Guest Post

Integral Fitness: Wake Up, Show Up, Grow Up, Clean Up


This week's feature article actually comes from three separate sources:

  • A long blog from American transpersonal psychologist and integral thinker Ken Wilber.
  • An article published a couple of months ago by Club Industry entitled "The Future of Health Clubs May Lie in Lifestyle Coaching." 
  • Some notes that I've accumulated with my own thoughts about what our health club business could be.

First, what is "Integral Fitness?"

Well, it isn't necessarily an "is" - as much as it could be a different way of thinking about our business. Lemme 'splain.

Pretty much, for more than three decades, health club owners have thought about their businesses exclusively. Examples?

  • "We're better than (competitors)."
  • "You have to join us to do it right."
  • "People are inherently lazy."

Thinking inclusively might shift the above to:

  • "Here's what's distinct about what you can accomplish with us."
  • "You don't have to be a member to play in our sand box."
  • "We've learned that nearly everyone arrives at different stages of health development."

If you were to think in the latter ways...and promote your services to your consumer base in those would be at the beginning stages of practicing inclusive - or integral - fitness.

As obviated by the graphic at the top of this column, integral fitness:

  • Goes beyond physical capabilities training to encompass a wider company culture.
  • It evidences the deeper intentions of the business itself.
  • It understands and augments change for the behaviors that people exhibit but are also initially bound by.
  • And it implements the systems necessary to truly expand specific exercise practices with different demographics, more complex subsets of individuals, and embraces the social uniting of consumers who actually come to us for something that is much bigger, much more significant than we now provide as an industry. 

What if you thought about your fitness facility as:

  • A "Health Enhancement Center"
  • A "Physical Improvement Center"
  • A "Well-Being Recovery Center"
  • A "Social Connection Center"

What would you do differently in certain aspects of your day-to-day business practices? How would you shift the ways in which you engage members? What steps would it take to move to the level of professionalism that you've truly always wanted?

How would the simple things that make so much difference to customers transform? What would your incoming and exiting greetings be like? How would the club's atmosphere change? What would the physical presentation of your facility show?

Would you cease to dismiss apps, wearables, web-based feedback, community connection networks as "fads"...and instead figure out which of those you needed to enhance your customers' experiences...and thus your own successes?

It's a bit different than our industrys' current ways of thinking, isn't it?

And here's what's can accomplish it! As Joe Cirulli said to me (see sidebar column in this issue): "You know, it's easier for independent clubs to do. The big boys are big ships that take a long time and a lot of effort to turn. Independents are smaller boats with a lot more flexibility. They can change course faster."

Imagine if ours was an industry that practiced life coaching as differentiated from personal training. I know - this isn't new. But we don't practice it!

What impact might that have? How long would it take to get out in our communities by word-of-mouth that "the people at XYZ Club really GET IT!" Could 30+ years of intimidation-of-fitness shift in a very short time? Would we then no longer be trapped in "17% of the population" marketing?

According to sociologists, our nation is changing at a faster pace than any previous time in our history. Yet we continue by-and-large to offer "fitness of 20 years ago!"

America is growing older...and will estimatedly for the next 15 years. Within the next 5 years, more than 50% of our population will be over 50 years of age. Yet we have less than 40% of that population now as members of our fitness facilities!

Health care will be our single-biggest economic and social problem by the end of this decade! Your business has an incredible opportunity to make a massive proactive impact on this issue - NOW!

Drop exclusive. Latch onto inclusive. Think integral fitness.

I welcome your comments and contributions. Email me.

Interested in new club technology? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Social Media to better engage your members (for free!):


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