4 Strategies to Survive the Post-New Year Workout Rush

As New Year's resolutioners flock to your gym, take a moment to review four tips that will help keep you sane and keep your new members coming back all year.

The New Year always brings a flood of new health club members. To help you retain them without overworking your staff or elbowing aside your most loyal members, we offer four survival strategies to deal with the New Year’s resolution crowd.

1. Remind yourself that this is a good problem to have.

Considering how much time, energy, and resources a health club owner devotes to adding new memberships, the idea of fretting over too many new members seems crazy. And on some level, it is.

"We change our mindset and don't look at it as 'dealing with it' but as, 'this is awesome,' and we encourage it," said Maria Miller, regional programs manager for Merritt Athletic Clubs in Maryland.

Member Retention Sneakers Steps Column

2. Manage expectations.

Some new health club members lose heart because they try to do too much too fast. It's critical that your staff engage with this group and help them set realistic long-term goals.

Establishing a baseline also provides a basis for frequent follow-ups.

"The club should make all possible efforts to guarantee that the members see results, as we know that when members see results, they continue to be motivated and engaged," said Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., owner of Fitness Resources Consulting Services. "But in the majority of cases, they need to be monitored and followed closely to keep them on track."

3. Help your staff identify returning members.

It's important to distinguish between regulars—i.e. members who have been attending right along and are not part of the New Year's resolution crowd—and those who are back after a prolonged absence. Each requires a different approach.

Regulars simply need to know that you value their loyalty. Does the January rush create crowded locker room conditions or a parking shortage? Be sure these temporary inconveniences don't drive disgruntled regulars away. One way to do this is to encourage employees to minimize off-hours visits in peak times.

"A lot of our employees take classes," said Andrea Merritt, childcare and program director at Sportsclub in South Carolina. "But we don't have that in January. Every employee knows that if a class is full it should be their greatest pleasure to give up a spot for a member."

On the other hand, long-absent members need to feel that they've been missed—something you can address by simply offering a "Good to see you again!" at reception. As you ring in the New Year, it's vital that these old acquaintances know that you have not forgotten them.

“The club should make all possible efforts to guarantee that the members see results, as we know that when members see results, they continue to be motivated and engaged.”

Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., Owner

Fitness Resources Consulting Services​

4. Plan to keep members engaged year-round.

Even as you’re dealing with the hectic post-New Year rush, you should be working toward how you’re going to keep these new members engaged all year. This process can begin as soon as the onboarding process.

“Our onboarding process is very motivating and educates our members on the benefits of exercising year-round,” said Shawn Stewart, chief operating officer for O2 Fitness. “After the initial two program design sessions, we offer monthly and quarterly reviews.”

You can also create special programs to promote engagement and boost retention. Merritt Athletic Clubs has several programs to keep members motivated year long, according to Miller. They include:

  • Fit Camp: a small training program that welcomes members to have an accountability partner
  • Power of 9 Program: a free program that encourages members to work out nine times a month, every month-prizes. Special perks are awarded to members who participate.

For more strategies to engage and retain members this January, log-in and download IHRSA's Definitive Health Club Member Retention Toolkit (a member-exclusive resource).

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Marianne Aiello

Marianne Aiello previously served as IHRSA's Senior Digital Content Manager—a position focused on crafting and monitoring IHRSA’s digital strategy and covering IHRSA events.