It's that time of year again.
Yes, here we go. Friends and family have started talking about their New Year's resolutions. And most of those resolutions involve health and working out. It's time to hit the gym, start eating right and lose those unwanted pounds from the past year.
This is a gym owner and manager's favorite time of the year - a time when we anticipate all those people finding the gym that best suits their needs and anxiously joining. We can expect a huge spike in our memberships and renewals. But, what do we do when March hits and we see those numbers drop? Or when we see our retention hit those low numbers?
The conversation we need to have.
As soon as those new members start walking through your door, you need to have an honest conversation and explain why staying committed is so important and how to do it.
Time and time again, we see member retention issues take the same pattern:
- The excitement wears off in the new year and the goals they are trying to achieve
- Life gets in the way
- Members start missing a day here and a day there, and pretty soon they are missing weeks at a time
If we can get new members to follow these four steps, they will be prepared to stay on their resolution and lifetime journey.
4 Steps for a Lifetime of Fitness
Determine your fitness readiness.
It is extremely important to know just how ready you really are before starting a new exercise routine. Many people want to start working out only because it's a New Year's resolution and do not have concrete reasons beyond that for making this change. First, ask your new members just how ready they really are to make this fitness commitment. Have your members discuss and write down the following:
- Their reasons for joining a gym
- How many days a week will they commit to coming in and working out
- What their usual schedule looks like and how fitness fits into it
- Are they willing to make time for even 30 minutes of fitness after working all day
Discuss their barriers and find ways to help them overcome each - sometimes the easiest solutions are ones they have not even considered.
Often, those new to working out will dive in head first and never think about coming up for air. They want to be at the gym seven days a week, taking every class and staying on the cardio equipment for hours. Those will also be the individuals who will disappear after a week or so because they couldn't walk after a strength class, or after two hours on the recumbent bike they now loathe exercise because it was so boring. They can't imagine how anyone could think going to the gym could be fun or uplifting.
Have a talk with your new gym members to be sure they know what is optimal for them, considering their goals, fitness level and limitations. Keep their aspirations within reach. This is where you as the fitness professional will make a huge difference in their first experience at the gym. Of course, we always want our members to keep pushing towards their goals, but we also want them to continue on that path and have realistic goals to work towards. That is the key to keep them coming back.
Bring a friend.
We all know that having someone to support us is a great way to help us achieve our goals. Encourage your new members to find a friend, relative or even a co-worker to come with them to the gym. If they are interesting in personal training, it is usually financially easier with a friend and also holds you accountable for showing up, as you wouldn't want to let your partner down. Interested in trying a new group exercise class? It's always less intimidating and more fun with a friend. Regardless of the way you train, a workout partner will help members get to the gym on those days when they would rather stay home in their pajamas with a glass of wine.
Have a plan.
Sit down with your new members and design a workout plan for them. It is useful to have a program specifically for new members where they can meet with a trainer or health coach two to three times without a fee. This shows the new member that you care about their goals and are setting them up for success. Without a set workout plan, individuals tend to do the same thing over and over. Then they quickly hit a plateau, get discouraged and think it just isn't working. Make sure new members are doing exercises the right way, with proper form, to help reduce injuries and give them confidence in the gym. Eventually they will want to take it to the next level, which can help with boosting personal training sales, as well as keeping your retention high.
The End Result
Keeping your new members and clients in your facility is a high priority, but making sure that they are having a great experience while working towards their goals is most important. They will be discussing their fitness success with their friends and family, encouraging them to sign up. If this is lacking, new members will not keep coming back, sign up for personal training packages or go to group exercises classes.
Don't let this time of New Year's resolutions pass by because you didn't take the time to help, educate and motivate your newcomers. Turn those New Year's resolutions into lifetime fitness resolutions that keep coming back.
Get more fitness facility management tips now. Find out why member retention is important and how to engage members with fitness challenges.
Cindy Quiala has been an athlete her whole life and studied kinesiology at California State University-Northridge. She served as a gymnastics coach and director for 16 years, and has worked for the YMCA as a personal trainer, group exercise instructor and Healthy Lifestyles Director for over 30 years. Cindy is a wife, mother of 2 daughters, ages 24 and 17, and a motivational blogger.
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