With temperatures cooling down and school back in session, expect your fall class schedule to start picking up. Fall is about more than just getting back in the groove, though; it’s a chance to test out your programming and start forecasting for 2017. We chatted with ClassPass’s Director of Partner Success Elizabeth Hathaway on how, as a studio, you can start to prepare for the fall season, what trends to look out for, and how to appeal to new clients coming through your door.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS STUDIO OWNERS SHOULD THINK ABOUT IN PREPARING FOR FALL?
The great thing about fall is that, for many people, it signals as much of a new beginning and an opportunity to focus on a “new you” as January does. With moms bringing their kids back to school, college students starting up fall classes again, and schedules changing to get back into a routine post-summer vacation, studios should think about how the fall can be a chance to channel that “new you” mindset in their programming and attitude towards wellness. In addition, if you’re thinking about switching up your class schedule or trying out some different class types, fall is a great time to test those before rolling them out in the new year. With the weather still nice, people tend to be more motivated than in the dead of winter, so stack your schedule with whatever you’ve been meaning to try, whether it’s shorter class times or a new trend of crossover classes.

That said, I would caution against changing your schedule around too much. People are still looking for consistency, especially in building a routine, and so you want to give a class at least six to eight weeks in order to measure how it performs.

HOW CAN STUDIOS START TO PREPARE FOR UTILIZATION CHANGES AFTER THE SUMMER?
With class attendance picking back up, make sure your front desk staff, or whoever is customer-facing, knows your process for welcoming new members. We know from user surveys at ClassPass how much people love to feel welcome and like you know their name, and how much that factors into their decision to attend your studio again. Encourage your staff to be friendly and familiar with your clients, even when seeing a ton of new faces. You might also consider sending out a notice or newsletter to your regular clients reminding them that their favorite classes will fill up faster in the fall and as such, to book in advance.

WHAT KIND OF PROGRAMMING DOES ESPECIALLY WELL IN THE FALL?
Don’t get rid of your outdoor classes just yet! With the temperatures cooling down, outdoor bootcamps, runs or yoga can still go strong well into the fall season. Keep them on your schedule until daylight savings time (Sunday, November 5) to make the most of the comfortable weather. Especially if you’re not seeing that immediate uptick in class utilization (last September was warmer than usual in the Northeast, for instance, so attendance didn’t rise until October), embrace that warmer weather and brainstorm how you might be able to utilize it to invite an active community into your brand for the colder months. For instance, a cycling studio could organize an outdoor ride meet-up on the weekend, appealing to a new audience as well as its dedicated members who aren’t ready to ride inside just yet. Then, when the cold weather arrives, those outdoor cyclers have found a new spot—and community—to get their weekly miles in.

WHAT TRENDS SHOULD STUDIOS LOOK OUT FOR?
We’ve seen a huge rise in circuit training and HIIT classes that infuse strength training and cardio—even yoga and barre studios are starting to incorporate these elements into their regular programming. Expect that to expand in the fall as people want to work up a sweat as the weather cools down.

In addition, we’ve seen a trend towards more comprehensive wellness take hold, with studios focusing on delivering a holistic mind/body connection over weight loss. That message of weight loss may still motivate some clients, but we’ve seen that improving general health and strength, with a focus on body positivity, mood and mental health, is resonating more with our younger female audience. Think about offering nutrition guides, meal plan suggestions, goal setting/tracking challenges, and meditation classes or workshops to provide that “360” approach towards jumpstarting a healthy lifestyle and getting back in the groove.

Lastly, we’re seeing an increase in men joining in the boutique fitness trend—and not just strength training or cycling, but yoga and barre. Whether they’re coming with their significant others or on their own, studio owners should think about ways to make this market feel more welcome and included.

HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD YOU BEGIN PLANNING FOR THE NEW YEAR? WHAT SHOULD YOU CONSIDER?
As mentioned, fall is a great time to test out some new classes and programming to see how it performs with your members. If you know you want to try a different class type or perhaps open a new location in 2017, start polling your customers and testing out classes now in order to get feedback and make adjustments as needed—that way, you’re not testing things out during your busiest and most valuable months of the year. Send out a customer survey or utilize ClassPass’s reviews and ratings tool within the Dashboard in order to get direct feedback for individual classes and instructors.

WHAT ARE SOME ONGOING EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR INSTRUCTORS AND/OR STUDIO OWNERS?
The After Class blog and webinar series are a great place to get started if you’re researching ways to optimize your business. Reach out to the ClassPass team or your account manager as well to get insights on trends in your market and ways you can capitalize on them. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to other local fitness owners in your community. Cross-training is a big trend right now, so if you’re a yoga studio and you have a bunch of runners coming in, why not learn more about that other genre so you can better coach them as you encounter injuries? Put out a call for a local meet-up, or attend a ClassPass: In Session event to get to know other fitness professionals in your community.