5 Ways to Use Online Reviews to Catapult Your New Client Acquisition

by Billy Polson, CSCS

Online customer reviews for your fitness business can be extremely valuable AND stressful at the same time, leaving many owners conflicted about the best way to maneuver through this marketing minefield. With 87% of consumers reading reviews for local businesses, online consumer feedback is an ideal way for shoppers to weigh their expansive list of health and fitness options in order to purchase a service that ideally matches their exact needs.

How do you ask for customer reviews, through Yelp, Google, or others, to grow your business?

Consider the following five points when making your decisions around claiming your business on review websites and the best business practices to follow for making the most of these powerful social media channels.

Here’s a given, I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but I will just in case.

The golden rule for mastering the online reviews game is to provide an exceptional level product and service with a professional, polished customer experience that far exceeds the expectations of your customer in every way. The tips below are worthless without following this basic premise.


Before wasting your time gathering reviews on any specific site, survey your current and ideal client population with the question, “If you did not currently have my business to provide your health and fitness needs, which review website(s) would you use to locate my services?”

Every city and every market will have its own unique set of popular review sites. According to a 2021 ReviewTrackers.com customer survey, Google reviews top the list of most frequently used with customers looking to Google 65% of the time. Yelp is second on the list at 45%. These two leading review sites have followed this trend with Google My Business and Yelp. Focus your work on developing the most popular site(s) for your business, to guarantee that your ideal clients will find your reviews.


I find that MOST fitness business owners have not claimed their business through Google. The first step is to claim your business page on each review site and brand your business profile with marketing text (i.e., mission, purpose, etc.), business basics (contact, hours, etc.), and business photographs and graphics. Each of your social media and review profiles should have the same consistent look and feel for your customer.


Fitness business owners should actively request reviews from their repeat clients. One of the best times to ask for a review is directly after a client has achieved goal or reached a milestone. Inviting them to share their experience can be an ideal way to brag about an achievement while also expressing their LOVE for you and your practice. I recommend making the review process as simple as possible for clients. With my review requests, I include the following list of thought-inspiring questions to help in gathering personal thoughts and to guarantee that reviews will cover the subjects that you are hoping they will address.

  1.   How would you describe your overall experience with *insert your business name*, from our initial communication through our work today?
  2.   What were the personal goals that led you to want to work with me/us?
  3.   What successes, achievements, upgrades, or improvements in your health, body, or life have you had since working with me/us?
  4.   Who would you recommend would enjoy working with *insert your business name*?

Yelp has a STRICT algorithm it follows in determining if each review on a business’s page is a ‘recommended review’ which remains on their main profile homepage or if the review is ‘not recommended’ and becomes hidden from the main homepage. In no way do I claim to fully understand their ‘secret code’, but based on our experiences, if you have clients reviewing you on Yelp, we recommend the following:

  1.   Yelp is looking to reward their truly active ‘Yelpers’, so be sure that your clients review other businesses and link to other friend’s profiles. If Yelp feels like your client built a profile simply to review you and your business, they will actually hide this ‘not recommended’ review from being seen on the homepage of your profile.
  1.   Yelp is also looking for organic reviews for businesses as opposed to reviews requested by business owners. If Yelp sees a large number of reviews suddenly appear on your profile (perhaps in response to a group email request you sent you ALL of your clients), this is possibly a red flag in their eyes, which may again lead to reviews being hidden and ‘not recommended’. If you are requesting reviews, I recommend doing these individually.

Post a response to EVERY review. I will be honest; this is not something that I did very well from day one of opening my fitness business. Early on, as clients would review us on Yelp or Google, we would reach out to each of them directly through email to thank them, but we did not actually post a thank you message on Yelp or Google. Recently, while working with our interns, we had a realization that the whole point of social media was to connect us with our followers on these sites, just as we would on Facebook or Instagram. Consequently, we now take the time to post a personalized response to every online review we receive. Our clients have appreciated the ‘shout out’ and I believe it shows our commitment to connecting with our customers in every way possible. We are always thankful to receive the feedback and greatly appreciate when a client takes the time to share their feedback about our business.

If you would love to learn more from Billy, join him in-person at the Health & Fitness Business Summit included in DC MANIA®, February 25-27.  He is presenting sessions focused on gaining clients, maximizing earning potential, and much more.  Registration is open and starts at only $99 (was $359) with an option to livestream the event.


Author, Billy Polson, CSCS

Billy Polson is a three-time fitness entrepreneur, an international presenter, and a consultant for pioneering trainers and boutique gym owners worldwide. In 2004, he founded DIAKADI Fitness, which was awarded San Francisco’s ‘Top Trainers/Gym’ for 14 years. 

Take a S.E.A.T.® for a Better You!

by Robin Taylor

The senior demographic is growing so rapidly, that just three years ago they represented 1 in 7 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and by 2040 they will make up 25% of the U.S. population.  Finding exercise programs specifically designed for the 55+ age might seem easy, but many just don’t accomplish the physical and mental goals needed to perform functional daily activities. 

The best exercises recommended for Seniors and Active Agers by the CDC are chair yoga, resistance band/dumbbell workouts, walking, body weight exercise, and water exercise.  They specify participating in 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity daily and at least two days of muscle strength training.

SCW Fitness is happy to say they have already created an ideal aquatic workout for this demographic, WATERinMOTION® Platinum, and are excited to announce a land program, S.E.A.T.® (Supported Exercise for Ageless Training) Fitness, that encompasses many of the recommended exercises, including both cardiovascular and muscular within the perfect amount of time needed to feel accomplished and satisfied. 

S.E.A.T.® Fitness is a chair-based workout that strengthens the body and mind through functional movement as an entertaining and motivating choreographed group fitness class. It was originally created as a replacement for aqua workouts when the pandemic began two years ago and has grown and adjusted to so much more, becoming attractive to all types of participants including active agers looking for low-impact exercise, the elderly struggling with balance or mobility issues, busy individuals with a short amount of time and space, those who are overwhelmed easily with movement and directional change, and the de-conditioned or new to exercise client. This unique format is perfect for Health Clubs, Retirement Facilities, and Wellness Centers looking to serve a wider market.

The creator of S.E.A.T.®, Ann Gilbert says, “It was designed for function and launched for fun and needs to be staple for all fitness schedules both in the classroom and virtually. The program allows a comfortable ‘welcome back’ to inactive patrons who are desperately in need of an accessible and creative wellness activity.” Ann is an active aging expert and devised this format to challenge, but not frustrate the participant.  The uniqueness of S.E.A.T.® incorporates pre-formatted choreography for a fun, socially engaging, total-body workout.

The 30-minute class uses dynamic sing-along music mixed with distinctive moves to create an easy-to-follow, well-balanced exercise program, which focuses on both strength and endurance. There is no need to buy fancy equipment, since all S.E.A.T.® uses is a chair, light dumbbells, tubing, and a small ball.  Each session is broken down into 6 body-focused tracks; Warm-Up, Sit to Stand, Cardio, Total Body, Resistance Training, and Flexibility and Mobility.  Choreography is evidence-based for functional fitness and offers inclusivity for all abilities and students.

You might be wondering what makes S.E.A.T.® different? This turn-key program benefits the needs of all clients.  Not only do participants “win” with general health benefits such as weight lost, improved mobility, heart health, reduced risk of chronic illness, enhanced energy levels, and improved posture, but science shows this type of workout can also improve cognitive function and increase independence. The best part is little or no prior exercise experience is needed for attendees to feel comfortable and have a great workout experience.

S.E.A.T.® is a licensed facility program which includes three free certifications for interested instructors.  Certification is easy and can be learned either online at your own pace or in a one-day, in-person, or livestream setting.  It includes an in-depth breakdown of the program, all the skills required to teach your best class, a 30-minute video with color-coded choreography notes, downloadable music, and a theoretical exam.  As a S.E.A.T.® Instructor, the guess work has been removed.  Every three months you receive new music, demo video, and choreography notes to keep your participants engaged and you focused on connecting with your class. Teaching S.E.A.T.® is exceptionally fun.  As a bonus, each facility enjoys updated marketing materials every 12 weeks including unique posters and social media posts for Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn along with promotional videos.

There has never been a better time to expand your format options. S.E.A.T.® provides the missing link to those who are uncomfortable with traditional land classes. It’s designed for everyone to have fun, build confidence, and walk away with a big smile knowing they just completed a solid, cardiovascular, and muscle-strengthening workout.

What are you waiting for? Grab a S.E.A.T.®!

For more information about S.E.A.T.®, visit www.seatfitness.com and register to win a Supported Exercise for Ageless Training video, music, choreography notes, social media, and marketing posters.


About the Author, Robin Taylor

Robin is the SCW Editor for Spotlite, Tidal Waves and Weekly Work-UP, as well as Assistant Product Manager for MANIA® Fitness Conventions and Team Manager for WATERinMOTION®. Having taught Aquatic Fitness for over 15 years, Robin is AEA and AFAA certified and a WATERinMOTION® Champion. She has participated in several WIM educational videos, as both a pool participant and on-deck presenter. Robin has been an employee of SCW for almost five years. She is married and has two adult daughters and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida.

New Strategic Partnership – SCW Fitness Education & IHRSA, The Global Health & Fitness Association

SCW Fitness Education, the Leading Provider of Continuing Education for Fitness Professionals, and the IHRSA, The Global Health & Fitness Association proudly announce an enhanced strategic partnership for 2022.

The goal of this SCW-IHRSA relationship goes far beyond the expansion of educational workshops and lectures held at the seven (7) Health & Fitness Business Summits housed in the SCW MANIA® Conventions. IHRSA is drawing heavily from the SCW community to grow their professional memberships reaching and supporting smaller boutique studios, independent health clubs and individual fitness professionals. This regional support is IHRSA’s way to touch more fitness pros, unifying our industry and strengthening our businesses.  The post-pandemic effort solidifies IHRSA’s national presence and influence by uniting our industry.

SCW’s powerful regional conferences are the perfect vehicle to reach deep into our fitness community, share best practices and strengthen each other through education.  The MANIA® Conventions are in their 40th year servicing DC, San Francisco (California), Orlando (Florida), Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago (Midwest) and Boston. As a one-stop-shop for education, fitness front-line workers take sessions on group exercise and personal training including strength, flexibility, cycle, yoga, barre, dance, boxing, aqua and more.

Sara Kooperman, CEO of SCW Fitness Education, has shared that, “After 40 years of events, our instructors and trainers are all grown up!  They are now the owners and managers of their own fitness facilities.  They need regional support on effective Sales Strategies, Programming Options, Retention Techniques, along with Branding and Marketing Protocols. They need to see the trends and experience the growth firsthand, so we offer the Health & Fitness Business Summit at each MANIA® Convention.  Presenters like Liz Clark, Brent Darden, Bill McBride, Chris Stevenson, and others share valuable insights and converge at our events held at beautiful hotels like Westins and Hyatts. We commend IHRSA for remembering their roots in the smaller facilities and engaging instructors and trainers in their efforts to reestablish our clubs and centers at essential businesses.”

SCW Fitness Education is similarly expanding their outreach with a greater presence at the upcoming IHRSA Convention in Miami, Florida, June 22-24.  Highlighting their new S.E.A.T. Fitness Program (Supported Exercise For Ageless Training) for older adults and WATERinMOTION® Original, Platinum and Strength programs for Aquatic Exercise, along with their 40 unique Fitness & Wellness Certifications. 

IHRSA recently appointed a new CEO, Liz Clark, who is working hard to unite our industry through greater community outreach and partnerships. 

“Opening up our IHRSA Membership to Smaller Studio Facilities, Independent Clubs, Personal Trainers and all Fitness Pros creates a greater opportunity for our industry as a whole,” shared Liz Clark, CEO of IHRSA.  The IHRSA Professional Membership provides a home for individuals and independent clubs with resources like business strategy webinars, trend reports, current industry news, product, program discounts and more.  These groups and individuals deserve representation and a seat at the table. IHRSA’s and my personal agenda involves providing representation and support, both financial and political to our entire industry. Our full-spectrum focus is to build partnerships and unify our industry.  Simply put, we are stronger together. SCW will help IHRSA reach deep into our regional communities and support all levels in our industry as we emerge from this challenging time.”

SCW Fitness has reached their milestone 40th anniversary as a professional fitness education company.  Partnering with IHRSA for the Health & Fitness Business Summit at the SCW MANIA® Conventions, ensures that SCW and IHRSA will bring quality and affordable fitness education to the masses.  A stronger bond between these two fitness industry giants guarantees wider outreach, support, and engagement to all levels of fitness professionals.

About SCW Fitness Education

SCW Fitness Education has been in business for 40 years and is the largest provider of continuing education conferences in the world focusing on Group Fitness and Personal Training with an emphasis on Leadership and Management. The seven (7) regional, MANIA® Conferences are held in Washington D.C., California (San Francisco), Florida (Orlando), Atlanta, Dallas, Midwest (Chicago), and Boston annually. SCW reaches over 7,000 fitness professionals face-to-face, 70K via email, and another 300,000+ through virtual connections. MANIA® Conventions offer 150+ sessions on all aspects of the fitness/wellness: HIIT, Functional Training, Active Aging, Strength, Cycle, Mind/Body, Barre, Dance, Aqua, Nutrition, Recovery and Exercise Science. The SCW Health & Fitness Business Summits are held at every MANIA® and include 50+ business sessions focused exclusively on Sales, Retention, Marketing, and Media. SCW is unparalleled in its live, live-stream and online Certifications addressing over 40 topics involving fully automated courses that include evidenced-based videos, manuals, and exams. Having unified the fitness industry during the pandemic, SCW offered 13 live-stream 1, 2, and 3 day events over 18 months reaching tens of thousands of global participants. www.scwfit.com


IHRSA, the Global Health & Fitness Association, is a not-for-profit trade association representing the global fitness industry of over 200,000 health and fitness facilities and their suppliers. The mission of IHRSA is to grow, protect, and promote the health and fitness industry, and to provide its members with the benefits that will help them be more successful. IHRSA and its members (health and fitness clubs, gyms, studios, sports and aquatic facilities, and industry partners) are dedicated to making the world healthier through regular exercise. IHRSA and the fitness industry are dedicated to increasing access to physical activity across the world. There are many ways in which we strive to achieve this goal: we advocate for a universally inclusive fitness industry, one in which people of all races, backgrounds, ages, orientations, and abilities feel intentionally welcomed and included; we actively partner with several national, international, and global organizations working to help more people get active, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), and the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition; and we run global campaigns promoting inclusive physical activity, like the Get Active for All Campaign. Together, we can make the world a healthier place and create a better future for our industry. IHRSA is the publisher of Club Business International, the leading monthly magazine for the global fitness industry. Founded in 1981, IHRSA will be hosting its International Convention and Trade Show in Miami, Florida from June 22-24, 2022. www.ihrsa.org


It’s Never too Late to Learn

by Ed Halper

As most of my clients (as well as myself) are within the range of “Active Agers,” more and more of my own education is going within that realm. In renewing my Fitness Training Certification I purchased an SCW CEC video course entitled “Strength Training for Longevity and Vitality,” taught with knowledge, enthusiasm, and some humor by the very own, SCW Fitness Founder and CEO, Sara Kooperman, JD.

Sara (now falling in that amazing demographic,) busy with a family, fruitful career, and many-mile travel schedule, has altered her own training to fit her time constraints and the active recovery her body needs now. The workout she gives to her classes doesn’t include “burpees” or box jumps, but a lot of low impact moves with bands, medicine or stability balls, and light weights that can be easily adjusted to any fitness level. (Hey, Tom Brady swears by the resistance bands in his TB12 workouts!)

The ravages of aging are familiar to us all – sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass, strength, power, and function), osteoporosis or arthritis, and decreased cognition, but luckily the process can be delayed or even reversed with the proper game plan of exercise and nutrition. Here are some of the key points from the course.

  • Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week (a very attainable number!)
  • Spend an equal amount of time on cardiovascular exercise and strength/balance/flexibility work. American College of Sports Medicine studies show that two days of each per week is ideal to increase thermogenic activity. Three days of each, increased “burnout” and didn’t show to have additional physical benefits.
  • Seniors, because of slower metabolism and lifestyle, have on average 25% less calories per day than the younger population, but as Sara points out, that doesn’t mean “you eat 75% of a cupcake.” The key is to retain as many nutrients in your diet as before. Concentrate on a diet high in antioxidants (fruits and vegetables) and healthy proteins (beans, fish, chicken, etc.). Calcium is important for bone strength, and make sure your Vitamin B-12 and D are at recommended FDA levels. (Also some fresh air and sunshine can’t hurt!)
  • Cardiovascular work improves brain function and blood circulation and strength training enables us to maintain the balance and bone density to do our “cardio.”
  • A group fitness setting or working out with a friend, increases adherence and adds a social aspect to fitness.

Bottom line, find what you like to do, and no matter your age, keep moving!


About the Author, Ed Halper

Ed has been a member of SCW since its inception, and currently holds four Certifications in Personal Training and Nutrition. He and wife, Laurie, were the proprietors of Mountain Fitness in Warren, NJ, from 1998-2018, and he still is employed at the site as a Fitness Trainer. Ed earned his B.A. from Monmouth College (now University) in 1980, where he participated in cross-country and track and served as head coach afterward. He pursued his love of fitness with a master’s degree in Education (concentration in Phys Ed) from Trenton State College (now College of NJ) in 1991. Ed, an active road runner with a marathon best of 2:43.06, has worked in the fitness field for over 35 years. He and Laurie are proud parents to two grown children, living in Washington, DC, and Boston. (The site of two SCW MANIA which give him a great reason to visit!)  Ed’s fitness and nutrition articles can be found on the Mountain Fitness Facebook page. He can be reached directly at [email protected].

Fulfillment February

by Jessica Moyer

For most of us, blowing horns, toasting champagne, and ringing bells at midnight on January 1, brings a chance for a “rebirth” of sorts.  We pledge to lose weight, make more money, clean out the house, rebuild a friendship, … the list goes on. How many times do you tell yourself; I will just wait until the new year to start my next goal?

The purpose of setting new goals or resolutions comes with the intention of improving some area of our life.  As a gym owner and life coach many clients start a “diet” or join a gym hoping this goal will be the start of weight loss or improved health. However statistically almost 80% of those who set a goal give up and “throw in the towel” by February.

But why? I believe there are a few reasons. First off, their resolution or goal is probably too broad, second, the goal is too overwhelming, and lastly, it does not have a strong enough “why” or the “pain point” isn’t bad enough to persevere.

So, what can you do to keep the momentum going and FULFILL your goals?

  • Know your WHY! – If you want to lose weight, is it because you want to be around to play with your grandkids, run a half marathon, or perhaps get off several medications?
  • Set goals that are “SMART”.
  • Be specific. – For example, I will save an extra $200 in 1 month.
  • Make it measurable. – You can count money.
  • Is it attainable? – Save $50 from each paycheck.
  • Be realistic. – Yes, I can cover my bills to save this amount.
  • Is it achievable? – Yes, I can live on the rest of the money from my pay checks.

Once you hit the goal, set a new one. After all, life is about the journey not the destination. It is important to have an accountability partner, whether you share your goals with someone or make it public. When others hold us accountable, we are less apt to quit because as humans we tend not to let others down. Focus on your pain point when you want to give up. If your goal is to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, then think of what will happen if you don’t do it – the possibility of more medications, poor health and possible disease would be pain points. Last, but not least, know your value! You, my friend, are worth the investment. As the saying goes, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”

Because I am a gym owner and consider myself a wellness warrior, I want to touch on a few ways you can improve your health simply, effectively, and efficiently!

  1. Move with purpose! If you tend to sit most of the day, set your alarm every hour and move for 5 minutes. Put some music on, dance around, march, do some squats. Park far away, take the stairs, play tag with your kids-JUST MOVE!
  2. Eat foods that mostly come from the Earth. Choose foods that you can pronounce the ingredients, watch sodium intake and intermittent fast. Basically, don’t eat for 12-14 hours.
  3. Drink the darn water. It is recommended you drink ½ your body weight in ounces. Replace a sugary drink with one glass of water to start.
  4. Get outside! Get sunlight! Get Vitamin D! It’s good for your body and soul!
  5. Lastly, sleep! Most people underestimate the benefits of a good night’s rest. Aim for 8 hours a day. Avoid blue light an hour before bed, set the mood in a dark cool room, listen to a gentle meditation, and focus on breathing as you drift off.

If you have enjoyed these tips and suggestions, join me at DC MANIA®, February 25-27.  I am presenting sessions to help strengthen the body, mind, and soul.  You can choose to live your life anyway you want but living it with purpose and determination helps lead to fulfillment and happiness.


About the Author, Jessica Moyer

Jessica Moyer is a heartfelt international speaker, coach, and author of Triumph Through the Tears. Her passion and purpose to help women live fully through embracing their health (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually) has led her to open a boutique wellness studio in Delaware. In addition, she is the owner of Purposeful Life & Wellness Coaching to help people find hope through loss and grief. As a certified Ziglar Legacy Coach, John Maxwell Coach/Trainer and ACE Personal Trainer, she has helped thousands of women transform their lives over the past fifteen years. She holds a B.S. in Personal Training and many wellness certifications. She is President of Cure SMA Delaware/SJ Chapter and is an advocate for many local charities.

Sponsor Corner: LaBlast® Dance Fitness

Looking to expand your instructor education portfolio or add new club programming for both land and aqua, look no further.  LaBlast® Dance Fitness has it all. Their top-rated programs, created by world-renowned dancer and fitness expert Louis van Amstel (as seen on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars) teaches a full array of ballroom dances, set to your favorite music.

With three cutting edge programs, LaBlast® Fitness , LaBlast® Splash, and LaBlast® Line Dancing, there is something for everyone.  Each format provides unique versions of various dances from Jive to Foxtrot to Viennese Waltz to Lindy Hop guaranteed to help tone bodies, maintain healthy lifestyles, and offer all-out fun.

LaBlast® Fitness screams fun.  Inspiring and energizing moves help blast away calories through interval fitness.  Multi-levels of learning make understanding the Tango and Rumba that much easier. LaBlast® Splash sets itself different from other workouts due to the properties of water.  This low impact, yet cardio building workout splashes higher than the rest with easy to learn patterns and easy on the joint movement.  Lastly, LaBlast® Line Dancing, the newest format to the LaBlast® family, takes traditional line dancing and add a flare of ballroom, such as Paso Doble and Samba.  All programs and dances are partner-free allowing all participants to feel comfortable and able to learn in any setting.

Dancers (class participants) can join in the fun online with LaBlast® On Demand or at local gyms and boutique studios throughout the country.  Some facilities even offer open classes for newcomers.  Professional Fitness Instructors can get certified virtually or in-person, knowing they will have all the tools needed to teach a LaBlast® class in no time.    

SCW Fitness welcomes LaBlast® Fitness back as a sponsor at the upcoming DC and California MANIA® Fitness Conventions.  The 3-day schedule in DC includes workshops such as “LaBlast® Splash: Dancing with Aquatic Principles”, “LaBlast® Fitness: Active Aging for All, and “LaBlast® Fitness: Dance is Mental & Emotional Health.”  These sessions are just a handful of over 130 others being offered over the weekend.

SCW DC MANIA® takes place February 25-27 at the Hyatt Regency Dulles and California MANIA® scheduled for April 1-3 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport. Sponsorship opportunities are available for other in-person SCW Fitness Conventions throughout the year and for Live-Stream virtual events. For more information, visit www.scwfit.com/sponsor. 


About LaBlast® Dance Fitness

LaBlast Fitness is a ballroom dance fitness format that incorporates all components of fitness and focuses on mental and emotional health. While using all of the dances seen on Dancing with the Stars, LaBlast is for all ages and abilities. www.LaBlastFitness.com

How to Pack Your Classes

by Ellen De Werd

Nothing quite measures a successful group exercise class like class attendance.  Every group fitness instructor wants big, thriving, vibrant classes. Let’s face it, more people equal bigger energy and lots of fun. Owners and Operators monitor class size for KPIs (Key Performance Indicators.)  Group Fitness Directors watch class size for everything, such as which classes to cut to which instructors receive a raise.  Members have the power to cast a vote on the ballot every week.  They vote “with their feet”.  They vote by showing up.

Participants initially choose a class based on the following variables:
  • Timeslot
  • Format
  • Instructor

All three are powerful.  Perhaps they can only come after work at 6:00pm.  Maybe they only want dance classes or will only go if so-and-so is teaching.

Once past the honeymoon phase of a shiny new class experience or a New Years’ resolution, how do we cultivate loyalty, consistency, and commitment?  How do we keep them coming back?

I have 3 tips that factor heavily into the longevity and health of a class:
  • Schedule Slowly
  • Launch Well
  • Create Community
Schedule Slowly

Each schedule is like a 1000 piece complex jigsaw puzzle.  It is tempting to make quick schedule decisions when someone moves away, retires, etc, but each single cell on a schedule affects the whole.  One class change has ripple effects upon the days before and after and the time slots above and below.  Slowly consider, like latitude and longitude on a map, how a change will affect ALL the classes.  The goal is maintenance of balance and equilibrium.

Launch Well

Imagine going to a Thai food restaurant on a Tuesday night only to find a 45 minute wait.  Subconsciously you already know the food there is going to be good! Contrast that with an image of going out to eat on a Friday night some place where all the tables are open and you are seated immediately.

In my experience, the best times to launch a new class is September after Labor Day when summer is officially over, students are back to school and everyone is looking for a new routine; and, of course, in January, New Year’s resolutions abound.  Harness the natural momentum of these seasons as you program your schedule changes. Because a crowd attracts a crowd, consider allowing guests with each class launch to achieve that “packed restaurant” vibe!

Create Community

Ok…so we have scheduled slowly and launched well.  Now what?  

Is it the instructor knowing the member’s names? Warm, but there is more to it. 

Is it the instructor creating a space where members feel successful and safe? Very warm, but there is still more. 

The secret sauce is the instructor’s ability to build bridges, create community and foster a family.  The other participants are actually the key!  (Read that last sentence again.)

When an instructor takes the time and has the emotional intelligence to weave a web of relationships, not just member to instructor, but member to member to member to member… then class size, retention, growth, stickiness -call it what you will- takes care of itself.  This is the true magic Group Fitness.  This is how to pack the class.

For more inspiration, fitness and business tips, join Ellen at SCW California MANIA®, April 1-3.  She has several sessions, including “WARRIOR Strength™” and “WARRIOR Rhythm™” programs, both new to the MANIA® schedule.


About the Author, Ellen De Werd

Ellen de Werd is a 21-year, fitness industry veteran. She is the founder of WARRIOR Rhythm™ and WARRIOR Strength™. Prior to the launch of the WARRIOR Instructor Academy, Ellen garnered national attention as a presenter and educator for Beachbody. In 2021 her WARRIOR formats spread internationally to 9 countries. She re-entered the conference scene, taking the nation by storm. Ellen is the Fitness Director at the Downtown Athletic Club and a Lululemon Ambassador in Eugene.

Four Ways to Share Your Culture Through the Lens of Wellness

by Soraya Doherty

When I was a young girl, my dear Lebanese mother shared wise words with me and my siblings: “When people don’t know about my Lebanon, then I must teach them!” Lebanon was often referred to as the Paris of the Middle East and known for their unparalleled hospitality. But by the 1970’s, the dominating news showed bombings and civil war. Nonetheless, our cultural pride ran deep. As a Navy wife and an Arabic Linguist to American soldiers, my mother often hosted Lebanese American dinners to those who were homesick for a family style meal. There, our guest always learned about the many contributions in art, music, and the diverse and healthy Lebanese diet! I admired my mother on many levels and I was proud to be both Lebanese and American!

In the year 2000, when I became a newly certified group fitness professional, I always sought ways to bring an authentic voice to my wellness. By 2013, I began offering a Middle Eastern perspective on good health and fitness with my expertise in belly dance. In 2017 I developed Raq The Barre®, as an accredited barre fitness • belly dance technique training method. With my mother’s inspiration, my intention has always been to pass on my cultural flair to my wellness in a way that is accessible to all!

Perhaps you are like me, an American with a cherished culture which runs richly through your veins! Here are four methods which have helped me bridge my culture with a focus on wellness:

Share a healthy family recipe from your culture
Do you have a family favorite recipe that yields good nutrition? Are there healthy bites that are a part of your cultural experience? Is there a certain fruit or vegetable that is common in your country of origin? Share with your wellness tribe healthy lifestyle habits from the perspective of your culture.

Share dance styles or specialty sports
Is your country known for a specific sport? Is there a folk dance or a dance style that is a part of your culture? Share with you students a brief history behind your country’s movement based offerings! Use your fitness expertise to share the muscular demand on the body or share core dance movements as motivation to keep moving!

Share a playlist of music
Create a playlist for your students and share a brief back story about a particular singer or a song writer. Introduce rhythms that may be unique to your culture. Help your students get excited by the new songs!

Build Community and Camaraderie
Create a complete experience for your students! Years ago, I collaborated with fellow Lebanese Americans to create a one day event: “Middle Eastern Wellness for Women”! We provided a complete wellness experience to include nutrition and the Lebanese diet; the Middle Eastern mindset to mindful eating habits; and our Middle Eastern inspired RaqiSa® belly dance & barre fitness offering! It was a memorable gathering which can easily be replicated by your own culture!

If they don’t know, then you must teach them
Sharing your knowledge with your wellness community is more welcomed than you might realize! One year I offered to teach my daughter’s 7th grade culinary arts class a lesson on “How to Roll Grape Leaves.” The students loved learning something new and many tried their very first Lebanese dish! Imagine how excited I was when my daughter’s teacher had a new realization! After class she confessed to me, “You know, I am originally from India, and I never even thought to share recipes from my country!” Sure enough, my daughter’s entire class learned how to make a delicious Indian rice pilaf!

                                      SORAYA’S KICKED UP QUINOA TABOULI SALAD

TABOULI is a classic Lebanese salad! A traditional tabouli salad adds far more parsley than this particular recipe, and bulgar (or cracked wheat) instead of quinoa. However, this particular recipe remains a fan favorite and proudly provides a powerful nutritious punch! Parsley is native to the Mediterranean diet. The two types are curly-leaf or flat-leaf, feel free to use either for this recipe. Parsley is much more than a garnish to your dish; it’s a powerful herb with vitamins A, C, and K! And as my mother use to say after each meal, “Sahtein!” May it be nourishing to your health!

INGREDIENTS: 1 C of cooked and cooled quinoa, 1 cup of finely chopped parsley, 2 tomatoes finely chopped, 1 Tbs of chopped fresh mint, 1/2 of a small white onion chopped, 1 Jalapeño sliced and served on the side, Salt to taste. *Combine with dressing and fold all the ingredients together.

DRESSING INGREDIENTS: 3 oz of olive oil, Juice of one lemon, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 pinches of dried mint, salt to taste. *Stir together.


About the Author, Soraya Doherty

Soraya Doherty is the owner and creator of RAQISA® and the nationally accredited RAQ THE BARRE® program, She is an and is an international presenter with over 21 years of experience in the fitness industry. Passionate about teaching, she is creator of the RAQISA® Belly Dance Mat, a patented visual teaching mat & posture plate, designed to learn and practice belly dance basics. Soraya drew from her Lebanese American roots, her award winning belly dance style, and her professional theatrical career to create RAQISA® as an empowering wellness brand providing education and elevation! Soraya is ACE, AFAA, AEA certified and holds a BA from San Jose State University and an MA from San Francisco State University in the Theatre Arts and is a Screen Actors Guild Member. To learn more about Soraya, please visit www.raqisa.com or email [email protected].

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