In every club, there’s a ‘wow’ space. The spot where members gather and energy crackles. The apex of every club tour – the place where prospects are persuaded to place their faith and become members. At Dublin’s West Wood Club Clontarf, this ‘wow’ space is the cycle studio.
In many ways, it’s an unusual situation. In a typical health club, the cycle studio sits empty for 80 per cent of the time, costing up to €155,000 in lost revenue. But at this bustling club of 11,000 members, the cycle studio is where the magic happens – the space where members are won, kept and ultimately inspired. So how do they do it?
“We used to have the normal spin classes in our studio and that worked well enough, but then the numbers started dwindling and we felt the studio needed rejuvenating,” says West Wood Clontarf GFM Tine Bogsted.
“So we brought in the Les Mills cycle package (THE TRIP™, LES MILLS SPRINT™, RPM™ and RPM Virtual) and since then the studio has gone from strength to strength.
“We now have four different offerings in one studio, which is in use for 80 per cent of our opening hours with either live or virtual classes. So when we show potential members around the club, there's always activity in that room and it’s a strong selling point.”
The premium club – which charges €79 monthly membership and a €499 joining fee – is the flagship site of the of West Wood clubs in Dublin, which have become renowned for their group exercise programs. The six-strong chain comprises 31,500 members and 470 staff.
At Clontarf, 40 per cent of members attend at least one of the 195 group fitness classes on offer each week. And Tine believes the cycle programs, which support the club’s commitment to member experience and quality instructors, has been key to increasing member attendance.
She adds: “What the Les Mills cycle package has done is bring more people into our cycle studio and it has created awareness around this, because that was probably where we needed the most work.
From an instructor perspective, the quality of the cycle programs and the training that comes with them play a significant role in maintaining the high bar the club has set around its club offering. All sales staff are trained as instructors to enhance their knowledge and ensure classes can always be covered, while the main instructors have vast levels of experience and substantial following across club members.
Les Mills SPRINT and RPM presenter Eric Boles, who has led classes at West Wood Clontarf for 14 years and also teaches THE TRIP, says: “You get consistency with instructors that are certified through Les Mills programming.
“You can go to a class anywhere in the world and you're going to get and see quality of instruction when you see someone that's Les Mills orientated, and here is a really strong example of that.”
If the cycle studio is the ‘wow’ space, then much of this comes down to the immersive experience that members get from marquee program THE TRIP. With a strong pedigree in bringing innovation to members – West Wood’s company motto is ‘Fitness of the Future’ – it was somewhat inevitable the operator would be the first to bring IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ to Irish shores.
Described as a ‘game-changer’ by the West Wood senior team, installation of THE TRIP across five of the six sites formed part of a €17.2m investment program to keep the operator at the forefront of fitness. This involved refurbishing old studios and turning them into Les Mills’ Immersive studios, featuring the cinema-scale screens and sound systems that help create the full TRIP experience.
“It's added a whole new vibrancy to the clubs,” says West Wood Group Operations Manager Karen Polley. “People are excited by it, they want to do it – we've created THE TRIP to be an exclusive class, so it's really helped to build the whole profile of our studios and increase their usage.
We've invested heavily in Les Mills and we see the return on it. They have the products that we need and the products that we want. It’s far superior to any other product out in the market.
THE TRIP has certainly proved a hit with members. Over at West Wood Clontarf on a Thursday mid-morning in July, members are streaming out of the studio after the latest TRIP class, with beaming smiles framed by thick beads of sweat.
“I felt like I was in IMAX, but I'd done exercise as well,” says club member and journalist Amanda Phelan. “I felt really motivated by it – I’ve got a heart-rate monitor and can see I've worked a lot harder than I would’ve done on my own."
For Triona Kenna, another club member, THE TRIP is something worth shouting about. “I'm always putting things up on Facebook telling everybody about it,” she grins. “I have so many friends here and we all do the classes together. Your fitness levels shoot up – it's a good challenge."
When you visit West Wood Clontarf, it quickly becomes clear that this is a club that does every aspect of group exercise extremely well. From the stylish studios and packed timetables, to the engaging instructors and pictures adorning the walls of lavish launch events, the team clearly has an expert knowledge of group fitness management. So, what keeps them coming back to Les Mills?
While we invest heavily in Les Mills, we also invest heavily in our instructors as well, because there's no point having the right product if we don't have the right staff and managers to deliver it and drive it.
“But the consistency of the classes, the continual training of the instructors, the upskilling, the choreography, the music – it all comes together in one package and that's the product we need at our site.”
For Tine, it’s all about staying true to the West Wood commitment to ‘Fitness of the Future’. “I always go out to different clubs to see what's new to the market, so I've tried a lot of different types of cycle product and I always come back to Les Mills because of consistency of the brand and the product.
She adds: “The product is superior and it doesn't matter if it's RPM, SPRINT, THE TRIP – everything is always a step up. I always feel like Les Mills is a step ahead of the other trending cycle classes.”