Thinking of joining a gym to finally get in shape in the New Year? You’re not alone.

 

Every January, a rush of repentant fitness-seekers hits the gym to work off those holiday pounds and start a healthier lifestyle.

 

Yet inevitably, many people fall off the wagon once spring rolls around. The challenge fitness clubs face is to keep people coming in.

 

Sammie Kennedy, CEO and creator of Booty Camp Fitness which hosts women-only fitness boot camps at more than 90 locations across Canada, says January is definitely a busy time for drawing new members, but that the goal is to make sure they stick around after the initial rush.


“January is one of our busiest seasons and one of our goals at Booty Camp Fitness is to not let these people become ‘January joiners.’ We want them to come back and get hooked on fitness,” Kennedy said.


Taso Pappas, chief operating officer of Extreme Fitness Canada which operates 13 fitness clubs throughout Toronto, says the last 10 years have seen a strong upsurge in new members right after the holidays. According to Pappas, Extreme Fitness clubs see an average increase of 40 per cent in new member signups during January and February compared to the rest of the year, as well as a 40 per cent higher usage rate among existing members determined to get back on the wagon.


Yet by the time March hits, usage and new member signups drop 25 to 30 per cent again, proving that keeping new members from dropping out after the start-of-year rush is the biggest challenge fitness companies face, Pappas says.


“People are starting the year with good intentions, and our challenge is to try and keep them committed and convince them the lifestyle change they’re making is worthwhile,” Pappas said.
Motivation and expert guidance are key for most people: At Extreme, 90 per cent of new members who take on a personal trainer see higher results and stay active in the club for 12 months or longer, while half of those without personal trainers stop working out before the year is up.


“You can’t just bring new members into a big room full of equipment and say, ‘Have a nice day.’ That’s a recipe for disaster. If they’re putting in the effort and not getting a return, they’ll eventually stop coming,” Pappas said.


Group dynamics and social interaction play a big part in getting members to stick to their fitness plans — the goal is to create a larger community of members with group fitness classes and out-of-gym social events that bring people together, Pappas says.


At Booty Camp Fitness, Kennedy runs ice-breaking sessions and uses partner work and team games in the overall fitness strategy because fitness friends create a level of camaraderie and support for each other.


“The group atmosphere does bring members back. It’s a very supportive, social atmosphere,” Kennedy said.