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Columns: Business Edge

As a Fitness Industry Manager, How Fit Are You?

Strategies for Driving Balance and Productivity

Freeman, Patrick B.S.

Author Information
ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: May/June 2020 - Volume 24 - Issue 3 - p 36-38
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000567
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Statistics reveal that our workforce is becoming busier and unbalanced — working more hours while an estimated 55% of full-time employees leave paid time off on the table — leading to potential illness, poor sleep/recovery, and overall burnout. As health and fitness professionals, we should be privy to our own warning signs and strive to practice what we preach with our members and clients — but are we?

Staying productive in our fast-paced, technologically driven industry requires a lot more than simply delegating tasks, drinking plenty of water, and taking your vitamins. Clubs and corporate organizations are asking teams and managers to do more with less, so it is imperative to work smarter and be more strategic with your time.

Staying productive in our fast-paced, technologically driven industry requires a lot more than simply delegating tasks, drinking

plenty of water, and taking your vitamins. Clubs and corporate organizations are asking teams and managers to do more with less, so it is imperative to work smarter and be more strategic with your time.

Moreover, whether you are a subject matter expert or a brand-new club leader, strive to implement the foster intelligent time (FIT) management strategies before stress reaches its zenith.

MOVEMENT BREAKS AND MINDFULNESS

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The more chaotic your day, the more important it is to literally schedule several movement breaks into your calendar. Even completing a short “microburst” (set of push-ups, jump rope for a minute, or 20 bodyweight squats) of activity will help you physically and mentally to maintain a clearer perspective. Counting steps is another method of many to measure optimal amounts of daily movement.

Being more mindful can be as simple as sitting idle for a minute or two and recognizing your breathing pattern; take your heart rate and be aware of postural alignment. Becoming in tune with mental acuity is helpful too. A favorite strategy is taking 5 to 10 minutes to recognize team members (via social media, e-mail, etc.) who have recently gone above and beyond (perhaps once or twice per week). This creates a bit of mental distraction (i.e., changing short-term focus, varied logic patterns) and can be both self-calming and rewarding — while diverting your brain’s thoughts just enough to recharge for a larger scale project, difficult client, etc.

THINK/FLOAT TIME

As a club manager or director, how often are you moving from meeting to meeting or session to session with minimal downtime? Understandably, conditions may warrant a lightning pace to better serve customers. What if on certain days you had a choice? Try scheduling some think/float time every few hours on your calendar (15 to 30 minutes). Use it wisely — client call backs, follow-up notes, budget/e-mail reviews, research for a colleague or project, etc. Although one could wager that formally scheduling these “meetings” into your calendar is a bit “greedy” or unnecessary, giving yourself daily “think” time should enhance productivity, and you’ll be less apt to forget key details, garnering results later in the workday.

Taking this concept one step further, time blocking (i.e., allotting a certain time for one project) can be effective depending on your specific role. For instance, blocking off 90 minutes every Tuesday morning for a departmental budget/payroll review could help you avoid interruptions (no checking messages or taking calls during this time) and ensure that the project is done accurately and on time.

CALENDAR MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

Managing your calendar should become your no. 1 priority — as your responsibilities grow, so should your ability to manipulate it for maximum output. Furthermore, I recommend espousing these strategies to your direct reports and their teams.

OWN YOUR FIRST HOUR

Director of Business Development John Schaffer at Premise Health swears by “owning” the first hour of each workday — and this makes complete sense. Instead of getting swept into follow-up calls and then pulled into meetings that may not be relevant, John recommends to “get ahead of your to-do list by the time your first work hour is finished.” You may even want to schedule out that first hour (or at least 30 minutes) when there are pressing matters. Your team(s) will appreciate this — more time to address their items, and your boss will too, with deadlines more effectively managed, and the like.

CANNOT SEEM TO CATCH UP? TRY THE 50% RULE

This methodology can work well if you have some flexibility with responsibilities and travel time. Strive to schedule out no more than 50% of a given workday with meetings, events, calls, etc. Avoid becoming “overbooked” and give yourself some leeway to absorb technical and sensitive information. Try going straight from a tenuous HR-related conversation into a 60-minute virtual onboarding or training call with newly hired trainers. Obviously allowing even a short time buffer will lead to better performance — and the opportunity to debrief with other personnel.

Strive to schedule out no more than 50% of a given workday with meetings, events, calls, etc. Avoid becoming “overbooked” and give yourself some leeway to absorb technical and sensitive information.

DEPARTMENTAL STRATEGIES — BEING MORE ACCOUNTABLE FOR GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT

Personal Training — Train the Trainer

We all know that sustainability in a club setting boils down to a numbers game — i.e., better revenue, tangible results for the clients, enhanced win rates, and higher levels of customer service from your team. What could possibly turn a decent trainer into a more confident, master level professional?

  • Train the trainer video footage … i.e., literally show your team members what they look and sound like while training another staff (also can use for small group training) … although this could be a bit daunting at first, it really magnifies key drivers — posture, eye contact (or lack thereof), one’s ability to articulate terminology, cueing, session flow, and more.

GROUP FITNESS — STAY FRESH

Challenging your class and/or program coordinators to keenly focus on improving metrics could be a ticket for long-term accountability and success.

  • Senior Fitness Center Manager Samantha Keltos at Premise Health states, “I think the most critical aspect is to understand that averages are there and meant to be raised. Staying stagnant or satisfied with your current schedule or stats is a quick recipe for reduced participation. Knowing what’s hot in the industry is helpful; taking those formats and fitting them to your participants as well as those who aren’t coming to class is the most important step toward a growing group exercise program.”

SEEK FEEDBACK

Regardless of club size, we often miss opportunities to garner valuable insights from class participants. Most facilities will run a more formal survey once or twice per year, but they potentially overlook meaningful on-the-spot feedback (good and bad).

  • Pursue anecdotal opinions immediately after class and as time allows. Sit in and observe all classes at least once every 3 to 6 months (depending on the size of your program).
  • Pick 1 to 2 participants and ask one question discreetly as they depart. The question could be predicated on intensity, flow, instructor prep and/or energy, or simply “how was class today?”
  • Deliver this type of feedback to your instructor within 24 hours of the class and set up a time-bound action plan as necessary.

FRONT LINE STAFF

Your club’s front line teams (floor trainers, front desk, and sales advisors) are the bloodline for success — facilitate a better understanding of priorities (i.e., driving home the importance of time management) — so that these team members have a “bigger picture” perspective, supplementing the most basic of tasks and responsibilities.

  • As a manager or director, when feasible, show and train by example (i.e., team-teach or lead their first fitness assessment and/or club tour, etc.).
  • Seek a work “buddy” for a new hire (shadow) to ensure comprehension and allow for the opportunity to ask questions.
  • Concoct bulleted, reminder-style e-mails for your managers/staff (could be related to cleaning, sales goals, key tasks in-club, tracking reminders, etc.). I use these myself, and they not only create accountability, but also create more “connectedness” among team members. Folks will print these out and use them as checklists, and I’m sure they are discussed as sidebars. The recommendation here is occasional … every 6 to 8 weeks or so, not every other day.

FIT-TING IT ALL TOGETHER

As club leaders, we need to take a proactive approach to managing our time and resources. Despite competing priorities, we should never be too busy for that personalized call with a client or team member, versus sending a dry e-mail as cover. This starts with you — strategizing each week, each business day — using common sense techniques and technology to become productive and more aware of the many pitfalls awaiting if we become desensitized to the demands of our industry.

As club leaders, we need to take a proactive approach to managing our time and resources. Despite competing priorities, we should never be too busy for that personalized call with a client or team member, versus sending a dry e-mail as cover. This starts with you — strategizing each week, each business day — using common sense techniques and technology to become productive and more aware of the many pitfalls awaiting if we become desensitized to the demands of our industry.

Aside from solid time and calendar management, you and your teams should strive for a strong growth and development focus — meaning that “personal” goals are mentioned in the same vein as professional and club goals. This can lead to more inspired, productive team members who are less likely to jump ship and who are primed to overachieve as workloads increase and expectations rise.

© 2020 American College of Sports Medicine.