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10 Ways to Create and Grow Your Gym’s Community

After a brief hiatus, SocialWOD’s blog is back up and running. Here is our first post written by our new community manger, Cynthia.

The first quarter of the year has just wrapped up. Now is a good time to step back and look at your numbers. Your gym may have seen an influx of members as a result of New Year’s resolutions and the growing popularity of functional fitness, but new sign-ups mean nothing if you can’t retain them. Last year, we surveyed over 200 gym members and discovered that the community of a gym was what kept members coming back for more. Here are 10 ways to help create and grow your gym’s community, which will in turn help retain current members and recruit new ones.

1.  Facebook Groups: This is something my home gym in South Arlington, Virginia is especially good about. We have a private Facebook group that gym members belong to. We strive to keep the posts functional fitness related: videos, articles, shout-outs to members who PR’d, etc. It’s a great way to help your members build and maintain the friendships they’re making at the gym.

2.  Public Recognition of Success: People love being recognized for their hard work. I know I do. Your members are working their butts off in the gym everyday—so help them toot their own horns! This is something that Active Performance in Mission Viejo, CA does well. They frequently post on their public Facebook page as well as their blog when their members PR. That sort of recognition makes athletes feel like they are more than just a number, and keeps them coming back to your gym.

3.  Photos: If there is something athletes love besides bacon, it’s photos. Take some shots of your athletes during WODs and post them on your Facebook page or blog.

4.  Scheduled Communications:  Communicating with your members is key to keeping them engaged and interested in you gym. At the bare minimum, you should be sending out a monthly email to your members with updates such as: upcoming events, new members, PRs, etc. SocialWOD makes tracking PRs easy for coaches to do, too.

5.  Free Classes: Yes, obviously you offer them. But how often does a current member go to a free class? Probably never, but this is a great recruiting tool. When I went to my first free class a couple of current members worked out with us. It was cool because I got a taste of the sort of community my gym had and an opportunity to ask them questions without feeling pressure to commit. Every once in awhile, ask some of your friendliest members to do a free class. Their enthusiasm for your gym will surely attract the newbies. And a couple days after the free class, be sure to follow up with those prospective members.

6. Tap Into Talent: One of the many awesome things about functional fitness is that is brings together a very diverse group of people. As an owner, use this to your advantage! Does a graphic designer go to your gym? An SEO specialist? A photographer? All of these people offer services that would benefit your gym. Offer them a discount off their membership if they help you redesign your website, take photographs during the occasional WOD (see #3), etc.  It’s a win-win; you gain value from services provided and your member feels more invested and connected to your gym.

7.  T-Shirts: This is a no-brainer but you should really have t-shirts on hand at all times. Sell them. Your members will wear them. And sell them to drop-ins instead of charging them and having them walk out with nothing.

8.  Relationship Building: I am a fundraiser by trade so this piece of advice comes from the world of fundraising.  First, how big is your gym? If it’s over 150, I bet it’s difficult for you to really connect with all of your members. Why? There is a number called Dunbar’s number that suggests a cognitive limit for how many people a person can interact with and remember. 150 is usually the agreed upon upper limit. What does this have to do with fundraising ? As a fundraiser, you never have a “caseload” of more than 150 people because after that the relationships break down and are hard to maintain. Relationships are crucial for building a community so divvy up your members between your coaches so that everyone is accounted for. Then make sure that your coaches are making concerted efforts to check in with the members of their caseload at least once a month to see how they’re doing and if they are achieving their goals.

9.  Nutrition Challenges: Paleo, Zone, Whole30, whatever! Most people start functional fitness because they want to see body composition changes. Help your members achieve their weight loss goals while encouraging healthy eating. 30-day programs seem to be the most popular, but my gym did a 60+ day program that yielded some serious results.

10.  Purely Social Hangouts: Sure, it’s fun to do a holiday WOD or a Paleo potluck but some people have lives outside of functional fitness (I don’t, but I’m sure these people exist) so encourage some events that don’t revolve around the gym.


So there you go! 10 ways to help grow and retain your gym’s community. Do you do any of these? Or do you have additional ideas that would help gym owners? Let us know in the comments!


Categories: Business.

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