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Industry Buzz: How Do We Motivate Those That Hate Exercise?


When it comes to mental fitness, I’m pretty tough. In school I had no issues studying for hours on end and even the sounds of my siblings constantly bickering didn’t trouble me much (I’m talking to you, Jake and Sarah). Even today, I have no problems challenging myself when it comes to social situations or working my hardest at my job.

However, when it comes to physical fitness, I find my motivation to be a bit lacking. The second something starts to challenge me physically, I find myself shutting down. If I’m in a Group X class, I can’t wait for it to be over. If I’m working out on my own, you’ll barely find me breaking a cold sweat. And although I know this is an issue that I need to work on, I still have a difficult time motivating myself to really push the physical boundaries of my health and fitness.

This is an issue a lot of your members likely struggle with as well. According to a 2013 study conducted by the CDC, only 49.4 percent of adults 18 years of age and over met the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity. Of that same group, only 23.9 percent met the guidelines for muscle-strengthening activity, and only 20.4 percent met the guidelines for both aerobic physical and muscle-strengthening activity.

So how do we motivate those (like me), who have trouble cultivating a love of exercise?

Accountability and Community

When it comes to motivation, some would argue nothing works better than being held accountable to another person. That is why many clubs still highly advocate the benefits of personal training.

However, there are other ways to hold people accountable, other than one-on-one coaching. Members can be held accountable to a community as well.

This is where “clubs within clubs” become important, such as small group training programs, Group X classes and even running clubs coordinated through the gym. When fitness becomes social, it’s much more difficult to brush off.

Personally, I can advocate for the benefits of community-oriented fitness. During the times when I’ve been the fittest, it’s always because I was working out with a friend, sibling or coworker who would help motivate me to get to the next level. After all, who am I more likely to ignore: My personal thoughts, or that of a friend cheering me on?

Rewards and Results

Let’s be honest, some people need a carrot at the end of a stick to get moving. This is why rewards programs can be effective at motivating people to exercise. After all, if they know visiting the gym five days in a row could lead to a $20 discount off their membership or an awesome gift bag, they’re much more likely to make it in.

In addition, ensuring members see results (a reward of its own) is a key aspect of motivation as well. When’s the last time you checked in with a member —  that doesn’t participate in personal training — to check in on their progress? If you haven’t, you could be missing out on a key opportunity to educate that member on the programs and services you have at their disposal to help them see results. Or even just to offer a kind word of encouragement.

I know this can help from personal experience. When I was in high school I belonged to a small gym run by a local couple. I was visiting the gym two to three times a week, when one day the husband asked me how I was doing. “Was I reaching my goals?” He asked. When I said, “Kind of, but not as fast as I’d like to,” he offered me suggestions on how I could improve, and promised to check in on my progress over the next few weeks.

He did, and I ended up staying a member of that gym (and did reach my goals), until leaving for college. Without his guidance, I’m sure I would have floundered on my own.

In addition to accountability and rewards, there are other ways to motivate people to workout, such as removing barriers to health and fitness (convenience or fear), or making fitness fun.

The bottom line is if we want our country to become a healthier one, we need to find ways to motivate people like me that struggle to get into the groove of fitness. How can you extend an olive branch of motivation?

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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