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The Rise of "Wellness" in the Fitness Industry

Posted by Robert Koehler on Jun 29, 2021 10:24:22 AM

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Many people think of their gym as the place they exercise, but over the past few years, gyms have been expanding their traditional services to provide members and prospects with a fuller, more all-encompassing wellness experience. Clubs have to work harder and smarter than ever to win members and stay lucrative. Increasing your gym’s wellness programs will help you get it done.

Wellness is commonly defined as “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” While working out is a significant aspect of overall wellness, it’s only one part of the puzzle – and gym owners are realizing that their members are excited about this fuller sense of wellness and that they’re interested in getting a “total lifestyle wellness package” from their gym.

IHRSA recently published a study about the opportunities that clubs can provide through wellness programs, and the payoffs that are associated with them for both their staff and clients alike. Handpick the wellness add-ons that suit your members best: nutrition programs, cryotherapy, massages, personal training, smoothie bars, and much more could be great options. By offering your members these additional services, you’ll build retention and increase revenue streams at your club. If you’re offering unique wellness programs, you’ve got to make sure everyone knows about them. Marketing your wellness offerings can increase member loyalty, create brand recognition, and develop a sense of community in your gym.


Winning at the Wellness Game

We spoke with a fitness expert to see how the addition of these wellness programs has helped her members feel more “at home” at their facilities and also create one-stop-shops for all of their wellness needs. Colleen Palomaa is the Fitness Director at VIDA Fitness in Washington, D.C., and is charged with directing the course at Urban Adventures Companies, including department management, strategic marketing and promotion, and operations . When asked about VIDA’s wellness initiatives, she had the following insights to share about the growth of the company over the past couple years:

Why do you think gyms have started to expand their wellness offerings for their members?

We place a big emphasis on building community and being a one-stop shop for our members. That's developed more and more over the years, and part of it ties into developing a different kind of culture. When we onboard members, we want to know about more than just their fitness goals: We want to understand why they have those goals, because it helps us paint a more well-rounded picture of how they're going to use our facility. By having registered dieticians on staff, we’re able to give all of our members an initial consult, so they can really make sure that their diet is dialed in, whether that means that they have performance goals or they're just looking for that more overarching wellness piece to be addressed when they come to us.

How has the expansion of the Nutrition program helped you build a different type of culture for members at VIDA?

Our dieticians actually curate the offerings that we have at VIDA’s Fuel Bar. There's an option for folks to get their pre-and-post workout there, but it's also a place where they can grab a bite to relax. Our spaces have even evolved to include lounge areas. Our locker rooms now have vanity sections so people can connect when they grab something from the Fuel Bar. It's not like they grab it and run out the door. They grab something and have a seat at a cafe table, and meet another member or sit down with a friend. I think that the physical space is another really big part of that wellness piece, making it more communal and a place where folks can connect.

 In addition to the workout floor and the Fuel Bar, we also have steam and sauna rooms in our facilities. At some of our clubs, we even have hydro massage beds. We’ve had to incorporate these other ways for folks to tap into that place of relaxation and restoration, which is a really big aspect of a person’s overall wellness. Our members are not just coming to VIDA to lift and work out, but also to relax, to be refreshed and rejuvenated.

Why have VIDA and other gyms worked so hard to create these new types of wellness initiatives?

I think there are probably a lot of reasons that’s happened. One is because it's organic. People are coming to work out, but they're sticking around. They're looking for those other outlets. There's this trend toward natural products and pursuing what really constitutes “being health” because we all have more information at our fingertips thanks to the internet. The members come and they're searching for the best information and resources to achieve their wellness goals, So gyms need to innovate, adapt, and provide the supply to meet that demand.

Then on the flip side, I think we see this trend because clubs are needing to diversify, to appeal to a broader client base. Diversifying when it comes to wellness will attract more people because the evolution of gyms is really interesting, right? They used to be all very low cost. It was a place where you just came in, got your workout, and left. As people have become interested in having these additional offerings, we’ve seen a growing diversity in the market. We want to provide value for our services. So the more that we can do, the more we can be at our price point.

How has VIDA evolved how they communicate with their members about wellness programs, and how do you market these strategies more effectively?

I think, instead of focusing so much on the physical outcome of joining a gym and what you're going to physically look like, or be able to accomplish from that perspective, we've really evolved to, "How are you going to feel when you joined a gym? What are you going to experience when you join a gym?" Some of those more intangible outcomes are what we focus on when we do our marketing.

There's also been a really big push on social media toward body positive language. We aim to help folks understand that we're going to take care of more than just picking things up and putting them down or supplying a treadmill. We're really going to help them develop a well-rounded program when they come to VIDA. When we put various programs together, we have those folks in mind. The people who want to be at a gym are here because we're a gym, but they come in and perhaps they learn that we’re much more than they realized. And that's a great value add.

Our programs can also be geared toward people who maintain the old perception of what it means to join a gym or who feel intimidated. We do this by focusing on more than how they’ll look or the performance-based targets they’ll hit.

How do you think that adding wellness programs has helped you build retention and increased your revenue streams?

In our experience with the industry, the members who are integrated with some kind of programming stay longer. So if someone comes into the gym, does their own workout and leaves, they’re less likely to stick with us than those who take advantage of the way that we've diversified our offerings. The more programs that we have that can appeal to the diverse range of membership fees that we have, the more opportunities for each member to get integrated and stay longer.

We see that with our clients, whether they're engaging with personal training or with nutrition counseling, each of those unique offerings is one more reason to stick around. When they think, "Oh, do I need this monthly expense for my gym?" they'll say, "Well, yes, because it's also my stress relief and haven. It's also my social connection to my peers and my friends. It's also the place where I like to eat. It's the place where I like to get my hair done. It's the place where I like to get a massage." The more of those connections we have, the better repaying those folks are. It's super important from a retention perspective.

Depending on the nature of how those services are diversified, they can add to our revenue streams too. In most cases, our additional services could be covered by the base membership rate, but it takes resources to create all our new programs. The people who are spending money on those programs are sticking around longer too, so it's kind of a win-win. They get more support and we're able to use that money to do more for them.

Obviously, over the past year, we got into virtual programming as well, which has proven to have super high engagement even now that we're reopened. All of our members get our virtual programming included with their membership. It's not something they have to pay extra for. But we do have members who, after leaving the gym because they're moving, continue to pay to be able to access our virtual programming because they have that connection to the facility and to the people there.


Marketing Your New Wellness Programs

Wellness programs mean opportunity and the ability to reach out to your members in a new way. Consider implementing these strategic marketing and promotion opportunities at your club to not only engage a new type of clientele, but also re-engage existing members who may be looking for a jumpstart to their existing routine.

Club OS publishes monthly content providing you with innovative ideas and keeping you on top of the latest industry trends. Take a look at our recent blog about how you can implement monthly challenges at your gym and stand out from the crowd by elevating the way your members view fitness.


Colleen Palomaa

Colleen Palomaa, Fitness Director, VIDA Fitness


Topics: Marketing Gyms Members group fitness membership club-os nutrition prospect club solutions smoothies wellness vida fitness salon experience


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