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Jan. 31 2011 12:00 AM

Do you know what Zumba is? Do you have an online site that offers support to your clients? Do you offer a nutrition element in your training? Are you planning to add any of these to your repertoire? Do you really need to?

A good trainer not only follows the latest fitness trends but utilizes them to stay ahead in this ever-changing industry. To prepare you to do just that, PFP editor Shelby Murphy spoke with ACE's Pete McCall about the trends we'll see in 2011 and how trainers can get the most out of them.

Q1: ACE predicts there will be an economic upswing in 2011. What does this mean for physical trainers?

Pete McCall: As consumers feel more confident about their jobs and as property values stabilize and start to increase again, then they should feel more comfortable spending on discretionary goods and services like gym memberships and training sessions. Personal trainers will benefit as new consumers enter the fitness market looking to start a program or pick up again after cutting back on spending over the past eight to 10 quarters.

Q2: How can trainers position themselves better to capitalize on increased fitness spending?

Pete: As consumers come back to the fitness market, it is an opportunity for personal trainers to change their business practices. Instead of selling on price alone by discounting the price per session for a package or series of sessions, personal trainers should establish a price point and develop different options for providing the service. Offer a menu of services based on frequency (the number of sessions/month). For example, instead of selling a package of 20 sessions at a discounted rate, offer four, eight or 12 times a month programs. This would allow a trainer to keep a consistent price point and sell based on quality of service or expectations of results, as opposed to simply selling on price. Small group programming is another option that makes fitness more affordable while also increasing the social aspect of exercise. That helps develop motivation and adherence and keeps clients coming back for the long run.

When a trainer has to resort to rock-bottom pricing, it means that particular trainer does not value the quality of his/her service and is looking to make a sale based on a lower price point as opposed to providing a higher level of fitness experience. A low price lowers a consumer's expectations and they already expect to fail at their fitness program. By establishing a higher price point and not discounting for buying in bulk, a trainer can establish his/herself as a leading service provider if they can provide the results that clients are seeking. The bottom line is that consumers want value and will pay for it. If they think they will get the results they want, then price is not an issue -- provide the service and customers will be satisfied and will refer their friends.

Q3: What types of wellness services will be most popular in 2011?

Pete: Nutrition and adherence. Consumers want nutrition advice to help with fitness and health goals and need assistance in staying on a regular exercise program. Nutritional counseling (or referral to a registered dietician) and group programs that focus on making lifestyle changes will be popular for helping consumers start and maintain a program.

Q4: What are consumers calling for to complement their workouts?

Pete: Nutrition. Also, technological solutions that can help motivate physical activity while also monitoring the results.

Q5: We're seeing a rise in online classes for fitness and weight loss, but ACE believes they will not proliferate due to consumers' desire for human contact with fitness professionals. Have you ever tracked the effectiveness, or long term success rates for online fitness programs in comparison to personal training?

Pete: At this time, I'm not aware of any studies, but this might be an area where we can do some research. In my opinion, online programs are an excellent resource for clients with high levels of self-motivation and self-direction who want a progressively challenging exercise program. However, for clients who are new and need help developing regular adherence, nothing can replace having to meet face-to-face with a personal trainer who can hold that individual accountable to his/her stated goals.

Q6: How can fitness pros better use social networks to motivate while still keeping the human touch?

Pete: Having an online presence through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a regular blog can help personal trainers stay in touch with clients and stay top-of-mind by offering daily or weekly workouts, tips on staying active, nutritional info, healthy recipe suggestions or informational videos. It can take some time to develop the optimal formula, but something along the lines of a daily fitness tip or reminder on Twitter, weekly updates on a blog featuring a clients' success story (with permission), recent research findings along with a regular "How To" or videos to challenge clients to do a specific workout/exercise on YouTube would be a multi-faceted approach to stay in regular contact with clients. Having an online presence is critical for trainers who want to help their clients by providing more info and resources than can be delivered in a 60 minute session one to three times a week.

Q7: A big trend seems to be the desire to workout with others -- buddy systems, boot camps, TRX classes, Zumba and small group training. This can also be a boon for trainers who want to better leverage their time. What is the best way to begin to add the small group option to a client load that has always been one-on-one?

Pete: Simply offer it at a different price point. If a client is training one to two times a week and can't afford more sessions because of cost, then offering a group program three to four times a week at a lower price point can actually increase the amount of business from that client. One way to think out of the box is to look at what other service-based industries are doing to provide service and consider offering small group programs during busy periods: 5-8 am, 12-2 pm and 5-7pm. Increase the price of a single session for those prime time hours and offer the option of small group training. This allows a personal trainer to keep the session price for nonprime-time hours affordable and put a premium on the prime-time hours in greatest demand. This is similar to what airlines are doing to upsell passengers to a higher level of service -- buy economy of economy plus with more leg room. Determine what value you have on your time and charge the most for the hours with the greatest demand and offer options for small group training that will allow you to work with three to five people at a time as opposed to just a single person.

Q8: If a fitness pro wants to get involved in youth fitness, what is the best age to target, and what do some of the most popular youth fitness programs entail?

Pete: Generalized sports conditioning programs featuring drills for speed, agility, quickness and power. Ages can be from as young as five or six (for general supervised playtime) to 13 or 14 (for sport-specific programs). There are a variety of options for frequency of training based on the age level, training experience and time availability.

If I were to run a youth program, I would want to work with a league or a school system to market the program and offer general fitness conditioning based on the same exercises that pro-athletes use two or three times a week for a period of four to six weeks. But beware; it's illegal to use a trademarked name like the NFL or a team without copyright permission, but it is legal to say "Pro Football," "Pro Football Players" or "Washington DC Professional Football Team," since those are generic terms.

Q9: Corporate wellness has been a trend for several years now. How has it evolved and what will it look like in 2011 and beyond?

Pete: Organizations are now starting to realize the return on investment (ROI) for employee wellness programs, so we will see the expansion of programming options. This creates an opportunity for personal trainers who can offer fitness consultations to organizations or lead regular walks or workout sessions during lunchtime hours. This year will see more personal trainers venturing into corporate wellness by offering exercise programs and support services via social networking or other online tools.

Q10: Beyond holding a reputable NCCA-accredited certification, what other tips do you have for trainers to step up their game?

Pete: Continuing education, continuing education and continuing education! Budget for regular education through live workshops, live webinars, recorded webinars and other distance education options. Info is changing all of the time and staying on top of continuing education requirements will not only help personal trainers maintain their certification, but it will provide many new ideas for engaging, motivating and challenging clients. Look for education that can help with client motivation, developing effective workouts or how to run a training business. There are a number of excellent options that personal trainers can use to enhance their current knowledge, skill and ability. When I trained and taught group exercise full time, I was a total education junkie. I found it gave me new ideas and kept me charged up during times when I otherwise might have burned out.

Q11: What advice do you have for the trainer looking to expand in 2011?

Do a SWOT analysis to identity strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business. Then create a plan for addressing the weaknesses and turning them into strengths. I have a series of articles on personal training on the internet that describes the process and I teach sessions at conferences on how trainers can use this tool to effectively plan for success. Another option is to do an online search for "SWOT analysis" to find additional resources.

Taking the time to prepare a budget and a business plan will help a personal trainer establish goals for the year. Borrow from the great sage Yogi Berra: "If you don't know where you're going then how will you know how to get there." This is a perfect description for trainers who do not use a plan to guide their business. Go to your library or use online resources (the website for the Small Business Administration has a number of resources on planning that business owners have already paid for) to develop a plan. It might seem tedious, but putting some time into developing and implementing a plan will produce the desired results. I didn't end up at ACE by simply answering an ad on Craigslist, I had a multi-year plan that progressed from training to education director to educational work with a national certification. I mapped out this plan in 2005 when I did the CUP/NASM master's program and have been implementing it since. I'm in the process of creating a plan to start my own gym or studio. The one thing I've read and learned from successful people in the business is that a good plan takes time and I'm giving myself a long timeline for planning this project. So stay tuned...

Pete McCall, MS, is a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, strength coach, fitness educator and rugby player/coach who currently works as an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, researching and writing fitness education programming.


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