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ePublication of Australian Fitness Network

Managed properly, the accountability enabled by technology can help you create a culture of connectedness, self-improvement and friendly competition in your club.

Fitness doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it is affected by changes in society, changes in technology and, of course, by the people who take part in it. Our members are not robots, they are human beings with flaws, desires and emotions – and fitness professionals know that all of this has to be taken into consideration when designing and implementing fitness services that will engage and motivate.

The world in which the fitness industry exists is changing. One of the biggest developments of recent years has, unquestionably, been the growth of wearable technology. Monitoring activity has been embraced by most fitness consumers – almost everyone owns some type of device, be it a pedometer, a basic activity tracker or something more sophisticated. We also live in a world where sharing via social media is the norm – everything from our social activities to food consumption and, of course, our fitness habits.

The good news is that the opportunities that the changing world presents for clients and for business are huge. A higher level of interconnectedness and, consequently, a stronger sense of community, can be created within facilities. This enables fitness professionals to motivate clients like never before.

Recently, an independent review (by PhD student Anthony D Pizzo) of worldwide user data from wearables gave an interesting insight into what makes people tick in the modern fitness space. The review of a sample of 3,346 of the 300,000 plus MYZONE users worldwide found that friends do come with benefits – they can help you get fitter. Those connected and sharing workout information with friends via the MYZONE app were found to achieve 5.5 times the energy and activity output over the year than those with no friend connections. This is a powerful reminder of the influence that social accountability can have on a client’s outcomes, and how technology and community are combining to change the fitness space.

Accountability needs more than just monitoring

As wearable technology develops, so do the expectations of consumers and our understanding and creativity around how we can use the information that can be obtained. Most clubs now have some level of monitoring and compatability with wearables, but there’s more to successful monitoring than just ensuring a member’s watch can sync with a treadmill or recording a client’s heart rate during a session. The power of monitoring lies in its ability to motivate and connect people, and to achieve this two key elements are required.

The first is education for client empowerment. The results of monitoring will mean something to a client only if they understand the numbers they are seeing on the screen and how it affects their training. It’s the role of trainers to simplify the data and help educate clients on key measurements so that monitoring becomes a way for the individual to learn more about his or her body and how they can control it and improve it.

The second element is how a club uses the results to connect people. If managed well, it can have a powerful effect on the membership base. It’s important that no members are excluded and that an equal playing field is provided that allows young and old, fit and unfit to compare results. In this way, a culture of connectedness, self-improvement and friendly competition can be woven into the fabric of a club. Monitoring shouldn’t be limited to select classes at the facility and ideally not to the confines of the gym walls either. For maximum engagement, it should be built into the membership sign-up process and included as a standard part of a client’s visit to the gym. A facility can then get creative about how they use the system to maximise motivation and member interaction. The options are almost endless, but some ideas include: electronic display boards in public areas of the facility; seasonal challenges; spot prizes; inter-club competitions; regular progress reviews built into membership; and public recognition for clients through the club’s social media, e-newsletter and bulletin board.

Build community, build accountability, build business

Community is the future of fitness, you just have to look around to see that. From the fastest growing boutique fitness offerings such as CrossFit, F45 and various spin and yoga boxes, to the larger chains, franchise and independent clubs’ recent push to implement more group training offerings – the key to the success of today’s programs is their ability to bring people together in a social environment so that they become motivators and supporters for each other and create a positive culture that supports self-improvement and, often, friendly competition. Not all modes of fitness lend themselves naturally to being ‘social’ but this doesn’t mean that the underlying principles of community can’t be applied to achieve social accountability and other benefits.

Take a one-on-one personal training business, for example. At first glance, it may seem like there are limited opportunities to build a community and have clients interact, but look again. You could hold a free group training session each week, set challenges all clients can opt into or use a closed Facebook page to report results and encourage chatter and idea-sharing between clients, hold regular social events and give everyone a branded team t-shirt.

The value of offering platforms and opportunities for members to interact with each other reaches beyond the motivational benefits for clients and straight to the bottom line of the club. In a 2015 study, Paul Bedford looked at one million fitness club members and found what he called the ‘Interaction Effect’. This related to fitness staff talking to members, but can also, just as importantly, relate to members interacting with each other. Those in the study who experienced one interaction during a gym visit were 20 per cent more likely to visit again the following month, compared to those with no interaction. Those who had four or more interactions were 80 per cent more likely to attend again. This was found to then increase the lifetime value of members. Members stay, on average, up to seven months longer if they visit a facility twice a week compared to only once. Those visiting two to three times per week stay up to 19 months longer.

Beyond the facility walls

If community and social accountability are to truly benefit your clients and your business, the tools you use to cultivate them must extend beyond the bounds of the facility. To not do so is to go against the fundamental nature of the communal, connected environment you’re trying to create. No matter how you do it – through an online portal, social media, extended monitoring through wearables, group emails, your own app or an army of drones – you must support and nuture your community and keep clients accountable and communicating once they walk out the door.

5 tips for building community
Private group forums inside Facebook, or even on your own club website, are a powerful form of interaction beyond the training session or club. Research shows that interaction, engagement and friendly competition are key elements of building a strong community and having all members feel included.

Here are some ideas to get started:

1. Create a private Facebook group for your members
Email out the link to Facebook’s group, so that members can join, get your reception staff to remind members to join, and have the URL displayed on posters around the club.

2. Trainers and classes broadcast live
You can make use of the new live streaming technology to broadcast tips from your personal trainers, or a live class or quick exercise session directly to your private group for added value.

3. Create your own inspiring visual quotes
Using free design services like Canva, or a professional designer, you can set your club apart and build your brand recognition by creating your own memes. Be sure to keep the quotes inspiring for all fitness levels, and not just about six packs and ‘go hard’ type messaging. Including body acceptance, and using pictures of all body types working out, is a key body-positive message that will go a long way to encouraging all members to feel accepted and included.

4. Encourage all staff to talk to a new person each day
Get all your staff involved. Teach your staff to ask great questions…
Are you training for anything specific?
Would you like some help with that exercise?
I’ve seen you around here often. That’s awesome. What keeps you coming back?
Why do you train? (Helping to remind clients of their ‘why’ is a really important motivation tool – read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why for more on this).

5. Ask your club members if they have expertise to share
Remember that many of your club members are experts in their fields. Some might be nutritionists, coaches, yoga-teachers, meditation enthusiasts, or some other complementary health expert. Create a space and encourage your expert members to share their knowledge, either online or in the club in a community event and watch your engagement soar. An Expert Member Community night will help to add value to your members at virtually no cost, and build community and social interaction.

By mindset coach Kylie Ryan,


Michael Jordan, BA Bus is the owner of a successful Queensland-based club, as well as being one of the Australasian directors for MYZONE and CFM and a board member of Fitness Australia. He has consulted with over 500 clubs in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, US and Canada. and

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