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How to Retain Members Past the New Year’s Resolution Hype

Veronica Oquendo
9 January 2024

New Year’s resolutions are a goldmine of opportunity for gyms as fleeting as the enthusiasm that sparks them. Every January, like clockwork, gyms worldwide flood with eager faces, brimming with their newfound aspirations of physical transformation and self-improvement. But by the time February’s chill sets in, those crowds have often thinned, leaving only echoes of unfulfilled resolutions (and emptier pockets for gym owners). 

But what if this year could be different? What if you could not only capture but sustain that New Year momentum? This isn’t just about numbers on your membership roster; it’s about genuinely impacting lives while building a thriving, vibrant gym community.

The initial decision to join a gym is driven by a strong, emotional impulse – a desire for change inspired by the symbolic fresh start that a new year represents. Yet, the day-to-day grind of turning these aspirations into habits demands more than just initial enthusiasm. It requires ongoing commitment, a concept that can be daunting and overwhelming for many.

Some of the most common reasons people give up on their New Year’s fitness resolutions are: 

  1. Setting unrealistic goals (too ambitious or too vague). When results don’t materialize quickly, disappointment sets in, leading to discouragement and dropout.
  2. When faced with the reality of fitting gym time into already busy schedules, it becomes a challenge to maintain regular attendance.
  3. The initial excitement can quickly fade when faced with the hard work and persistence required for physical fitness. 
  4. For newcomers, the gym environment can be intimidating. Feeling out of place or self-conscious can significantly hinder attendance.
  5. Lack of proper guidance or support can leave members feeling lost and unsure about their routines, decreasing their likelihood of sticking around.
  6. Recognizing and addressing these pitfalls is the first step towards bridging the gap between initial enthusiasm and long-term commitment. While we can’t control members’ decision to persist or quit, we can develop strategies to support them through the transition phase and increase their chances of staying for the long run. 

Effective Onboarding Strategies

The first impression can make or break a member’s commitment to their fitness journey. It’s not just about greeting them with a smile; it’s about making them feel seen, heard, and valued from the moment they step in. This initial interaction should be more than a mere formality; it should be an opportunity to establish trust and build rapport.

When a new member walks through your doors, they’re often stepping out of their comfort zone. Acknowledging this and providing a supportive and reassuring environment can significantly impact their decision to stay engaged. 

Orientation should go beyond the basics of gym etiquette and equipment usage. 

  1. Ask them what their goals and motivations are.
  2. Introduce them to staff members and explain how to maximize their membership to meet their goals. 
  3. Give them a detailed walkthrough of the gym facilities, highlighting unique equipment or features that differentiate your gym.
  4. If you offer classes and programs, inform members and help them find options that align with their interests and fitness level. 
  5. Ensure they are comfortable with gym equipment and understand the safety protocols and gym etiquette to foster a respectful and safe environment.

Personalize Member Experience 

Personalization is key to acknowledging members’ individual needs and goals. Tailoring their experience right from the start demonstrates a genuine commitment to their success. This can be done through:

  1. Conducting an assessment to understand their fitness level, limitations, and goals to chart a realistic and practical fitness plan.
  2. Using gym software and trainers’ expertise to create personalized workout plans that cater to their goals and adjust as they progress.
  3. Encouraging SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to help create a clear roadmap for success.
  4. Scheduling regular check-ins to track their progress, celebrate their achievements, and make necessary adjustments to their fitness plans. This approach keeps motivation high and gives a sense of accomplishment.
  5. Fostering open communication. Feedback from members about what’s working for them and what’s not can help fine-tune their experience.
  6. Personal trainers can have a significant impact on helping members form and maintain new fitness habits. If you’re in a position to do so, offer one or two free personal training sessions to get them started. 

The goal is to turn the initial intrigue of a New Year’s resolution into a well-informed, well-supported commitment to health and wellness in your gym.

Create a Welcoming and Non-Intimidating Gym Environment 

A welcoming gym environment is crucial to retention, especially for newcomers. It starts with the physical space – ensuring it’s clean, well-organized, and welcoming – and extends to the culture you cultivate within your gym.

  1. Feeling part of a community makes people more likely to stay engaged and motivated. Encourage interaction through events and activities such as group fitness challenges or social nights, and use social media to keep members engaged. 
  2. Implement a buddy system for new members, pairing them with more experienced members. Peer support can help new members feel more comfortable and less isolated.
  3. Train your staff on motivational techniques. This could include encouraging members, recognizing their efforts, and providing positive feedback.
  4. Use FLiiP’s retention tools to collect feedback easily through surveys and in-app messages and tailor your responses to show you genuinely listen and care about their needs.  

Nurturing a supportive environment is about creating a space where members feel valued, understood, and part of a community. This sense of belonging can transform the gym from a place where members simply work out to a community hub where they are motivated and inspired to reach their fitness goals.

Conclusion

Transforming the fleeting enthusiasm of New Year’s resolutions into lasting gym memberships may seem daunting at first, but you’re not alone. 

Make the most of your onboarding process to truly understand members’ motivations and help them craft sustainable and realistic fitness plans so they can meet their goals. Leverage technology such as gym management software to keep track of members’ progress and follow up with them in a timely and personalized manner. Focusing on these elements can significantly enhance member retention, turning initial sign-ups into a dedicated, thriving community.

The goal is not just to increase membership numbers but to inspire and support individuals in their journey towards long-term health and wellness. Your gym can be more than just a fitness center; it can be a transformative space where resolutions evolve into lasting lifestyle changes.

Retention