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    Case studies

    “The energy is electric” – inside the club where classes account for 80% of all visits

    Mount Fitness in Massachusetts (US) has created a killer group training culture that sees 80 percent of all club visitors head straight for the studio. Group Exercise Manager Karin Cormier explains how a bold vision and brave decisions are driving the club’s success.

    Jak Phillips

    Hi Karin, how would you describe your club?

    Karin Cormier (KC): We’re a State-run facility in rural Massachusetts (US) that’s attached to a College, so we have a lot of young members who are students, but we’re open to the whole community and have members right up into their 80s who are still going strong. Membership is about US$40 per month (with discounts for students and seniors) and our club spans 65,000 square feet, featuring a fully-stacked gym, 25-yard swimming pool, basketball, tennis and racquetball courts, a 440-meter outdoor running track and then a couple of group exercise studios – which is where most of the action happens!

    Karin Cormier, Group Exercise Manager at Mount Fitness

    Tell us more about the group training setup?

    KC: Group exercise is massive for us and on a personal level, something I’m hugely passionate about. I’ve been a member of the club since 2000 and I loved the classes so much that I was inspired to become an Instructor in 2006. Then two years ago, I took on the role of Group Exercise Manager, which I juggle with my other job working as a prison hygienist. Needless to say, it’s an unusual combination, but it really works for me – and of course, you come across a lot of characters in both lines of work!

    Group exercise is the backbone of our club and it’s what we’re famous for, to the extent that 80 percent of our club visits are for group exercise classes – a lot of our members have never even set foot on the gym floor! I hear of some clubs struggling to get young people into classes, but our college students can’t get enough of the studio. We’re a dedicated team and we’re really proud of our reputation, but it hasn’t been an easy journey and we’ve had to make some brave calls to get to where we are today.

    What did that journey look like?

    KC: When I became Group Exercise Manager, I had a clear vision and I just knew in my gut that we needed to raise our game if we wanted to stay successful and relevant. We’d been reliant on freestyle classes and MOSSA for 15 years and it became clear that it was time to update our whole offering. Moreover, my talented team of Instructors had become comfortable with the status quo, so we really weren’t making the most of their ability. I’d long admired the quality and professionalism of Les Mills and after a lot of soul-searching, I realized it was exactly what we needed to take our club to the next level. I could see that the constant innovation of the programming would ensure we’d constantly be raising our standards and keeping pace with the latest industry trends. Working with the amazing Dan Hoskinson, I set the wheels in motion and we launched Les Mills in May 2023 with six programs on the timetable. Les Mills now accounts for over 80 percent of our classes and it’s been an absolute game-changer for us.

    What’s been the impact?

    KC: From a business standpoint, class occupancy numbers are up and that’s driving the really high level of group exercise participation that we touched on. We’re very clear on the Return on Investment we see from group exercise and its importance in driving our profitability. The other thing we’ve noticed is a lot of members coming back to rejoin the club as they’ve heard good things and want to see what all the fuss is about. The energy in the club right now is electric – and the feeling is infectious. Our Instructors are having a blast and the members are feeling it too. People’s bodies are changing for the better – I’ve got members coming up after class saying: “You know, I look different when I look at myself in the mirror now – and I'm having so much fun.” They’re loving the challenges, the progression of the moves and the variety of the music. RPM™ has been a really big hit and those classes have waiting lists now, which is way more busy than cycle classes were before.

    What challenges did you encounter as you sought to implement Les Mills?

    KC: We had a few bumps along the way, but the hardest part was making the call in the first place. I was worried about what my Instructors would say because they’d been teaching MOSSA for such a long time. They were comfortable with the way things were and it’s human nature to be afraid of change and to wonder whether you’re going to be up to teaching the new style. Les Mills has a very high standard of teaching – the assessments are hard and the choreography is sophisticated – but if you love teaching and you work hard at it, then why wouldn’t you want to be the best you can be? I knew my Instructors had the skillset to succeed, and with the support of the excellent Les Mills Instructor Training, they were able to raise their game and reach new heights. It wasn’t an easy journey and there was a bit of resistance at first, but when they saw my passion for where we wanted to get to as a club and they saw the quality of the Les Mills programming, they quickly bought into the project. Once I made it clear there was no going back, we were all there for each other and I dread to think where we’d be now if we hadn’t made that call.

    When you were building out your new group training strategy, did you consider going down the freestyle teaching route instead?

    KC: Not really, to be honest. There’s a lot of ego around freestyle instructing and sometimes individuals can become stars, but in my experience, it’s rarely the best solution for a business. It throws up all kinds of issues around safety, consistency, quality of programming, scalability and variety. If you’re a facility like ours with a diverse membership of all shapes, sizes and ages, you need to have programming that is safe and scientifically proven to deliver results. It needs to be cohesive and easy to follow, with options for people who might have special requirements. The other issue with freestyle is that personal preference creeps in, even if it’s subconsciously. If I was creating my own version of BODYPUMP™, I’d skip biceps, because I hate training biceps, and lean into some of the areas that I love to train – but that’s not going to be right for everyone else. It’s the same with music, if someone loves rock then they’re likely going to play a lot of rock in their classes, but everyone else might not want that. You need to have a breadth to be able to service as much of the membership as possible – to a consistently high standard.

    What’s the next step in your group training strategy?

    KC: We have a big marketing campaign lined up to start 2024 with a bang. We have a large Les Mills launch event planned and I’ll have all my girls up on stage team-teaching together to create a real party atmosphere. We’ve got some Les Mills trainers coming down to join that one too. I’ve just installed all the latest marketing materials to make sure our club is looking great and we’re also leveraging these assets to drive new member acquisition across high season and get lots of fresh faces coming through our door. We’re really going to be leaning into our group exercise credentials and the Les Mills team has been so supportive in helping us get set for the year ahead and nail the key operational aspects through great insights and examples of best practice.

    What advice would you give to others thinking about breathing new life into their group training offering?

    KC: I would say be brave, be bold and set yourself a clear vision for where you want to get to. Fitness is so competitive these days that there’s no room for mediocrity and there are no shortcuts to success. You have to work hard to get anywhere, so you may as well set a high bar and see just how much your club can achieve. You’re going to come up against obstacles and opposition, but you have to stay true to your vision and use your passion to inspire others to join you on the journey. Yes, it's going to be bumpy for a little bit in the beginning, but if you can get to the other end, it's such an amazing feeling and I love where we are as a club now. We’re having so much fun, the members are loving it and it’s just an amazing environment to be immersed in. It certainly doesn’t feel like work!


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