Going Vertical:  Designing your Programming Schedule

Lori Sherlock, Ed.D, ATRIC, AEA Training Specialist, CSCS, Wavemaker Coach

West Virginia University

 

Everyone has a reason for participating in a group exercise class.  It may be because they can get an expertly guided workout with no guesswork, receive social support from their instructor or classmates, explore a new way to workout, establish a workout routine, or just because group exercise is more fun.  Studies suggest that group classes are the cornerstone to membership retention and that more than 50% of daily visits to fitness facilities are for group exercise classes (1).  So we know that offering group programming is important, the true quandary is how do members select the class to attend and how can we plan our schedule to capture the greatest program attendance possible?   There are many factors to consider when creating the perfect programming schedule and these factors will vary from facility to facility and community to community.

Building a successful schedule can seem like a daunting task, however, when you break it down into steps, it can feel more manageable, facility friendly and member focused.  The first consideration is the facilities’ usable space.  Creating a diagram of your facility may help to map out potential for greater usability.  For example, a commonly configured public/community pool open to the public 10am-7pm with a temperature 84 degrees consisting of a lap pool segment and attached diving well could be used and set up in a myriad of ways.  Considering these pool characteristics:  lap pool has a gradual slope from 3.5’ – 8’, 8 standard (removable) lap lanes and is 25 yards in length.  The deep well has a sliding board feature, diving board, is 12’ deep and is 30’ x 30’.

With the diagram in front of us while designing the schedule, we may have a greater ability to plan for layers of programming that can fulfill many members’ wants and needs.   It may be that we divide the pool into zones for various programming, offer structured programming prior to opening the pool to the public or following normal business hours.  In this example, you can see that the facility is sometimes configured for 3 programs to be running at once.

 

6:00 am Deep Water Yoga

(Diving Well)

Morning Mobility

(4 lanes)

Coached Fitness Swim (4 lanes)
7:00 am Deep Water Running

(Diving Well)

Shallow Water Boot Camp  (4 lanes) Master’s Swim

(4 lanes)

8:00 am Arthritis Foundation Class (Diving well & 4 lanes) Master’s Swim

(4 lanes)

9:00 am HIIT Class

(Diving well & 4 lanes)

One-on-One Personal Training (2 Lanes) Private or Small Group Lessons (2 lanes)
10:00 am

OPENS TO THE PUBLIC

Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

Small Group Lessons

(4 Lanes)

11:00 am Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

Small Group Lessons

(4 Lanes)

 

Noon Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

Water Walking Class

(4 lanes)

 

1:00 pm Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

One-on-One Personal Training (2 Lanes) Private or Small Group Lessons (2 lanes)
2:00 pm Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

One-on-One Personal Training (2 Lanes) Private or Small Group Lessons (2 lanes)
3:00 pm Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

After School Swim Lessons (4 lanes)
4:00 pm Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

After School Kid’s Fitness (4 lanes)
5:00 pm Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

Athletic Cross Training

(4 lanes)

6:00 pm Public Swim

(Diving Well & 4 Lanes)

Coached Fitness Swim

(4 lanes)

7:00 pm

CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

HIIT Shallow and Deep

(4 lanes)

Arthritis Foundation

(4 lanes)

Deep Water Training

(Diving Well)

8:00 pm Swim Team

(8 lanes)

Private or Small Group Lessons

(Diving Well)

9:00 pm

 

Once you have determined your usable space, begin creating your schedule by penciling in what works.  This includes programming that is well attended, draws new membership, and generates revenue for your facility.  Moreover, consider the space that is required for these programs and if there is unused space that could be capitalized upon for additional use.  For instance, if there is a masters swim program that is a viable program, but a portion of the pool is not being utilized, consider offering a program simultaneously that doesn’t require much space.  This could include private or semi-private swim lesions, personal training, or small group training, or even a boutique aquatic fitness class.  Generally, personal, or small group trainings come at a premium fee that members are willing to pay for the more personalized programming.  The average cost for one hour of personal training begins around $60 while small group training ranges from $35-60 per person per hour depending on the size of the group and the session being offered.  This means that if you have one lane with a personal or small group training, you could increase your pool usage while adding to your bottom line.  Further, the times that classes are offered are as important as the class being offered.  Daily attendance patterns at fitness facilities across the country reveal three peaks in member use:  6-8am, 12-2pm and 5pm-7pm (2). Therefore, early morning, lunchtime, and afterwork classes are the most popular amongst the masses.  Offering a variety of classes at these prime times will secure greater participation.

Total Aquatic Programming

With your proven programming outlined, now it is time to fill the gaps in your schedule.  Consider the 4 Pillars of Aquatic Programming (Total Aquatic Programming) and how they align with your community’s wants and needs when establishing new programming.  Rehabilitation, Learn to Swim, Community/Competitive, and Fitness are the 4 Pillars that can support your facility’s mission and income.  Upon first glance, you may think that some of these pillars are not appropriate for your facility, however, I would urge you to take another look.  Rehabilitation, for instance, can come in many different formats.  It may appear in your facility as specialized personal training, small group training, or even group classes.  These sessions could cater towards a specific population and integrate a knowledgeable training specialist to aid and assist in the progression of your members health.  Fitness is the other facet that many aquatic facilities overlook.  These programs can be vertical or horizontal in nature.  It may be in the form of a water walking class, high intensity interval training, class or fitness swim.  Program selection should vary to allow for diversity to meet your member and community needs.  Survey your surroundings to observe what your community wants and needs.  Determine the populations that your facility has access to and how you can best serve them through programming.  Read more on programming in these past Going Vertical Articles:  Going Vertical:  Diversify and Grow your Membership with Aquatic Exercise and Going Vertical:  Something New:  Attracting New Members in the New Year.

Once you have a programming schedule in place, be sure to give it a chance via effective marketing.  Your facility could offer amazing classes, but if no one knows about them, attendees will be scarce.  Marketing your programming is part of creating a successful aquatic group exercise initiative.  Marketing should begin well in advance of the program to alert current and potential members of the exciting offerings that are on the horizon.  Program and event planning experts recommend beginning to get the buzz going 6-16 weeks prior to the event with registration beginning 2-4 weeks before the class start.  Additionally, you will want to be sure to send useful reminders as the class start nears. See more on marketing in Going Vertical:  Selecting and Marketing Aquatic Exercise Programming.  Further, you want to assure you have the right instructor in place for the programming.  Many participants will choose a class based on the instructor and the experience they provide.  If you have a lot of great classes with amazing instructors, you will have a higher likelihood of drawing more attendance to all of your classes as opposed to members gravitating towards a single instructor.  Take a deeper dive on selecting the right instructor in Going Vertical:  Hiring a Great Aquatic Exercise Instructor.  Additionally, you want to assure that the process of signing up and paying for a class an easy one.  Streamlining this process so that it does not present as a barrier is imperative for program success.  The process should be clearly defined and flexible for your members’ schedules.  Moreover, creating a system where the instructor knows who should be in the class while creating a means of attendance that does not interfere with the class will also be paramount.  Lastly, take time to analyze your member attendance and collect surveys about class experiences as well as wishlists for future offerings.  This may lead to making impactful data driven decisions for your programming schedule that could result in profitable returns and heightened membership satisfaction.

Following these simple program schedule design steps, can help your facility grow membership and revenue while diversifying membership and pool use.

  • Step #1: Create a diagram of your facility’s usable space.
  • Step #2: Start with your most important programming and see what space remains.
  • Step #3: Add programming that involves the 4 Pillars of Aquatic Programming.
  • Step #4: Create member surveys to collect data on existing programs, program times, and member requests to drive decision making in the future.

Lori A. Sherlock, Ed.D. is an associate professor in the School of Medicine at West Virginia University.  She coordinates and teaches the aquatic therapy curriculum within the division of Exercise Physiology and is proud to state that it is the only one like it in the nation.  Lori is an AEA and Wavemakers trainer and a member of the Aquatic Exercise Association’s Research Committee.  She travels around the globe to educate others on various topics concerning aquatic therapy and exercise.  Additionally, Lori contributes often to scholarly publications and has a great interest in furthering the field of aquatics through research.

 

 

 

 

Links:            https://waterexercisecoach.com/

https://totalaquatic.llc

https://medicine.wvu.edu/exercise-physiology/bachelor-of-science-bs/future-students/curriculum/aquatic-therapy-area-of-emphasis/

 

References:

 

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Juliene Hefter

Juliene is the Executive Director/CEO of AOAP. She has a background in running and operating diverse aquatic facilities and venues and is a national and international speaker on a variety of topics. She is also an expert witness/consultant.

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