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Fifteen years of personal training

How did the sector and business of personal training change?
2002 can be defined as the year of growing popularity for personal training.
With the beginning of the new millennium, a comforting increase in the expenditures of Italians related to wellbeing and self-care had started, and these factors helped to create a need for the service that was previously considered too exclusive and the prerogative of VIPs only: personal training.

The first Anglo-Saxon chain of fitness centres brought to Italy a model characterised not only by the quality of the environments but also by innovative services such as a video library, free drinks and coffee for the subscribers and a figure present as an alternative to the instructor in the gym: the Personal Trainer.

Not that it didn't exist before, but you could see so little, both in terms of numbers and promotional evidence, that you didn't know about it and consequently most fitness users didn't feel the need.

Personal Trainer

The key element that has allowed the development of the personal training sector in Italy for example, has been the inclusion of marketing activities and initiatives aimed at making the quality of service known not only to the limited circle of athletes and stars, but to the "normal" people who represent the largest proportion of the fitness population. And that's how the new practitioner, like the expert, started to receive the proposal to add to his subscription one or more introductory lessons not with a simple trainer but with a real personal coach, who could follow them step-by-step for the entire duration of the training session.

For clubs that have been able to apply this try before you buy strategy, the numbers already in 2005 had grown significantly. It seems that out of 100 subscriptions purchased by new subscribers about 30 included the knowledge package of the PT service, which is relevant if we consider that it was not free of charge but offered at a promotional price.

If we share the logic that free of charge does not make value, the centres proposed a trial of personal training only to those who were sufficiently interested in wanting to make a content investment and not necessarily test a service just because they were included. The continuation or otherwise depended on the professional, who, in addition to technical skills, found themselves with the need to develop also the communicative and commercial skills that allowed the proposition and sales tactics to sell lesson packages after the initial trial promotion.

Lessons and services

The Personal Trainer became a coveted profession and even the most technically well-trained ones struggled to be noticed compared to large communicators or sellers. Nevertheless, until 2007 they significantly increased in both supply and demand, especially within the many fitness centres that were able to seize the opportunity supporting the push with marketing and communication actions. The main type of service offered was the classic 1 to 1 ratio, with 60' training sessions, a program of 2 or 3 sessions per week and sold through the classic and timeless package of 10 lessons. Achievable targets were made possible when the economic climate was stable, however, analyzing the reports and interviewing the professionals, it was already possible to notice a threat on the horizon: after an initial period of introduction and start of training, almost 40% of clients left their PT for different reasons but often related to economic commitment. In the 3 years following the economic crisis, there was a risk of further worsening the result of this division of the fitness centre and it was at that point that a progressive change in the type of proposal began, which made the service more suitable and accessible to a higher number of users.

In addition to the 60' lessons, 30' lessons were introduced. In addition to the continuous service (A PT scheduled for each session), periodic coaching or the possibility of using the personal coach for a part of a program (for example, for 1 session per week of the 3 scheduled) or even a single monthly meeting to set out a plan. Using a personal trainer became considerably more accessible and if before the total number of clients represented 5% of the subscribers, it was possible to double and in some cases triple this value, making it a very important service for the club.
But the real evolution came a few years later when, thanks to the growth of the functional training trend, small groups training was introduced. The initial resistance to this format came from the trainers themselves.  They believed that their skills and quality of work could diminish by moving from individual to shared lessons. However, those who knew how to adapt managed to evolve and understand.
In addition to the obvious economic benefits for customers, this formula allows greater revenues per unit of time for the Personal Trainer and, when the method used is that of percentage work, also for the centre. This aspect is absolutely not negligible but it does not represent the only advantage. The motivational element fuelled by sharing with the group makes this proposal particularly loyal and easily shared with other users.

Today, after 15 years of Personal Training observation, we see a proposal for an accessible service that can reach 30% of the subscribers of the centre and whose characteristics are represented by the correct mix of individual training, on variable fractions of time, with a flexible frequency that adds or leads to the small group.

Having overcome its beginnings as a service reserved only for the VIP’s, it is a real pleasure to finally see particularly professional figures become true professionals in the personal training industry.

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