Old Wisdom Eats New Trends for Breakfast


If you can’t see the face of fitness is changing, then you probably aren’t looking.

The demographics are changing: over the next 12-15 years, nearly 30 percent of the population of the U.S. will be 65 or older, and for the first time in human history, an older demographic will outnumber adolescents.

Business models are changing: studios, niche-specific and tech-enabled clubs are driving most of the industry’s growth today.

Even consumer behavior is changing: the idea that fitness only happens in the gym died when fitness apps and Fitbits burst onto the scene. And just like mobile banking, engaging in fitness through an app rather than in a facility is more than just trendy, it’s the norm.

But don’t panic, in the midst of upheaval, it’s all-too-easy to miss the forest for the trees.

The landscape may be changing, but this is not the wholesale overthrow of the old pillars that the fitness industry was built upon. It’s an evolution in service delivery, yes, but not an overthrow of the foundational principles that made the fitness industry great.

The new game is the same as the old game. Build trust or lose. Build relationships or die out. A great customer experience is still the price of admission in fitness, only now you have to provide it everywhere.

Herein lie both the real challenge and the real opportunity.

Today’s consumer expects the value you deliver to extend beyond the facility. They are acutely aware that fitness is more than just a good workout, and most have far too much experience with short-lived results.

The good news is that tools for increasing results and retention have never been closer at hand. But it will require strong leadership to tackle the operational challenge to take full advantage of this new and massive opportunity.

The question is this: what is your business going to do to foster relationships and impact members’ lives beyond the facility?

When you’re ready to answer it, remember the words of Samuel Johnson: “people need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” They need to be reminded that you are there for them, and that they came to you in the first place because fitness is a priority for them.

This old wisdom is precisely what the new fitness consumer demands, and it’s precisely what a modern fitness business has the opportunity to deliver.

Those who extend the membership experience beyond the walls of the facility to support clients’ lifestyle changes will win in the new fitness era. And winning now will come with a much bigger reward — both in your ability to impact people’s lives, and in the payout you can earn from it — than ever before.

Mobile health technology exists today that can help you provide the right reminders to the right clients at the right time with extreme efficiency. And while change is never easy, if you build that experience into the fabric of your business now, you’re far less likely to be left behind.


Phil Beene is an entrepreneur based in Richmond, Virginia, and President of Nudge Coach, a customizable mobile client app for fitness businesses that helps improve member engagement and accountability in-between sessions.

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