Ben Porter is the manager of F45 Wandsworth, just one of the sites that represents the world’s largest growing functional training network. Ben has a wealth of experience in the fitness industry, from creating a clothing brand to personal training, powerlifting and coaching Olympic weightlifting. Ben has always had a desire to work his way up in the fitness industry and is hugely passionate and ambitious in his work.
We met with Ben to find out what tips he’d give other gyms for creating a unique group exercise offering and how technology can be used effectively in group fitness classes.
1) What are the most important considerations for a group exercise timetable?
Gyms should have a clear timetable structure with consistency each week in class types and styles, but also with variety across the timetable. Each class at F45 has a title and is branded so that it has a ‘face to it’. This brings it to life a bit more, makes the timetable structure very clear and also helps F45 appeal to millennials. It’s a talking point and a selling point to push through.
The title and class style for each time slot on the calendar should be the same, but the workout should always be different. For example, at F45, Athletic is the staple conditioning class but each week the exercises will vary. It’s better for the members to not know what to expect – every workout is different which keeps it varied and interesting. Functional fitness is always the main result, so the end aim is the same even though there is variety; and there is still a designed programme which allows you to see the progression through it.
The timetable structure at F45 is designed with the functional fitness goal in place: 2 days are resistance-based, 3 days are conditioning and 2 days are mixed. Our USP is that you don’t need to do anything else – just the classes. We also have a live DJ every Saturday for the Hollywood session to add some atmosphere!
2) How can technology be used effectively in group exercise classes?
Using technology in group classes can help both the participants and the coaches – whether it’s to display the movements being performed on a video, or to demonstrate how hard the participants are working. At F45, there are screens which show a trainer performing the exercises with correct technique that participants can easily follow. It also tells the participants when to rest and where to move to next in the circuit. The coach can then focus on motivating the participants and correcting form, rather than spending time on reminding people of the exercise order. The technology is what keeps you moving, the trainers then focus on the members not the exercises.
Another key fit-tech trend is heart-rate monitors. Each participant at F45 can use one in class and then receives an email afterwards with the stats, showing you the calorie burn and BPM. This is a great tool to measure member’s progress and definitely something that all gyms and studios should be using going forward. It can also help the member to understand the bigger picture of calories and diet – for example, if they are in a deficit, they need to replenish their calories after a class.
3) How can gyms establish that all-important ‘community’ feel?
For us, a members’ private Facebook group has been the best tool for creating that community which then continues outside of the class too. It integrates members, welcome newcomers to F45 and allows communication to happen throughout the rest of the day when they are away from the gym. Another way to build a community is by organising social events or challenges. For example, we arranged a members’ BBQ with a fitness test after an 8-week challenge. It helps to unite members and also reward them for their hard work, which keeps them coming back for more classes in order to further improve.
4) What top 3 tips would you give to other group training facilities for improving customer retention?
Firstly, recruiting good coaches is key to retaining customers. They should be professional, experienced in their field and great at interacting with members. Secondly, a clean facility is crucial, as well being quick to replace equipment – as soon as something is no longer working, showing signs of wear or generally if something is looking run-down then it should be a priority to upgrade it in order to maintain high standards. Thirdly, communication is really important in order to keep members coming back. If a member has a query you should always aim to get back to them within 24 hours as it shows your duty of care and that you value your members.
5) Do you have any trend predictions going forward for the fitness industry?
Resistance is the new running, along with functional training and HIIT.
Gyms having a big functional area is becoming increasingly important to potential new members who look around the facility. More and more gyms are adding in new rigs or upgrading old areas of the gym to increase the amount of functional equipment that they offer to members.