Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Be Happy and Successful in 2011

2010 is nearly over; a good time to reflect on the year that passed.
Unfortunately, lots of people look back and think about everything that went wrong. The things they should have done. The goals they should have reached. The progress that didn’t come.

You will learn much more if you turn this on its head. Here’s a suggestion for a new-year’s exercise in happiness and success. The best way to be happy and successful at work in 2011 is to find out what worked for you in 2010 and do more of that.

Think back on your 2010 working life and answer the following 10 questions. It’s important that you write down your answers - it helps you to reflect more deeply about the questions.

  1. What went really well for you at work in 2010?
  2. What did you do that you’re proud of?
  3. Who have you helped out?
  4. How have you grown and developed professionally?
  5. How have you grown and developed personally at work?
  6. Who has really appreciated your work?
  7. Who has helped you out and been there for you?
  8. Who have you admired at work in 2010?
  9. What have been some fun moments at work in 2010?
  10. Which 5 things from 2010 would you like more of in 2011?

Thanks to Alexander Kjerulf, The Chief Happiness Officer – www.positivesharing.com

Monday, 20 December 2010

SMART Goals (Part 6 (of 6)) Commitment, Responsibility and Motivation

Once your member/client/customer has set their SMART goal(s), it’s important to check their commitment and motivation to reach the goal, and to ensure that they take responsibility for achieving it.

This is a link to the Technogym Aspiration Finder, a tool which helps clubs understand more about what motivates their members. Feel free to try it for yourself

Discussing how they will feel when they have reached the goal is important to assess motivation levels. It may also be worth talking through what they will lose as a result of achieving their goal, and ensuring the balance is still positive.

Finding out what could delay or get in the way of the end goal is another good way of checking commitment. If the client knows how they will manage these set-backs, it helps them to focus on the goal and adds motivation.

Finally, it’s imperative that the client takes responsibility for the goal. Sure, you’re going to help them along the way, but responsibility lies with them. If they have the option to blame you or someone else for not reaching the goal, then they are not fully committed, and you should go back over the previous steps.

We hope this short series of blog posts helps you understand more about your members, and helps them to achieve their fitness goals. Please let us know if you have any comments, stories or useful tips below.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Rewards could hold key to retention war - Workout Magazine article

REWARDING loyal members with incentives if they bring in referrals could help independent gyms to win the war on retention, it has been claimed.

Energie Health and Fitness’ Innes Kerr spoke to independent operators at this year’s Leisure Industry Week – sharing his top tips for clubs which want to improve their retention figures.
His advice was to recognise members who show loyalty towards their gym – and reward them for their efforts.
His tips included:

  • Try upselling to give people more value from their membership packages – encourage them to take add ons such as personal training and products which generate secondary income.
  • Offer guest passes so members can bring friends and family to try your facilities for free – then try and convert these into memberships
  • Reward loyalty by offering incentives for members who stay longer – examples include loyalty cards, booking priority for studio classes and free personal training taster sessions.
  • Drive people towards areas in your club where they could spend more money.

The Retention People’s Mike Hills also urged gym owners to look at their members’ experience as a journey – and aim to make this journey as long as possible.
Mike – who works closely with clubs to help them retain members – added that it is easy to look at retention as the end result but operators should also look at the other factors which encourage people to stay – or leave – a gym.
He explained: “Look at the customer experience as a journey – we need to make that journey as long as we possibly can.
“It is critical that we engage with new members and add value in that early stage so people will stay.
“Take a sample of members who would recommend you. You will also get struggling members who are not getting value. One of the best ways to turn that around is to have a good conversation with them and target who needs help the most. You will get people who want to leave, but see why they are leaving the gym. Look at the inputs which go into retention and focus your efforts where it makes the biggest difference.”

Consultant Guy Griffiths from GG Fit added that clubs – particularly independents – should also be using retention systems in order to keep track of their members.
He added: “Use a retention system – it can be a card file system or a sign in book. It doesn’t have to be a computer. Gyms with a few hundred members can manage retention manually.
“You should also be recording visit history and members’ goals and writing them down. Staff goals are also important, so are working towards targets.”

This is an extract from Workout Magazine - December 2010

click here for a 4 minute video of Guy's talk

Friday, 10 December 2010

The IOU guide to retention - FitPro Business Article


At this year's Leisure Industry Week, five experts gathered for The Independent Operators Guide to Fantastic Retention Results. With Dave Wright of Creative Fitness Marketing leading the debate, the panel discussed their views about what the industry needs to be doing to improve retention standards.

RICHARD BLACKMORE – Marketing director, Fitness Industry Association
“Retention is about a consistent member experience and consistent member communication. Letting members know that we care about them and want them to succeed is absolutely crucial. This can be done in all sorts of ways – from interaction on the gym floor, to investing in new equipment and technology."

MIKE HILLS - Retention director, The Retention People
"Retaining members could be compared to holding on to water. It's not an easy process, and one that needs a lot of time and effort dedicated to it. Start by looking for the evidence of what really works. Look at the journey from when a member first signs up, right through to when they terminate their contract - the marketing, sales structure, and induction. Each stage needs to be planned carefully and the member engaged with. Add value where possible too. We overestimate how many self-motivated people are coming to our gyms and health clubs. Are you giving them any support? How many of your members would actually score you 9/10 or 10/10? You need to work on getting up to that score."

GUY GRIFFTHS - Director, GG Fit
"Use technical systems, to record as much information as possible about your members - visits, visit history, goals, etc. Communication is vital throughout the whole process, from encouraging members, to listening to their goals and aspirations, and providing them with a good journey. Remember to keep your staff happy too - if the people in control are dissatisfied, this will reflect on your members who are looking to be inspired and motivated."

INNES KERR - Operations director, énergie fitness
"If a member doesn't lose weight from going to the gym, who will they blame? There needs to be constant member communication and they need to be educated on subjects such as nutrition, so that they come to realise it takes more than exercise alone to get the desired results. When a member decides to leave, you need to spend time getting to know the real reasons. It is typical for the level of service to come down for long-term members; you put all your efforts into acquiring new members, and forget about the people already paying for your service. Offer existing members rewards for being with your club over a certain period - you can give them priority booking for classes,free PT taster sessions, multi-buy offers for sunbeds, free guest passes, or a loyalty card for retail or beauty purchases. The list is endless."

MARC JONES - Head of commercial sales, Aquaterra Leisure
"Joining fees have come down lately but you need to have confidence in your gym package and stop offering discounts. Stop trying to fix people too, but instead provide a service that facilitates change - it's the only way to increase the 12% penetration figure. Customers join and say "fix me" and so we give them a programme and tell them to do it three times a week. That's a big ask. We need to be supporting people through this huge lifestyle change. Contracts are there to tie people down, often as the only way of holding on to them (or their money). If members were given a good enough experience, gym contracts wouldn't be necessary. People continue to go to pubs even though prices are increasing. They'll save money for this pleasure, and they don't need to be tied to a contract to do so. The fitness industry needs to get to this stage. You need to be identifying customers who are at risk of leaving and then interact with them, before it's too late. Evaluate the effect your fitness team is having on retention, and empower your staff to seek out customers who need help and to take the responsibility to help them."

This is an extract from FitPro Business Magazine, Jan/Feb/Mar 2011 issue

click here for a 4 minute video of Guy's talk

Saturday, 4 December 2010

SMART Goals (part 5) - Listening

There’s a reason we have 2 ears and only 1 mouth.  A key skill for a coach or fitness instructor is an excellent listening style.  Questioning techniques can help this, but to really get it right, you have to totally focus on the other person. You need to block out all of your own thoughts and subconscious desires to try to identify with the other person.

Listening to a member or client takes a lot of practice and does not come naturally to most people.  Social nature and wanting to ‘connect’ makes us want to share experiences, and before you know it, you are talking about yourself rather than listening to the other person.  And when the other person is a paying client, this is not good.

The other problem that fitness professionals (and coaches) have is that they are seen as the ‘expert’.  They are expected to give (and also want to give) advice and direction.  However, without first listening to the client’s situation, and finding out what they want, it’s very difficult to set goals and help the client work towards them.  Doctors are also experts, but seldom do they leap to conclusions.  They will usually spend time asking about symptoms and listening to the patient before the diagnosis.

In workshops and team coaching sessions, we often spend time developing listening skills through exercises and role play.  More effective listening helps fitness professionals from PTs to instructors, as well as sales, management, customer service and reception staff.  Try listening more yourself, and let us know how you get on in the comments below.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

SMART Goals (part 4)


The third type of member on our course was the person who wanted to gain strength. Now most fitness professionals love these members, they often identify with them and want to jump straight on the bench press or smith machine and pump some iron. However to monitor progress and maintain motivation, it’s still important to set SMART goals.

Here’s what the workshop came up with for SMART Strength goals:

• It’s now 31 March and I can bench press 3x10 sets of ### kg and squat 3x10 sets of ### kg
• My biceps / thighs measure ### cm by April
• I’m stronger, so I am able to make more tackles and shake off more tacklers when playing rugby in February
• I am competing in Mr/Mrs Universe next summer
• I can hit the golf/tennis ball further/harder at the start of next season

As before, please do not take these goal examples and assign them to your members. All members’ goals should be personal to them; they are much more likely to take responsibility for, and ultimately achieve their own goals.

Please feel free to add your own (or a member’s) SMART Goal for ‘STRENGTH’ in the comments below.

Friday, 12 November 2010

SMART Goals (part 3)


Often the hardest kind of member to set goals with is one who doesn’t want or need to lose weight, but joins the gym to keep fit. The good news is that these members usually have good motivation already, but it’s still important to help them set some SMART goals to keep motivation levels up in times of trouble.

The key factor here to find out what the member means by keeping fit. Sometimes this will come back to the classic ‘lose weight’ type goals. Alternatively, a future event will help to focus on what they mean by keeping fit, or visualising or explaining how they will feel by ‘keeping fit’.

Repeating the exercise in part 1 with another workshop group, we redefined ‘keep fit’ with the following goals. Again, not all are truly SMART, but they are improvements on “I just want to keep fit”:

• I will complete my charity 10km run in April in under 45 minutes
• It’s the end of March and I can swim 15 lengths of the pool non-stop
• I’ve been skiing for a week in January and am not completely knackered at the end of each day
• I can play a full game of 5-a-side without needing a sub break by March
• I’ve completed the London to Brighton bike ride (June)

As before, these examples are to help instructors with getting members to set their own SMART goals. All members’ goals are personal to them; their own goals will be much more Attainable and Relevant, and they will take more Responsibility too. You can help the Measurables, and keep their motivation going by helping them move towards the goal.

Please feel free to add your own (or a member’s) SMART Goal for ‘keep fit’ in the comments below.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Motivation for a Run on a Cold, Wet, Grey Monday

It was a real struggle drumming up the motivation to get out for a run today, here's what helped:

In no particular order...
Possibly the only chance to do proper exercise this week - looking like a busy one!
howies merino base layer and waffler midlayer to keep me warm
RATM - Know Your Enemy
Doing 3 laps of Highgate Woods instead of 2
QT Quartet - Hold That Sucker Down (cheese-trance!)
@rachelyoung23 and michelle.marshall constantly tweeting/fbing about running
Having a bit of a cold and a sore throat
Sugar - Feeling Better
Because I knew when I got back I'd be really happy I'd done it
QOTSA - Go With The Flow
Knowing that tweeting about it would motivate others to get out there & do the same
Having told TG & AG that I would be going
and of course, Survivor - Eye of the Tiger

I normally see 2 or 3 other joggers out on a weekday lunchtime, but there were none today. Guess they didn't have the motivation in the rain & cold. Will come back and check this list next time I'm trying to decide whether to go or not...

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Fear of Failure and Learning to Walk

I’ve just enjoyed one of the most rewarding coaching days ever. There are often many things holding us back, preventing us from achieving our potential, or just stopping us from taking the next step. These can include fear of failure, worrying what others will think, distractions, lack of support, and many more besides!

Sometimes coach/client confidentiality makes it difficult to blog about coaching, but when you’re coaching a one year old to walk, it’s a bit different. We spent several hours today clinging onto the vtech walker, going round and round the lounge and up and down the hall. Fell down about 30 times, but got back up again 31 times.

It was wonderful to watch the progress throughout the day, to offer encouragement rather than advice, and to guide rather than interfere. It felt like coaching in its purest form. There was no doubt in my mind that she would soon be able to walk unaided (yes, I know how lucky we are that this is the case).

Sure, there were distractions (radiator thermostats, rugs, cats, and invisible things on the carpet that needed studying), but what was really refreshing is that there was absolutely no fear of failure, no judgement, just constant progression and positivity.

Looking back to simpler times can often be really inspirational. Feel good about the tumbles, learn from them and take encouragement, because if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Monday, 1 November 2010

SMART Goals (part 2)


At a recent member retention workshop, we asked a group of fitness professionals to re-write the standard ‘lose weight’ goal as a SMART goal.  Using role play and working with each other as members, here are 5 of the best that they came up with:

• It is 14 Feb & I can fit into my size 12 dresses
• It is the end of January and I can walk all the way up the escalator at Tottenham Court Road without being out of breath
• I feel good on the beach in my bikini on my holiday in March
• I have more choice when shopping for clothes in the January sales
• It’s the end of December and I have visited the gym at least once a week

Not all of these goals cover all the bases of SMART, but they are good varied examples, and you would have to check with the individual on Attainability and Relevance.

These examples are given to help SMART goal setting, not to be assigned to your members. Remember that a goal is personal and as such, all members’ goals should be different.

Please feel free to add your own (or a member’s) SMART Goal for ‘lose weight’ in the comments below.

SMART Goals (part 1)

Goals are really important when it comes to coaching, and the same is true for member retention at the gym. If you have a decent goal, it’s much easier to monitor progression. And if your members can clearly see what they are achieving, they are much more likely to stick around.

But what is a decent goal? It is said that 80% of gym members join to lose weight. Others want to maintain or improve fitness or strength. These goals lack definition though, so it is important to understand how to describe your goals, and to record and share them.

The most common mnemonic used in goal setting is SMART, which has a variety of associations, but for our purposes, the most common ones are:

S   Specific (also Simple)
M   Measurable
A   Attainable (or Agreed)
R   Relevant (and Realistic, or Responsible)
T   Timely

When recording a goal, you don’t need to use a bullet for each of the five parts, but you should check that all points are covered. We’ll come back onto goal sharing in a subsequent post, but the other key part is writing the goal down. The person setting the goal (the member, not the instructor) should write the goal down, as this helps to visualise and take responsibility for the goal. Of course, if the instructor also records the goal, that’s great for ongoing support.

We’re going to share some goals with you in future posts, based on the standard ‘lose weight’ member, and also other members.

Friday, 22 October 2010

New Year – Old Members

Right now, many clubs are planning their New Year sales campaigns, and hopefully it’s going to be one of the busiest Januarys ever. Many existing members also come back in the New Year though, so work out how you’re going to recognise them, and make them feel just as special as your new members.

It’s important to focus on the new members and get their journey right (whether or not they’re paying an induction fee). However, the members who are coming back may have already paid 12 months or more, so why not have a returning member journey, programme & goal review.

If you can, set up a trigger/flag/reminder in your system for any member who has not visited for a few months, so that when they do visit, you get a reminder to talk to them. Know the outcome you want from the interaction; whether it’s to try and offer a review, get them on a ‘return journey’ or simply to make them feel welcome. Find out what’s prompted them to come back, record this information, and track their visits and/or progress for the next few weeks.

This practice is especially important in January, but is also valid when a site re-opens. The new members often get treated like royalty, but respect and spend time with your existing members with their New Year’s resolutions, or uncertainty about the new kit. Sure it’s going to be busy, but second chances don’t come along often, so when they do, you’ve got to grab them!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Recipe Suggestion – A Member Retention Stir-fry

Here's an alternate take on our Member Retention introduction - we hope you like it!

Recipe Suggestion – A Member Retention Stir-fry
Serves many, feel free to add or remove ingredients depending on your policy or focus

- Mixed People (staff, management, members)
- Systems (database, card file, processes)
- Various Communications – internal interaction & external messaging

Marinade the people in goal setting and aspiration coaching for a few hours or overnight to get buy-in to the systems and processes
Soak the systems until straightforward and understood
Roughly chop the internal and external communications

Method: Add the people to a well oiled gym with good air-conditioning, and stir fry until sealed. Add the chopped internal interaction and mix for a couple of minutes, before adding the external messaging and turning the air-con down to medium. Drain the systems and add to the gym and stir well

Serve: With a side order of social media apps (strategy prepared beforehand), and an ice cold bottle of positive feedback loops for members, staff, and management

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Member Retention - a 4 minute introduction

Here's a 4 minute introduction to Health Club Member Retention, 

prepared for the IOU Panel debate "The Independent Operators Guide to Fantastic Retention Results" at LIW on 22nd September 2010

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Health Club Competition

September brings a plethora of new member offers from clubs trying to lure people in after the summer holidays. And competition for custom is really hotting up. The traditional gym is facing more pressure as the health and fitness industry evolves, and it is moving in several different directions.

The first big area of competition is from low cost clubs. The budget gym sector has been picking up pace, but the announcement that easyGym is on the way will raise the profile of budget clubs in the public eye, and the budget club will be seen as a viable option to many. It will be interesting to see how easyGym will differentiate from other budget clubs, and what retention tactics they will bring from their other businesses.

Secondly, the Wii-fit is no longer new, but is still seen as an alternative to the gym for many of the public, and more is on the way with Playstation Move and the Xbox Kinect interface. The British Medical Journal say the energy used when playing active Wii games is not of high enough intensity to contribute towards the recommended daily amount of exercise in children. Where the Wii succeeds is in goal setting, reminders and encouragement towards your targets.

Finally, there’s a growing market in exercise shoes. There’s been a big crossover from exercise to fashion (many sports stores feel more like fashion stores these days), but now the trend is reversing with MBTs, FitFlops and Skechers shape-ups selling footwear to help you to keep fit, shape up and tone while you walk.

These are just a few things that are eating into the traditional health club market. Clubs must evolve too, rather than offering no joining fee, or no payments in September. A health club’s strengths should be twofold. Firstly its staff’s motivation; there is nothing like a really good instructor coaching and encouraging you to achieve. Secondly a club is defined in the dictionary as an association of persons for social, political, athletic, or other ends… Clubs that fit this definition have more success.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Coaching on Time Management

Time management has to be one of the most popular problems that people want to improve through life coaching. Clients might be looking to improve productivity, increase sales, get a new job, or get fit, but the coaching often involves an aspect of time management. A fitness analogy is that members of health clubs nearly all want to lose weight. This comes in different guises; tone up, fight the flab, drop a size, etc, but the basic goal is the same for many.

People who are new to coaching are often looking for advice or expertise; in other words they want the coach to provide the solution. This is not what coaching is about, because 9 times out of 10, it will not help the client. And I believe that this is also why time management is such a common problem. Many managers impose their ways of doing things on employees, or when people ask a friend or colleague for help, they’re often given a solution that works for the friend, which may be a short term fix, but doesn’t normally stick.

Different strokes work for different folks. There are a lot more distractions these days, but there are also more tools to help us to manage time and focus. Making lists works for some, while others use prioritising, planning, scheduling… personally, I’m a big fan of eating frogs. The key is to find what works for you.

Coaching helps with the motivation to make a change and to keep up momentum. We check on the desire for change (if it’s not there, it’s not time to change yet). If the time is right, we set smart goals, investigate options, identifying what might work, gauge the way forward, and move towards the goal with purpose and belief. Good coaching is non-directive, i.e. the client comes up with the options and solutions themselves, and 9 times out of 10, these stick.

Helping people to seemingly create more time is very rewarding!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Rewards for existing members

How many times have you been embittered by new member offers when you are already a member? To sign up afresh would actually get you a better deal than the one that you are locked into.

Department stores (e.g.
Debenhams) often give new cardholders a 10% discount offer for signing up that day. These are advertised on banner displays around the store, but not available to existing cardholders. Sky TV offers fantastic bundles to new subscribers, while existing customers need to (try to) cancel their subscription and start again to benefit from similar deals.

Compare this to the mobile phone industry, which rewards users on contract renewal with discounts of 20% on new call packages, in addition to free handset upgrades. In this highly competitive market, phone companies know that loyalty is key and focus on the positive existing customer experience, knowing that it will bring more friends and family onto the network.

Unfortunately, the health club industry is still like the former in general. Banners call out to new members as they arrive in the car-park advertising “no joining fee”, “August for free”, “2 for 1 membership”… none are aimed at the existing member. A highly motivated, positive thinking member might tell their friends about the offer, but most will just be disappointed that new members are getting a better deal.

The existing member must feel that they are equal if not better off than the new member. Paying last year’s rate is a safe, revenue protecting strategy (if fees have gone up this year). More audacious clubs will offer a month or more free after a year or two, a less exciting offer might be a free bag. The key is to make the existing member feel really appreciated for staying for another year, and to keep rewarding them and turn them into members (and fans) for life.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

BHF London Jogs - GG Fit raise £1,535

We’re really pleased to announce that GG Fit raised over £1,500 for the British Heart Foundation by taking part in the London Jogs Trilogy in 2010.

Justgiving page closed today, and our total sponsorship was £1,205, with an additional £333 in good old Gift Aid.

The London Jogs Trilogy are three 10k runs around London’s Hyde Park (
April), Tower of London (May) and Canary Wharf (June). The main reasons we take part are to raise money and awareness for the BHF, but the trilogy is also a great excuse to set some fitness goals, get colleagues together, and to motivate others to exercise and raise a little money for charity. Asking for sponsorship for all three events ‘allows’ us to send 3 or 4 e-mails to our contacts, maximising donations for the BHF, which is a very important charity.

On the subject of motivation, it is a big help knowing that you have 3 or 4 team mates that are relying on you to help them through the 10k. On the loop circuits, it’s great to encourage each other on, or to try and catch and lap team-mates. Looking forward to the team beers afterwards is more of a motivator for others, with the inevitable “I wasn’t sure at the start, felt worse in the middle, but feel fantastic now!” The finish buzz always feels great.

Well done to BHF for organising such great events (
more here). If you know of any other interesting 10k runs that we should consider taking part in, please let us know in the comments below.

Friday, 23 July 2010

What really motivates members - Programming vs Goals

What really motivates members and increases membership length? We’ve discussed programming before, and seen impressive results from talking to members about their exercise programme. We know that it’s the staff-member interaction that actually helps improve visit frequency. Members’ goals are the critical factor in member retention; understand each member’s goal, and then support them in move towards the goal. Simply recording a member’s goal can have a profound effect on length of membership, as you can see here:

The graphic above compares average length of membership for members with goal(s) recorded in the Wellness System against members whose goals were not recorded. For both Casual and Contract members, membership length is considerably longer (over 60% longer for Contract members) when a goal is recorded in the system.

The figures are taken from a local authority club with around 2,000 active members and historical data for over 4,000 members. Other analysis shows trainers that record their members’ goals are more successful in terms of active member status and member retention. We were really pleased to see goal recording, and it will be actively encouraged moving forwards.

Taking a similar comparison using active exercise programmes shows quite a different picture:

There is very little difference between members who have current programmes and those whose programmes have expired. In fact, members with old programmes seem to stay longer. Changing the filters to included members whose programme recently expired does not change the trend significantly.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t focus on updating exercise programmes, this staff-member interaction is important. What is clear is that during programme reviews, checking goals and aspirations is vital, and if you can record the member’s goal, especially a SMART goal (more soon) you will help to prolong their membership, which is good for everyone.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

10k Run to Finsbury Park – why?

I’ve not been for a run for a couple of weeks, and have been slack during July to be honest, with golf, conferences and work trips getting in the way. What motivated me to go on a long run today then? Watching le Tour riders incredible efforts probably helped, an Eddie Izzard DVD last weekend always inspires, the fact I was slacking could have something to do with it, but I think the main reason was the extra pint at the end of the pub quiz last night, and wanting to redress the balance.

Here’s the route I took:

View Muswell Hill Runs in a larger map

My target was to see how far along Parkland Walk towards Finsbury Park I could get, and turn around after 30 mins, as that would be over 5km. From Muswell Hill to the Parkland Walk is very up and down, but Parkland Walk itself is a disused railway track, so relatively flat and straight. There were quite a few other joggers, some accepting my high-fives, some nodding hello, but a couple disregarding me altogether. Offering motivation to like minded people helps my motivation too, and there’s nothing like an unexpected high-five to cheer up your day.

Music helping me along the way came from the usual playlist, including Faithless, Rage, & Armand. Must set up a new playlist for August.

Got to Finsbury Park at 29 mins, checked in on FourSquare, and headed back along the track looking out for returning high-fives. Getting back up to Muswell Hill required a lot of effort, but thoughts of Schleck and Contador, and that Survivor tune helped a great deal!

Parkland Walk is a great track for a walk or a run… getting there from Muswell Hill (and back) is hard work, but it was great to do a 10k for July, looking out for events in August or September to join and help the motivation. Let me know of any 10k runs you’re considering in the comments below, and I’ll join you!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Preparation, Adaptation and Education: How to improve your member contact methods to get your absent members to return

When it comes to maximising member retention, we all know communication is vital. Face to face contact is paramount, which is fine for the members who are in your club. But what do you do about the members who are not present, or who haven’t visited for a few weeks, or perhaps longer?

Re-motivating absent members
Visiting their home or office would be very effective, but economies of scale make this impractical for most clubs. Alternatively you can phone the member, which is often the first choice in retention policies. Although 55% of communication is visual, the tone of voice and words still come across on the phone. If you actually get through to the member there’s a good chance they’ll come back in, but often there’s a voicemail or no answer, which reduces the probability of success in bringing the member back. If this is the first phone call you’ve made to this member, this will also reduce the effectiveness of the communication.

Friday, 4 June 2010

BHF Canary Wharf Jog 2010

It was a lovely hot day for the British Heart Foundation Canary Wharf Jog this Wednesday, and the crowds gathered as the early evening sun dodged between the tower blocks. Team GG Fit comprised of Zoe, Leigh and Guy (all completing the BHF Trilogy of Jogs) and Richie stood in ably for the missing Nigel. Runners at the exclusive Canary Wharf Jog are limited to 1,300 for health & safety reasons, so there were a few disappointed people hoping to register on the day.

As usual, once the jog started, it is clear why numbers are limited, as you dodge between buildings and try not to bump into the city drinkers along the banks of the Thames. The first two laps were slow going, with a few bottlenecks, but the field soon spread out, and our knees took a pounding on the hard roads and pavements.

Richie dropped back after a few laps, but the trio of Zoe, Leigh & Guy stayed strong and stuck together until the 8th lap, when Zoe & Guy upped the pace, motivated by the thought of catching Richie. He was lapped on our 10th lap, and encouraged with a “come on, only one more to go”.

After the distance disputes at the 2009 Tower Jog, the GPS showed that we had redeemed ourselves this year by running 11.5km. It certainly seemed like a long run, and after high fives, back slaps and hugs, we headed to join the drinkers by the Thames for a well earned cool down drink, or three.

A big thanks to everyone who has sponsored us, total raised to date it £1,155, click here to see the total, or to add to it!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Gym 2.0 : Expanding Contracts

Anna goes to join a gym, and as well as taking a quick profile test to check her exercise aspirations, she is asked how long she would like her membership to last. She thinks six months is a reasonable commitment, and that sounds fine for the club too. She asks about cancellation, and they tell her that she can cancel whenever she wants, with one month’s notice and no quibbles.

What if her motivation wanes? As well as regular newsletters posted through her favourite social network, she will receive tweets or texts to remind her if she hasn’t visited for a few weeks. Furthermore, after three months absence, the club will warn her, and then cancel her monthly payment*, at the same time sending her a few free guest pass credits.

This is the club of the future, a club that has supreme confidence in its staff and systems and their ability to motivate members. Its business model is not to continue taking money from inactive members, as they only spread a negative message. Nearly all new member sales are referrals by existing members, whose reward is that their friends are now at the same club. Staff are rewarded for retaining members, but their real motivation comes from seeing their members achieve results and enjoying their time in the club.

There a lot of debate about gym memberships at the moment, particularly related to length of contract, automatic renewal, and notice period.

Many large chains currently offer a minimum twelve month contract; the only choice is whether to join at one or multiple sites. If there’s a facility near your home and work, then the choice is made for you, and if not, there’s really no choice.
Smaller clubs also get driven down the contract route, particularly if they outsource collections to a Direct Debit agency, as the membership contracts are defined by the service provider.
Yet some new budget clubs and many local authority and trust run clubs offer a wide choice of memberships, from Pay & Play, Monthly, Annual, etc.

The future of gym membership will be about choice. And more choice will be a very good thing for the fitness industry in the long run.

*cancelling payment was suggested during a recent discussion with the director of a local council (the discussion was before the bar had opened!)

Friday, 7 May 2010

BHF Tower of London Jog 2010

The second of the British Heart Foundation London Jog trilogy took place this week, and there was a great turnout for GG Fit and for the event in general. Of the 1,800 people taking part, we were represented by Zoe, Leigh, Nigel and Guy, who all ran the full 10km, and Tracy and Amelie (the newest member of the team) who just did one circuit.

The going was good on the soft grass in the moat, and the laps of the Tower of London being notched up. After the distance disputes of 2009, the BHF had recalibrated the number of laps up to 11, and as we neared the full distance, Nigel and Guy stuck together at the front, but Nigel broke into a sprint on the last lap to complete the 10km in just under 53 minutes, with Guy close behind, and Zoe and Leigh a minute and two later.

Medals were collected (and chewed by some to check if they were real gold)

After a brief warm-down, we enjoyed the now customary hospitality of Santander and the Co-Operative Bank which really helped to replace the calories burned around the jog, and to quench our thirsts. It was great to catch up with old colleagues and new staff from SMA Financial.

The third and final BHF jog is on 2nd June at Canary Wharf – come and support us, or join in. Alternatively, you can sponsor us by clicking here

Thursday, 15 April 2010

BHF Hyde Park Jog 2010

Thousands gathered yesterday on a wonderful spring evening for the fourth annual BHF Hyde Park Jog. Entries were quickly processed, t-shirts collected, and then Mario from Fitness First led a great warm up from the bandstand. Team GG Fit represented by Zoë, Leigh & Guy were raring to go, motivated to all finish within an hour, and the promise of a pint afterwards!

With over 2,000 runners, the start was busy, but we soon settled into our rhythm, and stuck together all the way round the first (5km) lap, chatting a little, and enjoying the early evening sun and views of the park and the Serpentine. At the halfway point, Zoë stretched her legs and upped the pace, leaving Guy 20 metres behind, and Leigh 20m further back.

Guy plugged into his running playlist, and caught Zoë at about 7km as Insomnia by Faithless kicked in. Shortly after Bombtrack (Rage Against the Machine) dropped, Guy’s legs stepped up a gear, and he was cruising past people on the west side of The Long Water. Had he gone too early? Possibly, he thought, but then the opening refrains of The Eye of the Tiger started as he passed the final 1km sign, and this carried him through to the finish. It just goes to show, music can be a great motivator!

Final times – Guy: 54 minutes, Zoë: 54½, Leigh: 56½. Handshakes and back slaps all round with a few hello’s to some other familiar faces, and then off to the pub for that pint.

Looking forward to the next BHF jog on 5 May at the Tower of London.
Join us here: facebook event
Or sponsor us here: GG Fit Joggers

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Value vs. Motivation at Gyms

Health and fitness is increasingly becoming a lifestyle choice for many people, and the options available to train and keep fit are also expanding despite the economic climate. With the different options come different service levels and support from the club in achieving your fitness goals.

Budget clubs such as FitSpace, MiFit, and NuYuu are springing up all around the country, offering no frills memberships from £10 per month, some without joining fees or contract tie-ins. Existing gym goers are being convinced to switch and save money, but new users are also attracted by the low cost. Like budget airlines, the focus is on no frills, so members either need to be self-motivating or purchase classes or personal training sessions. For previous gym goers, this may be OK, but some of the new users will drop out unless properly motivated.

Beyond the chain clubs that most people consider when thinking of joining a gym there are other options in the traditional treadmill/bike/weights gym at prices that will fit most budgets but also offer encouragement and good customer service.

Many student or college gyms have public rates and offer a wide range of classes. The Institute in East Finchley has decent sized gym with a membership called Health Zone which provides a series of pathways to help focus on your goals, and keeps the staff in regular contact with all members. Member Tony says, “I like the monthly healthcheck and program review which makes sure I’m always getting value from my membership, plus the gym is right next to the tube, so it’s very convenient on the journey home from work.”

Personal training studios are also performing well at the moment, largely due to flexible membership options and the interactive nature of the business. “We are now attracting a different class of member with our new studio” says Browne Bailey of =Results on the border of Muswell Hill and Crouch End. “Our second studio is a classroom space for X-bike training, Kettlebells, Yoga, Boxing, and Parent & Baby classes. We put the same focus on our clients’ results as with the personal training studio, and it’s clearly a model that works for our members, as they keep coming back.”

Movers and Shapers in Muswell Hill has the same concept of buying a number of half-hour sessions, but a different environment with its PowerPlate studio. With almost 300 active members, but a maximum class size of 5 people, the staff are keen to help you to achieve and of course, to renew. “We only have a few instructors, but they are all selected for their motivational skills” says Store Manager, Chris Taylor, “We rotate instructors taking classes so that members and staff all get to know each other, and every member has staff interaction on every visit.”

For a totally different kind of workout, try a British Military Fitness (BMF) session. All classes are taken outdoors around the UK (Hampstead Heath and Finsbury Park in North London). With beginner, intermediate and advanced sessions at each meeting, BMF is not just for the super fit, nor is it run by army sergeants screaming at you Full Metal Jacket style. Member Emily says, “I love BMF, everyone gets on well; it is more sociable than a gym, and the instructors always find the perfect balance of pushing everyone’s fitness without humiliating anyone!”

If you’ve tried the gym and lost motivation, need more of a push, or just feel that you’ll drop-out before you begin, there are alternatives out there for you. You can fit your fitness into your budget, but make sure you also get the level of support that you need to achieve your fitness goals.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Programming for Motivation

Many members who joined gyms in January are now at a high risk of stopping their visits, which in time will lead to cancellation of membership. Clubs who want to retain their members will be offering exercise programme reviews from 8-12 weeks of joining (some sooner), hoping to re-energise their members.

Regular exercise programme reviews are typically recommended for fitness benefits; muscle memory, cardio or strength improvements, and progression. However, the primary purpose is member motivation. Programme reviews are critical in maintaining regular visits: our research shows that just offering a programme review increases visit frequency, which improves member retention.

In January 2010, 1,225 members were offered programme reviews at 4 leisure centres across Huntingdonshire, and visit frequency increased by 47%, i.e. from once per week to 1.47 times per week on average per member contacted. Instructors were initially confused by the results, as less than one in 5 members had actually booked a programme review, but it is clear that contacting a member to offer a review drives up visit frequency. Jai Garcia, Instructor at One Leisure Sawtry, said “it’s really great to see the positive impact of our interactions with members, and to know that just offering a programme review will increase motivation”.

We’ve visited many clubs that claim to review programs every 8 weeks, only to find the first ten cards in the file had all expired. So why do we find that on average three quarters of members at gyms and health clubs have an expired program? The two main reasons are the systems and rules being used to manage the programme review process. Work on one or both of these, and as a club you will improve your member retention, or as a member, you will improve your motivation and fitness.

Systems range from a simple card based box file to state-of-the-art Exercise Management Systems (EMS). If you can afford an EMS like Technogym’s Wellness system, then go for it. Your members can have a tailored exercise programme with start and expiry dates (or number of sessions to expiry), and both the club/trainer and member will get a reminder when the programme is due for renewal. In the middle ground, there are online solutions like the Interactive Fitness Manager (IFM) from FusingFitness and PocketPT, both of which can support clubs or individuals to maintain a current program. We’ve also worked with clubs who use members’ exercise cards, which with a little admin, also works as a system. Reception staff flip through the card boxes each week, flagging members who need to be offered a programme review, and the date that the review is offered or next required is noted on each member’s exercise card following contact. Colour coded Post-it notes are an inexpensive but efficient retention tool!

It is important to remember that rules are there to be broken when setting retention policy. Programme reviews every 8 or 12 weeks will work for the club as a whole, particularly for new members, but one size will not fit all. It is most important to check and record each member’s goals and timescales at the initial programme and at subsequent reviews. A member who visits three times each week will probably want to review their programme sooner than someone who only visits once per week. So consider setting a number of visits review (think car services – 1 year or 12,000 miles, whichever is sooner). Ultimately, it should be up to the member when they want their programme reviewed; someone who only wants 2 reviews per year should be asked every 6 months, rather than drop out of the system, or be asked every 8 weeks. In general, a reminder after 8 to 12 weeks or 20-30 workouts is good as a recommended standard or for a new member.

This is one of the reasons for the success of personal training studios where members buy a number of sessions. A review is built into the end of each block of visits purchased, with progress, goals and achievements assessed, which should lead to a further block booking. “A review after 8, 12, or 16 sessions is integral to our business model” says Browne Bailey, owner of =Results in Muswell Hill. “We show our members that they have achieved their goals, and they keep coming back for more”.

So keep it simple, or make it as complex as you and your systems can handle. Ensure all staff understand the system, what the recommended rules are, and how to bend them. Most importantly, try to keep your members on a regular programme review cycle. And for those people that don’t currently want a programme review, ask them again in 11 months’ time at the latest.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The February Rush

We find ourselves in February once again, encouraged by January’s new member sales, despite the difficult climates (financial and meteorological). Some staff put their feet up after all those inductions, but now is the time to work even harder at retaining members.

Member questions:
  • How many new members in January?
  • How many inactive members “re-joined”?
  • How do you make other members feel valued too?

Motivation / Programming:
  • When is the next appointment with each new member?
  • Will a program review motivate them, or not?
  • What will motivate them – friends/class/PT/outdoor/GP?

If a member has not been for n days, will you
  • Call or text?
  • E-mail?
  • Send them a banana?
(and what is n?)

There are only 4 weeks in February. Make them count!

Monday, 25 January 2010

January Gym Offers

January is perceived as the busiest month for health clubs and gyms as people resolve to get fit, join, and then stop going a few months later.

Interested to find out what local clubs are doing differently in 2010, I’ve visited and spoken with managers and members at chain clubs, leisure centres, private clubs, and studios around North London. It seems the classic waived joining fee is still the standard policy to encourage new joiners, followed by a 12 month contract, but some clubs are being more innovative, and are reaping the membership rewards.

The big chains are offering the same old formula of discounted joining fee, sometimes dressed up as free membership periods. For example, at LA Fitness you can enjoy 3 months free, when you sign up for 15 months premier membership (which gives access to other clubs in the chain). If you will make use of other club locations and are happy to be locked in for the long term, this is great, but it doesn’t give me the impression that these clubs have much confidence in their member retention methods. The alternative is a 12 month single club contract, but with no discount. Virgin Active in Crouch End and Fitness First (women only) in Crouch End have similar offers.

The Laboratory next to Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill is much more confident about retaining members, with a monthly cancellation option. Prices are comparable to the chains, but there is big focus on customer service and the integrated gym, swim, spa offering rather than January sales initiatives. General Manager, Vas Hava anticipates having to re-introduce the new member waiting list soon, due to the recent success of new member sales. “Our members expect a certain level of service, and we make sure that we deliver because then happy members bring their friends along.”

Local personal training studios seem to be doing very well at the moment, and bring a great alternative to the 12 month sign-up, along with better motivation and coaching. Movers and Shapers is a Power Plate studio in the heart of Muswell Hill, selling blocks of 10 half-hour sessions. A monthly Direct Debit membership option is newly also available for frequent visitors, but the majority of members still buy blocks of sessions. New member Tracy enjoys the social nature of the workouts; “every session is like a one-to-one, but with a small group of friends. The instructors are all really friendly and I’m really looking forward to toning up after my pregnancy.”

Park Road Leisure Centre offered (reduced price) gift memberships in December, but now has standard annual, monthly, and pay as you go memberships. “December was a bumper month for new joiners,” says Tony Harrison, Senior Fitness Instructor, “and our new member induction timetable is nice and full as usual in January.” The local leisure centre is the most flexible and best value around, and they also have the systems and equipment in place to help with your motivation.

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got, as the motivational speaker’s saying goes. Joining a gym is seen as a January duty for many. If you’re looking to do it in 2010, do it differently, with a club that does it differently, and you might just notice a difference.

Friday, 15 January 2010


Thinking of joining a gym in 2010? Here's what you should think about before you start looking, when you go on a tour, and during a trial membership:

Before you start looking
1. What’s your goal? (fitness, shape, weight loss/gain, etc)
2. What will motivate you? (friends, environment, personal trainer, etc)
3. When / how often will you visit? (should it be close to home or work)
4. What facilities do you need? (gym, classes, pool, etc)
5. How much time/money do you want to commit?

Ask on your gym tours
1. Can I have a trial membership?
2. What are the options, can I upgrade/ downgrade/ freeze/ cancel?
3. Do I need an induction and will you set/review my program?
4. Are your instructors REPs certified? (Register of Exercise Professionals)
5. What’s included in the membership, and what’s extra?

To-do on your free visits
1. Visit at peak times, and times you would normally use the club
2. Use the facilities you need (check out the others)
3. Talk to instructors and other members
4. Haggle. Will the club waive the initiation, or reduce the monthly fee?
5. Share your goal with the instructors so they can help you