T Nation

Looking For Advice

I am on the verge of opening a “Health Club” and would like some advice from owners of clubs, employees, or even long time members.

What are the five top things that average Gym attendees look for in a quality club? (Note: T-Men are not “average”).

Try not to hit the obvious like clean bathrooms, showers etc. Those are a given, at least with me. I am looking for five things that would place my club at the top of the list in everyones mind.

All productive comments are welcome!

I know one of the things that helped my wife and I decide on our gym was decent, very affordable child care.

I actually liked another gym better, but this place offered free, unlimited babysitting for $10 more a month. I couldn’t pass that up.

It also seems like most “average” gym-goers are impressed by a wide variety of machines and cardio equipment.

Offering tanning booths might even be an attractive option, especially out there in California.

Hi, ZEB! (grin)

What do I care about? Hmmm.

  • Definitely a power rack/cage. More than one would be really nice.

  • More than one cross-cable station. Not for me, here, but the guys in my gym have trouble getting on the darn thing, especially since some people will do cable work that doesn’t require both cables, while others stand and stare in frustration because they DO want to use both cable/pulley systems. I know it’s expensive, but it’s a popular piece of equipment.

  • Stairmaster (my cardio equipment of choice)

You’re going to hate me for the last thing I throw on my list, so I’m likely to throw it out for your consideration and then duck & run very, very quickly. (grin)

A Gravitron. I like being able to use it in my programs when I need to calculate a percentage of my 1RM and do higher reps.

Re the Gravitron, you could always put a little sign on it that says, “For those of you who would really like to learn how to do a pullup, there’s a group of us that meet every Saturday to learn how.”

Okay, ZEB, those are my quick thoughts. I look forward to seeing what everyone else has to say. And now I think I’m going to make like a duck. (quack-quack)

Things that average people look for? That might be a tough one.

If it isn’t truly costly, howabout proper maintenance on the machines and cardio equipment?

It all looks great on a walkthrough, but if you are a regular you quickly learn which items squeak, are bent or otherwise misaligned and generally are just there for busy days when there is no other choice.

At a guess, perhaps they also need help figuring out how to do things correctly? If you can ease them into new and varied exercises they may eventually achieve more success and less boredom. I believe average people are afraid to try new things for fear of making a fool of themselves, hurting themselves or both.

You know, first time on the treadmill you have to stand there like an idiot figuring out the buttons and choices, for example.

Maybe once a week have a seminar on some exercise or equipment and accept a limited number of signups. That way you can make sure everyone actually does it instead of simply watching it demonstrated.

Anyhow, hope this is useful, it’s been a while since I was just some schmo doing cardio and machines.

It’s all about the music!

Get some decent music on at all times. Maybe some with gasp a beat!

Also…dont go putting 15 minute time limits on cardio machines.

Dont have recumbent and upright bikes.

Give out HR monitors.

Space! Put machines next to each other that you can superset.

Get some decent scales/make bf testing readily available.

Put the squat rack in the corner…

Divide up the different areas well. Too often theres some punk posing when im trying to freakin lift. Some tosser trying to figure out how to use the squat rack to do bench presses etc.

Get some decent machines. not the most expensive but ones that dont hurt your joints!

Sell snacks that might actually help a guy drop some bodyfat.

Have more than 3 free weights benches.

And lastly…

have a massive wall of computers all permanently linked to T-Nation…hand out a copy of “Die fatty die” to all new recruits, and offer homemade GROW! bars on each visit.

That’d be all…

[quote]malonetd wrote:
I know one of the things that helped my wife and I decide on our gym was decent, very affordable child care.

I actually liked another gym better, but this place offered free, unlimited babysitting for $10 more a month. I couldn’t pass that up.

It also seems like most “average” gym-goers are impressed by a wide variety of machines and cardio equipment.

Offering tanning booths might even be an attractive option, especially out there in California.[/quote]

Maloneted:

Thanks for the reply!

I was thinking about having a room for child care with one attendent and a camara so that Mom or Dad could see their child at any point in the Gym from a closed circut monitor.

It was interesting how you stated it: “…this place offered free unlimited babysitting…for $10 per month.” Seems that you are looking at that $10 per month as being quite a good deal since you termed it as “free.”

My question: Would you (or anyone) be willing to pay just $15 per month extra with the set up that I described above? That would be a total of $15 per month extra for unlimited child care.

Terry,

You are still teasing me with that cute little grin…ahh.

I forgive you for mention a…gulp…Gravitron machine. In fact, you make a valid point…as much as I hate to admit it.

Here is a question for you: You mentioned a “stairmaster.” Have you seen the “Stairmill” yet? Basically, a machine with movable steps coming at you? I have tried this piece of equipment and while I liked it thought it might be to dangerous for the everyday customer. No?

[quote]vroom wrote:
Things that average people look for? That might be a tough one.

If it isn’t truly costly, howabout proper maintenance on the machines and cardio equipment?

It all looks great on a walkthrough, but if you are a regular you quickly learn which items squeak, are bent or otherwise misaligned and generally are just there for busy days when there is no other choice.

At a guess, perhaps they also need help figuring out how to do things correctly? If you can ease them into new and varied exercises they may eventually achieve more success and less boredom. I believe average people are afraid to try new things for fear of making a fool of themselves, hurting themselves or both.

You know, first time on the treadmill you have to stand there like an idiot figuring out the buttons and choices, for example.

Maybe once a week have a seminar on some exercise or equipment and accept a limited number of signups. That way you can make sure everyone actually does it instead of simply watching it demonstrated.

Anyhow, hope this is useful, it’s been a while since I was just some schmo doing cardio and machines.[/quote]

vroom:

I like the idea of “education” regarding the proper use of the equipment. Do you think a complete tour of the facility is good enough, for the new customer, if done by a good employee?

Thanks for your input. It’s also nice to talk to you on some other thread other than …well you know.

jaimeo:

I have heard about clubs restricting time on some machines. Tacky!

I like your ideas and thanks for the feedback.

Zeb,

I guess it depends if the average person, man or woman, is interested in progressing or not. Do they have a desire to expand their exercise knowledge?

I know I got the walkthrough when I joined, and it was enough to get me doing cardio and machines.

If any of them want to do things like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, military presses, chins, dips or anything else not done on a machine, they may need advice from someone to know how to do it properly.

Maybe that is what the personal trainers are for?

I don’t know, just thought it might be useful to remove a barrier. Make it an event for a bunch of newbies at once so nobody feels out of place. Over time they’d acquire a lot of new skills if they wanted to.

Good luck in your venture!

A well positioned Gear dealer! Good affordable child care, great selection of free weights and free weight machines. An area where they don’t mind chalk and grunts. One no one ever thinks of, convenient parking and no fights with neighboring businesses over parking. A uni-sex “Alley McBeal” locker room…

One thing that would be really rad and worth flying in for: Once a month schedule a evening/day with a Coach Staley, Dr. John B. or any of the multitude of talent around here. You could make money and provide a unique service that would definately differentiate your club from the meat rack down the street.

its got to have all of the above.

child care… very important.

power racks and other power movement stations.

HEAVY DBs!!!

allow some chalk use.

that should take care of the Grunts.

and for the Men’s Health and Cardio Bunnys…
balance balls, cables, cardio stations galore, hip music and maybe tanning beds.

if you do it right you can get all the types to workout at your gym in Harmony. i know i like DBs, Squats and Rack Pulls but my wife likes machines and cardio. and we use the day care daily.
its like $1 per hr per kid. not bad.

t.

Validate parking if you can, and dont make the customers pay for towels. I remember at some places I would forget to bring the $1.50, and I’d be the only dude walking around without a towel.

Keep the squat rack(s) away from any biceps curl equipment.

Space is key.

Make sure your employees KNOW what theyre talking about.

A couple summers ago at 24 hr fitness, they had some serious HEFFERS personal training people, it was a bit absurd.

Maybe offer a few programs for beginners, since most people have no clue what theyre doing when starting out.

Maybe you could offer a session or seminar on some of the core basics of training. You know, diet, rest, nutrtition etc…

Good luck, it would be awesome if something like this works out, and those bloodsucking corporate gyms with fraudulent advertising (BALLYS TOTAL FITNESS) loses some customers.

Hope it helps.

Nathan

[quote]ZEB wrote:
I am looking for five things that would place my club at the top of the list in everyones mind.
[/quote]

I like having TVs above the cardio machines. It’s standard for the gyms here to do this - I don’t know if that’s the case in the US - but I thought it worth mentioning. (I like to watch soccer when I’m running.)

One thing to note, in most gyms I’ve seen (& mine) all the machines of one type are grouped together…but my friend likes the elliptical, another likes to cycle and I like to run. It’s nice to chat with my friends while doing the cardio but we’re split up.

Big windows are a must. I would not go to a gym that does not have windows. Of course, my gym is in an office tower - not ground floor. If yours will be - maybe one way glass is an option.

I would like two cages - my gym only has one.

Have exercise bands available for use. You know, for reverse hypers, squats (to make sure the knees don’t cave in, etc.) Yeah, they might get stolen - maybe people would have to sign them out - but think I ever remember to bring them to the gym?

Cheers

[quote]ZEB wrote:

It was interesting how you stated it: “…this place offered free unlimited babysitting…for $10 per month.” Seems that you are looking at that $10 per month as being quite a good deal since you termed it as “free.”

My question: Would you (or anyone) be willing to pay just $15 per month extra with the set up that I described above? That would be a total of $15 per month extra for unlimited child care.

[/quote]

Yeah, I guess I did state that awkward. It was unlimited child care for a monthly $10 fee; not really free I guess. But most places charge anywhere from $1-$3 per hour per child; and that adds up fast. So $10 seemes “free” compared to what I was used to paying. Even $15 seems very reasonable.

I think the more you can cater to get an entire family to sign up, the better. I don’t know what kind of space or set up you have, but basketball courts are always good to attract the teens and young adults.

I think you have to keep the gym open and inviting, and not intimidating. You’re going to get a lot of people signing up that have either never worked out before, haven’t worked out in a long time, or have only used machines.

So if you have a huge free weight area filled with chains, cambered bars, boards, 180 lb dumbells, etc.(mind you, this isn’t a bad thing), it can be intimidating to new members.

Machines have instructions and are fairly easy to figure how to use; there are no instructions on a safety squat bar or jumpstretch bands. I am by no means telling you not to have this stuff, but maybe keep it well separated.

Maybe you could even offer classes on chains, bands, etc. I don’t know if you could get people interested in it. Most men would probably be too “manly” to admit they don’t what the stuff is used for.

Oh, and even though the general public loves it, please don’t get a smith machine. Maybe you could give classes on power rack and the huge assortment of exercises that can be performed in one. Just a thought.

One more thing, maybe your gym could host an annual chin up competition. If you have any interest in that. Do you know anything about chin ups, ZEB?

Good Luck,
Toddy

2 more thoughts:

  1. I have switched clubs today mainly because of the opening hours.

2)The “stairmill” encourages blatant cheating in nearly every person I’ve seen on it. Still, as you say, it does require a slightly more advanced trainee.

god even more…

  1. Free lockers. With space to hang up shirt etc. so peeps can work out on lunch break

  2. possibly a cafe. Best healthclub Ive been to you could order stuff like salmon and veggies at 1.00pm to eat at 3.30pm. You workout, you have your shower (please please have powerful showers with adjustable temp) and then you eat. Pretty sweet.

Obviously these points are less important. One of the most annoying things for me is inconsistency. Case in point, the club I cancelled at today. They never repaired the squat rack…there were never any trainers around. they were seriously hard sell.

And two silly things- there was a channel timetable in the cardio room- which they never stuck to so i was forced to listen to R&B all the time. Two- there was never any free shower gel in the dispensers! See how petty I am? If you say that there is free showergel then there must be some freakin free showergel. This may sound stupid but the sign you up and then ignore you attitude is annoying.

Cardinal sin of my former club:

Me “hey there Mr Manager when will the safety bars be back in the squat rack”

Manager “errr…dunno. Why dont you just go in the Smith Machine?”

Grrr.

[quote]RoadWarrior wrote:
A well positioned Gear dealer! Good affordable child care, great selection of free weights and free weight machines. An area where they don’t mind chalk and grunts. One no one ever thinks of, convenient parking and no fights with neighboring businesses over parking. A uni-sex “Alley McBeal” locker room…[/quote]

“A uni-sex ‘Alley McBeal’ locker room?” Are you suggesting that men and women change and shower together? Sorry, but I don’t understand that one.

[quote]RoadWarrior wrote:
One thing that would be really rad and worth flying in for: Once a month schedule a evening/day with a Coach Staley, Dr. John B. or any of the multitude of talent around here. You could make money and provide a unique service that would definately differentiate your club from the meat rack down the street.[/quote]

RoadWarrior:

Now this is a great idea! As long as it is promoted properly. It helps the credibility of the Gym and also may make a few bucks. (Uni-sex locker rooms?..come on now).

[quote]ZEB wrote:
Terry,

You are still teasing me with that cute little grin…ahh.

I forgive you for mention a…gulp…Gravitron machine. In fact, you make a valid point…as much as I hate to admit it.

Here is a question for you: You mentioned a “stairmaster.” Have you seen the “Stairmill” yet? Basically, a machine with movable steps coming at you? I have tried this piece of equipment and while I liked it thought it might be to dangerous for the everyday customer. No?

[/quote]

Hi Zeb
I got one (a stepmill)for a gym I ran a few years ago and I can’t remember there being any accidents, even the guy who used to double step never had a problem. One of the main reasons that I liked it was that no one was fit enough to stay on it for more than 10 mins so no one had to wait too long.

Another great piece of cardio equipment is the grappler (not the Louie Simmons one), it’s rather like a pulldown machine but with a thick revolving rope instead of a lat bar, much better than those upper body cycles.

Good luck with your venture; make sure that you let us all know where it is.

Regards BJ