We recently had a Q & A session with Jonathan Withers from IDEA Health & Fitness Association, this month’s featured partner, to gain insight into the fitness industry and some advice for creating partnerships.
Why do you like the fitness industry?Being an active person and a father, health and wellness is an important part of my life. I’m passionate about pursuing this for myself and promoting a healthy lifestyle to my family, colleagues, friends, acquaintances and anyone I interact with. I like the fact that the traditional fitness industry has evolved into a larger continuum of wellness—mental, physical and spiritual health and wellbeing.
I’m working in an industry that makes a difference to people’s lives and addresses issues in society that need addressing. I’ve been energized over the past 10 years in the industry to see fitness evolve and be viewed as a more integrated approach by different entities—that connection having been identified means that boundaries are beginning to be broken down between healthcare, wellness, nutrition and lifestyle, and this is a great development. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with working with companies who share a passion for the continued improvement in people’s overall wellbeing.
What are some new trends you are seeing in your industry?While lineups and schedules differ depending on locale and demographics, we are seeing some common threads in program and class popularity, detailed below (side note: these are listed in alphabetical order, not in order of popularity). In taking a look at the recent 2015 IDEA Group Fitness Trend Watch report in the IDEA Fitness Journal, the following trends are currently popular:
Core-themed classes. Programs that focus on strengthening the core continue to be a big draw, thanks to the fitness industry’s education on this topic over the past decade in particular. The rise of Pilates, which shares the message of injury prevention through strengthening the powerhouse, has also fueled this growth. Fitness pros have learned a lot about connections and interactions among core muscles, fascial lines and movement, and the general population is benefiting from this knowledge.
High-intensity interval training (HiiT). Members are still demanding intensity-oriented options, whether it’s Tabata, boot camp, circuit training or strict high-intensity interval training. These classes are popular partly because of claims they offer better metabolic conditioning and fat loss, and partly because they take less time to complete than traditional classes.
Strength training-specific classes. Sustained cardio classes have been getting a bit of a bad rap from fitness professionals who promote “pure” metabolic exercise. Strength training classes have benefited from the fallout. This is in stark contrast to 10–15 years ago, when instructors had to strongly encourage attendees to get the recommended dose of resistance training each week.
The strength training category includes much more than programs that incorporate the standby dumbbells. Participants are also using kettlebells, sandbags/sand bells, barbells, suspension exercise systems and, of course, body weight.
Yoga and barre. The programs and classes mentioned above represent a “yang”—or more outward, assertive—approach to fitness, while yoga and barre represent a more “yin,” or inward, approach.
Indoor cycling. Indoor cycling continues to be a popular option among fitness facility members.
What do you look for in building partnerships? Or, what is your process for evaluating partnership opportunities?First and foremost we look to partner with companies or organizations that complement our mission statement and ideals. We look for partnerships that are mutually beneficial to our organization and to our clients, customers and the industry. It’s important that we partner with organizations that are looking long-term and have a vested interest in addressing mutually beneficial goals for both organizations and the industry. Revenue potential is important, but the principles of like-minded organizations with regards to mission statements and ideals are important
What advice do you have for new businesses when they start to partner?Make sure that potential partners have the same values and mutual success criteria. That way both sides will benefit equally from any partnerships. It’s important to also look at long-term commitment; many potential partners want a quick fix to a business solution. Partnerships come down to the people who are involved on both sides. You need to make sure that there is trust and good communication present, because sometimes things break down and you need to be able to resolve challenges in a professional and agreeable way. Both partners need “skin in the game” to ensure it’s a mutually beneficial partnership, which is crucial to success long-term. Identify success criteria early on so that the partnership can be periodically reviewed to make sure it’s working for both parties.
About IDEA Health & Fitness AssociationIDEA was started in 1982. Like many startup organizations, the beginnings were humble. It began with the IDEA Letter, which was sent to a membership of 300. Soon after, IDEA introduced the industry’s first Code of Ethics and the first awards to recognize professional excellence in the fitness field.
Now, 33 years later, IDEA Health & Fitness Association has fitness professional members in over 80 countries. The original newsletter has grown into the award-winning IDEA Fitness Journal, the most respected industry publication and education resource for fitness professionals, with a paid subscriber base of 70,000 people. Attendance at IDEA’s annual World Fitness Convention™ has grown from the original 600 to over 12,000.