CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Power Systems
Growing up, I loved board games. My favorite was The Game of Life. The game begins by choosing between two paths: career or college. If you choose career, you skip college, make money more quickly, but encounter more road blocks and have a limited earning potential. If you choose college, you don't start making money quite as fast, but the trade-off is higher earning potential and fewer road blocks. When playing this game recently with my kids, I thought about how The Game of Life isn't much different from the new member experience at gyms. Are you thinking that connecting a board game and gyms is a stretch? Let's see.
When prospects show up to tour your facility, they are checking out what you have to offer – your staff, the facility's cleanliness, amenities and the convenience of your location. These prospects are part of the 60 percent of the population categorized as "uninitiated believers" or people who know they should exercising regularly but have yet to be persuaded to do so. You invite these potential members to experience the club for free and work out before talking numbers. If you're not doing this, you should start.
According to IHRSA's "Guide to Member Retention," prospects are 300 percent more likely to join your facility by simply working out there first.
When these people do join your facility, then they begin their Game of Gym Life. They have two pathways to choose from: the machine route or the group route.
The machine route has a ton to offer. It has fancy, high-tech treadmills, ellipticals, stair climbers, and stationary bikes that have all the bells and whistles: TVs, heart rate monitors, tracking, and pre-programmed workouts. Not only do they have endless lines of cardio to choose from, there are free weights, selectorized machines, free-motion—you name it, they've got it. The client has the ability to jump on any machine at any time and get their sweat on.
The machine route includes many roadblocks, however. Machines break, treadmills are backlogged for the first three months of every year, and someone needs to sound the "Lunk Alarm" on the juiced out dude dominating the entire free weight area—that is, in between his sets of preacher curls and texting. Maybe this new member is able to get an elliptical every time he or she visits the club, but after three visits, the machine gets boring, and gym workouts become a chore. Any of these everyday road blocks on the machine route could lead to their attrition.
The other pathway—the group route—also has a ton to offer. There's a huge menu of classes to choose from: Zumba, yoga, cycling, water fitness, kickboxing, circuit, strength, step, core and the list goes on. Not only do these classes offer something for everyone, but they provide a safe and motivating exercise experience and endless variety.
According to Dr. James Annesi's book, "Enhancing Exercise Motivation, "a lack of supervision while exercising leads to twice as much dropout when compared to exercising in groups."
Included with group is small group training. As a dedicated group fitness instructor and participant, I can tell you that the number of men in group fitness classes is pretty slim. A more comfortable place for guys could be small group training. They will get the same benefits of group—community, accountability, competition and a place of belonging—without feeling like they need to turn in their man card. Not only does small group training offer additional revenue for your club, but it keeps members in your club rather than heading elsewhere to get high-intensity workouts.
No matter which path your new members choose, they will face common roadblocks: fear, busy lives, soreness and cost. If you tell an overweight person with low confidence that they need to do cardio for 30 minutes per day, five days per week, you are going to freak them out. Instead, take that same person into a class with energizing music and introduce them to other members who were once freaked out newbies, too. I bet that in 30 minutes you will see that once freaked out person walking out with a smile that says, "I can do this." The benefit of group workouts versus machine workouts is that it is scheduled. Someone can sit down and plan out their workouts that fit within their schedule. Yes, you can plan machine workouts, but I have yet to get a text from a treadmill telling me that it missed our workout together that day. Group fitness will provide the accountability that machines never will.
In the first days of workouts, people discover soreness. Often, soreness is mistaken for injury, causing new people to stop exercising altogether. Toss that person into group, and they'll find new and die-hard people who are just as sore. They will realize they need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Plus, how many gym fail videos do we need to see on YouTube to realize that supervised exercise is safer? At some point a person will convince themselves that the gym is too expensive. If they are on a machine, they are basically paying to rent that machine. If they are in group fitness, they are getting entertainment, socialization and results, all of which proves group's value.
If you are going to help your new members win, start by helping them choose wisely. If you plan to retain those members for the long term, you must get your new members on the group route. Otherwise, you are leaving them alone to spin their wheels (literally) on the machine route. The Game of Life is similar to the Game of Gym Life after all.
Erin Gray is the education coordinator for Power Systems Inc. and has been an industry professional for more than eight years. Gray is a CrossFit L-1 trainer, CrossFit kids coach and yoga instructor. She is certified in all nine MOSSA group fitness programs. When she isn't leading product school, blogging or working trade shows, you can find her researching all the latest fitness trends, leading CrossFit kids classes and attending group fitness classes.