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The Future of Group Exercise (Post-02) "Branded Classes"

Posted Aug 24 2008 5:29pm

Jetsons In my first entry in the ‘Future of Group Exercise’ series, I invited the online community to join in on a conversation about the next decade of group fitness. Kelly Coulter , fitness author and creator of the site FitClasses.com , was the first to jump in with this comment:

“The future of group fitness lies in pre-formatted, almost ‘franchised’ classes,” she says.

This idea of standardizing classes within the group fitness industry has always been a subject of debate in the instructor community. So I thought the topic would be a great second post in this series. Are branded classes really the wave of the future?

Branded classes (or sometimes referred to as ‘pre-formatted’ or ‘trademark’ classes) are designed to help group fitness instructors deliver consistent content to participants anywhere in the world. If you’re going to take a Spinning class from a trained Spinning instructor , regardless if you’re cycling at a club in Phoenix, AZ or in Guanajuato, Mexico , you will experience a ride based on the same basic design principles.

Over the years we’ve seen many examples of formatted classes that have found success by branding their style. Examples include: Bally Total Fitness’ Kwando (branded kickboxing) and Powerflex (branded muscle conditioning); YogaFit ’s yoga certifications; Silver Sneakers senior programs; Zumba ’s aerobic dance formats, and the most recent phenomenon, Les Mills fitness programs .

There is no doubt that pre-formatted classes are popular. Why shouldn’t they be? They are a turn-key fitness program coupled with recommended music or playlists; regularly updated exercises and choreography; and individual conferences or workshops. A one-stop shop for any instructor.

The question in this post is NOT whether branded programming is effective or if they are here to stay. This post is about HOW pre-formatted classes will evolve and WHY they will see more success.

The answers to these questions lie in face of our future group exercise instructors and fitness participants: the Millenials .

Let’s take a look at previous generations and figure out why branded classes may not have seen the success they are seeing today. Baby Boomers come from a generation that fought against institutional establishment, valued informality and independence. They worked hard to gain recognition in their jobs and among their peers. And believed in the “work now, play later” attitude. Let’s not forget their role in bringing life to the aerobics movement, at the time, in its infancy. Therefore, Boomer instructors may not have always been too favorable towards someone telling them what to teach, how to teach it, when to teach it, and to what music to teach it to.

Then there are the Gen Xers , living in the shadow of the Boomers. Full of creative energy, with unconventional or experimental attitudes. These are the MTV or the “me” generation, focused on self-discovery. Gen Xers value individuality. Branded classes are likely to put them in a box (which they’ll inevitably resent or break out of). However, Gen X instructors respond well to pre-formatted classes (at least, initially). Branded classes have given them a foundation from which to develop their own skills and drills. Isn’t it ironic, then, that it’s the Gen Xers who are now designing most of the branded classes we see today. (No wonder why they are pushing pre-formatted classes…LOL.)

But Gen Xers will not be the reason why branded classes will see exponential success in the future (although their enthusiasm may help). If you look at the generational trends of the Millenials , you will notice that they resent Gen X attitudes and don’t quite identify with Boomer values. In fact, they are much more sheltered than any other generation, and therefore more supportive of convention (social rules are respected). They are ‘team-oriented’, think in global terms, and are on track to “ becoming the best-educated and best-behaved adults in the nation’s history. ” Will they respond to pre-designed classes? Yes. Will they adopt the teachings of formatted classes? Yes. And the fact that they also outnumber the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers makes them the next powerful decision makers and trend setters of our industry.

Right now, Millenials have taken to the Zumbas and Les Mills of the health industry. But who knows if these are the formats that will make up the staple classes on future group exercise schedules. But whatever classes we’ll see in the future (a topic for another post), be it Avatar Abs or Cycle-In-Orbit classes, you can guarantee most everyone will be doing them the same way.

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