Rows of bizarre machines and a mass of lycra-clad individuals who appear to know exactly what they’re doing – there’s no doubt that walking into a gym can be intimidating. In fact, according to a survey carried out by Samsung, 83% of Brits agree that the gym can be an intimidating experience! With the importance of exercise being realised more than ever, it’s time to bring that number down and make the gym a welcoming environment for everyone. And with the New Year rush just around the corner, it's time to get prepared to welcome lots of new members!
Let’s delve deeper into the findings from the survey and outline what operators can do to alleviate these concerns.
52% of Brits are intimidated by other more experienced gym-goers
How operators can address this.
Publish when your quietest hours are
By training at quieter times of the day for their first few sessions, new members can get familiar with your centre and build confidence using your equipment instead of having to worry about what everyone else is doing (or thinking!). And your gym staff are more likely to be free to answer questions and offer guidance.
Offer a discount on PT sessions for new joiners
Depending on a member’s fitness goals, sometimes all it takes is a few sessions with a PT for someone to feel more confident with basic exercises and using the machines. If this happens at the very beginning of their journey with your gym, they’re more likely to want to keep coming back and use what they’ve learnt in their own sessions!
Make sure your group classes cater to all levels
Not everyone is looking for an intense fitness class – and if they are, they might not have been before! Try and mix up your class timetable to include some dedicated classes for newbies eg. ‘Yoga – the basics’ or ‘An Introduction to Weightlifting'. Being in a class with people at a similar level to you is reassuring and a great opportunity for members to meet potential workout buddies at your gym.
56% are intimidated by understanding how to use all the equipment
How operators can address this.
Offer an in-depth induction
For the experienced gym goer, completing an induction is more of a tick-in-the-box exercise and all it takes is a quick tour to point out the free weights and cardio areas. But remember, this might be the first time someone has ever stepped foot in a gym. Showing gym newbies how to correctly use your machines will give them the confidence to try this on their own, reducing the risk of injury as well as reducing the risk of them cancelling their membership.
Post short ‘how-to’ videos
To a seasoned gym-goer, the difference between a leg press and a leg extension machine is obvious. But how is someone who’s never seen them before going to know how to use them? Sometimes the tiny diagram on the machine won’t cut it and the worry of using the machine wrong and looking silly can be enough to put someone off. Why not post short videos on social media showing how to use certain machines or do specific exercises? If you don’t have the time and resources to record and upload your own videos, you could always link your users to trusted ‘how-to’ videos on a video platform such as YouTube.
There’s no doubt that pressure from social media and fitness influencers can have a large impact on someone’s confidence in signing up to a gym.
How operators can address this:
Take the time to ensure that your imaging is inclusive of everyone
Think about what image your gym portrays to someone who’s never visited before. What images do you use on your website and social media? Although slightly improving, fitness-related stock imagery is still dominated by slim models with a face full of makeup. Not very representative of the average person who goes to the gym, nor very welcoming to a newcomer who’s never been to a gym and doesn’t know the reality that a sweaty gym session isn’t glamorous for anyone! Embrace the diversity of your current users and use images that include people of different body shapes, genders, ages, ethnicity, and disabilities. If possible, try to take your own high-quality photos of your users in your gym (with their permission, of course) rather than using stock imagery.
Craft your messaging around the ‘modern version’ of health and fitness
Gone are the days of fitness campaigns overdoing the ‘time to get in shape’ or ‘get beach-ready’ messages. Times have changed - we’re no longer all chasing the same unrealistic body type. Everyone has different goals and drivers of what they want to achieve by visiting a gym, so it’s time to celebrate that. We all know the incredible benefits of exercise on both physical and mental health, so use this as the focus for your messaging!
For regular gym-goers or even those working in the fitness sector, it’s easy to forget how you felt at the beginning of your fitness journey. Chances are, probably a bit intimidated! Following these top tips might seem like a small change but together we can help break down these barriers to exercise and make gyms a more welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone.