Friday, 25 January 2013

The perfect gym induction – a little bit of what you fancy

We all know that the gym induction and initial exercise ‘programme’ is critical to member retention, but it’s surprising how many clubs still get this wrong. The “sign them up, get them in” culture in member sales seems to pass through to the gym staff. Rather than providing great customer service, we find ourselves processing members, ticking the box, and moving onto the next number.
Gym programme templates, starter programmes, and worst of all, free training are all methods that benefit the instructor, saving time rather than helping the member. It’s important to find out why the member has joined, if they have some exercise goals, but the best things to find out are what exercises and/or equipment they would like to use, and perhaps what they do not want to do. Listening to the member is absolutely vital at this stage, take in everything they say…
  • I’d like to use the bikes and round and round stepper things, but don’t like treadmills
  • My friend comes and really likes the rower and wobble plate, can I do them please?
  • I’d like to do some weights for my chest, but don’t know where to start
  • I really don’t know – can’t you tell me what to do?!
The last one’s tricky… of course you can tell them what to do, but ask again, perhaps for just one exercise or piece of kit that they like the look of… if they choose, then they will buy into it much more, and will be much more likely to return.

Don’t tell them they can’t do anything (unless it’s a real risk, of course). Control the speed/resistance, and just give them a basic programme that they like to get going with. Ask how long they think they can do on each set, using your knowledge to advise, but again, don’t tell them, ask them if they think 5 mins, 10 reps, etc. is achievable.

Having broken down your induction programme template to nothing, it may be worthwhile having some guidelines; trying to get new members to do a minimum and maximum number of exercises is one idea. Keep asking them “what else” until you’re within your guidelines, or if they’re really stumped, give them some options to choose from, making sure they still have the choice, rather than being told what to do.

If you’re using an exercise management system (FitLinxx, Pulse, Technogym), then it may be tempting to still have an induction template. By all means have a guide programme, perhaps including 5 mins on each cardio machine, but tailor it for each member, removing what they don’t want, adding in the extras, and tweaking the timings and settings.

How to overcome a couple of problems with this approach:

1.  “There’s no way that the member is going to achieve their goal by doing those exercises.”
Sure, but this is not about reaching the members goal, it’s about getting them to build up the exercise habit, once they've got that, you can adjust their sights to start to move towards their goals.
“ I'm not helping you to lose 2 stone right now, that’s more of a medium term goal. Short term, we want you to feel comfortable exercising, once we've got that nailed we can see what else you want to do.”

2.  “You’re the fitness professional, you tell me what to do” or “ I'm doing your job for you here”
“But I want you to succeed, and while I could give you a nice tough programme that I've designed, you’re much more likely to reach your goals if we find things that you enjoy doing.”

Do you write tailored programmes for all your new members, or can you see other barriers to bespoke programmes? Let us know in the comments…

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