Lawrence Biscontini by Lawrence Biscontini

In December, many cultures and groups celebrate the end of the year with various themes and celebrations. Adding some special flavor to the group fitness experience gives participants extra reasons for coming to the club instead of avoiding the gym in favor of getting caught up in the normal holiday rush of things. Here are some easy-to-implement ideas from group fitness experts around the globe for adding some holiday spirit to the group fitness experience.

Keith Irace is a senior director for Equinox Clubs in New York City. “For the holidays in December, one way to create a unique holiday-like experience for group fitness is to create a specially curated ‘greatest hits of 2016’ playlist to be used in classes in the stretch of time up to New Year’s Eve,” says Irace. “I love to re-visit my favorites—even the ones I retired because I overplayed them—for one more play to commemorate music that inspired us to move throughout the year.”

Creating such a playlist requires no financial investment and allows members to get involved on social media by posting their favorite songs from the year. During the end-of-year workout, a non-denominational, non-religious—yet festive—year in review occurs, conjuring up everyone’s favorite moments during 2016.

Cammy Dennis is fitness director for the Ranch Fitness Center in In Ocala, Fla. She  schedules special low-impact group fitness classes using fitness holiday music. “Have a basket of jingle bells at the door,” she suggests, “and when participants enter, have them grab a pair and tie on to their shoelaces. The holiday music and jingling bells throughout class creates an inspired celebration of movement!”

Mark Fisher of “Mark Fisher Fitness” in New York City suggests renaming traditional exercises and movements with holiday-themed titles. “One way to create a unique holiday-like experience for group fitness is to rename your core exercises around various holiday-related images and symbols,” says Fisher. “Integrating light-hearted imagery like turkeys, dreidels and jingle bells can add some seasonal novelty; for example, turning ‘goblet squats’ into ‘gobble squats,’ complete with sound effects.”

Steve Feinberg, creator of Speedball Fitness®, calls New York City home for most of December. He recommends adding more play to classes because people generally are more open-minded at this time of the year. He suggests instructors “theme-up programming around getting together by utilizing more partner drills, breaking up the movement room into groups, and bringing home the meaning of family for the holidays right into the group exercise experience.” 

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Kyle House and Kyle Miller of Kyle House Fitness run a special online promotion throughout the month of November. “We run a promotion inviting all members to ‘check in’ on Facebook. For every check-in, we donate $0.25 to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank. Every $0.25 buys one complete meal for a person in our community. We also donate an extra $0.10 for every FB share and $0.10 for every Instagram like. To experience this innovative program, visit

In many countries, including the Philippines, end-of-year holiday celebrations start early. Lita Quisumbing, owner and director of Living Fit Studio in Cebu City, institutes several festive approaches involving decorations as early as October. "I make a huge paper Christmas tree on our studio wall with a lot of paper Christmas balls on them. Between December 5 and 23, each time a student comes to class, he or she can pick a ball. We have written gifts on the back of each ball, such as free protein shakes, free tea, free protein envelopes, and more. Participants write their name on the ball they picked and put it in a big box wrapped in Christmas paper. Later, we raffle out prizes during the actual holidays. The more balls a student has, the greater his or her chances of  winning, with a grand prize of a one-month free-class card. This encourages the students to come to as many classes as possible before the year ends."

Finally, here are a few additional ideas for adding some special touches to the group fitness experiences you offer during the last month of the year:

  • Ask members to write down their New Year’s resolutions and pin them up around the group fitness room for everyone to feed off of each other’s anticipatory energy of the coming year.
  • Use social media to promote themes for classes, such as inviting everyone to dress in green or to post here their favorite holiday songs for a particular class.
  • Connect a special class with a charity. For example, "Bring three non-perishable items to get into the Christmas Karaoke Cycle class. A representative from the Salvation Army or the local soup kitchen will stop by to accept our donation at an informal gathering after class."
  • Start a winter shoe drive for your local homeless shelter called “We Kick Off Our Shoes for Mind-Body.” Urge participants to place their gently used shoes in baskets outside of the yoga or Pilates room to be donated to those in need this holiday season.
  • Create a class selfie using an app like "Jib-Jab," which converts all participants into dancing elves or reindeer. Share it on social media, and invite participants to tag themselves.
  • The simple act of pinning a jingle bell to your belt or top can bring smiles and joy to the faces of those you train because it shows how much “in the spirit” you can be, which can become contagious.

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