Gyms nowadays are quite intimidating places. For a first timer it’s like going to college for the first time. There is a lot going on, it’s new to you, and you’re just trying to fit in.
For guys who aren’t familiar with the gym, it’s pretty intimidating to see some huge guy benching double your body weight the way you bench the bar – without plates. The first time that I went to a gym I attempted to lift heavy weights because I was concerned about other guys in the gym thinking that I was weak. Eventually, I just stopped going. Not because I didn’t enjoy working out. It was because I was intimidated and confused. My girlfriend at the time bought me John Basedow’s “Fitness Made Simple” (remember him?) and I bought a bunch of weights so that I could workout at home.
For girls, I think it’s worse. They go to a place packed with testosterone and are being checked out more than groceries at your local supermarket. But hey, who doesn’t think that a girl in yoga pants isn’t sexy? Girls are also so appalled at the thought of getting bulky that they stay away from heavy weights like creepy guys at the bar. Most don’t have the first clue of how to work out except hopping on a treadmill or step master for hours on end.
Really though, a gym is not just a place to work out. It’s a community – or at least should be. The mainstream gyms of today are about as up to date with technology and forming social communities as your grandparents are with Instagram and Twitter. But they’re slowly changing. And you need to find gyms that are up to date.
I’ll go cover a couple of items in this article that are transforming the modern gym, what gyms need to do to keep their customers, and ultimately what you should be looking for in a gym. It’s not just a place to just go and sweat anymore. Gyms are a community where people get together, have fun, and get fit.
Here are two factors that are fueling these transformations:
- Extrinsic motivating factors – competition, comradery, community
- Intrinsic motivation factors – progress tracking via photos, measurements, and workout records
Extrinsic Motivating Factors:
Modern day gyms are going to have to focus on removing feelings of confusion, intimidation, and social awkwardness. How about some icebreakers to get to know people’s names and something unique about them? Once you know someone you immediately establish the platform for friendly competition and comradery. These are two potent factors that have motivated human beings for ages. It’ll motivate you too, promise.
Intrepid Gym and Crossfit affiliate gyms do an excellent job of setting up this platform. These gyms focus on creating a social environment in which working out is something to look forward to. It’s not just about getting a workout in to burn off the Saturday night drinks; it’s about seeing your friends too. Derek Flanzraich, CEO of Greatist (which I’ll be talking about next week) writes an excellent article about the disruption of the gym business model. He discusses that gyms should be social communities more so than places to workout. I agree with everything that he has to say and more. Here are some items that the modern gym will need to utilize in order to provide extrinsic motivation:
- Group Classes
- Member recognition for motivating others, losing weight, or gaining muscle
- Fitness related Ice Breakers for people who are new to the gym
- Competition in workouts – incentives for people who get the best time or most weight
- Partner workouts – to have members push each other and incite comradery
- Social events like movie night, beer pong, BBQ, etc.
I do coaching for group classes at Intrepid Gym and have to say that most of the ideas above are implemented and they have shown success. Members are comfortable working out, discussing their goals, and most importantly, discussing areas they need to improve. Members also all know each other, so no one is a loner. Everyone jokes around and knows that we’re all going to work hard and push through a tough workout.
Fitist, a startup which provides packages and discounts for niche fitness studios around the New York City and Los Angeles area is another community based platform that isn’t even a gym, but has the right idea. Providing you an outlet to dabble with a variety of different fitness studios and meeting people who are part of the Fitist community, how cool is that?
Intrinsic Motivating Factors:
Outside of competition, comradery, and community– the main focus of anyone’s fitness plan isn’t to win, but rather to improve. If you’re getting more fit, then you’re winning.
Modern gyms need to focus on not only the community aspect of fitness, but tracking progress for it’s members. This set ups the platform for competition with yourself and visualizing what improvement looks like. We all know that tracking progress is important – but how many of us actually do it? There are personal fitness apps, which make tracking progress easier. You can also kick it old school with a journal and pen. But really, I don’t want to put in the effort to do that, I’d rather have gyms do that for me. Wouldn’t you? Here are some items that modern gyms will need in order to provide intrinsic motivation. It’s also something for you to look for so that you can implement progress-tracking mechanisms without lifting your finger:
- Apps that allow you to record and retain you’re your best time on a certain workout, or max weight for a certain lift.
- Before and after measurements of your body (weight, waist, etc.)
- Before and after pictures
- Goal setting services
Imagine coming to the gym, logging in and being able to see what your time was for your last 5k row? You’d be motivated to get a better time and there would be no effort required to track progress should you do a 5k row in 2 weeks. Visualizing what you used to look like a month ago, or even a year ago, would be incredible for motivation. What about goals that you set when you first joined the gym, and modifying those goals as you improve? Apps do exist to serve these purposes, however it would be more efficient if gyms provided this service. It would help for customer service and customer loyalty. It’s a win-win for both you the member, and the gym itself.
Gyms today need to change their approach to both their business models and customer service. The new gym is going to be a community with technology to keep you up to date on your own improvements, fun social events, and encourage people to be fit. These types of gyms are hard to find today, but will be easy to find tomorrow. And right now, it’s really what you should be looking for.
Take a look at CrossFit, Intrepid Gym, and even Fitist. These are companies are making it easier for anyone, new or old to fitness, to make friends and have fun getting fit. Guys, keep up the good work!
As for you – have fun gym hunting!
by Andrew Kobylarz
P.S. If anyone knows of any other fitness communities similar to the one that I’ve described – please mention in comments below, I’d love to learn more about them!