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Making A Success In Group Training - Gym Floor pt 2

With rigs of all shapes and sizes now being a regular feature on the gym floor, and the huge variety of quality small equipment available that together can contribute massively to a group experience, the aim of this blog series is to explore some of the factors that contribute to the success of a ‘Group Training’ on the gym floor. 
This is the second in a series of short features on’ Success in Group Training [Gym Floor]’. The main focus of this segment is around ‘defining’ the space, identifying the target exerciser audience, and identifying some of the essential component pieces that support a truly great experience.

As before, this feature is not meant to be a deep educational piece of work around fitness industry standards or the roles and responsibilities of staff: it is purely a personal view of the ingredients that should be considered to ensure a group training or group space successful.


As with most successful things in business, ‘direction’ is a key component. Direction when considering ‘Success in Group Training [Gym Floor]’ is definitely a significant factor that cannot be over looked. I continually hear the term ‘functional space’, ‘group space’ or ‘boutique experience’ (space), but what does this mean? Individuals continually use these terms to illustrate a point in a conversation, which is fine, and supports the continual flow of the discussion but when asked, “what does ‘functional space’ mean to you and your members? (closing the information down with an aim to get clarity), or tell me more about your ideas around your ‘boutique experience space?” (an opportunity to open the information up, and expand on specific details), the response is vague. If the facility is unclear, where does this leave the staff, and more importantly the exercisers that use the facility? How do they (the exercisers) interpret the value (price is only an issue in the absence of value) of a facility offering, if it’s not clearly defined?

What does ‘functional’, ‘group space’, or ‘boutique experience space’ mean to the facility and more importantly how does it connect with the membership? A group training space needs to be clearly defined. Who is the target group, what is going to happen in the space, what is the duration of the sessions, at what times of the day are the sessions going to be delivered, what is the equipment to be utilised, what is the layout of the session, and how does all of this align with the values, mission and direction of the facility? How is this space going to add value to the exercisers membership? How is the value of this space going to be explained to the membership?

The group space needs to be defined and then designed. A facility cannot overlook the importance of the look and feel of this space, if it’s going to be successful. There is no such thing as neutral design: everything that a facility does is saying something [1].

Imagery: this conveys a message. What message does the facility want the imagery to deliver? Having a ‘go hard or go home’ message might be great for some group training spaces, but maybe not right for others. Lighting, music, flooring all have a part to play in the experience.

Equipment choice (rig or no rig) and equipment positioning [in centre of the space, against a wall] both have their advantages, but what is the facility message, and if using a rig, what is the optimal position? Is continual instructor eye contact and interaction a key feature of the facility group experience? If so, then the positioning of the equipment is going to be important.  

Positioning the equipment so that the exerciser faces the wall, or has their back to the instructor will affect the overall group experience.

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Equipment styling (harsh and angular as if the equipment is shouting, or smooth and curved, which is more inviting to the individual returning to exercise) is an important consideration if the space is going to be successful.

Is it an urban space that defines your group training, or is it to have more of a night-club feel? Is it to look and feel exclusive, or be more of a space that encourage; old-fashioned hard work?  

Before the design commences, a facility needs to be clear about the target group, the audience, that the space is going to talk to, and what this group requires from this type of workout. In some ways, this is business guess work, but it is best to have an avatar of the audience to support the overall direction of the space.

Who is the target audience? What are their fitness/exercises requirements? How long should a session last? What type of equipment meets their wants and needs? Do they prefer to exercise as a group (studio approach), in a team (a liner/grid approach), or individually within the group session? What outside of the facility influences this group: are they early adopters, are they boomers or millennials, or early or late majority? It does not matter as long as the facility is clear about the audience. What emotions do you want the audience to be left with after the session? Remember that fitness is NOT enough to drive someone back to a facility: emotions drive behaviour.

The input, such as exercises, sets, reps, timings, are important and help support a great experience, but the output - the emotions the audience feels both during, and after the group session [trust, joy, delight, enjoyment, pride] – is what drives them to return for more.  It’s a little deep and funky, but it’s true. The future of the industry lies in the fact that fitness is NOT the product, the exerciser is; as they become the result of the experience (the environment) that is created, both physically and psychologically.   

‘Group Training’ on the gym floor can add so much to the membership offering and contribute massively to exerciser adherence, which in turn supports member retention. Before a facility launches such a programme of exercise, many factors need to be considered, ensuring they all contribute to the success of this type of space.

[1] adapted from NUGDE  [Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein]