A New Way to Train

Step into Life

Larry Cohen was running a personal training consultancy in July 1995, and encountering the shortfalls of one-on-one personal training, when he started Step into Life, a business offering group outdoor personal training. Larry knew the dynamics of outdoor group training could benefit those participating. The business initially grew under an employee-based structure, with trainers hired in different suburbs, until employee reliability issues were discovered. The franchise structure commenced in 1999, and it quickly became apparent that the franchisees had a greater vested interested in the business. There are now 160 successful franchises in operation – 158 in Australia and two in New Zealand and a recent commencement of a master franchise in New Zealand.

At Step into Life, there are members, not just clients. According to Larry, the company’s founder and director, “There is a difference between members and clients. We have members. They belong, they are appreciated, they receive member benefits – and they are looked after by their trainer. They’re not just paying a fee to use a facility, like at a gym.”

With outdoor group training, the group camaraderie is a huge factor. Step into Life does not offer any one-on-one training; it is all group training, with the goal of providing an experience which is socially positive. Members are welcomed, the trainer knows the goals and abilities of each member, and their exercise is recorded for progress reports.

It is a non-threatening, social, fun environment. There is no fancy gym gear and there are no fashion statements – it is simply natural to be outside and a lot more fun to be a part of a group. “We call it green exercise,” says Larry. As a result, Step into Life members often find it far easier to be successful in any exercise goal. Another reason that training with Step into Life is more fun is the variety – there are seven different types of training programs that all take place in an outdoor environment. Members never get bored and the trainers never get stale.

According to Larry Cohen, the average tenure of a conventional one-on-one personal training client in Australia is about six weeks, and the reason they drop off is due to the cost factor and hence it is not sustainable as part of their lifestyle. The average length of membership for a Step into Life member, on the other hand, is 15 months. The reason for the large difference is the social interaction offered by the latter, the attention that is received from the trainer, and the all-important group dynamic. Members can also have a long lifespan with Step into Life because it is more financially sustainable, as group training is more cost effective than one-on-one training. Members also stay, of course, because they are well looked after. At Step into Life, there are various systems in place to support or remind members who have become slack in their participation.

One of the seven different types of training offered by Step into Life is called cardiomax™ which focuses on Cardiovascular Training, which offers a range of different cardiovascular activities to improve heart and lung efficiency. This can include walking, running, buddy pt, hillwork and cardiovascular games. Another fitness program is called toneup™, which comprises toning, strengthening and body sculpting. Different forms of resistance are used, including dumbbells, resistance tubes, the natural terrain in the outdoor space and partner training. “Other programs are boxkick™, coreball™ which uses fit balls, endureit™, which is an army style training program, powerflex™, which is a pilates, yoga and stretching inspired program, achievit™, which is a training program geared to training for events such as fun runs, and we offer Corporate Training.”

If a potential member wishes to learn more about the different types of training offered, there is a free trial available, and it is easily accessible on the Step into Life website. Some people might be hesitant to committ financially, so Step into Life allows any member of the public to have one free session, although people are allowed to try more than one before committing.

The benefits of being a Step into Life member begin with the official membership kit. This entails a member key ring, which entitles members to discounts at various local and national businesses, a training diary, successful training and nutrition guide information, training club goals, a timetable, a fridge magnet, a water bottle and a T-Shirt. The personal attention doesn’t stop there – exercise reports and progress reports are produced every two weeks, and fitness evaluations are done every eight weeks. Members have access to various Step into Life events, like ‘fun-runs’, and receive a monthly newsletter – all included in the membership.

Another key member benefit is the training club. Each member accumulates points while training, and when certain milestones are reached, members are rewarded with a training club T-Shirt. According to Larry, “Someone who has been training really hard for a number of years, when they arrive at the session with their 5000 training club points shirt on, people know they’ve really paid their dues. It’s a big motivational factor.”

Step into life trainers are specialists in exercising for better health, and are firm believers that if people tackle the exercise component first, the nutritional component will follow. The harmful effects of yo-yo dieting are well known, so the idea is that the lifestyle change is made first through exercise; then, people will be far more inclined to be diligent with eating the right foods after already making changes and seeing progress through exercise.

Since the trainers at Step into Life are not experts in nutrition, a partnership was formed with a Dietician Nutritionist named Matt O’Neill, who runs a program called Metabolic Jumpstart. This is an individualised metabolic nutrition based program, where Step into Life members fill out an extensive questionnaire and are then provided with an individualised program that they can follow for a four week period, with ongoing maintenance. This program has provided franchisees with an additional revenue stream, and the benefits for Step into Life members are significant. There is also a considerable amount of free information about nutrition at the Step into Life website.

On the site, there is also a merchandise store for members to enhance their exercise lifestyle at home or when travelling. There are heart monitors, Step into Life’s own rubberised resistance tubes, and fitballs, which can even be used at work and are a great tool for building core strength and back stability.

The vision of Step into Life is to penetrate as many communities with outdoor group training as possible, and the future of the company is boundless. With the number of franchises and members growing, the next step is global expansion. In preparation for this, an IT development project is currently underway. An extranet will be built, to be available to all Franchisees. It will be a one stop shop for information, manuals, and training videos, as well as a communication platform. At the same time, a comprehensive customer management system is being built so the trainers can get online and work with members over the internet. This platform will aid the international expansion of the business, since the extranet and the customer management system can be accessed in any country.

Step into Life is always looking for people with great communication and people skills who like the idea of operating a business in a franchise structure. On the website, there is information about how to get started with running a franchise. Help is available to attain the personal training qualifications needed. Step into Life has grown rapidly through its franchise operations, and hopes to see further expansion. The social aspect extends to the members of the franchise group, too; instead of being in business alone, the franchisees and trainees of Step into Life enjoy being a part of the team, with others to brainstorm with.

Last year, Step into Life was ranked number 25 in the BRW fastest growing franchise list. Presently growing at a rate of 30 franchises per year, that number can even be increased further, particularly in QLD, NSW and WA where there is high demand from the public and franchise territories available. The interview process for franchisees is comprehensive, and a lot of time and effort goes into setting them up for success and providing continuous support along the way.

The inspiring name Step into Life was chosen by its founder Larry; he was looking for a name that represented the body and a sense of movement, but also a transition away from viewing exercise as a chore. Stepping into a new life of enjoying exercise with friends – it’s a whole new lifestyle.

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November 21, 2018, 3:42 AM AEDT