By Seth Richtsmeier

It’s no surprise the fitness industry has changed dramatically over the course of the pandemic. From lengthy closures, new regulations and increased cleaning procedures to virtual classes and training, those working in the industry realize how much fitness customers changed. They’ve been forced to adapt to keep up with their clients’ desires.

Now that restrictions are starting to ease as more of the country becomes vaccinated, the fitness industry is seeing a mini-boom.

Customers are eager to get back to in-person training and classes, having missed the social interaction that comes with fitness. It’s important now more than ever to focus on the client for all aspects of your business.

Fitness customers changed the way they incorporate fitness into their lives since the pandemic first hit. Prior to the pandemic, only about 7% of fitness customers used online training. That number surged to over 80% throughout COVID.

Many are planning on keeping virtual training a part of their routine as restrictions are lifted, therefore businesses must be able to pivot. Serving clients based on their wants and needs given the current climate and global state will help you stand apart from the crowd.

So how do you adapt?

Be Transparent About Sanitation and Cleanliness

Customers want to know what your business is doing to keep up with cleaning procedures, local mandates and regulations, and all other efforts to keep everyone safe.

Sanitation practices will be the most important topic of discussion for customers coming back into a gym setting. It’s important that everyone using the space understands their responsibility in maintaining a clean and safe environment. By being open about your cleaning policies and procedures, you can ease the worries of those looking to get back to enjoying the gym life.

Offer Various Ways for Customers to Engage

Although most gym-goers are eager to get back to the physical workout space, some are opting to continue with home workouts and virtual training in their routine. Serve your clients with options that fit their schedule and lifestyle for better retention. Ideas might include:

  • Live streaming classes
  • Members-only social media groups
  • At-home challenges and competitions
  • Educational workshops

Managing your calendar and schedule can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to offer multiple ways for your customers to get involved. Thryv alleviates that feeling by offering online bookings for your customers while managing your calendar. The constant back-and-forth conversations about scheduling will disappear, leaving you more time to focus on your customers.

Get Personal

Learning about your customers is also helpful for improving client retention. Familiarize yourself with them when it comes to topics like:

  • Likes and dislikes about your business
  • Birthdays
  • Events they’re planning to attend
  • The names of family members

People want to feel special but, when you have a gang load of customers, it can be difficult to keep up with everyone.

Through Thryv’s customer relationship management and text and email support, all you need to do is input those personal touches, set a schedule, and the software will do the rest. This will keep you top of mind in your customers lives, which means they might talk to their family and friends about you, and hopefully lead to referrals.

Include Mental Wellness Practices

COVID has shown just how important mental health is. As fitness professionals, we understand how physical movement can help improve mental health.

Coming out of the pandemic, anxiety and depression are some of the leading complaints when it comes to mental health. Research shows that exercise can be beneficial for both.

Remember, while you may not be a mental health professional, you can probably agree there’s a link between exercise and improved mental health. This is something to share with customers.

Check in with customers regularly (both in the gym and outside of it) to see how they’re doing. Offering options for training styles and classes gives people autonomy over their health journey. Studies show that yoga, resistance and aerobic training are all beneficial for mental health.

Focus on creating a judgment-free facility with a welcoming community for those who want to improve their mental health.

Be Empathetic

It’s been a challenging year and a half, to say the least, and it likely won’t be easy for everyone to return to a normal routine.

Listen to your clients, empathize with them, and help them create a fitness plan that works for them. You’ll find that most are average people who need to move more and eat healthier, so keep things simple.

If you’ve noticed customers haven’t been to the gym in a while, automated text and emails can check in to see how they’re doing or invite them in for a workout. And when they come in, be a light in their day and celebrate with them. We all know showing up is the hardest part.

Be Human

It’s time to drop the fitness influencer mentality and get back to being real human beings. While it’s important to be professional, you also need to show customers that you’re human too.

Customers often put fitness trainers, owners and the like on a pedestal— imagining that these individuals never eat junk food or skip a workout. In fact, this can hold them back from being completely honest with you.

It can be intimidating to stand in front of someone who seems to have everything together. If your customers aren’t comfortable being vulnerable with you, they probably won’t tell you when something isn’t working in their program.

Opening up about your struggles shows others that it’s OK for them to struggle. It reminds them there isn’t something wrong with them because exercising, eating healthy and staying mindful is hard. When you connect on a more personal level, you show others you understand what it’s like to be human.