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Consider Content Vs Context In Small Group Training

About the Author: Keith Smith is a Life Fitness Academy (LFA) Global Master Trainer based in London. He has been a part of Life Fitness for more than 20 years.

Around the world the trend for small group training is still growing. From a member behavior standpoint, we may still have to wait to see if small group training is going to support the growth of exercise adoption, increase adherence, and support member retention.

What is not in doubt, is that the more the fitness industry embraces new concepts, and trends, like small group training, the more reliant the facility becomes on highly skilled instructors, to create a unique, and different experience. As the fitness industry becomes more populated with facilities, it will be the experience that keeps members from moving to the competition. Members will no longer be buying just products and services, they will be paying for experiences.

There will be a time in the near future, when the fitness industry will have a realization that the content—the exercises, and equipment—will not be enough to create a unique, and different experience, and they will start to recognize that the context—the skills, behaviors , and the personality of the instructor—is key.

The content is the exercises, the exercise order, the exercise intensity, the work-to-rest ratio, and the choice of equipment. All of this, when used appropriately can support the creation of a unique experience. However, content is not unique. Anyone can copy content!

The way to be unique, is context. The context is about HOW something is delivered, and as an industry that has the opportunity to engage with customers face to face, the context of a session, or group class, is massively important. The HOW cannot be ignored anymore*. 

Members can get fitness anywhere. They can go for a run, or walk in their local park, they can go for a swim, they can buy free weights, or purchase a fitness DVD to use at home. So why would they join a fitness facility, participate in a small group session, or employ a trainer? It’s personal. For some, it may be for social reasons, while, for others, it could be about support, confidence building, or education. It may be that they want a fitness experience that they cannot get anywhere else.

Regardless of what happens in the future of small group training, the industry will continue to use content to make a difference, and that is important. We must never lose sight of new and improved methods of training. But content can always be copied, context is unique. The way the instructor  builds trusts, adds value, builds self-belief in the member , and is able to put the member, and their wants at the center of the process, is always going to be massively important in the experience. The buying process for the individual is an emotional choice, it is never strictly logical.

* adapted from The Coaching Process by N. Cross

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