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How to prepare your gym for the holiday season


In the winter months, it’s cold and dark earlier. In between social engagements and preparing for the holidays, naturally, member engagement can dip. The motivation to head to the gym seems to tail off between now and New Year while waiting for the January rush to kick in. 

There’s a real challenge to keep members engaged during the winter months for all types of fitness businesses, studios, and gyms. Finding ways to keep members engaged is tough enough during the colder months, let alone alongside a pandemic as well. Helping your gym members to stay on top of workouts and showing up is hard.

In this article, we look at how you can keep your members engaged throughout the holidays and how to prepare for the January rush. 

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The latest gym member statistics 

Like all industries, the gym sector has taken a hit during the pandemic. But now gym-goers are returning to the gym, while online fitness is trending more than ever. There’s a lot of opportunities opening up with personalization, home workouts, and holistic fitness. Although the fitness landscape has shifted with the demand for hybrid workout environments increasing, it’s obvious that more people are prioritizing both their physical and mental health. 

Typically, January is a time for a reset. Over the winter season and throughout the holidays, it’s easy to overindulge. At this stage, many people head to the gym for a New Year refresh, with 12% of all new members joining in January. You probably know how it goes with lots of fresh newbies in January, only for new member motivation to take a nosedive. Of the members that join in the New Year, 4% quit by the end of January, 14% quit by the end of February, and 50% quit within six months

As more fitness businesses start to incorporate both digital and in-person elements into their business, the hybrid fitness business model is gaining traction. Statistics show that 44% of gym-goers now use video-on-demand (VOD) at least once a week. The accessibility, convenience, and flexibility of online fitness are apparent and members understand the value of digital fitness. 

Another key part of member engagement going forward and getting customers in the door is Covid-19 safety. 70% of members who returned to their facility believe that management had the appropriate Covid-19 safety protocols in place. Going forward self-check-in measures, hygiene protocols, and Covid-19 guidelines will be essential. 

The challenge of keeping gym members engaged during the winter months 

​​While the New Year is a new beginning for many, it feels like gym attendance can start to drop at the start of winter. Cold weather and darker evenings don’t exactly motivate members like a sunny and warm day. The colder season can really impact members’ motivation and many of them choose to stay indoors, instead of making the commute to the gym. When you start to add snow, ice, and potentially dangerous driving conditions to the mix, it’s no surprise that it’s more difficult to keep members engaged at this time of year. Also, it’s tough to stick to a healthy regime as you edge closer to the holidays. 

But as the season changes, you still have an opportunity to keep members fit, active, and healthy. With your winter gym member engagement strategy, the focus tends to be on how you can tempt members back to the gym. Whether that’s to seek refuge from the cold weather in your sauna or to focus on pushing your referral program so that you can generate buzz for your gym in the New Year, you can make the most out of this time by preparing for the busier season. 

What is the January gym rush? 

It feels like an eternity since the last January gym rush. We can all agree that a peak pandemic January gym rush is a bit of a write-off, but this year it’s an opportunity to reach new members and customers. The January gym rush is that time of year when there’s a huge influx of new members. After the holidays, many people get ready with their resolutions to live a healthy lifestyle, and typically, that involves joining the gym. 

The beginning of the year is a great opportunity to build up your membership base and to show your appreciation to your existing gym members. Leverage both in-person and digital fitness to encompass your entire customer base. Think about your customer segments and start crafting valuable offers. 

It’s entirely normal for people to have a reset after some time celebrating, usually eating a fair amount of food, and feeling sluggish. By creating workshops, classes, and offers that support members throughout the winter as well as preparing for the January rush, you can feel ready. 

12 ways to prepare your gym for the holidays and keep members engaged 

Although the early winter months can feel like the slow season, you can find ways to create buzz and keep your members engaged all year. Whether you’re organizing your holiday calendar, doing some much-needed admin, or crafting a special workshop for the holidays, you can find ways to make the most out of the gym holidays. 

1. Promote your new year specials now 

It’s never too early to start promoting your New Year specials. Start generating buzz around your new and existing member promotions. Whether you have an 8-week workout bootcamp starting in January or have a special promotional member offer for the New Year, spread the word. 

Leverage the usual channels like Facebook and Instagram Live, create a landing page, and run paid ads. Marketing and promoting your New Year specials now helps to set the tone for your January signups. 

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2. Check your stock levels 

If you have an eCommerce section on your website or sell branded merchandise in your gym, now is a great time to check stock levels and make sure you’re ready for the holiday season. Items like water bottles, yoga mats, and activewear are popular gift ideas for the holiday as well as the New Year reset. 

Make sure your stock levels are ready for the next few months, especially if there are supply issues in your area. Selling branded products and merchandise is a great way to generate additional revenue, so make sure you have good stock levels. 

3. Donate to charity 

The holidays are a time of giving. Work with your members to donate to some charities in your local community. Start by asking members for their favorite charity so that they are motivated to put the effort in. One way to drive engagement is by donating to charity every time a member meets a certain goal.

 For instance, for every ten classes or streams, your gym will donate to your members’ favorite charities. This helps to increase accountability as members may feel like they are missing out on a good cause if they skip a workout.

4. Stay in touch 

Think about how you can stay in touch over the holidays. Highlight your members’ hard work with a yearly wrap-up of their success. Share your favorite playlists for workout motivation. Celebrate milestones and send a holiday message to all your existing members. Keep your members up-to-date with your latest news so that your brand stays fresh in their minds. 

5. Start a member’s reward program 

If you don’t have a rewards program, now is a great time to start one. A rewards program is a way to motivate members to complete certain goals. Whether you’re offering additional discounts or personalized services, think about how you can provide more value to your members and motivate them to hit their fitness goals. For example, you could offer points to spend on your branded activewear for every class or stream that members attend. 

6. Gift card sales 

According to a recent survey, gift cards were one of the top Christmas gifts shoppers were looking to buy. Depending on your business and what you offer, your gift card will differ. For example, a Pilates studio could sell gift cards for a certain number of group fitness classes or a gift card for apparel from their studio. Another example is a gym where shoppers can buy a gift card for a certain number of gym membership months. The right gift card offer will depend on your business and your customer base. 

7. Holiday-themed indoor workouts 

Think about adding a fun holiday spin to your workouts. From Santa hat-wearing instructors to upbeat holiday music alongside your workout, you can create special themed workouts for the season. Infuse your classes with some holiday spirit to make working out fun this time of year. You can do this for both your in-person and online classes. Whether it’s a festive-themed cardio class or spin class with some elves, you can tap into the holidays. 

8. Promote your other fitness facilities

While this tip may not be suitable for all businesses, if you have other facilities, don’t forget to promote them. Facilities like saunas, hot tubs, personal training, and spa treatments are attractive this time of year when members are looking for a warm space to unwind. Fitness retreats and getaways are also popular Christmas gift ideas. These types of services are also great for attracting new members and upselling to existing customers.

9.Craft an early new year kickstart program 

You don’t have to wait until the New Year to launch a workout program. Many people struggle to stick to a workout program throughout the holiday season, so this is the ideal opportunity to hold members accountable. Although the New Year is the classic time for a healthy break and detox program, you can get ahead of the curve by kickstarting a program for your members now. 

For instance, a pre-New Year’s Eve workout program is a good idea for helping members get ready for the big night and look and feel their best. Whether you want to help members increase muscle and flexibility or support sustainable weight loss, you can craft a workout program around your members.  

10. Get in the festive mood 

You can get in the festive mood at your facility, on your social media posts, website, and digital fitness streaming platform. You can intertwine the holiday season into both your workouts and content strategy, and maybe even decorate your fitness facility. Think about how you can get into the festive mood across multiple channels so that both your in-person and online members can enjoy the season with you. 

11. Organize your holiday calendar 

Plan and organize your holiday calendar so you’re ready for the holidays and into the New Year. This could include your class streams, in-person training sessions, Instagram Live content, workshops, masterclasses, and even healthy cooking classes for the winter months. 

You can get creative with your holiday calendar by creating experiences and events that add value to your members. For example, you could go live on social media with your top tips for mindful drinking over the holidays or how to manage holiday parties without falling off your workout routine. 

12. Prepare for the January rush 

Start preparing for the January rush by thinking about your opening times and class schedule. You may want to stay open for longer during January so that you can cope with an influx of members. Or, you may find that you’re running more digital fitness promotions for January and can scale down your gym employees. Think about adding more classes for beginner fitness levels for gym newbies. Continue to refine your member onboarding program and make sure your employees are ready for the January rush. 

In summary 

Keeping your members engaged over the holiday season is tough. But you can find ways to drive value and engage your members while prepping for the New Year. From creating a December masterclass in healthy eating to promoting your New Year’s promotions ahead of time, you can create offers to attract your target audience. These darker, cold days won’t last forever and your members will appreciate your support year-round, even if motivation dips a little at this time of year. 

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