These days, gym-goers put themselves through intense workouts. Whether it's routines such as CrossFit, high-energy group fitness classes or HIIT, today's fitness consumers are asking more from their bodies — and in turn, demanding more from the facilities in which they work out.
One way gyms are accommodating today's popular fitness routines is by incorporating more aspects of recovery into their facilities. Inviting members to slow down and take care of themselves — either as a preventive measure or as a means of ensuring exercise efficacy and efficiency — is increasingly becoming a part of the fitness business model.
"Recovery is really big to help with either losing weight, gaining muscle or just overall health," says Shaelah Harmon, manager of the Kennewick, Wash.-based Tri-City Court Club's Recovery Zone. "That's really what our focus is now."
They're not alone.
"We're 90 percent recovery," says Brian Sesma, managing partner and co-founder of 6th Sense Fitness and Recovery in Costa Mesa, Calif. "Train smart, recover faster."
Gym owners looking to incorporate recovery into their facilities have myriad options — and both Tri-City and 6th Sense have interesting models to emulate.
Tri-City Court Club's Recovery Zone is the first stop on tours for prospective members, and for good reason.
The amenities and equipment the facility showcases — from a product that produces a pulsed electromagnetic field, to one that uses sound to target sore muscles, to another that employs infrared light aimed at stimulating cellular mitochondria — are impressive.
"Whenever we have somebody new coming in, we take them in there," Harmon says. "A lot of people are spending additional memberships to go get a massage somewhere — whereas here, it's getting two things at one location, with one price."
That approach is relatively new to the club, which until the change this past May charged additional fees for people to access the facility's recovery suite.
"We initially started out by being what we called Spa Reju, and it was within the club." Harmon says. "You didn't have to be a member to use it. It was an additional charge, whether you were community or a member. Different rates. But then we switched over and made it part of the club [membership]."
The spa concept included amenities such as a spray tan system and tanning bed, but those were eventually phased out because Harmon says "the concept wasn't really clicking with people." The recovery zone, however, is another story.
The club settled on opening up the Recovery Zone to all members, and offsetting that cost by raising membership dues by a modest $7 to $10, depending on the membership level. The new approach has paid off — not just for the club, but for members.
"People are willing to try something and are loving it," Harmon says, adding that since the space was made available, members who may have started out suspicious of the tools and tech it offers have become loyal users. "They're doing something every day."
High-tech, but classic
6th Sense's 13,000-square-foot facility features state-of-the-art fitness equipment, including 32 pieces of cardio equipment and a wide variety of strength training equipment. It's also home to a wide range of high-tech recovery solutions, including everything from infrared saunas to cryotherapy chambers, as well as compression equipment intended to enhance and improve blood flow.
The club also has equipment you might be hard-pressed to find elsewhere — especially in other fitness applications.
"We have a photobiomodulation cabin," Sesma says. "They use it for cancer, but it works on everything. It works with your mitochondria. As you get older, you lose cells — brain, blood and skin. Everything kind of deteriorates, but this regenerates your cells."
Sesma says members are "overwhelmed" by the club's unusual offerings. "They walk in and they're like, 'Oh, my god,'" he says. "It takes a lot of educating, really bringing them down to explaining what this place is."
Despite the high-tech tools in use at 6th Sense, Sesma insists that it's really just about helping people return from injury and avoid it in the first place. "We want you to live longer and enjoy life, and not bust your body up and think you have to train so hard every single day," he says.
The club's approach to recovery focuses on what Sesma calls "back to basics."
"We have hot, cold, compression, percussion, electricity, all in a quick, boutique fashion that actually is way more effective than going to any PT and spending 16 or 18 weeks in there," he says.
It's a concept that Sesma says is unique in the United States — and it comes from Sesma's personal experience.
"I've done pretty much every extreme sport there is known to man," the 52-year-old says. "I've got new hips, new shoulders, knees. I've pretty much broken every bone in my body from various extreme sports. I found myself in a lot of physical therapy. But my dream was to have a boutique fitness center that primarily focused on recovery and the proper way to train so you wouldn't end up in the hospital like me."
Clubs looking to incorporate recovery services would do well to consider not just their equipment investments, but also their plan for making money.
"It was a pretty big investment," Harmon says of the Tri-City Court Club's Recovery Zone. "When we put it in, we not only had to do construction — we had to buy all the equipment."
If the right balance is struck, however, these services can help set a club apart from its competition and be a helpful tool for attracting new members and retaining old ones. According to Harmon, Tri-City Court Club has developed marketing based solely on the facility's Recovery Zone, and runs campaigns showcasing the space and amenities.
"Because of adding the additional fee, and having more traction with new members, it 100 percent has affected the bottom-line."
This article originally appeared in the January | February 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Incorporating recovery into your health club." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.