creative in your set-up, design and marketing. You'll have to develop strategic alliances and cross promotions will other companies like Golf Centers, Sporting Good Retailers, Health Spas or Physician's offices. For example, if you own your own business and train at people's homes, how would you offer a Group Fat Loss program? Well, let's say there's a Spa in your area that offers massage, facials and body wraps. Their customer demographics match the health-conscious client you'd be looking for. So you approach the company and propose to offer an 8 week Group Fat Loss program they could offer to their customers. You would host the program from the spa after hours so space would not be an issue. You could propose the Spa receives a certain percentage for usage of their space and marketing to their customers. The Spa also wins because they are providing a service to their customers that they could not offer without you. Don't get discouraged by your situation. Although I admit it's easier to run programs when you've got 3,000 club members to market to, don't let this limit you. Find your 3,000 "club members" by developing alliances with companies that appeal to your type of customer.
Profits and Expenses
The largest expenses are wages for the trainers facilitating each of the programs. When deciding upon wages, in a club setting, most companies will want to see at least 50 percent of any of the revenue generated as profit to the program. The other 50 percent can be used for trainer wages. Of course, if you own your own business all the money would go to you. But you should still establish a formula to determine how much of the money goes towards your hourly fees and then how much is profit. This will help you determine how profitable a program is. For example, if two programs generated $3000 in revenue but for program A, it took you 20 hours to facilitate and program B took you 10 hours, program B would be much more profitable.
I've always used very low-cost, grass roots, internal marketing. Designing your own flyers on the computer and making photocopies to post on cardio machines, in washrooms, and at all other key locations within a gym is generally all you need to do. If you're not working within a facility, you are going to have to convince other companies to post your flyers within their organizations or rely on word of mouth. The key point is to make sure you allow yourself enough time to thoroughly market your programs. I've always set a goal of making sure all flyers are posted and all bulletin boards completed at least 1.5 months prior to the beginning of the program.
You may want to include a few private sessions into the price and the package of many of your group training programs. This allows you to design an individualized program for each client. However, in some programs, in order to keep the costs down, you may offer programs that do not include private sessions, however, strongly encourage all registrants to do a few privates to get the most out of their group training experience.
No matter which personal training program you offer, you'll find that after offering it for about a year, it will lose its novelty and registration will start to drop. This is why every year you should restructure and repackage all of your programs. For example the training camp, ski and boarding camps and golf conditioning programs are basically all the same type of program structure with a different focus. And remember, if a certain type of program doesn't work for you, it doesn't mean that all programs won't work for you. You really have to understand your clients and their needs and be ready to try something else.
Some facilities have told me they would have problems hosting these types of programs because members would have difficulties paying extra when they are already paying their monthly membership fees. But I quickly ask them if they'd be able to offer the programs without charging and of course they couldn't. So most members appreciate having the choice of registering or not registering for any of the programs. Interestingly enough, think about what most members are getting for $50/month membership fee - usage of the equipment and fitness classes warrants that type of fee. Anything extra should be charged for or we should all significantly raise our membership fees!! We undervalue our services way too often!!
The programs I've discussed in this article are programs that I've helped develop over the last five years. I strongly suggest you not try to run all of them at the same time. Pick one or two that you think would be very successful with your clients and then spend all your time and energy promoting it to ensure its initial success. You can then expand on your programs as you determine which types work best for your organization. Once you've developed a number of different program, you should then plan out an entire year which balances out when you offer your programs. You don't want to offer too many at the same time because they will compete against each other.
Take a look at your background or experience. Is there anything you have done that others would like to know or learn about? Even if you're not an expert in the area, perhaps you could ask the assistance of someone who is and offer them a percentage of the profit. Some companies may be interested in just getting involved for free because they may host their own programs that they would like to promote to your clients. Perhaps you could start a beach volleyball club, a cross-country ski clinic, tennis program, triathlon training clinic, mountain biking program, cycling club or indoor rock climbing club? The sky is the limit.