Group Fitness vs Small Group Training.
Group Fitness vs Small Group Training. What is the difference?

In the worldwide fitness arena Small Group Training has fast become the buzz word. Many clubs, studios and recreation centres are now implementing or offering some form of Small Group Training on their exercise menu. As a Manager, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor I ask- how are we maximising the prestige and revenue of Small Group Training?

What is different with Small Group Training?

The Setup: Well let’s state the obvious:

  • Small group ratios
  • Different training room, area, environment
  • Specialised equipment not available in Group Fitness
  • Style of training not available in Group Fitness or in one on one
  • Higher intensity, that pushes you to your limits
  • Within session challenges

Many would argue that these differences are enough to separate Small Group Training from Group Fitness and justify an increased fee for service, but what is the real difference? What is the difference in the experience for the member? Why should they pay for a session if it is similar to Group Fitness only with less people and in a new room?

As a Club Manager these are questions commonly heard amongst the rumblings of the client base.

The answer may be in the language we use. The delivery: Coaching rather than Instructing. Building Prestige.

Let me use my personal learning’s and observations to further explain this:

When implementing Small Group Training into our club, much attention was paid to taking a deliberate approach to the language we used when referring to Small Group Training.

In our club, the default language used when describing Small Group Training was to refer to them as classes. If we are to build prestige around Small Group Training and separate it from Group Fitness, we must remove the word “class” from our vocab. The word class implies teaching and instruction. At our club we prefer to use the word “session”. In the Health and Fitness industry “session” is generally associated with Personal Training which has an element of prestige attached to it. The difference then becomes more obvious when we are then asked to explain the fee attached to the session as opposed to the class.

Similarly, referring to the session facilitator as an Instructor as opposed to a Coach also blurs the lines between Group Fitness and Small Group Training. As an instructor our role is to provide verbal and practical demonstration. It is unrealistic to expect that one instructor is able to address the individual needs of up 50 participants whereas in Small Group Training the emphasis is more on coaching, motivating and drawing out the best performance in each participant. A clear difference to Group Fitness. Therefore referring to the facilitator as a Coach or Trainer again emphasises the prestige of Small Group Training.
The Delivery

Once we, as Facilitators, can identify ourselves as Coaches we must then deliver on the expectation. Transitioning from Group Fitness Instructor to Small Group Training Coach is not as easy a transition as it appears. The difficulty is shifting our default behaviours as Instructors (on stage and demonstrating) to becoming coaches. In fact I have found that some of the better Small Group Training Coaches have transitioned from Personal Training rather than Group Fitness. The difference is in the approach. The mindset. As a Group Fitness Instructor we see our participants as that, participants. On the flipside as a Coach we see our participants as clients. The flow on effect of this is accountability and connection. Therefore recruitment of the “right” Coach is imperative.

I work as both a Group Fitness Instructor as well as Small Group Training Coach and the approach to each is very different and once this is realised the impact is far greater driving greater prestige to the Small Group Training Session. There are many differences as outlined below:

  • As a Coach, I’m not there to get a personal workout. I am a professional. I get paid to give them an individual experience, motivate and challenge them. Sure I will need to demonstrate various exercises to ensure correct execution but I am not there for my own workout. I am there to coach and motivate. I get around to each person. I am in their face and making sure their form is A1.
  • As a Coach I know every person in my session. I have their phone number and email address. I build anticipation to the session. I monitor their progress and drive them toward success. We correspond between sessions. I also know who is booked in and if they are not I am straight on the phone to keep them accountable.
  • As a Coach I actively recruit clients to my sessions. I am not asking people to attend my session or even worse- my class. I am telling people “you should train with me” or “you need to train with me”. Again here I am building prestige, noticing people that need extra attention or the next level to their training.

Maximising sessions

As a Manager I may challenge our Coaches when sessions are not performing to their full potential. Admittedly they are not the easiest conversations to have. I always ask the Coach what they think would assist in maximising their sessions. The usual response refers to marketing. I hear ‘Well maybe a poster or a flyer, and if the Trainers could talk about it on the floor’.... Wrong answer!!! A good Coach is able to drive the session and keep clients accountable. They are actively recruiting new clients through their interactions.

 The product is phenomenal. You are essentially offering Personal Training at a significantly reduced rate so how can it be so difficult to sell? Again, it is all in the approach. If we approach it with the mindset of an instructor we will have transient accountability. On the other hand, if we approach it as a Coach, we will we commend their attendance, drive motivation and maximise participation.

Similarly, when prospects are being presented their options it can be easy to mislead them to believing Small Group Training is a class when our starting point of reference is the Group Fitness timetable. As such the prospect sees a nice array of classes and then another timetable of “sessions” that you pay for. Lets flip that and first present Personal Training as their best training platform. You then talk about price and come to a financial objection. No problems, we are then able to provide the alternative as Small Group Training- a more cost effective avenue for training with Special attention.. You can see the difference here is one you are asking for an added cost where the other provides the perception of saving. This approach clearly separates Small Group Training from Group Fitness.

The key to driving the success of Small Group Training is to clearly establish the differences between Small Group Training and Group Fitness. The setup, language and delivery of the session are imperative to the success. There is no room for the lines to be blurred as this will confuse the consumer. If your coaches, sales team and instructors are not clear, the message is diluted and the value of the “session” is lost minimising our capacity to capitalise on the product.

By Tim Angel

About Tim
Tim works at the Macleod Recreation and Fitness Centre YMCA as the Centre Director. Whilst his role is in managing a busy and successful facility he prides himself on his delivery of the ‘on the ground’ services. His passion for delivering an outstanding experience in Personal Training, Small Group Training and Group Fitness with such professionalism is demonstrated in the pride he has for his work, his team and their success.

Tim’s success’ include being Victorian Finalist for Fitness Australia’s Fitness Professional of the Year, working with and developing a vibrant team to be recognised as the Aquatic and Recreation Victoria Health club of the year 2010, Facility of the year 2011 and Fitness Australia’s Facility of the year 2012.