23 Oct 2018 Health Club Management Handbook

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Health Club Management Handbook - The age of independents

Who's who

The age of independents

Creating a community, injecting their personality into the club and going beyond the call of duty to support members are common themes among successful independents. Kath Hudson reports

Kath Hudson

Fitness for those in need
Mickii Edwards Weight
Loss Academy, UK


Mickii Edwards

Former rugby league player Mickii Edwards chooses to drive a Mini rather than a Range Rover, so he can plough more money into his club and give free memberships to people who need them, including those with cancer and chronic heart disease.

Everyone is given a fitness test when they join, and all members are then closely monitored using MYZONE. “I know how many calories they’re burning, what zone they’re in, and if they’re in pain and need to back off,” says Edwards.

“They come to the club four times a week and, as they’re assessed regularly and the work is stepped up on each visit, they’re always progressing. Outside of the gym, they’re asked to take photos of what they eat and drink, so I can keep track of their diet. If they eat fewer calories than they burn off, they’ll get results.”

And they do get results – some of them losing more than 10 stone (63.5kg) – not just because of Edwards’ constant support (people text him menus if they go out for a meal), but also because of the Facebook community through which members share advice and support. Every Monday there’s a weigh-in and a therapy session.

Launched in January 2015, the club has a studio upstairs and a gym downstairs. At peak times three classes are run, frequently including a children’s session so that the parents are able to work out.

Located in a deprived area of Lancashire, England, Edwards says there’s nothing in the area for people to do, so there are big social problems, with children as young as 14 taking drugs. Edwards has brought in psychologists and therapists to give education on healthy eating, as well as talks on alcohol and drug addiction.

Every other Friday, Edwards also organises an activity with a big group of young children, aiming to engage them in a healthy lifestyle while they’re young.


Edwards steps up the client workout every visit to maintain progress

Fireman brand
Firehouse Fitness, UK


Former fire fighters McGuigan and Roebuck

Former Sheffield fire fighters Rob McGuigan and Dennis Roebuck met at work and, sharing a love of health and fitness, started working out together on-shift. They incorporated calisthenics, Tabata, HIIT and functional training.

The route to opening their own club was driven by customer demand: they were approached by a colleague’s wife to train her and some friends. As word got around and more people joined the sessions, they rented a school gym three times a week.

Still more people joined, so in February 2015 they took the plunge. Located in a former warehouse, Firehouse Fitness spans 4,000sq ft (372sq m), which is divided into a functional training area and a gym, complete with free weights and cardio equipment supplied by SportsArt.

The vast majority of members come for the 45-minute coached sessions, of which there are seven a day. Despite being in a competitive fitness sector, membership is growing month by month.

“The whole thing has just exploded,” says McGuigan. “People seem very comfortable with us and are getting great results. We recommend that people come to work out three times a week, but lots of them come five times and some even come twice a day – before and after work.”

The membership is currently skewed towards women, with a 70/30 split. The majority are aged 26 to 35 years, although some are older. It costs £7 per class, or £34.50 a month for unlimited access.

The club has already evolved, with one extension and two add-on services: physiotherapy and meal preparation.

“People can pay £15 to have all their measurements taken and a bespoke diet programme put together,” says McGuigan. “They can either cook the meals themselves or buy them ready prepared for £5, to collect after their workout.”

The Firehouse Fitness team is now looking to replicate the success with a second, much bigger, site in Leeds measuring 14,000sq ft (1,300sq m). A franchise business is also being considered, but to maintain brand values, all the franchisees will have to be trained fire fighters.


Former fire fighters McGuigan and Roebuck offer seven 45-minute coached sessions a day, physiotherapy and meal preparation

Scientific approach
LifeLab, UK


Adam Daniel

We’re not interested in the aesthetics of looking good. LifeLab is about focusing on health, not image,” says founder Adam Daniel. “Our underlying philosophy is ‘train the human being, not the human body’.”

Based in affluent Chislehurst, Kent, England, LifeLab officially launched in October 2016. Two squash courts have been converted into two studios: one for small group training and one for PT.

The group training studio is kitted out with 10 Queenax units, TRX, TRX rips, Dynamax medicine balls, kettlebells, barbells and dumbbells. The PT studio has a Matrix power rack and lifting platform, a half rack, a Matrix Functional Trainer, two Wattbikes and a high-performance Power Plate.

Technology is integral to the offer: MYZONE to monitor workouts and improve motivation with monthly challenges; Boditrax to analyse data to improve the lifestyle of clients outside the gym; and First Beat to measure metrics like stress levels and sleep patterns, enabling the fitness team to create a strategy to help clients manage their own stress levels.

The upstairs gallery has been converted into a fuel lab, serving wholesome natural brands of drinks and snacks like energy bars. There are plans to make smoothies using fruit and veg from Daniel’s own allotment.

Six 45-minute HIIT or tribe team training sessions run daily, and as the membership grows, so will the number of classes. Classes cost £20 on a pay-as-you-go basis, with discounts for block-buy purchases.

“The age of our members ranges from students up to a 59-year-old. We have slightly more women than men, but as more men are starting to understand the concept, this split is changing. We’re also planning to work with local sports teams and promising young sports people,” says Daniel.

LifeLab has also teamed up with Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England, to offer students placements so they can gain practical industry experience.

Phase two will come on-stream this year. as the gym is based in a football club, in five acres of land, there are plans to develop a large outdoor group training area and recreate sports team-style training sessions aimed at 30- to 50-year-old men.

"Our underlying philosophy is ‘train the human being, not the human body’"


The LifeLab studio offers both group training (above) and personal training

Aesthetically driven
Advantage Fitness, UK


Owner Chris Griffiths (middle)

Advantage Fitness is an aesthetically driven gym and we unashamedly set out to help our members change their body shape,” says owner Chris Griffiths. “We live in an aesthetically driven world. In my experience, whenever you ask anyone about their goals for joining a health club, it’s because they want to look better: being more fit and toned is a by product.”

Through offering effective personal training, nutritional advice and support to change behaviours, Advantage Fitness prides itself on helping its members to achieve fantastic body transformations.

A large percentage of members work with a personal trainer, who maintain consistent contact points across the week, either in person, by text or phone.

“However, we help all members obtain great results, even if it isn’t at the level of those having personal training. With our induction process and the way the reception is positioned, we talk with all our members on a regular basis,” says Griffiths.

For those living outwith the immediate catchment area, but who are serious about transforming their physique, distance mentoring is also offered, directing nutrition and training to the desired outcome.

Originally, the 4,200sq ft (390sq m) site was divided into a studio, a spin studio, a gym and two injury clinics but, following feedback from members, it has evolved into one massive gym and a large injury clinic.

The 70 workout stations comprise mainly resistance equipment, but there is also a large cardio zone. “All our equipment is colour coded to correspond to the body part that it works out,” says Griffiths.

“As well as making the gym user-friendly, the colours create a striking visual impact. We believe ourselves to be the first gym in the world to take this approach.”


Owner Chris Griffiths has installed equipment that’s colour-coded to the body part it works out

Urban workout
Street Workout Place, Switzerland


Thomas Rindisbacher

Street Workout is an edgy, urban sport that uses bodyweight in a creative way: think parkour on monkey bars. Owner Thomas Rindisbacher, along with his brothers Roman and Michael and friend Eric Manser, have popularised the concept in Switzerland, getting council funding for 12 installations in parks around the country. Creating a gym to train indoors was therefore a natural progression.

Launched in December 2015 in Zurich, Street Workout Place has a workout area of around 200sq m (2,150sq ft), comprising two Street Workout parks with equipment designed by the team and built by Swiss company Alder + Eisenhut.

“There are low bars, high bars, monkey bars and parallel bars, which allow more than 300 different exercises to be undertaken,” says Rindisbacher.

“No additional weights are required. Street Workout uses a variety of exercises to work on the upper and lower body, and the core, as well as incorporating dynamic movements and holding movements.”

Rindisbacher says the customer journey was an important consideration when designing the club: “We wanted to make sure our members have a great experience, so firstly we wanted to be open 24 hours a day. This is common in a lot of places, but very unusual in Switzerland”.

Gantner technology has allowed for an all-in-one membership card which can grant entry to the club, operate lockers and facilitate all food and drink purchases.

The club is manned between 9.00am and 9.00pm, during which time a few coached sessions are also offered.

Alternatively, people can come and freestyle. Out-of-hours, a 42-inch touchscreen monitor offers interactive content.

Membership is €53 a month and members pay for a whole year upfront, which is common in Switzerland.

Rindisbacher says the concept is appealing to a modern, urban demographic who like to challenge themselves and don’t want to do a standard workout. The main audience is aged 20 to 40 years, with slightly more men than women (55/45 split).

“It’s been brilliant to see a community develop,” Rindisbacher says. “Members have formed groups and visit together, support each other and socialise. Street Workout is a lifestyle, not just a sport. It’s great to see this happening in our club.”


Rindisbacher has popularised creative urban workouts in Zurich

Originally published in Health Club Handbook 2017 issue 1

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