An engine has many different mechanical components that lead to a car’s overall performance. Just like engines, incentive programs come in all shapes and sizes. While incentive programs have many different components, they provide one key outcome: driving more of your members toward achieving goals within your club. This is the spark that your club needs when competition for business is at an all-time high.
Let’s take a look under the hood of a very successful independent health club. The Tri-City Court Club located in Kennewick, Washington, has been independently owned and operated for 32 years. Two years ago, they asked themselves this question: “What is our big, hairy, audacious goal?” The resounding answer was to make their community the healthiest in the State. The club determined that in order to remain competitive in their market, they could not simply coexist. Creating a wide variety of incentive-based programming began to increase awareness and involvement within their club and community.
So how do you go from a factory model to a high-performance machine? Customize through incentive-based programming.
Independent health clubs across the country are all going to have different demographics. Incentive programs may vary slightly from the programs listed in this article, but they should give you some tangible ideas to get your engine revving. The following incentive programs are offered at the Tri-City Court Club. Each incentive program is helping the club to achieve its goal of becoming the healthiest city in the State.
Incentives for Individuals
I Lost it at the Club! is a weight loss incentive program that is provided through the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). The program is run during the resolution season, from January through March, and the programming options are so flexible that every facility could benefit from its implementation. There are many best practices to implement during this program. Provide your members with a high-energy opening ceremony that includes motivational tips and best practices to achieve success. Bring in a guest speaker, or have current members share their testimonials. In 2010, the Tri-City Court Club is bringing Ken Coleman, a former Biggest Loser contestant, to present a motivational lecture and host a kick-off workout.
Another major contributor to a successful program is the connection with the personal training staff and integration into the group exercise program. This is accomplished by giving each participant a passport to fitness, which can include special lectures, fitness classes, fitness challenges and incentives to meet new staff members. In our example, each item has an amount of tickets awarded when completed. At the end of the challenge, everyone is eligible to win prizes, not just the overall weight loss winners. Participants pay a $50 registration fee, and half of the registration fee goes towards cash prizes.
The Governor’s Community Health Bowl began by partnering with the Washington Health Foundation (WHF) to increase the overall health ranking of the State of Washington. The Tri-City Court Club has celebrated Washington Health Day for the past two years by holding a community-wide health walk in a local park. The Washington Health Day event kicked off a six-week incentive program, where over 120 participants logged just over 15,000 miles. Each participant that completed 35 miles during the six-week program received a commemorative t-shirt and was also entered in to win six months of free club dues. You can start a program like this on your own or research what your local or statewide initiatives may be available to partner with.
Families
Fueling the Family is a fun one-day event. The day includes a family nutrition talk about essential vitamins and minerals, preparing an all-natural, healthy fruit tart, completing a nature walk and playing fun family relay games. The families are all given the challenge to complete 100 fitness activities together during the year. The list is then marked off and turned in for various fitness prizes upon completion, such as exercise tubing, pedometers and stability balls.
If you are a family oriented facility, running an incentive-based program that gets the whole family involved is critical. Be sure to highly promote all of your kids programs at these events; you would be surprised what people do not know about your club.
Older Adults
Active Aging Week is sponsored by the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). ICAA provides you with the material to put together a week dedicated to those seeking an active aging lifestyle, open to the community at no cost. The week kicks off with a “Reverse the Aging Process” lecture designed to educate participants on the benefits of living an active lifestyle. During the week, participants are encouraged to attend group exercise classes. Also, a social gathering of brain games and healthy snacks fostered a sense of community. The week not only increases awareness in healthy living, it also increases awareness of your facility.
Wellness Programs
The Cancer WellFit program is a 10-week, small-group program designed for cancer survivors who have recently become deconditioned or chronically fatigued from their treatment and/or disease. The goal is to empower participants to improve functional capacity and increase their quality of life through an organized program of fitness and strength. The class is designed for one-hour sessions twice a week for 10 consecutive weeks. Participants have access to other club facilities and programs such as yoga, Pilates and aquatic fitness for the program’s duration. The program has 10-12 non-member participants per class; upon completion of the program, three or four of the participants join the club.
Arthritis Management is another very successful program that can bring the community into your facility. The Aquatics Director at the Tri-City Court Club runs a program that brings in 20-25 community members per month. The class fee is very affordable (about five dollars per class), and they hold fun incentive programs along the way. There are also quarterly social gatherings to aide in keeping a community feel to the classes. This program has also led to many of the participants choosing to join the facility.
Active Adventures
Creating active adventure incentive programs is an easy way to keep your membership base training for a specific goal. There are some amazing things that happen with this type of programming. Group adventures create a sense of community, and your members invite friends to go with them or simply make new friends while completing the adventure. Creating a sense of accomplishment in a group setting also establishes an exercise family, in that those that exercise together stay together.
Interested members are taken on the annual Snowshoeing Adventure. They are given a six-week training program that helps to increase leg strength and cardiovascular endurance necessary to complete the three- to four-hour snowshoeing hike. Participants pay a small fee to cover the cost of parking permits, t-shirt and a gift for the instructor. The best way to begin an active adventure program is to find a member or employee that wants to share their passion with other members/community.
Who Drives the Programming?
A key component to the success of your incentive programs is to give the proper fuel to the right employees. It is imperative to recognize that it takes an entire team to deliver outstanding incentive programs. The main driver of the incentive programs at the Tri-City Court Club is the Results Personal Training team, which does an amazing job recognizing the goals and objectives of the incentive programs. Success relies on the trainers being properly equipped to deliver the programs to members; however, your entire facility must embrace the programs from start to finish. The key departments are the service desk, membership sales, group exercise instructors, trainers and the marketing department. It is vital to the success of the program to have all departments informed and involved, thus properly fueling your tank.
Deciding When Incentive Programs Need a Tune-up
When the excitement of a certain program has run its course, you must give it an overhaul or trade it in for a newer model. How do you determine when to make the change? At the Tri-City Court Club, the evaluation process was to review their original prescriptions. If a program at the Court Club has less impact the second time it is offered, the program gets a tune-up. The tune-up ideas have included the following: recruiting a new champion employee to lead the program; changing the marketing focus; or adjusting the program requirements for participants if it was too hard or too easy. If you still find leaks after the tune-up, it’s time for a change.
Implementing incentive programs not only produces results for participants, they also drive the business of your facility and assist in forming a sense of camaraderie and community within your club atmosphere, which is what keeps your members coming back, no matter what the competition throws at you. Are you ready to implement a program?
Ryan Vogt, BS, NASM-CPT, is the fitness director at the Tri-City Court Club and LifeQuest Fitness Center in Washington. He is a freelance writer, presenter and consultant. Contact him at ryan@tricitycourtclub.com or 509.783.5465.

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