May 2, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
How can gym owners, fitness coaches and fitness leaders ensure they don’t become redundant when so much information and technology is now available to gym members?
Fitness coaches and leaders are facing new challenges in the changing landscape of the fitness industry. With technology ever improving and the opportunities for members to learn and take charge of their individual fitness goals increasing, they have been forced to adapt their services to provide something fresh, engaging and more valuable to their clients.
The 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report revealed that the fitness industry continues to grow, and now at least 1 in 7 people in the UK are gym members. This growth means fitness coaches have even more potential customers to whom they can market their services. However, the expectation of what a fitness coach should offer has also shifted, and customers who choose to employ their services expect tailored fitness packages that can do something over and above what now can be delivered through an app, wearable technology or even the gym equipment itself.
So how do gym owners guide their fitness coaches and leaders to find their place in this new era?
Previously a fitness coach may have discussed a client’s individual fitness goals, and then developed a workout programme that, if followed, should enable them to reach their targets. In recent times, a different approach is beginning to emerge whereby coaches instead encourage learning through experience. Their position now is rather to inspire members to take a vested interested in their fitness, to improve upon their knowledge, and, ultimately take charge of their workouts. This calls for a more fluid attitude to working out, with the individual modifying and developing their exercises as they become fitter, meet and surpass their original goals and set new ones.
Fitness leaders also have added pressure to increase their knowledge and understanding of fitness in addition to related subjects such as health, sports injuries, nutrition and so on for them to continue to remain valuable to clients. Without such expertise, members, who now have so much health and fitness information now available to them at the click of a button, may not see the benefit in hiring a fitness trainer in the first place.
More knowledgeable clientele further supports the idea that fitness coaches and leaders should use their (inevitably limited) knowledge to promote self-teaching. Doing so would enable them to become part of a cycle that continually encourages people to develop an interest in and understanding of their own fitness and health goals, passing on their wisdom, and then moving onto the next.
A gym member who feels in control of their workouts, who feels knowledgeable about their health and who has a desire to continue to learn and improve has a vested interest in their fitness and is, therefore more likely to remain a gym member in the long term.
Personalising a member’s experience is one of the most successful tried and tested remember retention strategies. At-risk gym members could also be targeted by fitness leaders and coaches who could offer their services to work with them to develop manageable but effective workouts that make them feel empowered, and that their fitness goals are within reach.
One of the main reasons gym members quit the gym is because they don’t feel part of a community. A member who feels welcome and who views going to the gym as a social activity is more likely to remain one.
Encouraging this sense of community has become another responsibility that gym leaders and coaches are taking upon themselves to perform. Where a few years ago, a fitness coach would focus on obtaining as many personal clients as possible. In recent times, gym owners have identified further opportunities for them to act in the capacity of teacher and guide, motivator and moral support – all of which encourage members who are demotivated or uninspired to reconnect with the gym and influence them to become active participants in their fitness, giving them the drive to continue towards their personal goals.
The digital age has also significantly impacted on the way personalised fitness coaching is delivered to gym goers. It is no longer necessary for a fitness coach to be physically present, and employing the services of a coach remotely has meant this once exclusive service is now eminently more affordable and accessible to the masses, and this personalised attention encourages demotivated members to continue using the gym.
Over the last decade, the group training sessions that were once so popular are being forced to step aside as the demand for more tailored 1:1 training sessions increases. People no longer want to feel lost amongst a crowd of others and are beginning to favour the benefits that personalised training techniques from a certified fitness professional can bring.
However, with growing market competition, it is up to gym owners to encourage fitness coaches to offer something more than just a tailored workout programme. Building close relationships with clients, providing dedicated training options and using technology to incorporate fun and contemporary approaches into workouts, such as gamification will help to see gym member retention rates increase, and ensure members are not lost to those gyms which can offer something more.
Offering specialist training in a particular field such as yoga, boxing or even sports nutrition could also give some gyms the edge over their competitors when it comes to attracting new members and increasing member retention. Similarly creating a USP around coaching where specialists in a particular area of health can offer their expertise to clients could also help gyms to gain an advantage.
It is important to remember, however, that there is nothing more impactful in business than good communication. Employing excellent communication strategies is where any successful fitness coach or leader will take advantage of advances in technology and learn how to use different platforms efficiently to entice new members as well as motivate existing ones. Personalisation is also vital and can increase click through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10% on average.
However, the power of face to face communication and the ‘human’ touch should never be undervalued, and it is through a combination of embracing technology, developing new services and offering a personalised experience that fitness coaches, leaders, and the gyms that employ them can hope to see continued growth and increased member retention rates in the new ‘knowledge’ era.