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With Renée Main

Season 5, Episode 18 | September 20, 2022

Becoming a grandparent, caring for aging parents, getting unfavorable health news, not moving the ways you used to — there are several points in our lives, especially when we get older, when age becomes a front-of-mind topic. To support older adults who want to be healthy and fit as they age, Life Time created the ARORA program. The co-founder, Renée Main, joins us in this mini episode to talk about its genesis and all that it offers to members.

Renée Main is a senior vice president at Life Time and the co-founder of Life Time’s ARORA program. She also leads Life Time’s sustainability initiatives.

In this mini episode, Main walks through three primary goals they had for members when developing the ARORA programming:

  • Give them ways to get moving. There are ARORA and ARORA-friendly classes — including options for strength, cardio, and flexibility — that provide a variety of ways to move. There are also newly launched options for Pilates, expanded pickleball opportunities, and even ARORA-certified personal trainers who specialize in working with older individuals and can deliver one-on-one guidance.
  • Provide opportunities to be social. It’s common for social circles to shrink as we get older, and loneliness can be detrimental to health and well-being. To help members stay connected with others, ARORA offers a twice-a-week coffee club, as well as monthly social events. A game club will be available soon.
  • Help them be informed. There are many aspects that contribute to a healthy, happy life, which is why educational opportunities are offered through regular workshops. These sessions feature topics such as nutrition, skincare, and movement, and offer guidance for understanding health-related issues (think blood work and more).

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Transcript: Why ARORA?

Season 5, Episode 18  | September 20, 2022

Hey everyone. I’m Jaime Martin. And we’re back with another episode of Life Time Talks. This one is a mini episode. And I’m really excited because we’re talking about one of the newest programs at Life Time, the ARORA Program.


And I’m here with my colleague and friend, Renee Main. She is the senior vice president at Life Time, and the co-founder of ARORA. She is also– leads Life Time sustainability initiatives, as Life Time is really focused on how healthy people are dependent on a healthy planet. She also lives on a hobby farm in Minnesota, with her husband of 30-years. Has two daughters and is a proud grandma. Hi, Renee.


That last one is the most important.


Aw. How is the little guy? I know, you got a grandson.


He’s amazing. He’s the joy and love of our life. I just [INAUDIBLE]


I love it. I love getting to hear your stories. So as I just mentioned, Renee and I are also friends. And it’s great to have you here with me on the podcast again. All right, so we’re talking healthy aging at Life Time. But I want to start with talking about how that became a focus at Life Time? And how you got involved?


Yeah, I’ll start with why it became a focus at Life Time. So, I think over time, bottom line is our brand is to appeal to people whether they’re 90 days or 90-plus years. And as we looked at some of the information that we had, and the really the makeup of our members, we weren’t doing a good job at the older demographic. We weren’t living up to our brand promise of helping people throughout their whole or as much as we would have liked.


Actually, we started looking at it a few years ago, pre-pandemic. And then we put it on pause. We decided we needed to do something. And so I personally started talking to different members, different people in the community. And really, there was a strong desire for something that was a little more structured, something that people could more easily participate, and just having more offering for us.


So we made the decision that we needed to live up to our brand. And people were asking for it. And so that’s why Life Time decided to invest more in ARORA. And why I personally got involved. I shifted from being the primary lead in marketing for many, many years. But I was also on the membership side. I became a grandmother. And I was also helping take care of my aging mother and my aging mother-in-law. And at the same time, I got some unfavorable health stats myself.


And I decided I needed to do something. These three things were converging. I wanted to be there for my grandson. I wanted to help more people live a healthier life, like my father who is very active, whereas my mother has been inactive, and can’t do all the things she loves. And that inspired me to really want to be part of this, really want to help change more lives. Especially in the ARORA demographic.


I love how you talk about that conversion of those three elements. Because it’s like the previous generation, our generation, your generation. And the future generation. And how it all comes together, and why it matters so much to be taking care of ourselves no matter our age, right? Like but it’s interesting because Life Time has, for a long time, had a kids’ program that’s very focused on that generation. And this, in some ways. ARORA is that equivalent, in some ways. With very different offerings.


Right. It’s so exciting. Because, like I said, people wanted it. Members were asking for it. We want everybody to feel like they belong. And we should be able to help everybody because of our philosophies and our program. And that’s who we are.


Yeah, absolutely, totally agree. So let’s talk a little bit about ARORA. And what some of the specific offerings are, and how they are right now? Where you’re planning to go with it?


Yeah, well, we really– and I say, we because Annie, who’s my co-founder, just the two of us. We really looked at what we needed to do. And bottom line is we need to get people moving, we needed to get people social, and we needed to make sure that they were informed on various pillars of our healthy way of life. And so getting people moving, right now, ARORA has– we wanted to make sure we had a variety of classes.


So yes, we had aqua classes already, so we have ARORA aqua. But we wanted to make sure that we’re more ways to move. So we launched an ARORA dance class in many of our clubs, to get cardio in a different way, but super fun.


It’s my favorite class we have. ARORA 360, and ARORA strength Classes which again, building muscle and keeping muscle, it’s even more important as we age, hands down. If you were to do nothing else but strength– if you only work to do one thing, strength training could be the one for you. And then some flexibility. So we launched ARORA gentle yoga. And for those that need a little more support, we have ARORA chair yoga at many of our clubs.


So, from a class perspective, we wanted to make sure there was a variety across cardio, strength, and flexibility. We also launched a pilates class in the classroom. And then we just launched ARORA pilates in the reformer studio. Because I personally fell in love with Pilates last November. And it is perfect for, I’ll call it, the more mature body. Based on the types of movements and the strengthening and elongating the muscles. So that’s really from a class and formal movement.


We launched ARORA Certified Trainers because members were telling us that, yes, I tried a trainer, but they treated me like I was a 20-year-old, and I couldn’t do everything. And so we have ARORA certified trainers that are specially trained in older bodies, people that may have had surgeries, people that have certain ailments, people that have certain mobility issues. So that was an option for people.


And then finally, outside ARORA, we launched pickleball, and fastest growing sport in the United States. And we just made that a really big thing for Life Time. But that’s what our members were also asking for. So that’s on the movement.


I was going to say you’ve got a lot more, there’s a lot more.


The social side. We were hearing statistics like loneliness is the equivalent of smoking three packs a day. And the older we get, unfortunately, the statistics show, your circle tends to shrink a little bit. And so people get lonelier, and so we wanted to make sure there were social programs to keep people engaged. So we have twice a week Coffee Club, where people can just join, and have coffee with other members. And then we have a monthly social event. This month it’s dancing through the decades.


And that’s followed by food and beverages. And then finally, education. So we have a whole bunch of workshops, from nutrition, to skincare, to movement, to knowing your statistics, your bloodwork, and your hormones, and how that impacts your body. And how that impacts your healthy living routine. So those are kind of the three pillars. And that’s everything we have today.


I love it. Well, and it goes back to– I mean, you talked about Life Time’s philosophy earlier. It goes beyond movement. I mean, oftentimes, Life Time is associated with fitness, right? That was our name, previously. But it really is about the holistic, healthy way of life, right? It’s not just fitness. It’s also nutrition, it’s social connections, it’s how do we manage our sleep and stress.


And I know the education elements that you’re working on cover off on all of those things, and why they matter. And we also had the episode you co-hosted with me with Dr. Frank Lipman that covered off on so many of these elements as well. So it’s really fun to see it coming together, and seeing it growing as quickly as it has. This program hasn’t even been around for a year yet, at this point. And what’s the feedback you’re getting?


Yeah, we launched it, officially, in mid-January. And the feedback has been overwhelming. We are having more members engaged. More members stay with us, and attract good friends because they want to bring their friends to these classes, Coffee Club, and all of these events. But really, the feedback directly from members, I have to tell you, has been the most rewarding of my entire career. And it has been– we feel like we belong, we feel like we’ve been heard, we feel like we matter.


One member wrote in that she had been taking an aqua class for seven years and haven’t really made any new friends. And then we did an aqua social, where we actually had a social afterwards. Just that little thing that we added to it. And now she has three friends that she hangs out with that she met at that social.


So I think it’s just– that’s what it’s all about. I mean, those stories that we’re hearing, or that I’m hearing, it’s just exactly what we set out to do. Now, we have a lot of work ahead of us. But it’s starting to really take form. We see members and their– I’ll show you my ARORA– In their ARORA T-shirt, walking around the grocery store. And it’s just so fun to see.


Yeah, I was sitting at a street-side cafe near the Experience Life office not too long ago. And I saw somebody walk down the street in an ARORA t-shirt. I was like, hey, there’s somebody from the program. Or knows the program which was awesome. So, oh, that’s so great. So you mentioned that your favorite class is the ARORA dance program. How else are you personally kind of just delving into it?


Yeah, I would say, I take different ARORA classes at different clubs because I want to make sure it’s a great experience. And I’m getting out there and speaking to members. So I’ve done ARORA strength in ARORA pilates fusion, I’ve done ARORA dance. I took some ARORA acting classes. But more importantly, I’m just stopping by some of the Coffee Clubs at the different clubs because that enables me to truly have one-on-one conversations.


And I just– and, like I said, that’s the most rewarding part. Just getting out there, interacting with members, hearing their feedback. Some of it– I had a call with a member from our Schaumburg club yesterday. I got great feedback. I have another one coming up from our Summerlin club. They just want to give feedback. Both on what they love, and things that they’d love to see change. So that feedback is absolutely critical, as this is a new program. And we’re learning, and we want to make sure we’re delivering the right things.


I love that. So one thing that is coming that isn’t quite out there yet, as of this time of when this podcast will be out, Is the games that you’re working on the ARORA. It’s another element of the social aspect. You want to talk to that just for a minute?


Yeah, we want members to feel OK, with just sitting in the cafe, or sitting in some of our social areas, and just playing games. So we shipped these game boxes, and they’re not fancy. It’s a Life Time game box with a whole bunch of decks of cards, pens, paper, dice. And we shipped them to the club. So the clubs have them. So if you’re a member that you just want to grab people and play some cards. Or we’re getting Yahtzee, forms, things like that.


Or we’re also developing specific games that the clubs can bring people together, that maybe don’t even know each other for bridge, or for 500, or for Yahtzee, or for bingo. We’re working on some of that. So I think– again, we want to be your second home. And that includes just hanging out. And that’s OK. If you just want to hang out and have some coffee, and play some games. You are welcome to do that.


I love that so much because it doesn’t have to be all about the movement aspect. It’s one component, and it can be so much more than that. So just– quick little side note, an anecdote. I was back home in my hometown recently. My grandpa turned 90 years old. And I was thinking about the games. Because he goes every morning and rolls dice with his buddies at the local bar. I’m like, oh. dang. There’s not a Life time here.


But it’s a tradition for so many people in different places and social groups. And to think that could be happening in our cafes, and our social areas. And to look for that, and just watch for those opportunities. Because there are like-minded people who are looking for those things. And you’ll find them. You can find them at Life Time.


Yeah, yeah, and that’s when you ask me what I love to engage with. I can’t wait to find somebody playing 500, that’s my game. I used to be [AUDIO OUT] Club. And I’m very competitive, but I have really no athletic ability. So I’m pretty good at cards. So I’m looking forward to diving in and playing some cards with some members in some of our clubs. I can’t wait.


I love that. Well, this is a mini-episode, so we got to keep this one a little shorter. But Renee, anything else you want to add that you want people to know about ARORA. Or just about the Healthy Aging inspiration at Life Time.


Yeah, and I think I would just leave you with getting– just try something. You know, it is never too late, never too late to start something. And whether that trying something is jumping into a class, or scheduling some time with an ARORA trainer just for a complimentary session of learning our equipment. Or hanging out and coming to a Coffee Club or one of the events. Just try something. And I think you’ll find something that you love.


And then the other thing I just want to leave people with is we’re just getting started. I think we want to tackle some of the other topics. Like menopause, it’s all related to your health. And so in the months and years to come. we’re going to listen to what members are seeking. And we’re going to try to deliver against that. And thank you so much for making this, already, a great community. But we’re just getting started.


I love it. I can’t wait to see where it goes because it’s already fast growing and it’s like this– the potential is there. It’s going to be awesome and continue to grow.


So thank you so much for having me, Jamie. I really appreciate it.


Oh, yeah. Anytime. And I want people to know. If they want to hear more from Renee and from her colleague, Annie, who’s the other co-founder. They can visit and go to the contributors section. There’s a whole ARORA section that Renee and Annie have been contributing to. Also some details from some of the workshops, and other things that are happening. You can also just visit and learn more about ARORA. So we’ll include links to all of that in the show notes. But Renee, always fun to connect with you. Thanks for coming on.

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The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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