Lessons I Learned in Personalizing My Fitness Routine


I have found great satisfaction in honing my rock-climbing skills indoors at Earth Treks Golden in Golden, Colorado.

I have found great satisfaction in honing my rock-climbing skills indoors at Earth Treks Golden in Golden, Colorado.

Everyone can agree that it’s desirable to be fit, but finding the drive to pursue that goal can be another matter entirely for most Americans.

More and more, I am convinced motivation must come from within oneself. Societal expectations and general health knowledge rarely create a solid foundation alone. Rather, people who want to be fit must ask themselves an honest question: “What’s important to me?”

And to attract the right members to your fitness facility—you know, the ones who will stay and will rave about you to their friends—you and your staff must ask potential members about what drives them and what brought them to your doors. Only then can you help them decide whether your facility is the best fit with that motivation.

Take me, for example. My motivation was climbing.

Admittedly, I have never been much of a gym rat. I prefer getting my exercise outdoors. But as fall recently turned to winter in Colorado—giving rise to inclement weather and shortened days—I worried I could fall out of shape by next summer. Moreover, I have been eager to learn proper top-rope climbing and belaying techniques so as to expand the scope of my climbs to vertical class 5 rock.

I had been hesitant to join a gym because I imagined myself aimlessly pedaling a bike or pumping free weights. I hadn’t considered how my personal goals could play into the equation, as in what if my efforts indoors could inform and even enhance what I did outdoors?

That pattern of thinking carried me directly to the doors of Earth Treks Golden, a cavernous, 29,000-square-foot facility in Golden, Colorado, dedicated to all things climbing.

In my initial visit, I discussed my climbing goals with personal trainer Kim Tellez, and he quickly identified relevant skill clinics that, as an Earth Treks member, I could attend. The appeal was immediate—as was the idea of showing up whenever I wanted and simply climbing, unrestricted.

During my tour, I saw the gym as a playground, a place where I could have fun and hone my skills. Most importantly, I saw the gym as a place that existed for someone like me. There were no extra hurdles. I didn’t have to change myself and what I like to do to get through the door or gain a membership. This, I believe, is key.

I haven’t kept track of the hours I’ve logged at Earth Treks since becoming a member, mainly because I’m there so often. My membership is not an inconvenience or obligation. It’s quite the opposite. I find joy in climbing, so I find joy in being at the gym.

The experience has broadened my horizons. For example, I’m utilizing new equipment in Earth Treks’ workout room to build important climbing muscles. I’m also taking advantage of regular yoga classes. Earth Treks’ membership appeals to me because it’s catch-all. If you’re a member, you essentially have free run of the place.

I like that when my upper body is exhausted, I can hop off the climbing walls and go into the workout room and exercise my lower body. There’s nothing stagnant about my sessions, which keeps things exciting.

Since joining Earth Treks, I’ve been thinking about what personal trainer Tony Books Avilez said in a recent Club Industry article about lifestyle coaching. Avilez said that too many clients and trainers lose sight of the big picture when setting fitness goals.

“If my goal is to improve my life, then let’s determine how we go about it,” he said. “Let the workout be an aspect of that.”

For me, my workouts and even my gym membership are not end-all-be-alls. They are, in Avilez’s words, “aspects” of my larger life goal—becoming a better climber. When I sensed Earth Treks’ staff shared that same eye-on-the-prize mentality, I was sold on the membership, especially because the facility has the amenities to help me with that goal.

But to get to that point, I had to change my thinking and place my desired lifestyle ahead of any fitness routine. The routine might enable the lifestyle, yes, but I first had to identify who I was and what I wanted, at least this is the strategy that has worked best for me.

My two takeaways from this experience:

    • Club operators shouldn’t lose sight of their club’s identity. We can all get behind wellness as a concept. What distinguishes you and your services?


  • Remember that it’s better to point someone to another gym if your health club does not fit a prospective member’s motivations and goals. Trying to make a climber believe that your gym is their best option when you don’t have a climbing wall but the gym down the street does will only lead to that member’s dissatisfaction and poor word of mouth. Why not be honest and help that person find their best fit? They will appreciate your honesty and will remember it when friends ask for a gym testimonial. 

Oh, and to fellow outdoors-y types: Don't scoff at indoor climbing before you try it. (World-renowned climber Alex Honnold has spoken extensively about the importance of growing up in a climbing gym in Sacramento, California.)

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