Ageism and politics in the fitness industry

This episode of the FitNation Lunch & Learn webinar stars David Minton, the founder of The Leisure Database Company and a true legend within the industry. David talks to us about how he sees the road back to normal, as well as the role of politics within fitness, and if the industry really is ageist.

We go deeper into David’s view on how fitness was a data-poor industry and how that led to total unpreparedness for last year’s crisis. Moreover, we discuss the importance of shifting the view of exercise to a form of self-care for life – notably because over 75% of people who died from COVID were over 70 – but only 1% of those people have a health club membership. Time for a change!

Finally, David talks to us about how he sees the road back to normal, as well as the role of politics within fitness, and if the industry really is ageist.

Watch the webinar recording by clicking on the play button and read the transcript below:

Alex von Hagen: All right. Welcome everybody and thank you for taking the time to join us for another Fit Nation Lunch and Learn. Today we have another incredible guest out of the UK joining us. I think for many people in the industry, he doesn’t really need an introduction. His name is David Minton. He is the director at The Leisure Database Company. In this session, we’re going to dig into a few topics ranging from how to use data to give your facility a competitive advantage, ageism in the fitness industry, and why that’s a missed opportunity for many operators. The role of politics plays in the fitness industry and how we can influence it. And finally, David’s outlook and predictions for the industry, something that he is definitely qualified to speak about. It’s our pleasure to have you on the show. Without further ado, David, thank you for taking the time to join us.

David Minton: Alex. Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be with you.


Alex: Nice, excellent. Always a great starting point maybe for our listeners who aren’t familiar with you. Can you give us a little bit about your background and tell us about what you do?

David: Sure. So I’m the founder of The Leisure Database Company and we’ve been editing and auditing the industry for the past 20 years. So that means that we have a great insight into the facilities that we have across the industry. So for those of you listening outside the UK, you might be interested to know that pre-COVID, we had 7,239 fitness sites. Collectively, they had 10.4 million members and our market value was 5.1 billion. And the penetration rate, we think it was good at 15.6, but when you look at the overall potential, it’s very low. So the industry needs to do something about that. So we know so much about these facilities. We know for example, that 84% of the population live within just two miles of it. But the problem is that we only have, as I say this 15.6% actually going. So there’s a big mismatch between the potential and the actual take-up.

Alex: Okay, excellent. And for yourself, I mean, how did you really land in the world of fitness as a career?

David: That was completely by accident. So I was working in radio and television doing community programming and realized that there was no information about this growing fitness industry. So we decided to compile a database and start auditing it.

Alex: Okay. So necessity being the mother of all invention there. You saw that something you needed and then you decided to take some action and get it going.

David: Exactly, exactly.

David’s Driving Force for Gathering Data Points and Insights

Alex: And from my perspective, I think it’s always interesting, you’re a big data guy, what things really make you tick in terms of gathering a lot of these data points and insights? Like what’s the driving force here for you?

David: Well, I suppose that there’s the fascination as having done sociology, the fascination of how people come together and where we do things collectively. But there’s also a huge frustration as well. So as I say, we know so much about the actual supply to the industry, but we don’t really understand much about the demand. So when you think that in the UK, we have over 50 CRM providers and they have over a hundred platforms and some are still on [inaudible 06:23]. So of those and there’s about a third of those 7,000 sites that don’t even have CRM. So, how they manage the business and how they understand and get value from that business, and how they get a return on their investment to that CRM, there’s always a bit of a mystery to me.

The other thing that I’m wondering is in our normal lives with phones and smart TVs, we get automatic updates. So the Tesla just updates the software overnight. The iPhone just updates it overnight. Why don’t CRM providers offer free updates overnight? I mean it just seems so strange. There are so many operators who I know that are still operating the same system that they did 10 years ago because they don’t want to pay for the upgrades and they’re afraid now to move from that. And it seems such a shame that’s holding the industry back.

Alex: Change can be scary, can it? Yeah.

David: Yeah. Very.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s the problem. I think that’s probably where a lot of operators found themselves in a really tricky spot once the pandemic started because they’d been so reluctant to change in the years leading into that. And then yeah, it really hit the fan there and they weren’t really able to adapt. Yeah.

David: Yeah. And here’s another statistic that I find fascinating. So we know that 62% of the sites have got studios, but only 49% of those do class bookings. So again, there’s a complete mismatch.

Alex: Yeah.

David: So, I can’t name names, otherwise I’ll get into trouble. But if I turn up at my nearest fitness site and I go for a class, then I get the rubber band around my wrist, and then I get that rubber band in as I go in. And I think to myself, are we in the 21st century or what? Rubber bands?

Alex: Yeah.

David: And then, of course, there’s no way that they know that I’ve really done that class. I could have got diverted and gone and done something else. So in our daily online retail lives and our online travel lives, we’re so used to personalization and there’s no personalization in the industry. And again seems such a shame. There’s certainly no hyper-personalization about the fact that I do the same class on a Friday at five o’clock. And what if it’s selling out by Wednesday, you know there’s no system where they can say, “Oh, David, there are only two places left. You always come on a Friday. Do you want one?”

Alex: Yeah. We’re definitely not there. I would agree with that. On that note personalization, because I agree like in the retail environment and a lot of other sectors, they are really hitting their stride here and there’s a lot of technology that can support that as well. I mean, would you say are there any ways you think operators can at least take the first steps in personalization, whether that’s using this technology or maybe even not even using technology, but leveraging some data points they have to boost that personalization factor for their members?

Ways Operators Can Take the First Steps in Personalization

David: Well I love visiting sites in Scotland, for example. So if I go to any site in Scotland then it’s a bit like Cheers, everyone knows your name. They are embedded in the community, those small communities, and people just know their names. Well, that’s a great start, isn’t it? To know the customer’s name. They generally speaking know what the customer does but they don’t have any communication with that customer outside and they don’t necessarily know what the customer does outside. Some are very good if the customer is doing an advance or training for something particular, then they can help. But generally speaking, it’s more a case of what happens within those four walls. Now, I know there are some operators that are developing systems and the systems are already in place that is encouraging more on the whole, shall we call it, in around access to more data. But the number of people that are taking that up is very small so far.

Alex: Okay. And I know you said a lot of the work that you guys do as a business is confidential for obvious reasons. Could you, however, though shed some light on some of the top-line data metrics that you would look to provide some of your clients and then why that’s important in positioning them for growth. So maybe some people listening to this can either utilize that yourself or let you guys do it for them.

Top-Line Data Metrics and Its Importance for Growth

David: Sure. So one of the things that I really love is going around to different countries and talking about the granular detail that we go into when we’re doing site analysis work. And I love it because it’s very rare that I come across an example where someone’s doing something similar. So we have a supply-demand model and we’ve developed it obviously over many years. So we know in great detail about the supply because we hold around 200 fields of data on each site but the more important thing is the demand. So lots of our clients provide us with the postcodes of their live members, and then we’re able to geocode those, and then give them a type of one of 66 types. And we’re able to allocate that across the 1.9 million postcodes in the UK. That gives us a propensity factor for each of those 66 types and how it changes across the 1.9 million postcodes. And that is all built into our algorithm that then produces what we call the latent demand.

So the latent demand is taking into account all the 7,239 sites. It’s taken into account the knowledge that we have of the 10.4 million members, and we have around 4 million of those in our model. And it takes into account the concentrations of the different types of people that are living within the core catchment area. And the propensity factor will change for those types depending on the numbers of those types. So that’s the sort of detail that we go into for both the public and private sector in the UK.

Key Data Points That Gives a Competitive Edge

Alex: Wow. Okay. And let’s say a gym that’s maybe not based in the UK or just someone who’s trying to understand how they can use data to better give themselves a competitive edge. It’s one of the themes of what we want to talk about today, would you highlight maybe one or two key data points that they can be looking to in order to separate themselves from their local competition?

David: Well, I think I know both in America and in Japan where I visit a lot of people literally walk the streets to look because it’s very difficult to get this breakdown at a sensible price in other countries. Geodemographic has worked brilliantly for us for the last 12 years, but I don’t think that they’ve really kept up to date with the changes in society and they certainly haven’t kept up to date with the huge changes with social media. So we’re now looking to layer something called spatial AI on top of geodemographic so that we have more of an understanding of the social media activity in an area as well.

Alex: Okay. Social media being one that people can be using to try and get themselves that different competitive edge.

David: Yeah.

Overrated or Maybe Overemphasized Data In The Fitness Industry

Alex: On the flip side, would you say there’s any overrated or maybe overemphasized data in the fitness industry that people are relying on too much that you would say personally I would probably look away from that?

David: Yeah. So people via state of the industry report each year and they see what the penetration rate is. So if the penetration rate is 10%, then they say, “Ah! So we’ll take the total population area of whatever, 15 minutes, 20 minutes and we’ll take 10% of that.” Sadly, they have no idea what they’re doing.

Alex: Okay. Yeah. Because especially these days as more digital models start to shift that just seems like there’s a huge missed opportunity. They’re probably should be looking at why that 90% of those people in their area aren’t becoming members of a gym, right.

David: Absolutely. Absolutely. That brings us to the very next question.

Member Age, Demographic Shifts, And Ageism In The Industry

Alex: Yes, it does. The other big topic we wanted to talk about was member age, demographic shifts in the industry. And then also the ageism in the industry today. So a lot to unpack there, but yeah, let’s go for it.

David: Yeah. So without a doubt, the conversation needs to move to how we can age better and how do we liberate the fitness industry from its ageism? So in the physical activity space, fitness is, without doubt, the most ageist. So when I qualified, thanks to the Central Y in London, as a group cycling instructor, I went along to my first class and the receptionist asked me if I’d cycle before. And when I got into the studio, someone very helpfully suggested I should sit at the back and stay out the way. It came as a complete surprise to everybody that I’m obviously an instructor. And what we have just gone through with COVID, we know that the vast majority of people that have died with COVID were over 70 and yet the industry itself has less than 1% of the population that is over 70.

Now we also know that the world’s oldest society is Japan, where I work on a regular basis, and they already know that better health care can help keep independence longer. And the country is experiencing this super-aging society, but around a third of the population over 60, isn’t that incredible. And I know that even 90-year-olds can improve their balance through simple exercises. So it’s never too late to start. So I’m really surprised that the industry totally ignores this aging population, which is the largest section of our population. So the fitness industry in the UK is really serving the 18 to 30-year-olds and as I say, less than 1% are over 70. So what we have just gone through with COVID, the government said that they followed the science. So one of the things that the government asked the industry was of the 7,239 gyms and the 10000.4 million members, can you tell us how their health is better than the average member of the rest of society?

So in other words, do they get an outcome of going and how often do they go and what do they do when they go. Well, there’s just so little data about that. So there are very few occasions when generations have the opportunity to completely reset public opinion and the effects on behavior change. But I really believe that post COVID that we have that opportunity. And if we can get to exercise for the masses, that could be a legacy for the global pandemic, then that would be an amazing legacy. Wouldn’t it?

How Can Operators Cater to 60 Plus Age Group

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. And I think there is a, we’ve talked about this and I think a lot of other people in the industry are talking about it right now is the shift towards health as a reason for going to a fitness club rather than an aesthetic. So, it’s not just about biceps and flexing in the mirror anymore. It’s really about health and wellbeing and long-term, just the overall feeling good and being physically active. In your opinion, how can the operators not only in the UK but just how can operators globally cater to and let’s say capture this new opportunity that would be the expected influx of the 60 plus age group into their facilities? What can they do to make sure they capture that?

David: Well, I mean one of the things is that we have to accept that we have an obesity crisis as well as a global warming crisis. And if we just think about the obesity crisis for a second, then fat lives matter and where’s the campaign about fat lives matter. Old lives matter. Where’s the campaign for that? So since 2018, a schoolgirl called Greta, single-handedly went and sat in front of the Swedish parliament with a sign. Four years later, she has been nominated for a Peace Prize three times. She has in over 100 countries, every Friday, hundreds of thousands of children demonstrating, and this Greta effect has put global warming on every government’s agenda. We in the UK are hosting COP26 in November and we are going to see, I think, lots of initiatives for reducing greenhouse gases.

Well, hang on a second, over the same period of time, we have had an obesity crisis that’s got worse. What on earth have governments been doing about that? So interestingly, Japan and China have both said, “We have to improve the health of the nation.” And so they have initiatives. We’ve also seen something similar in Singapore. But as far as I’m aware, there aren’t any European countries. They’re just saying the same thing and we haven’t got any what we would call leveling up taking place in the UK. So our prime minister has been working out on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, which most people would know. He’s been playing tennis in the American Ambassador’s residence, and he’s been jogging around Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. And what he discovered was that doing that with his security guards didn’t actually help. So he took a personal trainer.

So he’s now working out with a personal trainer on a regular basis. Well, what if he said, “Okay, I’m privileged, but what if I give a personal trainer to everyone in the country that would like one.” Well, first of all, the industry couldn’t cope, but that’s another thing. You know it’s the direction of travel that we’ve got to go in. So in the January edition of Men’s Health, there are 21 of the biggest health and fitness trends of 2021 and I’m one of the Men’s Health advisory boards and so one of the things in there, in fact, it’s number nine, just in case anyone’s going to look it up is we’ve got to become more political as an industry. Basically, the government just doesn’t pay any attention to us. They pay lip service to us in fact, because we can’t prove anything and we can’t prove enough. And the problem is that they have so many priorities. So we have to look at how climate activism changed the government’s agenda, and we have to do something similar.

Alex: Yeah, that’s a really good shout. Especially too, if you think about the impact that could have not only on the health of the people but then also, I mean, everyone stands to win. The fitness industry will recover stronger. They’re going to be targeting members, potential members who have more disposable income than they probably have had. They have more time than the average working professional, and they also have probably more attention to retaining their health as well.

David: Exactly.

Alex: So yeah, I totally agree that it is something that needs a grassroots movement. It needs something like that big event or that kind of catalyst like a Greta to potentially get it going. And so as we shift more towards politics, we’ve already touched on it a little bit. But starting in our own bubble, how do you think the fitness industry, well, I think I know what your answer’s going to be, but how do you think the fitness industry responded to the crisis?

How The Industry Respond to The Obesity Crisis

David: In short, not well enough.

Alex: Yeah.

David: So the politicians have scientists, either side of them, almost seven days a week telling us and showing us all these charts. And for the first time, since the 1940s our government actually said, you should be exercising. You should be exercising for one hour a day. Okay. We had a few celebrities on TV. The fitness industry went digital and yet we had thousands of people going to digital channels and saying, “Follow me. Here’s an exercise. Follow me. But we never had an expert standing up next to the politicians saying, “Now about the one hour’s exercise, could we suggest the following?” There was nothing that was at that level and the industry for the first time actually took civil servants around to show them fitness sites because so many civil servants and politicians had never been in a fitness facility. Well, you know, if we’ve only got 15.6% on the penetration rate and then there are obviously loads of people that are just put off.

So if we come back to the ageism thing which is a pet project of mine, just simply because I’ve been through it with my mother. So I had to go sit through a care package that my mother had to sign up for when she came out of the hospital so that she could remain independent. The care package was all based around health and safety and the people that are coming into the home. It was based on food. It was based on washing and it was based on the dressing. Now, as I said to them, “Well, where’s the exercise? What part of the package includes exercise? My mother’s balance is getting worse. What part of the package helps her with that? That’s what’s important to her.” And they said, “Oh, we don’t do that.” And again, that’s such a great example of ageism where as far as society is concerned, basically the care package is just looking after the person in their home.

So I came to the conclusion that there is a compression of the morbidity model, which shows how an unhealthy lifestyle affects morbidity twice as much as mortality. And my mother proved that because in her eighties she got a yoga teacher and in her nineties, she got a personal trainer. Only because she knew that her balance wasn’t as good as it was and she was worried about falling over. She didn’t want to hurt herself. So we had these people coming in and it wasn’t the yoga that most people know. It wasn’t the personal training that most people know but simple exercises. Getting her in and out of the chair. That gave her confidence and it maintained that she had an independent life for much longer.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s exactly it when you talk about how we approach these sorts of things. So, yeah when you think personal trainer and a 90-year-old woman, it almost clashes in your mind because you think that they’re going to be at the gym doing push-ups and stuff like that. But it’s actually just about movements, right? It’s about just making sure that they’re not sitting for their entire day and not doing anything and so reframing how we can do that I think that sounds like a good way that we can, as an industry, start to grow and adapt to this these oncoming challenges.

David: The oldest British woman to compete in an Ironman Triathlon was 74. I mean she’s iron grand. She’s amazing. And then after the 2012 Olympics, she set up this organization called Silverfit and now they just do around a dozen activities all over London, but they do senior gym. They do walking football. They do senior circuits. They understand the difficulties that people have. At that age, we also have an organization in the UK called Ramblers and they do what it says. They go walking and now they have the Ramblers Walking for Health, and it aims that everyone will have access to a short, free, and friendly walk. And the number of people that are going on those walks just grows and grows and grows. So all these other organizations are doing things. And I just feel that the fitness industry still, although I pointed it out over many years, still completely misses the point.

Alex: Yeah. Okay. And so how would you say someone who’s listening to this and they agree it’s also an issue, how can an individual on the ground floor of the fitness industry, someone who doesn’t have their hands in public policy or anything like that, how can they do their part to start influencing this? And hopefully together start to just get this snowball effect going.

How Can an Individual On the Ground Floor of the Fitness Industry Do Their Part?

David: Well, in Holland I went to a fabulous site that Teo Hendrix is managing, and there that you have a fitness site downstairs and you have mixed aging group population living upstairs. And he included the people upstairs. So he’s got them cooking lunch. He’s got them doing social activities. And then eventually they said, “Oh, can we go walking in the swimming pool?” And so then he had groups of people doing easy activities. Then they went and told their mates and the whole thing just snowballed and we see that in the UK as well. There are lots of examples where the public sector especially is encouraging an older population. We also have some of the private sectors that are offering very low monthly subscriptions to people that are in their sixties and seventies. Again, let’s look at people Mick Jagger. I mean these aging rockstars refuse to grow old. So the industry, a few years ago Sport England had a campaign, 50 plus. Well, I mean if you try to do a 50 plus campaign now, they will just laugh at you. I mean it would be ridiculous. But so 60 is new the 50 or is it even 70 is the new 50. So we have to think completely differently about aging.

Alex: Okay. Yeah. And just using that, I mean there is inclusion in that as well, right. So just including that group in that bracket. Okay.

David: Yeah.

How Can a Politician Help in Encouraging Fitness in The Older Population?

Alex: And we’ve talked about it a little bit. I mean, I think the personal trainer for everyone who wants it would be a great initiative, but it would be very difficult if not impossible to get off the ground. But how do you think politicians can actually help rather than they could see the prime minister who plays tennis every now and then. What can a politician actually do here if you had your magic wand to get them moving?

David: Well for the last 50 years, holistically politicians in this country have totally ignored the concept of improving the health of the nation. So improving the health of the nation basically only happens after a war. So it’s happened after the First World War here, and it’s happened after the Second World War. And of course, we still have the legacy of the National Health Service, which started after the Second World War. So we’ve only had two prime ministers since the Second World War, Major and Blair that actually encouraged people in a very positive way to actually do more sport and become fitter. But the problem is that there’s no follow-through. So let me give you an example. So in 2012 our GB team and won 67 medals. It was a record and then four years later in Rio they got even more. So the cost of each medal is worked out in the greatest of detail and the price is just over 4 million per medal. Now it’s great, but it doesn’t actually encourage the mass vast population to take up any of those sports.

In Sydney, they actually found that the Olympics had a detrimental health effect on the population because people lay on their sofas going, “Wow, that’s fantastic.” Drinking another beer. And basically saying, “There’s no way I could ever do that.” And so it didn’t take up any new sport after their Olympics. So we spent just over 4 million per medal in London and then again in Rio, and there was no practical budget placing where we could encourage the rest of the nation to do something. Some sports clubs weren’t even ready to take up the number of people that actually wanted. So [inaudible 39:16], years ago, won his wonderful medals, he came back to his Harringay Athletic Club and there was a cue all the way around the block. And he was going, “Wow. How do we cater for this?” And what if we had a similar situation in the fitness sites?

Alex: Yeah.

David: So we do have to rethink the way the industry is thought of in society, but we also have to rethink the way that the industry, our industry caters to people both in and outside the gym.

Alex: And I think from the public health side, from what I’m hearing from you, it sounds like there’s like a momentum problem. Everything, there’s like these siloed efforts, but they never really build upon each other. So another one there could be that. Yeah, just making sure that one supports the growth of the other, which then, in turn, supports the growth of the other and so on and so on and so on. Right?

David: Yeah, yeah, yeah. One of the frustrations, of course, is the very fact that we have situations, local authorities, and well-meaning governing bodies and they set up test sites, test examples. Would this work? So they set it up and then they expect it to work without any further funding. It’s a bit like we’ve only briefly mentioned climate change, but climate change needs huge investment in new technology. And since Paris, there has been over 4 billion of new money coming in and you can read about that in Bill Gates’ book. And again, there’s no new money coming in to cope with the obesity issues that we have in this country. We spend a lot of money, but it doesn’t achieve anything. So we need to completely rethink.

Alex: Okay. It is also, it’s a pandemic, the obesity crisis. It’s been labeled a pandemic in places like America a decade ago.

David: Yeah.

Alex: And however, it didn’t really have the same effect that our most recent one did because it’s just slower happening. It’s not really as immediate, just something like that. So I think calling more attention to that, the fact that it is really a health crisis that is just as dangerous and led to the bad effects of our current one. Yeah, that can also be one to really just start [unclear 42:19] some change.

David: Yeah. So, I mean, there are two figures really that we should think about. So there are 50 billion tons of CO2 gases going into the atmosphere each year and we should be aiming for zero. The scientists reckon over the last 12 months without anyone flying anywhere or traveling anywhere that we have saved around 5 billion. So that’s 45 million that we’re still producing somewhere, somehow that we have to do something about. Now in terms of exercise, our National Health Service suggests that we should be doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week. But we also know, that well they tell us, that they estimate there’s around 40% of the population that’s doing zero. So again, we have these numbers. Now both numbers are estimates because we just don’t know enough but both climate change and obesity are in the news almost daily and rightly so. And so I come back to my earlier point, climate change gets a [inaudible44:19] more publicity and it’s attracted, politicians. Apple has now said, for example, the largest company in the world has said by 2030, it will be net-zero. And it’s made a promise to do that. You can watch the video on YouTube. But it’s also said, “Oh, if you’re one of our suppliers, you have to make the same promise.” Exactly. Now, what if Apple then also said, okay, through Fitness Plus, we’re going to encourage all our employees and we’re going to encourage all the employees of our suppliers and the millions of people around the world that have this to do more activity in and out of the home and gym. So they’re going to encourage us to close our rings. What if all the major ecosystems started doing that? What if new organizations started to do that? And people like the World Health Organization and the United Nations, as I’ve already mentioned, the UN are already doing something on climate change, what if they were forced to do something on obesity?

Alex: Yeah, yeah. We shall see if we can ever get something like that off the ground. Yeah.

David: Yeah.

Will The Fitness Industry Go Back to Its Golden Age Territory?

Alex: Okay. And starting to turn towards one of the last topics that I think it would be really valuable to get your insight on, it’s about customer trends and industry outlook. I know this quote follows you around quite a bit. It’s a good quote for good reason. You know where I’m going with this. Yeah, you’ve described our industry pre-COVID as being in a golden age and so the golden age meant that we had the highest penetration rates yet. The highest member counts yet. There was rapid tech improvement. And then of course, yeah, it’s hard to think of a darker period than the last 13 months. In your opinion, or based on the data that you guys are collecting, how soon do you think that the fitness industry would be back in this golden age territory? Or subsequently, do you think we left it?

David: Two years.

Alex: Okay.

David: So without a shadow of a doubt, it will come back and I actually think it will come back stronger because I think there will be a greater emphasis on self-care. So I think this new era of lifestyle where values are placed on personal care, family, wider community spirit, I think that that will start to penetrate all the way through society. And again, I hate to keep mentioning my mother but she willingly had a tracker so that she could monitor the activity. Now, obviously, she was doing so little compared to others, but you can reset those things so that you could just monitor it so that you just do a little bit more than you did yesterday. That’s the starting point for so many people, almost 40% of the population. So I think a greater emphasis on self-care. The industry needs to work out how it starts with those people and whether it starts actually outside the four walls. So I think that there’s also going to be a growing focus on non-exercise activity. These thermogenic where small daily changes make a difference. Again, once people understand that, I think that will be really good.

And then there are the playful new initiatives that are motivating self-care with unconventional activities like planting trees. Well, that does two things, doesn’t it? So you’re doing the carbon offsetting and local gamification apps like Street Tag are encouraging multi-generational neighborhood camaraderie. So volunteering to care for the environment could be seen as an altruistic way to burn calories. How wonderful is that? And I’m now encouraging any fitness site that has actually got outdoor space and there are lots of public sector sites that have to set aside space for a garden and grow your own. So I think that we’re going to have more of the concern about this greater emphasis on self-care. And I think that smart devices will play a role in monitoring this movement and extra activity.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s an interesting one, if I think back to some of the yard work projects I was doing with my father growing up and yeah, the sweat that you would break there, I think that’s a great way to just do both things. You can make the world a better place. You can get more green into the neighborhood and you can be fit doing it. I think that would be a really good community initiative for a lot of operators to consider and start taking up.

David: Yeah.

Verticals in The Industry the Need to Be More Proactive in Response To The Pandemic.

Alex: Yeah. Interesting. Interesting one. And do you think there are any specific verticals that within the industry whether that be boutique or budget that you think need to be more proactive in changing their response to this pandemic?

David: Without a doubt, the budgets should be changing. So budgets have to expand in the industry without a doubt and now it needs to expand the people that it appeals to.

Alex: Okay. And I think too, a big conversation coming into the industry is for future trends and outlook. We were talking about Apple already, so how they can maybe do more social good with Apple Fitness Plus. But how would you say a gym operator can leverage their own data or leverage some of their own initiatives to compete with them, compete with those options coming in that are also fighting for their members at the same time?

Can A Gym Operator Leverage Their Data and Initiatives To Compete With Future Trends?

David: You know I don’t really know is the real answer. So data is all around us. We know that, and we also know that there’s a mounting body of anecdotal evidence from around the country that shows that the pandemic has changed the way we move and exercise. And we also know that there’s the convergence of physical and mental wellbeing has come to the fore and also more local the better. So again, my example of those sites in Scotland, where everyone knows their name. So I would say that we know that there are also been recent studies showing lowering anxiety levels, boosting immunity, exercise should now be viewed as preventative medicine and psychological strength.

Alex: Yeah. I think that could be a good point for us to start ending and those are the kinds of long-term changes that we can look at. And then be more personalized. I like the Cheers comment there. So local pubs in Scotland, it’s like walking into the Cheers Bar. Everyone knows everyone. It’s a happy environment. Huh?

David: Yeah. Yeah.


Alex: Awesome. Okay. Well, David the great question to always ask, as we finish up here, people who are interested in learning more about you, where can they go to find you and learn more about what you guys do as a business?

David: It’s

Alex: Easy enough.

David: Yeah.

Alex: Awesome. David, it has been an absolute pleasure on here. You’re absolutely an industry legend. You have a lot of great insights and a lot of people are always interested to hear those insights, a lot of big publications in that. So very genuinely appreciate you taking the time to join us today. And I hope you had a good conversation as well.

David: Alex, it’s been great fun. Thanks for having me.

Alex: Awesome. All right. Thanks, David. Take care. This has been another episode of Fit Nation Lunch and Learn. We’ll hope you all enjoyed this session and look forward to tune in for the next one.

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7 Ways Personal Trainers Can Increase Client Motivation

A huge part of being a successful personal trainer is being able to increase client motivation. As you can already imagine, motivation is crucial for your clients to shake off inactivity, change their habits, and keep training with you.

But have you ever had trouble finding the inspiration to motivate your clients? We’ve collected some of the best ways to help you increase client motivation.

Tips to Increase Client Motivation

Here’s a list of 7 fitness motivation tips you can use right away.

1. Boost Client Motivation via Social Media

First, and arguably one of the most important ways of motivating clients, is through social media. Studies from the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication confirm that social media plays a significant role in client motivation. As a professional, you are probably already present on social media platforms – so use that to its full potential!

How do personal trainers motivate their clients using social media? From sharing motivational messages, creating online support groups to encouraging clients to post their fitness accomplishments – your opportunities are endless. Because your clients already spend a lot of time on social media, this is the most time-efficient and direct way to increase client motivation.

Related: Quick Facebook Marketing Tips for Personal Trainers

2. Motivate with Fitness Challenges

Another important way of encouraging clients to reach their goals is by creating fitness challenges. Why is this a good way for personal trainers to motivate their clients?  Well, first of all, the addition of a competitive factor can make any workout fun! Second, it creates a structure for your clients to follow.

By dividing goals into small, achievable challenges, reaching a specific target won’t be hard for your clients. The instant gratification from completing a small task has a trickle-down effect by making your clients confident and happy to fulfill their larger fitness goals.

Related: How Gym Challenges Boost Member Retention

3. Use Personal Training Apps

Apps for personal trainers are simple, powerful, and effective solutions to improve client motivation. Technology makes everyday tasks easier and is crucial for personal trainers motivating clients.

An app allows you to stay on top of your clients’ needs and track their progress. Through your app’s features, you can directly communicate with your client and inspire them to achieve their fitness goals!

4. Be Positive and Patient

Another way of keeping clients motivated is by being positive. When communicating with your clients, always keep a positive attitude and a positive way of communicating. Simply having a smile on your face while talking with your clients is also a nice way to boost their self-esteem. Compliment them on the little things to keep their drive alive – it’s a fool-proof personal trainer motivation technique!

When it comes to how do personal trainers motivate their clients, maintaining a positive attitude and focusing on the progress your clients have made instead of the hurdle that still lies ahead is imperative. Make them believe in themselves – it’s cheesy, but it’s true!


How do personal trainers motivate their clients


5. Set Attainable Goals

Help your clients by setting realistic and attainable goals. Otherwise, they’ll soon lose their motivation. Before climbing a mountain, you first have to climb a hill. Helping your clients to formulate their goals is the first step to success.

Make sure their goals are realistic, attainable, and set deadlines for them to achieve said goals. Talk to them about their intentions for getting healthy or in shape, and turn their intentions into measurable milestones. Keep measuring their progress, and make sure to show it to them as often as possible, to remind them their efforts are paying off.

Personal trainers motivating clients is a two-way process and you have to meet your clients in the middle to consolidate your goals for them, with their goals for themselves.

Related Content: The Ideal Personal Trainer Intake Process

6. Set Fitness Rewards

Fitness rewards are like small presents that you can give to your clients after having reached a certain goal. Everyone likes to receive presents, right? This can be as small as a free smoothie, a small badge, or it could even be a free massage (if your club offers those kinds of services).

If your clients reach a milestone within a set deadline, give them a fitness reward. At the same time, don’t forget to reward clients that don’t reach their goals but not for a lack of trying. It can be just as frustrating to put in a lot of effort and miss the mark by an inch!

7. Offer Something New

Lastly, you should always switch up your offering. One of the reasons people are unmotivated to go to the gym is because it can be… well, boring. It isn’t what personal trainers want to hear with motivating clients but it’s the reality.

Most people aren’t in as good a shape as you, and going to the gym can be a challenge in and of itself. And, once they’re there, they may not feel the same urge you do to work out. The last thing you want is for your clients to feel bored. If you notice boredom creeping in, try mixing up their fitness routine.

If a client has been doing one-on-one training, organize some small group training or try pairing up clients and help them find a sport-soulmate who can motivate each other. Variety is one of the best antidotes for exercise boredom.

Key Takeaways

All the tips for how to motivate your personal training clients we’ve discussed above include being mindful of their goals, anticipate challenges, reward them, and maintain positive communication throughout the process.

These are cornerstones of success for any good personal trainer. Introducing these ideas to your training programs (if you haven’t already!) will make it easier to keep your clients motivated throughout their health journey.

Motivation is something your clients have to build up every time and every day they go to the gym. Some days they will succeed – and some days, they may not. There will always be ups and downs, and you might feel like for each step forward you take with them, you also take two steps back when they fall off the wagon.

But lucky for them, you’ll always be at their side, helping them overcome their challenges and celebrating each success. All things said, it’s a pretty awesome job, isn’t it?

Keep Cultivating Your Remote Fitness Community With The Help of Tech

Following the global pandemic and subsequent closure of gyms, we’ve seen a soar in popularity for online workouts as businesses and self-employed fitness instructors go remote. According to the World Economic Forum, fitness app downloads grew by nearly 50% during the first half of 2020, and there are no signs of slowing.

However, with spring approaching and outdoor workouts back in the mix, how can tech still be of value? And how can you meet your clients in the middle?

Whether you are a gym owner or fitness instructor, here’s our how-to on using tech to grow your fitness business.

Flexible Training

Getting outdoors is a brilliant way to train, but the benefit of technology is the ability to train anytime, anywhere- making your business accessible to clients 24/7.

Not only can utilizing tech create a new stream of revenue, but it also allows you to add value to your services. Offering both pre-recorded and live workouts lets you connect digitally with members and create an online community, which helps increase motivation and engagement.

Members can also complete these workouts outside in the warmer months, bringing both the outdoors and online forum together in one place. Outdoor fitness has become popular with many businesses.

One gym utilizing the online platform is Anytime Fitness, which offers tailored plans and regular check-ins for members. They also provide their clients with nutritional advice, recipes, well-being tips, and on-demand workouts.

Members not only benefit from in-person training when the gyms are open but they also have a range of available add-on services needed regardless of whether their gym is open or closed.

Add a Gym Management Software to the Mix

Adding gym management software to the mix to bring all your fitness and well-being needs together can be a one-stop easy way to attract and retain clients.

One humble gym increasing its membership engagement and revenue is The Training Club. They’ve given members access to PRO+, Virtuagym’s personalized digital membership app.

The software combines online training with challenges, wellness tips, and meditation to deliver a complete-package experience to members – all powered and managed by Virtuagym.

Read more: Five Clients Share How Virtuagym Software Helped During the Pandemic

If you already have your packages in place, software apps can also be a fantastic upselling tool for more varied and flexible training, in addition to in-facility exercises.

Read how one of our clients, San Diego-based Pacific Beach Training, digitized their neighborhood gym during the pandemic in order to take back control and add value for their members.

Read their story

Increase the Value of Your Subscription

Going the extra mile and bringing something different into your offering can help you to tap into a more niche market and diversify. Nutrition tracking, for example, is a great way to add value to memberships.

Offering nutrition tracking and advice to your clients makes them feel that they’re getting more bang for their buck, which can ultimately help grow your business!

However, customizing nutrition plans for clients can be time-consuming, especially for personal trainers. Virtuagym nutrition coaching software allows for bespoke customization of meal plans for clients within the software itself, derived from an existing in-app database.

The software also lets you have your own branded app in which you can share diet plans directly with your clients or allow them to personalize plans themselves, according to their goals.

The Virtuagym nutrition software for gyms allows you to add food diaries, recipes, and ingredients, which completely tailors the experience.

Creating a Community Hub

We all know the benefits of exercising, but it can be hard to quantify the emotional and social benefits derived from making connections with fellow gym-goers. Such interactions help us stay motivated to exercise and keep us looking forward to going to the gym.

So, how can building a community increase member motivation and help grow your business?

Creating a community hub for your members can be a great way to increase engagement and socialization – a key motivator for people to exercise. Firstly, consider offering community access as premium content to your existing packages; this not only adds value but can diversify your revenue stream.

Ensure you regularly update your content and consider Q&A’s, organizing guest talks, and sharing conversation-starters to get people chatting and connecting.

Setting up a YouTube or Instagram account a great way to livestream or load pre-recorded workouts. By housing your content in one place, you can cross-post to your other social media channels.

Encouraging people to share, download, and comment on your videos can increase engagement and get people talking!

Going One-to-One

Whether you own a gym or are a self-employed personal trainer, offering digital one-to-one sessions, as well as small group sessions, is the way to go.

While this might seem obvious, organizing one-to-one programs is a time-consuming task, which is what hinders most gym owners from doing it.

Employing a more personalized approach to remote training can help you build a premium training package for your clients and encourage new business.

One-to-one training increases connection with both new-to-exercise members (who may require more attention) and clients who are looking to up-the-ante on their existing training. There’s something for everyone to gain when it comes to personalized, one-to-one training!

As we know, personal training sessions involve consultation and deep-dive analysis into goals and current fitness abilities – all eyes are on the client.

By offering a unique and personal experience, clients are more likely to hit their goals and see the added value of one-to-one training. Remote client coaching allows you to still regularly check-in with your clients, share tips, receive and send videos, monitor progress, and adapt programming – regardless of geography.

This lull in the fitness industry is an opportune moment to utilize software by inputting your clients’ programs and providing them with comprehensive nutrition plans they can receive and customize online.

Move it Outdoors

For very good reasons, people are still a little wary of the idea of returning to the gym, so why not take it outside? Offering socially distanced outdoor training helps people to feel safer and springtime is perfect timing for taking things outside!

This approach builds community and gets people back outdoors while keeping your business operating.

According to research conducted by RunRepeat, outdoor training is set to become a 2021 trend, so it’s a great time to build these sessions into your packages.

You can then film and share these sessions online to help build your brand.

All set? Next, learn how to promote your classes and workouts.

5 Ways To Inspire Your Remote Workforce Through Fitness and Wellness

As more and more of the workforce transitions to online or remote work, employers have begun to grapple with the challenges of keeping their remote workers engaged, productive, and happy.

Wellness in the corporate arena has been a hot topic for some time now, as we know that a positive workplace culture that stresses the overall health and wellbeing of their employees translates to productive team members.

With so many corporate wellness programs having been implemented with on-site workers in mind, the remote workforce is coming up short when they are unable to access these benefits. The true challenge is how to transition these programs with the remote worker in mind.

Providing a healthy workplace environment now means stepping into the home of your remote workforce and educating them on remote working best practices. It is the responsibility of the employers to make sure your team members are finding a good work-life balance and not overworking themselves in an attempt to simply get more done, as this increases the risk of burnout and is probably going to do more harm than good for your company in the long run.

A focus on fitness is a great way to keep your employees healthy both physically and mentally – and, ultimately, engaged. Corporate wellness and fitness practice initiatives for the remote worker should be a priority as it leads to a happier overall workforce and it can keep health-related absences to a minimum. Luckily, there are a few great strategies to truly inspire your employees who are working from home to focus on their own health and wellbeing.

Promote Nutrition

Simple daily healthy routines are one of the easiest ways to put a focus on the health of your remote workers. Help them set aside time in the workday to eat whole, healthful meals- preferably away from the computer or their workspace if possible.

Encourage them to stay hydrated and always have their water bottle on hand and filled to make sure they’re getting enough each day.

Motivate your team to give meal prepping a try and have them share their meal prep options with one another. Send out a list of healthy pantry staples or easy healthy snack options and ask your remote workers to add their favorites to the list as well.

You might also think about hosting a webinar with a dietician or a virtual cooking demonstration. Incorporating good nutrition into the workday can help keep your remote workers energized and mentally focused.

Read more: 5 Ways Technology Makes Nutrition Coaching Easier

Encourage Movement

Motivate your remote employees to get moving! We all know how easy it can be to sit down at the computer and not get up for hours. This is your chance to remind your remote workers that it is okay not to always be at their workspace! Send out tips for staying active during the workday –  setting an alarm for every 20-30 minutes to get up and walk around or stretch, making time in the morning or during their lunch hour for a gym session, or just taking some time each day to go outside.

Fitness is also an area where you can encourage some extra camaraderie between your remote workers that will help bring them together and keep them engaged. Set aside time in the workday to complete a virtual workout together – anything from a HIIT session to yoga, meditation, or something else entirely. Another effective strategy for bumping up remote employee interaction and team bonding is a challenge!

You can foster a bit of healthy competition with a company-wide or a small team challenge. The options are endless- a step challenge, distance covered challenge, meal prep challenge, weight loss challenge (only if this makes sense for your employees), and so on.

Make the focus on fitness something interesting and entertaining and you can easily build up a health-focused culture among your remote workers.

Give Options for Stress Relief

Maintaining mental and emotional wellness is just as important as physical exercise. Your remote employees need to be able to cope with and handle the stressors of the job while working from home.

To help your employees with stress-relief you can motivate them to take the time to socialize with one another, either over Zoom calls or virtual coffee or lunch dates.

Yoga and meditation are both excellent stress relievers as well, and you can encourage your employees to take time alone for these practices or schedule time into the workday where everyone collectively practices. Not only will your employees be more equipped to handle the stress of the workday, but they’ll return from their yoga or meditation session with a clear head and better focus that will enable better time management amongst your workforce.

Corporate Wellness Gifts

This is where you can really get creative, plus everyone likes free swag! Build up a culture of health and wellness by handing out corporate gifts with those ideals in mind.

A company-branded water bottle, yoga mat, candles and incense, jump rope, meal prep containers, mini exercise bands, sweat towel, or even wrist or ankle weights all make great wellness gifts.

You get the double bonus of adding to your company branding while also meeting the goal of engaging and encouraging employees to stay active.

Corporate Health Program Software

Last but not least an all-in-one corporate health software gives you all the tools you need to foster a healthy lifestyle among your remote workers. Research shows that corporate wellness programs can reduce healthcare costs by as much as 16% over 5 years. With an online coaching tool, you can easily motivate employees and monitor results in real-time.

Your corporate health system can also be a great added value to your existing health plan. A survey by The Harvard Business Review revealed that employers who invested in health and wellness strategies for their employees saw a nearly 6-to-1 ROI.

As more and more of the workforce transitions to remote work, employee health and wellness are more important than ever, and the tried and true on-site wellness initiatives aren’t cutting it anymore.

Employers now need to prioritize remote employee fitness and healthy lifestyles to keep these team members healthy, engaged, productive, and happy.

Discover our Corporate Health Software

This Is How You Can Provide a Great Digital Fitness Experience for Your Club

‘Digital experiences’ are the new buzzword of the fitness world. If your gym, club, or studio can only operate in real-life then you may start to feel left behind as the new wave of virtual fitness washes over the industry.

The key to engage and retain members, while exploring new opportunities to increase revenue and maintain relevance during the pandemic and beyond, is to embrace the idea of digital experiences.

This article will outline the best ways you can bring a holistic wellness experience to your members through their phones, computers, or tablets. We have been working hard on having new features to help you tailor your digital offering and get ready for the reopening. And this is why.

Why Is a Digital Fitness Experience So Important?

As we’re sure you already know, the experience that your members have inside your gym is crucial. A positive experience can make or break the success of your company.

A motivational and encouraging member’s experience can be created through a strong sense of community, a great setting, or excellent staff on-hand for assistance. Of course, during the current climate, these factors all become a lot more difficult to provide.

That’s why moving towards creating a digital fitness experience for gym members is the best way to ensure exponential growth for your business by engaging members from afar and providing them with the best service possible at a distance. Remember what people are able to do at home, be mindful of their environment.

Think of a digital fitness experience as similar to your real-life experience for members, only instead it is created using any virtual or digital tools at your disposal.

That could mean a personalized, branded, bespoke fitness app or wearables such as step-trackers and GPS running watches. There are multiple ways you can now reach out and engage with your community: read this article to learn more on how to promote your digital offering to your customers.

Create the Ultimate Digital Fitness Experience

Other popular styles of digital fitness experiences that have seen growing popularity during the current crisis include social media workouts, live-streaming workout videos via a website or app, one-to-one training sessions with personal trainers and coaches from your gym.

Today even sites such as Tik Tok with its one-minute videos are being utilized to keep members and prospective members engaged and moving. Not to mention all the fitness challenges that are quickly turning Tik Tok into ‘Fit Tok’.

If you’re wondering where to start with your digital fitness experience offering, you came to the right place.

1. Ensure You Have the Right Software in Place

When it comes to creating the best possible digital fitness experience, having the right software is absolutely essential. Software providers such as Virtuagym offer a complete solution for your members and your business needs.

Not only can software be used for booking, scheduling, and setting up those one-to-one Zoom sessions, Virtuagym also provides members with access to a virtual trainer complete with over 5000 animated exercises via your own personalized branded app.

Using a program such as Virtuagym’s PRO+ feature allows you to combine the real-life experience of training clients and members inside a facility with all of the digital training solutions their members need, such as livestreaming classes, virtual training, nutrition, and workout tracking, and a virtual community to share their results with.

It means that members can continue feeling as though they are a part of the club community and can also support their local gym throughout the difficult period currently faced.

Members continue to pay their club at a discounted rate, and in exchange receive a hybrid wellness solution combining real-life and virtual experiences that cater to all of their health, fitness, and wellness needs. This makes it the greatest digital fitness experience.

2. Grow Your Virtual Community

When it comes to replicating the amazing in-person experiences of your club or studio, maintaining an authentic community feel is paramount. Human 2 Human is the new B2C.

You can use an in-app community feature to do this but you can also do this by checking in with clients and members on a regular basis. Keep clear communication on what your next steps are, set up Q&A sessions to ensure that you help them to stay on track and answer any burning questions.

Consider how you can check in with them weekly or even day-to-day in some cases. Encourage your community to interact with one another. Give them a space to share progress pictures and post updates, or even challenge them with customized workout challenges. Community as a method of motivation is at the heart of a positive fitness experience both on and offline.

3. Personalize the Experience

Creating a bespoke experience is key to making your members feel connected to your gym or club. This will lead to positive word-of-mouth messaging and will ensure that they are more likely to stand by you through difficult times.

According to IHRSA, hyper-personalization was expected to be the new thing in the fitness industry. We might just jump a bit ahead in time with the pandemic that forced us all to rethink our business and go digital.

You could create a personal experience by offering one-to-ones and providing unique nutrition and workout advice based on your client or member’s needs and requirements.

You could also try prescribing them specific livestreaming classes that are tailored to their needs. If you have a client that is looking to lose weight, incorporate 3 weekly live-streaming HIIT classes into their workout plans. If you have a client with injuries, try incorporating more gentle restorative stretching sessions.

Show that you care about your members on a personal level and they’ll stand by you in the long-run. When gyms reopen you should be ready to provide a combination of real-life and digital experiences that make a difference to your members. Don’t stop creating experiences and habits that are lifelong for your customers. Use Virtuagym to make sure that you are best equipped to return to normalcy.

4. Adapt to New Policies

Finally, the best way to create a stand-out digital fitness experience is to combine it with an offline one. While this may not be possible right now in your area, it will be soon. You can check out the Virtuagym heat map, which gives details of gym reopening plans across Europe and the US. Unlike most software companies that attempt to provide you with the tools you need to create a positive digital experience for your members, Virtuagym is working to prepare clubs for the future. 

Virtuagym can prepare you for the transition to post-pandemic life by providing you with check-in software that helps you control access to the gym. Consider the fact that part of your reopening strategy will include new measures to comply with social distancing requirements.

Real-time attendance tracking will help you know who is in your gym and what is your capacity to host more people. You can reduce or space out the equipment in your gym, but you want to make sure you respect the limit of the number of people working out at one time.

Having this kind of tracking in place helps you managing class schedules as well. Even if you think about starting outdoor group classes you have to set a limit to comply with the current policies. By using Virtuagym online features, clients can easily book their spot in your class and you don’t need to worry about capacity anymore.

How to Promote Holistic Health Practices Amid the Lockdown

When we think of our health, we often think of our physical well-being and tend to neglect the other, equally important type of well-being: our mental and social health.

But, what is holistic health? The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

In short, holistic health is how we care for the whole person.

Therefore, for someone to maintain good health, all aspects of well-being should be addressed.

Why Is Holistic Health More Important Than Ever?

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a rise in mental health disorders, from depression to anxiety and stress. As a result, people are moving less and overthinking more.

Over the last year, we have seen the closure of gyms and studios around the world. The good news, however, is that the fitness industry has adapted!

We’ve seen many gym and studio owners take their businesses online, allowing members a sanctuary amid the uncertain.

Taking your classes online is one way to get your business moving. However, providing a more holistic service can not only transform your members’ health but is also an opportunity for your business to grow.

If you’re wondering how to get started, we look below at some of the ways your business can embrace technology and provide a well-rounded service to its members.

Step 1: Build Your Community

Building a sense of community and inclusion can help to bring the social aspect of the gym to your members’ homes, improving mental well-being.

Building a sense of community and inclusion can help to bring the social aspect of the gym to your members’ homes, thus improving mental well-being.

1. Digitize Your Club’s Offerings

Finding the motivation to work out at home can be hard, but feeling connected can help gym members stay engaged and fit throughout the pandemic.

Utilizing technology such as tailor-made gym software means you can host workouts live! This creates interaction, with members able to leave comments, ask questions, and see one another.

Plus, the endorphin rush from exercise will boost mood and energy! Win-win.

2. Make It Social

This is a no-brainer: encourage members to get involved – and give them the platform to do so!

Utilize a custom app for your health club to set tasks, challenges, or competitions. Make it easy for people to join in on the conversation via community boards or even Zoom, your website, and your social media channels.

3. Be consistent

Whatever you do, do it consistently so your members will know what type of quality service they can expect from you. For example, adding a ‘Monday Motivation’ challenge or ‘Friday Funday’ challenge can be a nice touch, and is a fuss-free way to keep to a member-engagement cadence.

This is a great way to encourage customer loyalty and build motivation.

Group tasks are another great way to build a sense of community. For example, setting a group step goal for the week, and asking members to submit their daily step count on leaderboards in the app.

4. Add an Online Members Area

Building a member’s area via your social media channels or club’s very own platform can provide a sense of digital community.
People can chat, interact with each other, and ask questions.

You can also post top tips, inspiration, and daily visuals to get people talking. When your facility opens up to its full capacity again, you’ll have a strong-knit community that is familiar with one another – pandemic who?

5. Do Q&As

Many gyms and studios are now offering online seminars and webinars around a variety of topics, such as mental health awareness, nutrition, and holistic wellness.

This presents a great opportunity to use your collective voice! Q&As bridge the gap between the knowledge your business holds and benefitting your members.

Here’s a suggestion: Utilize technology! Create a topic of the week, with guest speakers, and hold a live wellness talk – maybe even on a lazy Sunday morning when people are lazing around at home, to promote ‘kicking off your week right.’

Step 2: Scale and Diversify

If your members feel like they’re getting the added value of holistic health through your efforts, they’re more likely to stick with you. Meaning, your business will grow.

Now it’s time to think about scalability and diversifying your offerings to introduce additional revenue streams.

1. Get Tech Savvy

Smart health professionals are hopping on the app bandwagon because they realize this is key to reaching members. Don’t get left behind in your holistic wellness offering. In fact, some of the most successful health apps are Headspace and Calm – not Muscle Sweatmaster 3000.

This is where it all comes together! You can hold your community.

Increasingly, technology is becoming a fundamental way to bridge the gap between studios and gyms, and its members. It also provides a digital venue for all of your services.

Not only can you hold classes, seminars, Q&As, live workouts, and competitions here, you can record them too. This means you can post them to your website, members area, and social channels to promote your services.

Use these spaces to interact with members – top tips, daily motivation, workout of the day, for example. Be creative!

2. Try A Holistic Health App

Many studios, gyms, and personal trainers are now offering access to holistic health services to their members. Consider how you too can app up.

Virtuagym has its own holistic wellness gym software, MINDVIBE. Whether members are looking to build muscle, drink more water, or improve sleep, fitness tech can help everyone.

With MINDVIBE, you can track daily fitness activities and body metrics, watch exercise demonstrations, and check class schedules, as well as find tips on nutrition and wellness.

Offering physical and mental well-being services in one app is a fantastic way to diversify and add value.

3. Mix Up Your Wellness Offerings

Yoga and meditation are great ways to add variety while addressing mental wellness.

Meditation allows us to check-in with our bodies and take ourselves down from our ‘fight-or-flight’ mode; that is, our body’s response to stress. It is proven to reduce anxiety, mood swings, and symptoms of depression.

Yoga is a powerful tool for mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, and helps to reduce symptoms of depression, low mood, and anxiety.

Consider adding slower-paced classes, such as yin yoga, into the mix!

Lastly, remember to take a breather. Running a health business has been a challenge, but as you strive to provide better wellness services, remember to take a moment for yourself too!

As we wait for normal life to resume, this is a great opportunity for the industry to take hold of the reigns on holistic health; helping us to look inwardly, before we can get back outside.

Ultimate Guide For a Successful Outdoor Boot Camp Workout

Bootcamp-style outdoor workouts have been around for quite some time now, but they are currently seeing a surge in popularity as one more of the many side effects the coronavirus pandemic is forcing on the fitness industry.

By now you know that gyms and studios had to quickly pivot their business models in 2020, and many went online and began streaming workouts that clients could do right in their own homes.

But outdoor workouts were also a key option, and this year, you should further explore this avenue (if you haven’t done so already).

Did you know that 72% of gym members will work out outside in 2021? According to a survey by RunRepeat, the majority of gym members say they will achieve their fitness goals in 2021 by running and other outdoor activities.

This innovation worked for some, but many club members found themselves missing the in-person motivation and social aspect that group fitness classes provide.

We know that group workouts are one of the biggest attractions of health clubs and gyms, so it is essential to be able to provide members (and potential members) with a similar – and safer – option.

An Outdoor Bootcamp Is What You Need

With the fitness industry in its current disoriented state, club owners know that things won’t return to normal any time soon, and it may never return to ‘normal’ as we used to know it.

So, what should you do if home workouts and streaming classes just aren’t cutting it for your clients?

Outdoor classes are definitely going to be the answer for many club members who are not enjoying at-home or online workouts.

You can offer them the same health benefits of in-person classes, with a much lower risk of spreading unnecessary germs.

Outdoor boot camp workouts are especially helpful if your gym or studio has not been cleared to re-open, and you haven’t been able to resume in-person group classes or are facing more potential lockdowns.

You can ease the risk of losing members by providing them with an outdoor boot camp option.

How to Start an Outdoor Bootcamp

Outdoor boot camp workouts could be a welcome revenue stream if your gym or club is facing more potential lockdowns.

For members who are truly missing their on-site studio classes, they can regain a bit of the social aspect of their in-person classes and continue to reap the physical and emotional benefits that regular exercise provides – not to mention the advantages that fresh air and vitamin D can have on the immune system.

The addition of outdoor workouts will allow clients and members to exercise outside of their own homes and move beyond the online streaming workouts.

Read our 4 tips to boost your outdoor boot camp below.

Find Your Focus

Outdoor fitness boot camps are typically full-body workouts with a focus on both strength and cardio endurance.

Oftentimes, outdoor boot camp classes involve interval or circuit training with an aim for high calories burned while performing total body training moves with little to no equipment.

That being said, outdoor classes do not need to always follow this formula, and you can attract a wide variety of clientele depending on how you plan to focus the workout.

Clients love outdoor boot camp classes because they are challenging (though should be able to scale to fit various fitness levels), the workouts change from class to class, and they allow for a little friendly competition amongst participants.

No matter the location, space is important as many classes will involve some drills and sprints which require ample room to move around.

The benefits are varied and of course include improved fitness and strength, the mental and emotional benefits of a challenging workout, and a sense of motivation thanks to working out alongside friends and other club members.

One study even found that 95% of those who started a weight-loss program with friends completed the program. It is not a huge leap to assume that exercising and training with a group of friends can elicit these benefits as well.

Finally, for small studios, these types of workouts allow the opportunity to offer a great workout without any specialized equipment.

Location: Are Outdoor Fitness Classes Safe During the Pandemic?

Similar to dining outdoors, health experts have concluded that workout classes outdoors are in fact safer than their indoor counterparts.

Between better airflow and ventilation along with the added bonus of adequate social distancing, outdoor classes reduce the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19.

By moving classes outdoors gyms and clubs can provide a higher level of safety for their clients as well as being able to work around city regulations that frown upon indoor fitness classes.

As a club owner, the focus should be on maintaining physical distance, and 6 feet (1.5 meters) should be the bare minimum, especially if the class is going to be a particularly challenging one where clients will be sweating and breathing heavily.

Consider marking off space before class starts so participants know exactly where to set up, and everyone can respect others’ space. Even so, the smaller the outdoor class is, the better.

Secondly, participants should be encouraged to bring their own mats, resistance bands, hand weights, sweat towels, etc.

If required, mask-wearing should be enforced both before and after class. Class instructors should refrain from correcting clients with hands-on adjustments and instead rely on verbal cues to demonstrate form corrections.

Outdoor classes are going to be the best choice for members who want in-person instruction as well as participant camaraderie as COVID-19 continues to force big changes within the fitness industry.

Outdoor Workouts: Equipment or No Equipment?

A great boot camp workout can be written with simple bodyweight exercises, cardio, and calisthenics.

Since outdoor boot camp classes do not typically need to employ a ton of equipment to get in a great workout, there won’t need to be a huge shift in the way classes are set-up.

Are you unsure about how to set up a boot camp? Classes might involve jump ropes, tires, cones, resistance bands, wrist or ankle weights, agility ladders, or even kettlebells and medicine balls.

If extra hardware does need to be used for whatever reason, you should be able to provide enough equipment for each member of the class, so no sharing of equipment during class is involved.

Make sure to choose props that can be easily sanitized both before and after class concludes. If you have a core group of participants, you might also want to ask them to bring their own equipment to use during class.

At the end of the day, the decision to use equipment or not is entirely up to each club and class instructor. Equipment can be safely incorporated but aren’t particularly necessary.

Promote Your Bootcamp Exercise Ideas

Now the question is, how do I promote my boot camp?

If you want to know how to run a successful fitness boot camp, you have to prepare your marketing strategy in advance.

Get people excited about your new outdoor class!

Social media and email marketing campaigns can boost your workout attendance and increase the engagement with your members; try different channels to make sure you reach your target audience.

If you don’t have a strong social media presence yet, it’s about time you start working on your branding and online presence. Have a look at our how-to article to start planning a social media strategy from scratch.

Once you have published a few posts and stories promoting the boot camp initiative, let your members know about the details of your new outdoor activities. Send them an email with useful information such as your COVID-19 safety measures, participation requirements, time, locations, equipment needed.

Using a branded app like Virtuagym’s to ease the process; you can enable COVID-19 triage questions, booking, program planning to ensure the boot camp is a safe and worthy experience for everyone.

How to encourage your clients to do Box workouts at home

Whether they’re working out at home or in the gym, it’s more important than ever that fitness professionals keep their clients training. As we’re sure you already know, keeping members engaged and motivated isn’t always easy – especially recently, and especially for professionals working in the Box space.

After all, so much of Box’s appeal rests on the community spirit that you foster in your facility and the heavy weights that members access inside your club. 

But before you start thinking this is going to be harder than your first MU, take a second to stop, read this blog post and learn more about how to inspire your Box clients to work out from home with the same energy they bring to your facility. In the long-term this will lead to loyal clients, a steady stream of revenue and an engaged community that brings in even more members. 

How to do Box workouts at home

Step one is figuring out how to get your clients to keep up their regular WODs at home. That means providing them with the right resources to carry out their usual workouts. 

You’ve got a few options here. Of course, certain workouts (such as those involving Olympic weightlifting) might understandably be a little more tricky to recreate outside of the facility. However, the beauty of Box is that there are so many exercises that can be done at home. Start with these workouts. Build your own home programmes for clients.

You can write these on the board as you would usually and take photos of it to share with your community. Keeping them engaged digitally is crucial here. Whether you post regularly on your Box’s WhatsApp group or motivate them via a video live streaming session at the same time as their usual Box class, use technology as your tool to keep clients engaged. 

How to create a Box plan without equipment

Working with a software provider like Virtuagym can also help with this. You have the capacity to create your own in-app workouts that can be assigned to your clients. The app moves through the workout exercise-by-exercise and pauses and breaks can be altered to suit your needs. Plus you can schedule live streaming sessions directly through the app. 

You can also communicate with clients via the app, enabling you to check in on their progress and make sure that everyone is keeping up. Ultimately, it comes down to using your expertise and imagination to create bodyweight workouts that will make your members as sore as their favourite weight lifting class. 

How to keep clients engaged with your Box studio

Now you’ve taken your first step towards ensuring your members can work out at home.

In this section we’ll take you through the ways you can level-up their workouts and maintain their interest long-term.

  • Start a fitness challenge 

One of the most fun and rewarding parts of Box is the community spirit – and the competitiveness that comes with it. We’re naturally much more motivated to workout if we feel as though someone else can see how well we are doing. 

Set your members challenges. How many T2B’s can they do? More or less than at the start of lockdown? What does their HSPU look like? Get members to record the progress and upload the evidence online. 

It’s all about staying in touch with members and encouraging them to turn to you to celebrate their successes. You could even implement real-life rewards for winners. Use your app to ensure your members join “Fitness” communities, engage and challenge each other to stay fit and healthy,  and win prizes via Virtuagym- that means no heavy lifting from you. 

  • Take your classes outside 

You could also try taking your classes outside. If you do this in the carpark to your facility or in a nearby open space you could even bring along some heavy equipment – your members will be grateful for this after so long without it! 

  • Rent your equipment out 

If members are really struggling without your facility, you could consider renting out your equipment or loaning it to those that really need it. Take deposits and keep a strict log of who has what. 

With the right equipment and some good weather, your clients will be just as happy embracing Box outside your facility. But they’ll still have that crucial attachment to you and your brand – literally, through your equipment. And even better if your weights and equipment are branded with your company name or logo. 

Alternatively you could set up a webshop in your personalized app that sells members the crucial equipment they need to level-up their home workouts. This could be a great opportunity for upselling and generating additional revenue, plus it gives your members access to excellent equipment too. 

  • Use an app for Box at home 

All in all, it comes down to staying in touch with your members and clients, and connecting with them from afar. Technology is going to be crucial for increasing engagement and participation. In particular, utilizing an app with a coaching feature like Virtuagym, is a sure-fire way to ensure that you’re with your members 24/7. 

What to tell clients that ask “how to stop stress eating during lockdown”

If there’s one thing fitness professionals and their members can both relate to, it’s trying to figure out how to stop stress eating during lockdown. When our fridges are located less than a few metres from our workspaces, it’s no wonder we’re more inclined to snack more throughout the day.

Not to mention the fact that when we’re stressed, nothing seems quite as soothing as that jar of Nutella in the cupboard.

This article will provide the tips that you can pass on to your client (and use yourself) for understanding how to avoid stress eating during social distancing, and what to do instead of emotional eating.

How is eating tied to emotions anyway?

It’ll come as no surprise that eating is tied to emotions – and that there’s a reason you can’t stop stress eating during lockdown. Being in any kind of mood can impact the choices we make when it comes to food.

But in particular, having negative emotions and wanting to reach for fatty, sugary treats seem to go hand-in-hand. Combine this with the boredom of being stuck inside all day and you have a recipe for eating unhealthily.

Why do I eat when I am sad?
Kamil Macniak || Shutterstock

Speaking with The Atlantic, Dr. Leigh Gibson, a psychology professor at the University of Roehampton says it’s all down to evolution. Early humans didn’t worry about eating healthily, they only had to survive into their mid-twenties and reproduce.

“We were just getting energy, protein, the basic nutrients we needed, but we didn’t have to live too long. Healthy eating is a modern, cultural thing that we now need, because we’re living so long… You could almost say the default is comfort eating.”

We often use food as a way to find short-term happiness and suppress any feelings that we don’t enjoy. There’s a reason that we call it comfort food. But the good news is that simply by bringing more awareness to the way that you eat can help you improve your lockdown habits.

How to control stress eating

It’s important to let your client know they should not feel guilty about their eating habits. Comfort eating and stress eating are normal and natural responses – especially at times like this.

But if your client’s new eating style is making them unhappy, exacerbating their stress and derailing their fitness goals then the first step is noticing that behaviour and making the effort to try and adjust it.

Some methods for helping your clients to stop stress eating and enjoy foods that reduce stress and anxiety include these three tips to stop stress eating:

1. Keeping a food diary

When we graze a lot throughout the day, we often don’t truly realise how much we’re consuming. The best way to stay on top of this is by getting your clients to write down everything they put in their mouths.

Make this easier by providing them with a nutrition app like Virtuagym’s food tracking app. It can be branded to your gym or studio and tied to your complete software plan. This will help you track macro and micronutrients and see exactly how many calories you are inputting per day.

2. Encourage them to keep working out

The more your clients are working out and paying attention to their health, the less likely they’ll be to indulge in unhealthy foods. It will keep them out of the lockdown mindset and more focused on their health goals.

Again, this is where a software provider can come in handy. You can provide your clients with a fitness app that gives them access to unlimited workouts via video streaming and a virtual trainer.

You should also try to encourage them to take time out for themselves to relax and destress. This is a stressful time for everyone and it’s more important than ever to invest in ourselves.

Ask them how they unwind – it could be by reading a book, swapping HIIT for a yoga session or even taking a day or two off their health-kick to indulge in a day of Netflix.

3. Get them to ditch the unhealthy stuff

If possible, check-in with them daily to ensure they are staying on track. Offer support and guidance, bespoke advice and links to helpful resources. The best way to avoid eating all of the sweet snacks in the cupboard? Not to have them there in the first place.

Right now we should all just be heading to the supermarket once a week – so tell them to avoid buying any fatty, sugary or over-processed food while they’re there. Encourage them to swap the high-calorie snacks for fruit or veggies, or any other stress relieving foods.

What to do instead of emotional eating

In usual times, the best advice for avoiding emotional eating would be to keep busy and keep moving. Right now, that’s a little harder – but it’s still something we should try and work towards.

Encourage your clients to keep busy. That could be by undertaking art projects, throwing themselves into their work, or setting little reminders to get up and walk around the room. In this way they can keep their minds distracted and focused on things that aren’t stress or binge eating.

What to do to stop stress eating
Pormezz || Shutterstock

If they’re really struggling, encourage them to reach out for you for help whenever they need it. If they have shared that they always tend to snack at about 3pm in the afternoon.

Send a message at 2.45, checking-in and telling them how amazing they are doing. If they’ve already started stress eating? Reassure them that this is completely fine. It happens and it’s nothing to feel shameful about.

Ultimately, when it comes to stress eating during lockdown it’s about showing ourselves a little kindness. Pay attention to your body and the way it feels – if it wants a snack, indulge it.

But really question whether you want it or if your body is screaming out for a distraction from boredom or stress. For more advice on how to cope with the coronavirus, read our FAQs.

Download our free app to track food calories and keep up with meal plans here:

How to deal with the January madness in your fitness studio in 2020

New Year celebrations have come to an end and like clockwork, the January fitness rush begins. Luckily for you and your studio, that means more leads, revenue, and potential for growth. It also means a busier studio and a need to level up your organizational skills. After all, you don’t want to give the wrong first impression to your new members.

While the January spike in gym or fitness studio attendance is very much real, it doesn’t take long before the New Year’s resolutioners give up on their plans to get in shape. If you’re like most fitness studios getting ready for the influx of studio attendees, this means you probably need help with:

  • 1. Generating leads
  • 2. Keeping new members motivated and engaged
  • 3. Retaining current members

When the dust of optimism has settled, it’s important to ensure that your fitness studio has effectively held the interest of new prospective studio members AND not scared off or neglected your current loyal customers.

This article will address these main points so that you and your studio see exponential growth in 2020.

Generate more leads

There are plenty of New Year’s fitness newbies out there in your local area. But how do you convince them to come to your studio, rather than the one five minutes down the road?

#1 Set up a referral program

This is a great way to generate new leads for your fitness studio as it will see your current members doing most of the work for you. According to statistics, word of mouth is the main driving force between 20 – 50% of purchasing decisions.

men in gym working out together weight lifting blue shirts

Set up incentives for current members and for newbies – especially when they join in January.

Setting up a referral program is your cheapest marketing channel so be sure to utilize it.

#2 Upgrade your social media strategy using video

Ensuring that you have a strong and active social media presence over the winter period is a great way to attract new members that may have started researching potential studios online.

Good social media practice that you should already be following include:

  • Posting frequently
  • Engaging with others in your local area and your fitness niche
  • Creating minimum-effort, high-impact copy – this should be either funny, informational or emotive

If you have no time to produce your own content (it is January after all), simply resharing content posted by others is sufficient.

Fitness community for Facebook - Virtuagym

But you should remember when it comes to content, video is 50 times more likely to drive organic search results than plain text.

That means that using video to generate more leads will double your digital efforts.

This can be tricky to get right. To see a brand that is effectively doing this, check out gym chain Jetts. They upload videos taken within their fitness studio to Instagram, demonstrating exactly how to do an exercise and detailing the move in the caption too. This encourages followers to comment and ask questions. They position themselves as an authority in their niche and provide additional value to their members and prospective members.

#3 Make sure your website and app are running smoothly

To make sure that your studio stands out, you should have a visible, easy-to-find branded website.

Your website should have:

  • Strong visuals of (or relating to) your studio
  • A branded domain
  • Great SEO making it easy for members to find

Ring hands typing laptop woman website phone marble case pencils

In addition to a website, you should also have a branded app to ensure that the onboarding process is as easy as possible.

An app like Virtuagym can be used to manage, coach and track your member’s activities.

Keep your new members engaged

So you’ve bagged yourself a whole host of new members, now you just have to make sure they don’t give up too easily.

By creating a positive environment in your studio and fostering a sense of community amongst your members you can make sure that new members stick around.

#1 Develop a community spirit

There are a number of ways that you can develop the community of your fitness studio and ensure that it encourages members to stick around. But the most important is creating strong relationships between members and staff as well as amongst members.

Train staff to be inclusive and look out for newbies. Make sure that they feel encouraged and are not left behind.

Utilize activities such as a competition or training program that will bring members together and form friendships. Studio members that make friends with fellow members are much more likely to keep coming back – and in turn, keep buying into you and your business.

women laughing in a gym

You should also make sure that your members remain engaged when they leave the studio. An ideal way to do this is to develop an online community via social media or on an app. Doing this will encourage members to post fitness updates and developments and create a buzz and conversation around your studio.

Tip: City Fitness uses the Virtuagym Touch in their facilities to inspire, coach and engage their members. The Virtuagym Touch is a new software solution that allows operators to turn any screen into an in-gym service kiosk or digital training station.

#2 Host an event in your fitness studio

Hold an event, encouraging all new members to come along – and old ones too. This will create a more sociable atmosphere in your club and lead to more loyalty amongst members. You could host a day of free classes, drinks or invite guest speakers.

Think outside the box when it comes to creating an event that is unique to you and your studio.

One great example is the immersive events ran by the Ministry of Fitness. They pair up with coaches that are popular with the Instagram crowds and put on events alongside brand partners in the health and wellness industry. The events offer so much more than a simple workout. Participants can get hair braiding, goody bags and enjoy influencer talks and interactions.

ministry of fitness screenshot website

#3 Don’t ghost your members

Nobody likes being ghosted. Communicating with members isn’t only crucial while you are inside the studio itself, but also after members go home.

Communicating with them via an online app will make sure that they stay in touch with the studio and remain committed to their workout goals.

You can answer any of their questions and they can share progress and discover more about the community at your studio.

Use emails, phone calls as well as push notifications to contact your members. All of this can be done using a software management system. Set up email flows that get in touch with your members after a certain amount of missed sessions.

Retain your current gym members

Finally, you should ensure current members feel appreciated, despite the January influx. If you focus all your efforts on new members, your most loyal and high-value customers may end up feeling left behind.

Personal trainer coach client in the gym with Virtuagym

#1 Provide additional resources off-site

January is a busy time for any fitness studio. This can be annoying for long-term fitness lovers that feel they are left competing for space in classes or a busy studio. To make sure that these members can still gain value from their membership with you, make sure that they have resources available to them when they are working out off-site too.

Develop home-workout plans, nutrition plans or use an app like Virtuagym to do it for you.

The more advantages your studio provides them with outside of their designated studio-time, the more likely they are to stay with you for the long-run.

#2 Consider adding new classes

New studio classes in the first month of the year are another effective way of keeping older members happy.

Talk to your members and find out exactly what they think would benefit them. Question them on their needs in your digital community space or approach members in the studio and find out first-hand.

yoga class woman working out fitness exercise

If you deliver the classes your members have been hoping for, this makes them feel heard and valued. Ultimately, this will result in them feeling part of the studio community and reluctant to move elsewhere for their fitness needs.

#3 Hold a fitness challenge

Every fitness fan loves a fitness-themed challenge. Make the most out of this and implement a winter training challenge in your studio.

Choose a time frame, such as ten to twelve weeks. Create a specific goal and develop a training and/or nutrition plan to set out for your members.

The challenge could be anything from learning to do the splits or losing weight, to gaining a set amount of muscle.

Three women doing yoga gymnastics

Track the results of this and encourage participants to share their progress in your digital community. You could also offer a prize incentive for the winner of the challenge – or gifts (such as a protein shaker or tote bag) for all of those that stayed on track throughout the full course of the challenge.

Follow the steps above and we are confident that you will generate new leads, engage members AND keep all of your current members happy. With these tips, 2020 could be a year of huge growth for your fitness studio.