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Increasing Member Engagement Through Small Group Training

About the author: Laura Cieplik is the senior director of account management for LifeStart. She is currently certified as a NSCA Personal Trainer, Intrinsic Motion Biomechanics Trainer (Levels 1 and 2), Schwinn Indoor Cycling Instructor, TRX Trainer and Balanced Body Pilates Mat 1 Instructor. LifeStart provides corporate fitness center management and offers wellness programs that provide a compelling alternative to traditional fitness center management practices. They integrate onsite fitness, health coaching, and nutrition services in a comprehensive wellness package.


Fitness centers of all shapes and sizes tend to have one thing in common, the need to attract new members while retaining current ones. It can be a delicate balance of where the focus should go each day since both are so vital to the long-term success of the facility. LifeStart manages gyms in the corporate setting and our potential membership base is made up of the tenants of the building. Each company brings its own “personality”- traditional, trendy, old, young…the list goes on. We are often faced with the challenge of how we can bring all of these unique groups together and form one, united culture in the fitness center. The answer for us has been through engaging the population. A key component of achieving that is by offering unique and creative programming through small group training.

An engaged member is someone who is investing their time, money and attention in our center for an experience that we are offering. In this case, small group training. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this overall experience that get members to fully “buy in”. It's when you hit on all these engagement initiatives that you create the winning scenario.

Engagement Through Programming

Build your brand. Develop a workout program that is both unique and attractive. Participants know what to expect when they show up and they know they like it. Think of the most successful boutique studios- they do the same format 20 times a day but the classes are packed. The instructor is the one that adds that extra pizzazz of signature moves or cues.

Engagement Through Energy

The fitness floor can sometimes be a boring place. Lots of people locked into their same routine and doing their own thing. Headphones on, no eye contact, the “don’t talk to me” vibe.  Starting up a small group training session can change that in seconds. Exciting music, coaches yelling, and commotion around the equipment make the floor the new, high-energy area that is catching all of the attention.

Engagement Through Relationships

It is human nature to want to feel supported and part of something. Small group training creates relationship between people who may have never spoken to each other in the normal gym setting. Once strangers, they are people who are now cheering each other on, sweating it out together, high-fiving at the end of the workout. They miss each other, encourage each other, and keep each other coming back. Small group training creates that social atmosphere and culture that people want to be a part of.

Engagement Through Word of Mouth

A good workout is contagious. People aren’t leaving the gym telling everyone about their 45-minute treadmill run. It’s the small group training sweat session that just wiped them out, and the trainer, and how much they “hated” that surprise set of burpees at the end. This is what they are chatting about to their coworkers and friends on the way back to work or home. And guess who's listening? Non-members who are now wondering what this program is all about. Small group training helps create these walking advertisements that promote the gym better than any email or flyer ever can.

LifeStart measures the success of our clubs by looking at levels of member engagement. A location that has high participation in wellness events, group exercise classes, and training programs tells us that we have a solid (and fun) atmosphere in place that will keep people coming back for more. Put your focus into building a successful small group training program and you will grow your new membership base while retaining the old. Engage your members!

By: Laura Cieplik, LifeStart

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