Five Answers You Want to Hear: The Microgym.

Re-posted from Fit For Arlington Heights, a health & fitness blog from the nationally-certified professionals at EAD / CFAH. Have a topic you’d like us to research? Email

Contributed by Coach Karen

The microgym — small, independently owned places which specialize in one-on-one and small group activities  — have muscled into Arlington Heights and the surrounding area, pumping up the options for the fitness-minded consumer.  According to the Sports Industry & Fitness Association, 6 of the top 10 growing sports and fitness activities are class-based, the primary charter of most microgyms. But how do you know which microgym deserves your fitness dollars? Here are Five Answers You Want to Hear when you ask the owners of a microgym: “Why are you right for me?”

We train -- not exercise -- at EAD / CFAH.

What we do at EAD / CFAH is train — not exercise.

1. We Specialize in Training (not exercising). Anyone can lead a group of people in an activity to burn calories, reduce tension, socialize or keep active – that’s exercise, and it doesn’t even require professional certification. Exercise is better than sitting slouched on the sofa, clacking through the channels. But it isn’t, nor will it ever be, the equivalent of training. Training is the systematic, periodized, progressive process to achieve a defined set of performance goals. A good exercise session leaves you sweaty; a good training plan delivers measurable results in ten key areas — Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance and Accuracy. Ask the microgym owner to describe the process used to establish, track and maintain goals, and show any tools used to support the process. Ask the owner how staff supports member goal setting and recognizes goal attainment, detail his or her personal goals, and share member success stories. If the microgym isn’t structured to help you get leaner, stronger, faster, more agile, better at your chosen sport, or improve key health indicators, look elsewhere … you deserve better.

2. We’re Established. There is something to be said about longevity. According to Crain’s Chicago, microgyms are quickly “approaching the ubiquitous presence that bank branches enjoyed during the real estate boom.” But not every microgym will succeed; University of Tennessee research cites that more than one-third won’t survive two years in business. A microgym in business for five or more years has winning formula – and plenty of satisfied customers. Take time to thoroughly check out the microgym’s website and read up on the business history, philosophy and mission. Then talk with the owner and ask about business growth, how long people typically stick around, and the top three reasons members give when they leave. Signal the alarm if the owner can’t readily answer those questions.

There are fewer than 50 Certified Strength and Conditioning Coaches listed on the NSCA website. Three EAD / CFAH Senior Perofrmance Coaches -- Jim, Karen & Josh -- have earned this prestigious certification. The fourth Senior Performance Coach, Becky, is a Certified Athletic Trainer.

There are fewer than 50 Certified Strength and Conditioning Coaches listed on the NSCA website. Three EAD / CFAH Senior Perofrmance Coaches — Jim, Karen & Josh — have earned this prestigious certification. The fourth Senior Performance Coach, Becky, is a Certified Athletic Trainer.

3. We’re Qualified. The National Commission on Certifying Agencies accreditation serves as a benchmark on how organizations should conduct professional certification. The NCCA has accredited only 13 of the thousands of health and fitness programs offered across the country.  Among the most prestigious NCCA accredited certifications is the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, the credential required to work with collegiate and professional sports teams.  Ask the microgym owner to detail the credentials held by staff, then verify that staff credentials are current and in good standing. If the microgym has one or more CSCS on staff, odds are that you’ll be in good hands. Don’t settle for a place where staff carries only boutique or non-NCCA certifications.

4. We’re Experienced. Experience matters when it comes to selecting a microgym. Ask the owner how many people currently belong, roughly how many people pass through the microgym each month, and  how many hours each person on staff has working with members. Search the internet for reviews and testimonials, and social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for photos of microgym staff and members. Few or no pictures of microgym members and staff indicate lack of activity, and could be a warning sign. Ask the gym owner to describe staff experience with members of all ages and fitness levels. Ask about their programming philosophy – do they purchase programming from somewhere else, or develop it based on the needs of members? – and how they adapt programming to meet the specific needs of a variety of members.

5. We Have High Retention. People who get results stick around. Ask the owner about member retention. It’s a warning sign if a microgym turns over greater than 35 percent of members within 12 months.  Similarly, it’s not a good sign if staff members come and go. Ask about staff tenure, then talk to staff about why they stay, and why (or why not) that they refer people to the microgym. It’s a problem if staff members don’t speak about the microgym with pride and a sense of ownership. Ask the microgym owner to share member satisfaction survey results. It should tell you something if the owner hasn’t conducted a membership survey, and isn’t proud to show you the results. Drop in to a regularly scheduled class and talk with people before or after class – ask them what keeps them coming back.