Re-Introduce Members to Pre-Set Workouts
Time-crunched members hop on their favorite cardio equipment and press Quick Start, sweat for 20 minutes then hop off. Unfortunately, they aren't getting the full benefit of the equipment, and often reach plateaus that their current workout regimen just can't break through. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up altogether, why not remind members of the equipment's pre-set workouts? "The pre-programmed workouts offer a variety of routines for any skill level," says Renee Marquis, fitness director at The Fitness Club, Champaign, Ill. "When switching up the programs, it prevents the member from hitting a plateau, and allows them to reach their fitness goals much quicker."
Pre-set programs work ...Even when faced with a frustrating plateau, separating members from their favorite cardio machine can be difficult. Instead, take the time to explain its pre-set programs to help mix up workouts without throwing their routine out of whack. "[Pre-set programs] can be used to stimulate different energy systems, and continually administer the unaccustomed exercise stimulus needed for change," says Fitness Manager Jake Turner of Idaho Athletic Club – Blackeagle Club, Boise, Idaho. "They can offer a 'no-brainer' interval workout, challenging the body in a new way."
"There are two overall benefits of pre-set programs," adds Brad Wilkins, fitness director of The Cooper Fitness Center, Dallas, Texas. "The first is that they offer the user a variety of workouts with little inconvenience, meaning you just select your desired program and the program does the rest. The other benefit to pre-set programs is that they are goal-oriented by design, meaning the user will accomplish specific goals (e.g., time, heart rate, work levels) related to the program selected."
... So why don't more members use them?"As with anything new, there is always a learning curve, so to have success with pre-set programs, members need to be persistent by using the machine and its pre-set programs regularly to get through the initial trial and error period," says Wilkins. "Once members get through this initial learning phase, they will then have the ability to release the program's true potential." Still, members' "lack of product knowledge" can, according to Wilkins, lengthen the learning process. "This is evident, as we see members struggle to get through the pre-set programs' step-by-step set-up process."
Wilkins explains: "Once a program is selected, the machine will ask for specific user information, such as weight, age, work level and time. The program asks these questions so that it can execute the program effectively based on the user's profile. A lot of the time, members will try to either bypass some of the questions, or they will enter inaccurate information to proceed through the set-up process faster to get the program started. Another common mistake occurs when members enter in their desired work level segment (speed, resistance level or heart rate zone), because the user typically doesn't know what level they should start with."
Thanks to this trial and error process, and resulting moments of confusion, there are some other common mistakes members make when selecting a pre-defined cardio program.
They work at the wrong intensity. Many times, members using pre-defined cardio programs are working "too hard or not hard enough," says Marquis. "Most people are truly working out at an intensity that is far less than 65 percent of their true maximum heart rate," agrees Turner. This can leave members feeling that the pre-set programs are either too easy or too difficult.
They expect fat-burning miracles. "In the mindset of the manufacturer, every program is true to its name because the manufacturer's intent is to design programs and select names that motivate people to use their product," says Wilkins. "Now, whether or not the program accomplishes the goal its name carries (e.g., Fat Burn, Mountain Climb) can be a different story. [S]o much is dependent on the user's ability to execute the program, along with their overall exercise routine/exercise prescription. What this means is that the equipment is just the vehicle, and that the user is responsible for its performance."
Still, "fat burn" is an alluring setting that, combined with insufficient education, can inspire unrealistic expectations. "It asks for your age and then tells you to hold on to the heart rate handles for dear life while the machine magically steals the fat from your body," says Turner. "What people don't know is that this machine is only using your age, and, therefore, age-predicted maximum heart rate, to keep you at a nice and cozy 60 to 65 percent of this predicted maximum." The combination of working at a low intensity level and expecting fat-loss miracles can frustrate members. It is for this reason, Turner says, "I hesitate to suggest the Fat Burn button to any new member without first knowing more about their goals, and health and exercise history. They can be customized by a fitness professional or experienced exerciser to elicit cardiorespiratory gains."
Help members take controlNo matter what pre-set program members select, they're in control of their workout, not the machine. Still, many users don't realize that. They feel locked into a particular setting they entered at the beginning of a workout, no matter how they feel halfway through. "Even though the machine sets them up with a program based on their weight, age, sex and level of intensity, it is okay to alter it a little bit as far as the intensity goes," says Marquis. "Some days our bodies feel strong and we want to push ourselves to work hard, and other days we are tired or just not feeling our best and we need to have a lighter workout. Altering the pre-programmed workout can offer just as many benefits."
"We need to help people realize that they are ultimately in control of these options," Turner adds. "[And] that they are nothing more than a different way to challenge our energy systems and keep our bodies from adapting."
Staff solutionsThere's no doubt that pre-set programs take practice to master. "There is a learning process that takes place, and it usually takes a member a couple of attempts to get the program set up right," Wilkins says. However, your facility can hasten this process by encouraging staff members to proactively educate members about the pre-set cardio programs. "The first thing to do is to make sure your frontline staff, those individuals who regularly interact with your members, understand how to use the machines," advises Wilkins. All staffers should be able to explain the benefits of each machine, its programs and how to set it up. "To aid in this process, we provide our staff with as much knowledge and information about the equipment in the facility as possible," Wilkins says. "For example, when new equipment for the facility is purchased, we will provide our staff with as much product knowledge and information that we feel is necessary to ensure a high level of competency. This may entail anything from providing them the product manuals to holding a staff meeting/continuing education session prior to installation."
Once your staff is trained, institute a policy of offering individualized orientations. "At our facility, we offer equipment orientations to all our members," says Marquis. "We encourage our new members to have one prior to their first workout." There is a similar program in effect at Cooper Fitness Center. "All of our new members, as part of our facility orientation and training processes, will receive specific instructions from a trainer on how to properly use the equipment," says Wilkins. If your fitness center invests in new equipment, don't assume members can figure out how to use it on their own. "Once new equipment is installed, we will provide extra staff at that location to educate the members on the benefits of the product, and instruct them on how to use it," says Wilkins.
After the initial training, staff members should remain ready to help members choose and run the pre-set programs. "Our staff is trained and encouraged to approach members regularly to develop positive relationships and assist them with their workouts, as needed," says Wilkins. The Fitness Center has "fitness consultants available for questions, and [who are] constantly walking around the cardio and strength areas offering recommendations," adds Marquis.
Pre-set programs are not simply excuses to put more buttons on equipment consoles; there is real value to these features. "Equipment manufactures put a lot of thought and research into the programs that they select and design for their pieces of equipment," says Wilkins. "And, if you think about the amount of time, effort and money manufacturers spend on designing these programs, and naming them, it should be fairly obvious that they must feel there is intrinsic value that carries over to the consumer/user — because their end goal is to get people to like their product, use their product and buy their product."
Take the time to help members rediscover the simplicity and effectiveness of the pre-defined programs on your facility's cycles and ellipticals. They will get more from their workouts, and realize the full potential of your equipment, and themselves.
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