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Are Your Instructors Increasing Member Retention?

member retention

As an industry, we understand that member recruitment and retention is the key to success. With research showing that 50 percent of new gym members will drop out of a fitness routine within six months, the challenge of retention and recruitment becomes even harder*1, putting huge pressure on club owners and operators.

So, how can we support our members to change their mindset from feeling like they “have to” workout to “want to” workout? We know that group exercise classes encourage regular workouts for members who may not enjoy training on their own, or who want to combine it with other forms of exercise. The challenge is engaging members in group exercise, and motivating them to keep coming back.

Have you ever wondered what the “secret ingredient” is?

What causes certain group exercise classes to be fully booked, with members coming back for more week after week? Perhaps the class incorporates the latest fitness trend, has the best music or gets unparalleled physical results.

Although all these factors contribute to member engagement within classes, our research shows that often, it is the additional coaching skills and personality of the instructors that keeps them coming back for more. We’ve all been to classes that just didn’t meet the mark or chosen classes we normally wouldn’t go to because we know our favorite instructor will be teaching. But why is this?

Many assume that the “no-pain, no-gain” approach to working out gets better physical results and leads to members coming back for more. But in fact, the opposite appears to be true.

Now we know that scare tactics don’t work.

A recent study*2 has found that instructors who use a “motivationally adaptive” communication style are more successful in helping retain participants. Compared with instructors who use a “no-pain, no-gain” teaching style, the motivationally adaptive communication style encourages participants by making them feel supported, cared for, respected and confident. This approach allows members to develop a personal connection with their instructor, and helps support a mental change to enable them to “want to” workout versus “having to.”

In addition to the physical and mental wellbeing attributed to exercise, if your instructors are encouraging class members in this manner, research shows they are much more likely to return, fall in love with fitness, and become a long-term member of your club.

Ensure your instructors are attending training based on motivational communication, and understand the importance of catering to all fitness levels. They should encourage participants to have a safe and effective workout, knowing each class will require modifications on how the information is delivered and the type of motivation used to inspire members throughout the workout.

Learn more about instructor training and other tools and resources you need to improve your members’ experiences in their workouts — all of which contribute to increased member engagement and retention.


It’s time to build a stronger business and motivate your members, or somebody else will. For more information, email info.usa@lesmills.com or call 844-LES-MILLS.

  1. Berger BG et al. RS.Foundations of exercise psychology. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology, 2002
  2. Ntoumanis N. et al. (2016) The effects of training group exercise class instructors to adopt a motivationally adaptive communication style, Perth. Scand J Med Sci Sports

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