September 16, 2019

Fitness has always been a part of Luis Bracamonte’s life. He began competing internationally in swimming at age six and by age eight, he was a multiple national champion in Peru. In 1997, Bracamonte received an athletic scholarship at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he graduated with a degree in Kinesiology. In his first decade of swim coaching and personal training he worked in commercial fitness, personal training studios, luxury hotels and with Major League Soccer. He moved to Florida in 2010 and has been at the Ocean Reef Club since, where his responsibilities include leading a team of 30 fitness specialists and coordinators, managing the budget and marketing plan, building operations, implementing a schedule of more than 80 weekly classes and 30-plus monthly special events and maintaining a personal training book of more than 30 clients. His professional associations include the Club Managers Association of America and the Club Spa and Fitness Association, where he currently is vice-chairman.

That’s quite an impressive resume at an impressive club. What specifically are you focusing on at Ocean Reef Club in 2019?

We like to keep our eyes and ears open to anything and everything that can add value to our programs and services. Our members are Baby Boomers and even older, so we look at trends and equipment to satisfy their demands first.

How about your younger clientele?

Yes, we also have a growing Gen X and younger population, who are the future of our club. Therefore, we need to balance our additions and upgrades to include their needs as well. We like our facility to be able to provide a complete fitness experience. This leads us to look at every aspect of training and recovery. We see ourselves as a wellness or lifestyle center more than a gym.

Can you explain what Ocean Reef Club is all about?

Ocean Reef Club is one of the largest private club communities in the world. In addition to our Fitness Center and Pool, amenities include a 165-room inn, two seaside pools, a beach and recreation area, marina, airport, two golf courses, tennis center, art league, cultural center, medical center and 13 restaurants and lounges. There are 1500 Equity members (property owners) and more than 2300 Social members.

Where does the fitness program fits into the overall lifestyle there?

The role of fitness in the club is the same as it should be in any city, town or community, which is to provide a center for physical and mental training, emotional strengthening, social interaction, personal leisure and the creation of memorable experiences. We aim to offer a large variety of methods and styles; therefore, we hire trainers and instructors with a wide array of skills and experience. Our fitness specialists are encouraged to create classes and workshops and give lectures as part of our group and events programs.

How successful is the club these days?

Because of our operation philosophy, every year we engage more members in our programs. Our financial growth is currently 35 percent over last year and the fitness department sits at the top of the club’s member satisfaction surveys, with an average of 97 percent over the last five years.

You mentioned that wellness is becoming an important part of the club and you even have Wellness in your job title. Can you explain that concept, how it came about and how you promote it there?

Fitness is no longer a big enough concept to describe all that our industry is now able to offer. We typically associate the word fitness with physical training. Wellness is the bigger umbrella, which looks at every aspect of a person’s life with the goal to improve it.

What does it include?

Wellness includes meditation, relaxation, mindfulness, social interaction, recreation and leisure, habit formation, work-life balance and emotional control, along with the ability to reframe experiences, introspection and more. We promote our wellness classes and events via newspaper articles, posters, flyers, the club’s website and app, email blasts, newsletters and good old word of mouth.

What specific programs have you initiated there to advance wellness and health?

We teach holotropic breathing classes, different forms of meditation, including the 8-Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, and nutrition courses led by a registered dietitian. We also host lectures by biomechanics and injury prevention experts, anti-aging medical practitioners as well as energy medicine, yoga therapy and chakra alignment workshops. We look to both east and west modalities for a complete holistic line-up of offerings.

Is there a medical element to this as well?

Yes, certainly. We also have a chiropractor/acupuncturist available twice a week at our fitness center. And since the club has its own medical center and physical therapy centers, we work with doctors and therapists to provide properly aligned services to our members.

How can our readers – health clubs and trainers among them – benefit from this wellness trend?

We must keep our minds open and learn a plurality of new ideas and concepts every day. The wellness universe is expanding rapidly and this means more opportunities to improve people’s lives. Since not everything works all the time for everyone, the fitness professional must educate himself/herself to be able to filter this information. We should know what is within our scope of practice and form a strong referral network.

How does that work at your club these days?

At Ocean Reef Club, the fitness team works closely with doctors, physical therapists, golf pros, tennis pros, nutritionists, chiropractors, event and recreation specialists and our food and beverage department to provide each member with the best possible experience. The strength of our network multiplies the quality of our practice.

Changing gears a bit, how would you characterize the state of the fitness business in the United States? What are its strengths and weaknesses in 2019?

The fitness industry in the United States leads the world. Among its strengths are the variety and diversity of business and offerings of every kind and level. From low-cost to luxury offerings, Americans are more engaged in fitness than ever before and more than any other nation. I am very optimistic about the present and the future of fitness and wellness in this country and the rest of the world. As we continue to grow in influence the fitness and wellness professional should see himself/herself as a leader and role model of physical, mental, emotional and social wellness. Atomistic success should not come at the expense of holistic personal growth.

What one piece of advice would you give to the typical club owner or trainer on how to be better – and make more money – in the fitness business?

Develop your capacity for empathy and sharpen your observation and listening skills. The fitness professional should be a role model of physical, mental, emotional and social wellness. Aim to be as good as or better than the person who you admire most.

Finally, in what direction do you see the fitness business in the U.S. headed in 2020?

I see an increase at all levels. Boutiques are booming, gyms are expanding into hospitality and community developments, low- and medium-cost franchises are growing and in the private club world, wellness has been the largest growing sector for years. Opportunities are everywhere. Thanks to technology and social media we can connect with anyone everywhere, but most of these connections are shallow.

Where are the growth opportunities and how do we take advantage of them?

The opportunity that I am most excited about is the ability to create deeper connections that are more meaningful. We should use technology to engage, measure and reach, but not to replace what is essential to all of us — deep human connections. Fitness leaders should look at their businesses as centers of individual and social human development and connection.


What role do you see FIBO USA playing in the U.S. business?

Events of this magnitude bring the industry together. From owners and investors to operators, fitness professionals to fitness enthusiasts and from vendors to buyers and consumers. In addition, for anyone looking to be inspired by what this industry has to offer, FIBO USA is all encompassing event and has something for everyone.

What do you have planned for FIBO USA?

I plan to attend the education events and look forward to networking. I am also looking to see what products and programs I could incorporate at Ocean Reef Club this year. Ultimately, I am encouraging every member of my staff to attend at least one day of the event..