After running 13 gyms across the state and opening his own fitness boutique, which had grown to 92% of customer capacity in the past three years, Ashley Reese wasn’t sure what his next career move would be. He was looking for mentoring but was told that he was too qualified. They told him they didn’t know how to help because he was too advanced.
Reese was frustrated with the lack of guidance and resources that could get him where he was. The idea of a nationwide association was born in Reese’s head.
The state’s health and fitness community needed support, he thought. A way was needed to bring professionals together, regulate industry standards, and give lawmakers a voice at the state and national levels.
The SC Health and Fitness Association was launched and officially launched at the end of April with around 30 memberships within the first five days.
“It just filled a void I’d found in the last three years as a studio owner,” Reese said. “We have to change the standard, and I knew that as trainers and professionals we can only come together and learn from one another, support one another and advance our training together.”
The organization brings together professionals from all areas of health and fitness, including gym owners and personal trainers, dietitians and physical therapists. The aim is to connect and equip members and to represent the industry.
With certification of personal trainers not required by law in South Carolina, Reese hopes the association will also help regulate health and fitness standards across the board.
“When coaches or clubs are part of the SC Health and Fitness Association, there is a certain standard that comes with being a part of it,” Reese said. “Me and my six fellow students all require that our employees be certified or have a degree in sports science. So if you have a member of the club you will get a higher quality of service because they have a different level of education and resources than someone else may not have. “
Part of this goal includes a focus on education carried out through weekly, quarterly and annual meetings of the Union’s members.
At weekly meetings, board members, each with a different professional background, lead meetings on topics such as personality development, management consulting, clinical strategy and nutritional advice. These meetings will be largely virtual, Reese said, so members can access the content whenever they want.
Ideally, quarterly and annual events are held in person and last a full day or weekend, Reese said.
“I think education is a weekly thing, not every two years,” Reese said. “Education has to be at the forefront of our thinking and it has to be an ever-growing process as business keeps evolving, customers keep evolving, how you market and sell your services – they keep changing.”
With an organized association, Reese also hopes to represent small business owners at the legislative level. As the pandemic started, Reese saw a lack of support and funding for fitness facilities across the country.
“We were one of the first things to shut down and one of the last things to open,” Reese said. “Bars and restaurants open in front of some gyms, and we have been held back from doing something that can benefit communities because we didn’t have the legislative support that other industries might have.”
U.S. fitness industry revenue fell 58% and lost $ 20.4 billion in 2020, according to the Global Health and Fitness Association. More than a million employees lost their jobs and 17% of fitness facilities were permanently closed.
“There was no support, no support to make us a priority,” Reese said. “If we had that voice at the state or even national level, it could have made a huge difference in saving many of our businesses.”
When we get out of the pandemic, customers will return to a fitness industry that has taken a toll on the number of inpatient facilities that are still open with qualified staff, Reese said. The association will help ensure a community of trained professionals who have the knowledge and resources to run a successful business without giving customers a worse perspective.
“We don’t want Mr. Joe, who is not certified and just wants to exercise, to open a gym and take in 200 clients and hurt people because he doesn’t know how to exercise properly and give direction,” Reese said. “These people will leave with the worst taste in their mouths than when they arrived because we had the wrong person opening a facility.”
Association membership dues start at $ 25 per month for individuals. Club fees are also $ 250 per month. Studios can pay a tariff for anyone under their brand to qualify as a member and be eligible for resources and discounts. 02 Fitness, a chain across Carolina, is committed to being partners.
Future plans include working with a nationally accredited company to provide educational resources such as videos, content, quizzes, and quizzes for certification at a free or discounted price.
“You will see a rise in standards in the industry and more skilled workers in the market,” Reese said. “Community trust in the fitness world will increase and people will go to the gym and actually get the services they want, not just sell the membership.”
Reach Alexandria Ng at 843-849-3124.