The X Factor: Outfitting Group X Studios

Group exercise allows people to surround themselves with others who have the same lifestyle goals as them. It’s easier to stay motivated, push yourself and, above all, have fun.

However, a lot goes into Group X. From flooring to storage, and even trying to decide what classes to offer, it can be a bit challenging. Liz Greenlee, the assistant director for wellness and fitness at Radford University, advises other campuses to conduct a needs assessment to see what participants like and dislike about your programs.

“Take a look at your community and find out who you are missing and who do you want? Balance your programs to offer something for everyone — those looking for skill development, socialization, physical challenge, fun, stress management, etc.,” said Greenlee. “Then reassess and do everything over. The trends and the members change every year, so be adaptable and ready for the next big thing.”

Group exercise isn’t going anywhere, so it’s best to see how you can improve what you have on your campus. Three schools offer their best Group X practices on picking the right equipment, hiring the right people and designing the right studios.

Kent State University

Elizabeth Michel, Fitness and Wellness Coordinator

Three studios:

  • Large participation studio
  • Mind/body studio
  • Combative studio

Top Three Programs:

  • Glow Spin
  • Various types of yoga
  • POUND or WERQ Dance Fitness

Equipment Advice: “As long as it’s safe and functional, keep equipment for as long as you can. Then rotate it out when it’s no longer functional. Over the years, we’ve been able to build up a pretty good stash of equipment where we don’t have to order new stuff all the time for new classes,” said Michel.

When buying equipment, go by how many people would be in that class and studio capacity, she noted.

Michel orders enough equipment to support that max capacity. POUND, for instance, is fairly new on her side of the U.S. She was not quite sure how popular it would be on her campus, so she started with a smaller number of Ripsticks. “If it grows in popularity, then I’ll order more,” said Michel. “Better to have a higher demand than the supply.”

Staffing Advice: Michel said as a coordinator, you need to make your expectations very clear in the beginning when you hire instructors. The thing that happens with a lot of facilities is instructors get hired to teach a certain class at a certain time of day every week, but then you start getting a lot of sub requests, or the instructor starts missing classes.

“That can affect the overall performance of the Group X program. People come to yoga because it’s that instructor, it’s their name on the schedule. So, if they find out that instructor is not reliable, and never there, they are going to stop coming,” said Michel.

Radford University

Liz Greenlee, Assistant Director of Wellness and Fitness

Four studios:

  • Cycling
  • Mind/body
  • BODYPUMP and Zumba in large studio
  • Mondo-flooring room for boot-camp style classes or POUND

Top Three Programs:

  • Cycle
  • BODYPUMP
  • Yoga

Studio design: Greenlee said having a specialized space is key in creating an experience for the user. “Mimicking private studios and high-end fitness boutiques can help us compete with the private and commercial industry,” she shared.

Greenlee explained studios need to reflect the format that will be held in there. “Mirrors are not always necessary for cycle, boot camp or yoga, but are usually essential for dance and sometimes a strength class. Mind/body areas need relaxing colors, water elements, plants, and perhaps an oil diffuser or salt crystal light,” she said. “Large, open spaces are easily accessible and can be converted as trends change over the years.”

Staffing Advice: “Getting staff to have ownership and buy-in to the program is huge. If your instructors feel like they are making a difference and are really helping people reach their goals or gain confidence, they are more likely to recruit participants and members,” she explained. “Providing staff with marketing strategies and tools such as business cards, flyer templates, social media posts, etc. will give them the autonomy to recruit more people to their classes. Thus, more members.”

Lastly, Greenlee said staffing needs to be diverse. “Instructors do not always have to fit the typical outgoing, super-fit and energetic model. Instructors should represent your participants,” said Greenlee. “It all depends on who your target audience is. And, is there an audience we are excluding based on how we staff or what we look like?”

University of South Carolina (USC)

Michael Lagomarsine, Fitness Director

Five studios

Main facility:

  • Group X room, capacity of 40
  • Mind/body
  • Martial arts
  • Spinning

Other facility:

  • One room, utilized just for classes
  • Top Three Programs:
  • Standup paddleboard yoga
  • Les Mills classes (like BODYPUMP)
  • TRX classes

What to offer: Lagomarsine said there are a number of different factors on deciding what to offer on their campus. One item includes brand-name classes. “One of the reasons we decided to go to Les Mills is they are the brand, so they are going to help us in that aspect,” he said. “It helps us because everyone is aware of these types of classes.”

A main thing that has helped them with establishing what types of classes they have is looking at ACSM’s yearly trends for fitness. But, if it’s not trends that determine it, it’s space. “Some of it is frankly availability,” he said.

Studio design: Since USC is partnered with Les Mills, their classes need certain equipment, but it can all be bought and stored together, which is helpful. “For us, the biggest thing is organization,” said Lagomarsine. “It’s so hard to keep it organized, so the more you can spend time and effort and money into organizing the space — you have to make it the most efficient — then that’s really going to help.”

Lagomarsine recommends having a storage room to keep everything in one place. But, planning out storage is big. You know what you need, but if you add equipment, how would it be stored? Thankfully, someone is thinking about it. “There’s more and more fitness companies that are creating solutions; I know Precor and Queenax are two. They call them storage solutions, where they are custom built to the exact space you have,” said Lagomarsine. 

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