There is no doubt that tough economic times have hit many gyms across this country. Getting people and clients into the gym is tough, and keeping them there is sometimes tougher. It just doesn't seem to make sense when the world is getting fatter and fatter, and the gyms are getting tougher and tougher to fill. I would like to share a few stories with you and show you how to re-think your approach to potential clients.
Mirror Mirror On The Wall
The first story is about a 30+, 250lbs female named Ginger who is a patient and friend of mine. We had a very frank discussion one day in my clinic about why she feels that her weight has become such an issue. I first asked her why she felt she gained the weight. "Oh that's easy," she expressed, "I eat because my problems catch up with me. I think about my life and my marriage and the food covers the pain." Now that we learned of her "trigger" we moved on. I asked her why she didn't go to the gym. She replied, "'Cause there are people like you there. I feel so awkward and stupid."
MAJOR LEARNING POINT:
Right here, right now, learn from this. Most people like Ginger don't come to the gym because of intimidation, not cost, not laziness. Consider what your gym may be doing that makes people like Ginger feel uncomfortable, for example, having mirrors everywhere.
Do you spend more time looking at yourself in the mirror while you are in shape or out of shape? My daughter, before she lost 50 pounds, would cover the mirror in her bedroom with a large towel. So try to have a location that people can hide and train, for instance theater rooms are a great idea.
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Consider What Your Gym May Be Doing That Makes People Feel Uncomfortable, For Example, Having Mirrors Everywhere.
I pointed out that I knew of a gym that had a dark theater room. She could go there and do cardio, and no one could really see her anyway. Her husband is always gone out of town at work, so she usually will spend Friday nights at home doing nothing but being tempted to eat. Now she can go out and train or she can go and watch a movie around other people and ride a bike.
With some simple convincing she agreed to visit the gym, but I took it a step further. I spoke to Greg, the manager of the Urban Active gym locally. I explained the situation to him and he made a simple phone call to Ginger. He invited her to come in and just get a tour. "Just come and see the place," he said, "I would love to take the time to show you around." Ginger agreed and she decided to go later that day.
Once there, she was nervous, but felt at ease as Greg met her as she entered, shook her hand and thanked her for coming in. He took a few moments to show her around and then also introduced her to one of the female personal trainers. She made a quick introduction and noted some simple things that helped her cope with her own personal misconceptions about the gym.
Evaluate Your Gym
Here are some things you need to ask about your facility:
- Are there common-clean areas for privacy? Make no doubt about it; most heavy people are shy about training around other people. Most of us don't flinch to train around other people, but there are those who don't like the sneering looks and giggles from immature individuals.
- Is there an organized scientific approach to fitness? People want things that make sense and are easy to understand. Not just a scale to check weight, but also a simple measure here and there to prove the loss of inches. People are thrilled to know they are losing a total of twelve inches this week and ten from the last review.
- Is there no pressure to join? We have all been to gyms that push you to sign up today, but it rarely works and often scares people off from joining or ever stepping into that hostile environment. Post your prices, stop hiding membership fees. Being upfront is going to get more people to talk to others about the average price to join.
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Make No Doubt About It; Most Heavy People Are Shy About Training
Around Other People.
- Are there options for training? One of the biggest problems that gyms have is with their training programs. Some gyms only offer one price/hr for training. Many gyms offer no group classes. It is much more appealing to have several programs that new clients can choose from and try. Have some faith in fitness; it is addictive to feel good. People like Ginger like to take baby steps in fitness. Stop trying to ram an all or nothing idea down peoples' throats.
- Are there organized classes for heavier or less experienced clients? Have you ever heard that there is strength in numbers? In a group, people feel more comfortable. By about the third visit, Ginger felt more at ease knowing that there were people there that weighed more than she did. It quickly became, "No big deal."
- Are people happy to help? From the moment people enter your gym, does it make clients glow? Are your words supportive? Do they reflect the trouble that someone might have even getting to the gym on that day? Does the training staff thank the client for coming in, or do they act as it is the client's privilege to train in the same room with them?
Note: Showing value of self worth is another major fitness goal. Ginger joined the gym after talking it over with her husband, who commented that it was a big waste of money and time. Being a financially independent woman and a determined individual, she joined the gym and also started personal training.
I have asked her how it is going; she indicated to me that this is the happiest time of her life. Several of the measurements and evaluations taken by the personal trainer are showing her how she is improving from week to week. This sense of achieving her goal is an accomplishment, and it is providing further motivation for digging her roots into fitness deeper and deeper.
Keep It Fresh
Are you trying to redirect the obsessive compulsive disorder? It is the easiest way to look at it. Individuals who are obsessed with eating merely need to be redirected and once they feel comfortable in the gym, those same people are likely to become OCD about the gym. They then go forth and become fitness disciples and do more for your gym than any million dollar advertising campaign.
Remember: Keep it fresh. Krystal is a personal trainer in an area that has a low population, but has multiple gyms located in that same rural area. Krystal has to basically rely on her program's success and word of mouth to attract new clients. She explained, "It is a constant battle, with people losing their jobs, divorcing, having kids, transferring jobs and with all that me trying to keep a steady client base."
Providing corporate health talks for free, being a good example in the community, and being accessible to all types of clients is one of the reasons that she has had terrific success. "I always read more about what things are new and try to keep my client's workout moving in a fun and new direction." Krystal explained her main motto. "If I'm bored, they are too and that doesn't make anyone happy and motivated."
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Providing A Fun And Constructive Atmosphere Will Help Your Clients See The Value Of Going To The Gym And Training.
Take the time to read more and keep your workouts fresh for you and the client. Make it fun and prove the value of their time and money that is on the chopping block every time they visit the gym.
And follow these simple guidelines:
- Have optional areas that aren't mainstream.
- Keep the gym as clean and bright as possible (No more basement training).
- Have a pre-testing criteria that is simple and shows how success is measured to provide motivation.
- Post your rates; make it simple and affordable.
- Have lots of options with groups and private lessons.
- Have some simple free beginner classes; they are great feeders to get new clients.
- Motivate your training staff. If they are blue and low key, your gym patrons will be too.
- Inspire people that this is a pathway for everyone, not just those who are already in shape.
- Change the eating OCD to a fitness OCD.
- Keep the whole process fresh with new contest and new training ideas; make it fun!
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Motivate Your Training Staff. If They Are Blue And Low Key, Your Gym Patrons Will Be Too.
Around the holidays have a simple give away for anyone who is obviously overweight, and limit it to people who are weight challenged. A simple drawing available only for anyone who is ten pounds overweight and would like to join your gym, non-transferable. Give them a one year membership and some free training classes, a gym bag and lots of exposure of their success.
After the drawing have a few simple group classes for anyone who entered. You already have their names and they are obviously interested, and if you offer a simple price for membership as a secondary prize, then they will have even more motivation to sign up and join. Eventually the results are a walking, talking marketing ad for your fitness center and everyone is happy and getting in shape.
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