Funding Fitness

Deerfield Park District in Deerfield, Ill., has 10 trainers on staff at SachsRecCenter. Fitness Manager Tim Johnson says although fewer than 100 of their 1,800 active members regularly use personal trainers, it’s enough to be profitable.

“Generated income is approximately 10 percent of our total revenue,” says Johnson. “We are very invested in the continued growth of this program.”

With several competitors within a 5-mile radius, Johnson says their sessions are priced in the middle of the rate spectrum in their area.

“Based on my experiences, park and rec has a much more vested interest in the actual training of a client than does the private sector. It’s more than just performing the sessions with clients for our

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / arekmalang

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / arekmalang

trainers. They take the time to get to know their clients personally. They reach out to their clients throughout the week in addition to communication surrounding training. We know what is going on with their families, we know about their vacations, we know their birthdays. [Our customers] love the personal touch that we give. They also love the variety of training techniques that we provide—kettlebells, jungle gym (workout), Indian clubs.”

Johnson says he sees a responsibility to provide guidance. Fitness floor attendants are on hand to ensure safety and answer questions, he says, and personal trainers serve patrons who want program design and monitoring.

“Our personal-training philosophy is to provide a team of educated professional trainers with a variety of experiences to guide our patrons as they strive to reach their personal fitness goals,” Johnson says. “We ask our trainers to stay current in our industry and stay creative in their workout-session design,”

Bend, Ore.

BendParks and Recreation District generally has between eight and 12 trainers on staff at Juniper Swim and FitnessCenter.

Monica McClain-Smith is Fitness Coordinator. She says less than 10 percent of the patrons use trainers, but the bottom line is good.

“This past fiscal year is the first year we have met or exceeded budget expectations, so we are getting there.”

The budget for trainers is approximately $20,000 to $30,000 annually, she says. Part of their formula is partnering to tap into an existing niche.

“Many of our clients are part of our Therapeutic Next Step training program, referred by and transitioning from a physical therapist, as well as those looking to just improve health, lose weight, or perform at a higher level.”

McClain-Smith describes the competition as “significant,” and that the district’s rates are very comparable.

The Art Of Fine Tuning

Knowing the market, being aware of fitness trends, and delivering that personal touch are all important components of these three successful personal-training programs. Fine-tuning and developing the right services to suit patrons’ needs requires finesse.

For example, while Karaffa and McClain-Smith attribute success in their markets in part to introducing staff to patrons through group-fitness activities, keeping trainers specialized and more exclusive seems to be paying off in Deerfield, where only two of Johnson’s trainers are involved in group fitness.

Even if it is only a relatively small part of a fitness department, personal training can be viable and sustainable, surviving and thriving in a competitive-market climate. Park and rec professionals should have a clear philosophy to guide this program development. From hiring to every aspect of performance through delivery, we should strive for not only the health, fitness, and safety of patrons, but their satisfaction and loyalty.

Kat Ricker is Public Information Coordinator for Chehalem Park and Recreation District, based in Newberg, Ore. She has worked in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and operations manager, and is currently a USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach. She can be reached at kricker@cprdnewberg.org. Visit her website for more fitness information at mightykat.org.

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