Bryce Hastings Les Mills

How Operators Can Harness Groupness to Best Effect

Groupness is the measure of the impact other people have on your workout. Not to be confused with Group Exercise, which is an activity, groupness is a positive perception that can promote exercise adherence, maximise exertion and, importantly, keep members coming back for more. 

We spoke to Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, to find out:

  •  The value of groupness
  • How to create it
  • What operators can gain from it

What’s the big deal about groupness?

A high level of groupness is associated with increased satisfaction and positive feelings toward the experience. When you increase groupness, exercisers experience significantly higher levels of enjoyment, satisfaction and exertion. Our Les Mills Groupness Study (published in the Journal of Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology) provides evidence of how much is actually at play between a group of exercisers. Importantly, it demonstrates that a high level of groupness has the power to positively influence a club member’s overall workout experience – and their intention to return.

How can groupness be created?

The instructor is the glue to achieving high levels of groupness. They have the ability to create a social identity, along with a shared sense of purpose amongst the participants, which strengthens the bond of the group so they work out together (not just alongside each other). Then groupness can exist.  The instructor must immerse themselves in the group as well and despite standing up front to guide the class, must be seen to be part of the group to avoid a ‘me and you’ situation.

The language is as important as the body language: simply by talking about ‘we’ and ‘us’ – rather than ‘you’ and ‘I’ – sets the scene of inclusivity and group working.

Groupness may seem spontaneous but is in fact, a complex science which requires specific coaching. Instructors who have this knowledge can help people feel like they’re working out as a true group with shared goals.  It’s a skill to be able to encourage a group as a whole to consciously decide and commit to make the most of their workout and focus on their experience.  Boutiques tend to do this really well – engaging with the group as a group – rather than a number of individuals.

Are some fitness activities more suited to engendering a sense of groupness/togetherness?

“On the beat” classes set to music have an obvious advantage here as people are working in unison performing the same moves at the same time to music which, itself, is a unifying force.  It’s more of a challenge in circuits where people are doing different moves, and in ‘off the beat’ classes – such as HIIT sessions – where people are going at different speeds and working at high intensity intervals to their own maximum effort. Groupness is still achievable here but the instructor needs to get physically involved to compensate for the lack of synchronicity.  Moving among participants, dropping down to work alongside people to mirror their effort and using unifying language can all help create groupness in these seemingly high-intensity ‘in it for myself’ environments.

What can operators gain from groupness?

Operators should consider groupness as a key driver to create the ultimate workout experience among members. If they get it right, they create an opportunity to shift people from exercising because they have to, to exercising because they want to. This will positively affect the bottom line in a few ways:

  • Firstly, the intention to return to a workout where a high level of groupness exists encourages member retention.
  • Secondly, the heightened enjoyment and satisfaction of doing a class where groupness is achieved will have members telling their friends about their great workout – encouraging new members.
  • Thirdly, operators can place instructors and classes that achieve groupness in quieter periods of the timetable to help drive people to those sessions. This tactic can also work to raise a low-capacity class to a high-capacity class.

See more from Bryce on Groupness here

Posted in Gyms & Clubs, Interviews, Most Popular Interviews.