top of page

What traditional gyms lack, but need to keep up

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

What traditional gyms lack, but need to keep up

The concept of a fitness club or a gym has been around since ancient Greece… that’s a long time. Several forms of fitness have been introduced since then such as Spinning, Zumba, CrossFit, HIIT, etc. but the gym has stood the test of time for one main reason; the gym is still the best place to sustainably and effectively reach your physical goals. Yet, that doesn’t mean that those alternate fitness methods won’t stop growing. Trends that come and go, but traditional membership-based gyms might end up falling behind if they don’t understand why those contemporary methods attract so many people.

Recently, the importance of fitness, health, and wellness through exercise and nutrition has exploded. Simultaneously, researchers are spending more time, and money, studying how these things affect us physically and mentally. The added attention to health and fitness has lead to a number of alternative ways of staying fit, but for traditional gym owners each new fitness craze pulls members away from the gym. For example, at home fitness has become incredibly popular and new group fitness studios are popping up daily. So what can be done if you’re a traditional membership based gym looking to retain members, or a college trying to engage your new students? First let's identify what’s attracting them to these new methods.

According to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, between 2013 and 2017, membership at traditional gyms grew by 15%, while membership to boutique studios grew by 121%. While working with gyms the two main customer experience factors we’ve observed that are usually responsible for the discrepancy are:

  1. Live demonstration

  2. Social connection

Live Demonstration

In the eyes of the beginner, walking into a gym is terrifying. There’s equipment everywhere that they don’t know how to use, others know how to use them, and they don’t want to look like a fool trying to learn. If there were someone showing that person how to perform the exercise and use the equipment, someone demonstrating live, to give the beginner confidence to immediately replicate that form, the beginner would feel more comfortable with the learning process. This could come in the form of a gym partner, a family member with experience, or a trainer.

Boutique gyms mostly have this built into their system. Group fitness classes, pilates classes, HIIT, CrossFit, etc. All of them have an instructor walking you through the movements, demonstrating ahead of time, and motivating you as you do it. This is attractive for a beginner because they don’t have to worry about looking like a fool, because someone is there to make sure they’re performing the exercises correctly. On top of that, instructors provide them with motivation that is difficult to conjure themself without confidence and experience with the equipment.

A traditional gym or college facility typically has trainers that do this job, but only 3% - 5% of their members use them, and some gyms don’t even have trainers. Sure, anyone could hire those trainers, but for many the price is just too high.

Social connection

Another major element contributing to the intimidation factor of the gym for beginners is social anxiety. Imagine you’re walking into a new gym for the first time, to your right there’s a 250 lb muscle machine benching three plates and making loud noises while he does it, to your right there’s a girl squatting twice her weight with ease, everyone has their earbuds in completely to themselves with faces on that communicate “don’t you dare even think about looking in my direction”. You don’t have to be an expert at reading a room to feel like this is an unwelcoming space.

Boutique gyms again, have this built into their system. In a class format, you and your classmates are in it together. No one is above anyone else, everyone is performing the same exercises, and the whole class is out of breath at the end. These environments often lead to social connection, conversations, and familiarity with one another. By the time you’ve gone to a few of those classes you might even make a few friends. That social connection makes it far easier to return and be consistent with your fitness routine if you’re familiar and comfortable with others in that space. When a gym-goer makes a social connection, they are 3x more likely to come back.

What is a gym to do?

On top of the effect of growing boutique gyms, many technology companies recognize the struggles of traditional gyms, and the successes of boutique gyms, and have tried to create products that draw users to them instead. So the good news is, it isn’t doomsday for the traditional gym. Inevitably times change, technologies develop, demand for certain methods increase or disappear. Businesses adapt to these variables all the time and gyms should be no different. However, gyms need to acknowledge the changing needs of their clientele and look for creative ways to keep their facility relevant and engaging.

Whether it’s through the use of technology that works hand in hand with your operations, (community events, new programs, etc.) it’s wise to explore new ways to provide the same level of personalization boutique gyms are known for. Here are a few methods we’ve identified that help engage, teach, and grow community in your gym.

1. Offer classes

Some people like the class environment, some people don’t. It’s good to have the option for those who do.

2. Host community events

These are good excuses to get people meeting one another, and for the staff to get to know the clientele better. The more camaraderie amongst the fitness community, the better.

3. Introduce new technologies (ex: Redprint)

This is where we come in. There are a ton of fitness apps out there, but none that partner with you like Redprint. Redprint is an interactive gym system that gives your beginner members access to on-demand instructional videos, and a simplified tracking process just by interacting with equipment via your phone. Redprint acts as a personal app for your gym that gives members confidence through learning, incentivizes consistency through a gamification system, and fosters social connection virtually. For more information, see how it works gyms like yours here: (

4. Encourage staff to be extra friendly to foster member social connections

First impressions are everything, and the gym is an intimidating space for many. A gym staff is often the first line of defense to make sure the member feels welcome.

5. Use social media to engage members, shout them out

Using social media for promotion is certainly good for marketing, but perhaps an equally important use of social media is to engage current members. Tagging, shouting out, interviewing current members makes them feel important and part of something. The little things go a long way.

We love the gym, we want this model of fitness to stay around until the end of time because we truly believe it is the most effective environment for personal growth not only physically but mentally as well. The gym has mostly stayed the same now for decades. At some point, it has to adjust and adapt with the times. Why not now?


bottom of page