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5 Essential Steps to Creating a Successful Group Fitness Schedule

Wednesday, November 6, 2019
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Fitness Business

As a fitness studio owner, your classes – and you - are the life-blood of your business. As you put yourself out there, it’s essential to take the guesswork out of creating a group class schedule for your gym, yoga, dance or martial arts studio. But finding that magic convergence of factors that makes the difference between packed classes and crickets can seem ever elusive.

We’ve tapped the expertise of longtime group fitness schedule experts to help you find the sweet spot. Use these proven, researched methods to find out:

  • How many classes to offer, and when, to maximize class attendance.
  • Where to put your most popular instructors on your schedule (and the newbies!).
  • Which class types will draw the most students (and new business!) to your boutique fitness studio and how long each class should run.

Know Your Numbers

Your first step in maximizing the success of your group fitness studio is to make sure you can not only cover the costs, but also that you can make a profit.

Sounds good, right?

Here are some key numbers questions to answer: 

  • What’s my payroll budget for the month (and/or week)? 
  • How frequently do I want to teach, and how frequently do I want my star instructors to teach? 
  • How can I balance my instructors' class assignments so that there’s a good mix of higher-paid, higher-drawing instructors and new instructors who will grow with the business?
  • Review your current class schedule to find out what times of day, class types and instructors are drawing the biggest numbers.

It’s also a good idea to check out the competition. Are boutique fitness and yoga studios of similar size and pricing in your area offering classes daily, hourly, and running multiple classes simultaneously? Or are there successful group fitness businesses that offer classes only at peak times during the day, or even select days of the week? 

Timing is Essential

Struggling to decide whether to add that 6:30 pm class? Wondering if you should get rid of your 10 am Friday morning class? If you’re in a big city like New York, you might be able to offer and fill classes at 8 pm or later. But if you’re in a small town, and you’re one of only a few fitness options, your latest evening class might start at 6 pm and be scheduled only on Mondays and Wednesdays. 

ClassPass recently researched group fitness providers in the markets where they offer memberships and discovered that the most popular class time is 6 pm — likely no surprises there! Other popular class times included 6 am, 9 am, and 5 pm, particularly in smaller to mid-sized cities such as Columbus or Orlando.

According to Wendy Jett, corporate group fitness director for Global Fitness Holdings/Gold's Gym since 2000, fitness clubs typically experience the following attendance trends:

  • Busiest Days: Monday, Tuesday and Saturday morning
  • Slowest Days: Thursday and Friday
  • Busiest months: January to April
  • Slowest Months: June to September, Nov. 15-Dec. 31

“Successful group fitness programs are always a work in progress. Members’ needs and wants vary, instructor availability changes, and budgets go up and down,” Jett recently told Club Industry. “But the one consistency throughout can be the director’s vision to stay at the front of the pack and point everyone in the right direction. It may be the ultimate challenge, but there’s nothing better than seeing class after class packed with happy members.”

Class length is another factor to consider. Maybe you love teaching those 90 minute, full-body sweat-filled sessions, but your students can’t make it in and out and shower over lunch. You don’t want to give your students any excuses for skipping class!

Lastly, consistency in timing is key. You want to be a no-brainer part of your student’s daily routine. The easier it is for students to remember what day and time you offer classes, the more likely they’ll attend. For example, if you offer early morning classes, schedule at 6:30 AM daily instead of scheduling a 6 am on Monday, a 6:30 am on Tuesday and a 7 am on Friday. Your goal is for your regulars to not have to check a printed or online schedule to find a class. They’ll know your schedule so well, they only go online to pay or book (see how to get your schedule and passes online with Punchpass).

Know Your Students

Your class schedule isn’t for you -- it’s for all the awesome people you’re helping to get healthy, fit and happy. That means to create a successful group fitness class schedule, you’ve got to find out: 

  • What is your target audience, and what are their special needs and desires? For example, if you’ve got a huge contingency of moms as clients, would adding child care be a good investment? 
  • Or should you take into account school drop-off and pick-up times when scheduling morning and afternoon classes? 
  • Do you live an a city where 9-5ers actually work more like 8 am to 6 pm? 
  • Do you appeal to those die-hards who love to (no, have to!) get up at dawn to get their workout in before hitting the office? 
  • Do your best clients want a variety of intensities and styles? 
  • Would classes that appeal to all-levels and all-ages work best, or do you need specific classes for beginners and more advanced practitioners? Appealing to seniors might be a huge win for a fitness business in Florida, but super physically challenging options might be best in an athlete crazed town like San Diego. 

The best way to get answers that will help you create a schedule of packed classes and satisfied customers: Ask your students. 

Create a culture of open and authentic feedback where you empower your students and instructors to share openly what they like and don’t like. You can put a suggestion box online or in your studio. Or you can be more scientific about it and send out a survey. The best class management software providers will offer you an option to email your customers (check out Punchpass’s email marketing feature). There are lots of free, online survey tools, like SurveyMonkey, that will let you set up a short, professional-looking survey and share the link with specific types of customers. Survey select groups of your students. Reach out to some of your regulars that you feel super comfortable getting feedback from. But don’t neglect the students you haven’t seen in a while. Find out why they haven’t been in. Maybe they just needed that early morning or late night session, or a lunchtime class. Keep it short and sweet with no more than 5 questions if possible. To drive participation and create some fun, consider offering a prize to one lucky customer who takes the time to fill out your survey. 

Know and Support Your Instructors

Which instructor leads which class can be huge factor in growth and retention. Again, a lot is dependent on your local market. If you’re in a highly competitive market with “celebrity” instructors, find out when their hottest class times are and make sure to put your top teachers in at those class times. This lessens the likelihood your students will be tempted to stray across town. Typically, newer instructors are offered off-peak and less attractive class times. But you want to be careful to avoid creating “dead zones” in your schedule where small classes don’t grow. Consider placing a stronger instructor in a less popular time, in the early afternoon or at the end of the week, to see if you can create stronger draw. Often regular clients will get hooked on a certain class time and start to attend all the classes on your schedule at that time, regardless of who is teaching. 

Set yourself and your instructors up to be successful. Too often instructors are assigned to a class because they’re the only one who was available. Be sure to announce any new classes and time changes with celebration and excitement. Post the announcements on social media, and in display areas at your studio. Add it to your online schedule too! Congratulate the instructors who are offering the new classes. 

Make Your Schedule Easy to Find

If you’ve got a website, know that your class schedule is the #1 item people are looking for. Place the entire schedule, or a prominently featured link on your homepage. And whether you have a website or not, ensure that your schedule is posted on your social pages. A great way to engage new and existing students is to put your group fitness class schedule on your Facebook page. (Punchpass helps boutique studio owners quickly, simply and elegantly set up online schedules).

At the end of the day, creating a successful group fitness class schedule is all about flexibility. If you’re open minded and curious enough (and we know you are, that’s why we love you!), you’ll be able to continuously evolve your schedule – and your business.