A bad gym experience can scar people for life making them less willing to become a member of a health club in the future Photo by Thinkstock
<p>A bad gym experience can scar people for life, making them less willing to become a member of a health club in the future. <em>Photo by Thinkstock.</em></p>

Health Club Operators Must Reverse the Damage Done by Bad Gym Experiences

Past bad gym experiences follow people around, making them feel like they weren&#39;t good enough, skinny enough, fit enough or lean enough to be a member of a gym. To reverse their thinking, club operators need to make their facilities into accepting gathering places.&nbsp;

Prior to working in the fitness business (or even during your time in the business) did you have a bad gym experience? Did it drive you away or just drive you crazy? If it did either, you're probably not alone.

Think about the unfit and unhealthy potential clients who drive past your facility daily. Their past bad gym experiences follow them around, making them feel like they weren't good enough, skinny enough, fit enough or lean enough to be a member of a gym. That's why a lot of them avoid stopping in for your free trial; they fear being judged, alienated or slighted.

Is the gym supposed to be an exclusive club that you have to earn your way into, or should it be an inclusive movement where the unfit and unhealthy feel confident to take their first vulnerable step or to return after a bad experience?

Gyms of the past weren't built as places with fancy bells and whistles. They were built as a gathering place where people could discover how to live a fit and healthy life if they simply took care of their bodies, slept enough and consumed real food.

When a gym becomes just a place full of fancy bells and whistles, it can make for a bad gym experience, especially if coupled with dust bunnies under the dumbbell racks, sweat stains on the benches, weights permanently disorganized, certain stenches filling the air and unfriendly front desk staff who text or surf social media rather than greet members.

When the gym becomes a gathering place—a movement—it changes people's lives, and it changes the community it serves. To get the unfit and unhealthy clients who had a bad gym experience to return to our gathering places, we must rethink our messages. To help you with this, consider these questions:

  • Have you ever had a gym experience where you felt judged, alienated or rejected?
  • If so, how did that experience affect the way you view gyms?
  • Do you tend to view the gym as an inclusive movement or an exclusive club? Explain.
  • How are you unintentionally judging those outside the gym or putting requirements in place that they need to meet to feel comfortable coming back to the gym?
  • Who are you really speaking to in your marketing?
  • Is the skinny person in your ad really the person who walks into your gym daily?
  • Are the fancy rows of machines speaking to the unfit and unhealthy person who had a bad gym experience, or does it just add to the intimidation factor?
  • Is being the cheapest ticket in town tempting enough to get someone scarred by a bad gym experience to walk in your doors?

Sharing these questions with your staff and others in the fitness industry can start a conversation that could turn into a movement to help our communities rediscover our gyms after a bad experience.

What's one way you can change your messaging to create an inclusive movement that invites everyone into your facility? Share your ideas by commenting below.


Brent Gallagher is co-owner of the 4,500-square-foot personal training studio West U Fitness in Houston with his wife, Cassie. The facility offers 30-minute training programs and a teaching kitchen for nutrition health. Gallagher has been featured on the Dave Ramsey Show and NBC Nightly News. He can be reached at Brent@westufit.com.

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