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How health club franchises can adapt for the future of fitness

How health club franchises can adapt for the future of fitness

Adam Sedlack predicts premium fitness gains following the pandemic.

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Like most sectors, the pandemic shook up the fitness industry. Forced closures across the country left club owners to innovate in order to keep members engaged. Many questioned if gyms would make it on the other end and, unfortunately, not all have.

Our industry is resilient and stuck together in the toughest of times. Now, while we navigate reopenings across the globe, health clubs are doing what they can to implement best safety practices, keep members proactive in their fitness goals, and have them remain an integral part of their tight knight fitness communities.

Community is the keyword here. While fitness and health clubs running on moderately priced memberships seemed to thrive prior, the pandemic has now exposed the Achilles’ heel of this business model. What’s drawing members back into gyms is exactly what they realized they craved while working out at home online and through apps – a sense of community, in-person support, and expert knowledge.

Safety first

Before any gym or business in general reopens, it must evaluate its safety practices and create the safest environment possible for guests as we come out on the other end of the pandemic.

The fitness industry has always prioritized cleanliness because it is the nature of our business. No one wants to work out at an unsanitary gym. Therefore, for the UFC GYM team, it is a matter of enhancing what we already have established.

Safety protocols can include detailed cleaning of surfaces – something we have always prioritized – socially distanced equipment, signage to communicate safety practices, self-check-in, temperature screenings for guests, and mask mandates.

Creating a community

As we look ahead, community- based fitness is evolving out of the traditional fitness space and drawing the eye of members and guests. Especially following the onset of the pandemic, what is causing members to return in-person to gyms is receiving what they simply cannot get online alone.

Qualities like experienced staff, like-minded and mission-driven individuals, and access to premium equipment all cause guests to look beyond the online realm. This unique experience is created from check-in to check-out, always a friendly face to greet you and on-site staff to help you out.

Developing a community goes beyond the guest experience and starts with the employees of your organization. I always emphasize the importance of emotional intelligence when building a team. At UFC GYM, we prioritize finding the right staff members who are dedicated to our mission, industry, and guests, which creates a sustainable business to withstand all of the ups and downs.

Becoming a fitness industry influencer

With locations spanning across 37 countries, UFC GYM has the unique perspective of a global mindset, observing how each country has handled the impacts of COVID-19. We have seen it all, from navigating new safety practices to enduring forced closures. We also see the immense value in what our industry has to offer society during these times and feel a sense of responsibility to save our industry from decline. Along with a sense of community, the brands that are rising above are ones that are utilizing their voice to influence their industries for the better.

“The fitness industry has always prioritized cleanliness because it is the nature of our business”

In particular, UFC GYM has launched initiatives, such as joining the California Fitness Alliance’s lawsuit against California’s health club restrictions, to lead the charge for change and help our community get back to improving their physical and mental well-being at a time when it is vital. The California Fitness Alliance is also doing all it can to help the Health and Fitness Recovery Act that would grant a $30bn relief fund for our industry, to pass the house at the federal level. The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has put together a letter campaign to write to senators and congressmen about passing the bill. I’ve witnessed the fitness community come together for the better, from competitors to allies, and it is a very inspiring process.

Online enhancements

After experiencing the closure of gym facilities, brands are realizing the importance of diversifying their offerings and joining the digital age. We have had to innovate different ways to encourage people to continue pursuing fitness goals and ‘train different’ at home.

From at-home on-demand workouts, online personal training, to live fitness classes, many club concepts like UFC GYM have explored the opportunity that lies in expanding online and will keep that mentality looking ahead to meet consumers at every front and in whatever capacity they wish to work out.

The importance of our industry

Especially during these times, when individuals are facing economic hardship, social isolation, and anxieties around the pandemic, mental health has been impacted drastically. This reality has unfortunately resulted in an increase in suicide rates, lack of prevention screening for underlying health conditions, increase in substance abuse, and more. In fact, in California alone, Emicity Research found that 86 per cent of Californians reported negative health impacts from gym closures.

“Developing a community goes beyond the guest experience and starts with the employees of your organization”

While it is important to follow federal and state protocol under social distancing measures, we believe it is also vital to encourage society to train, in whatever capacity they can. Training can combat the destructive measures of mental illness, obesity, and heart disease, which lower one’s immune system and make one more susceptible to illness. This logic is shared by the CDC, which recommends, via their website, boosting immunity through attention to mental health and physical fitness to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Overall, we believe fitness in any capacity accomplishes the same task at hand and we’ve seen the consumer conversation shift towards a focus on wellness. That is why we’ll continue to fight for our industry, employees, and guests to have access to fitness and will continue to adapt to whatever the future holds for the industry.


Adam Sedlack is the president and co-founder of UFC GYM, the first major worldwide brand extension of the premier MMA organization.

Adam recently appeared on the Global Franchise Podcast, to talk about the dangers of low-cost fitness franchising. To hear this, as well as many other episodes with industry experts, head to podcast

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