In the summer of 2012, Gagan Ullalmath competed in the 1500m freestyle event at the London Olympics. He failed to advance to the next round but he represented his country and the sport he loves. There is much to be said for that. But while he is no Michael Phelps, there are still vital questions to be asked: If swimming was a more prominent sport in India, would he have done better? If he had the facilities and training advantages that many of these other Olympic athletes have for this sport, could he have come home with a medal?
While we will never know the answers to these questions, it does make us think about another phase of the health and fitness industry that could see market expansion in India in 2015 and beyond: aquatics. Now, I’m not saying that every club is going to add a large Olympic size pool, or that all gyms that are planning to open will have an aquatics program. But what I am saying is that with the rapid expansion and growth of our industry in India, the potential for more and better aquatics offerings exist. For those of you considering adding an aquatics program to your existing facility or future new facility, we hope to provide you with some ideas on how to maximize that amenity. For those of you reading this article who are already own or operate or manage a pool, we hope you can take away a few quick tips to increase activity and productivity immediately.
So how do you maximize aquatics at the club level? You need the three P’s: Programming, People and Packaging.
When we use this word in the fitness industry, it does not relate to computers in any way. It means that we take a piece of equipment, system or space and create something special and unique and provide it to our members for a fee, or even include it at no charge to enhance the member experience. This is no different. There are now hundreds of aquatic programs and classes that you should be running in your pool. These are programs that can be done with any size pool, large or small. They can be done in groups or one on one. For example some of the most popular POOL PROGRAMS are Aqua Zumba, Aqualates and basic Water Aerobics. We don’t have nearly enough time to discuss all of these, but when trying to create or select a pool program that really makes a splash, it needs to be focused and have a purpose. Let’s look at a simple example of Aqua Zumba. This is taken direct from the Zumba website:
Those looking to make a splash by adding a low-impact, high-energy aquatic exercise to their fitness routine.
How It Works
Aqua Zumba® blends the Zumba® philosophy with water resistance, for one pool party you shouldn’t miss!
There is less impact on your joints during an Aqua Zumba® class so you can really let loose. Water creates natural resistance, which means every step is more challenging and helps tone your muscles.
BAM! That sells. That speaks to people. That lets people know that being in the pool can be just as beneficial AND possibly even more fun.
What about AQUALATES?
AQUALATES is a challenging yet highly modifiable aquatic workout based upon Pilates exercises from the mat, reformer, cadillac, chair and barrel repertoires
Did you see how the name of the program and the description really fit? Many active older adults who would be scared to try a Pilates or Zumba class can now have access to these hot, fun and trendy workouts all in the safety and comfort of the water.
I don’t see any of these programs helping our Olympian Gagan Ullalmath win gold, so what about the more athletic based programs out there? The popularity of TRIATHLON training is growing, and the need for proper technique and swim stroke are super important. Resistance training and cardio training can be accomplished in the water as well. I have even heard of one club that put about 25 spin bikes in the pool and held a spinning class in the water! (* PLEASE NOTE I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING THIS) While this idea seemed like a good one and was well received, the bikes can get damaged. Look for aquatic exercise equipment (yes there are underwater bikes too) to fill your programming needs.
Do you have a small pool? No problem! Make it huge with the addition of an Endless Pool Fastlane and give your members the feeling of true open water swimming along with additional exercise benefits.
What about swim lessons for kids? Host water based birthday parties aka, a pool party.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of pool programs to power up your profits. You just need to do some homework and find out which ones work best for you. In addition, you need the second P.
That’s right, people. But not just a walking heartbeat. You need people with personality to program your pool. They need to be outgoing, smart, and attentive. They need to be creative and have the ability to be flexible with time of day classes and the hiring of instructors.
The right people are critical to your success. What qualifications do they have to run, operate and manage your aquatics program? Can they swim themselves? Are they safety certified? Do they understand the importance of proper water chemistry? Are they willing to take pride in their position? Your success or failure can be a direct result of the people you hire, train and employ at your facility.
So now that we have great programs and people, we need to sell it. That’s where the third and final P comes in: packaging. In other words- marketing and advertising. If you’re considering adding aquatics to your facility or opening a new facility with aquatics, be sure you know your audience. Can your market support an aquatics program, or will you be drowning in debt because you didn’t do your homework?
Make sure you have the total package. Make sure that your marketing is targeted to the right people. For example, if I have a pool at my club, I am not going to advertise AQUA ZUMBA to the males. There’s nothing wrong with that, BUT, that is not your target audience. Females are. If I am going to offer a triathlon training program in the pool, I am not going to market it to the active older adults. That is not your target audience. Your advertisements, information and message all need to be specifically designed to appeal to the right people. Just because you have an amazing pool and good programs does not mean that people will flock to your club. You need a strong message and the right message. That is packaging. In addition, it is always helpful to consult with a professional before investing money into any marketing campaign or strategy.
This article did not cover safety concerns or government regulations and requirements for proper pool management. I would strongly recommend making sure your facility is meeting or exceeding all operational and safety standards before implementing any of the programming we spoke of here.
For more information on operating and maintaining a high quality aquatics program for the fitness industry, feel free to visit the International Health Racquet and Sports Club Association website, www.ihrsa.org
Originally written for and published in Body Life India by Jarrod Saracco