Competing with the Home Gym

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As winter is a time for hunkering down, it seems appropriate that I haven’t been able to get myself to the gym for several weeks now; all I want to do is curl up under a blanket. I have, however, managed to find a few exercise podcasts and videos and start working up a sweat in my home office. I know I’m not getting quite the level of exercise I need: no equipment, no trainer, no instructor, no fellow sufferers. But it’s hard to kick my own rear in a gym-ward direction when I know I can get at least some sort of workout at home.

I’m not the only one. I have a couple of friends who swear by the stationary bikes in their living rooms; one guy I know has an entire weight room in his basement. And recently the Wall Street Journal reported that, while sales of traditional home fitness equipment have declined in the past few years, and while the percentage of Americans with gym memberships has pretty much held steady, sales of lower-priced fitness items, like yoga mats and workout DVDs, have increased. The fact is that sometimes fitness centres are competing for customers not only with other fitness centres, but also with those customers’ personal spaces. What can be done to pull people — yes, people like me — away from the yoga blocks in their closet or the medicine balls in their bedroom and into the gym?

The key is to offer benefits that outweigh the benefits of working out at home. The way I see it, working out at home has three major benefits: It saves money, it saves time, and it’s oh-so-convenient. But I know that going to the gym instead of exercising at home would get me to my fitness goals faster. There, I can use equipment that much more efficiently burns fat and increases muscle than anything I can do at home. More importantly, I can call upon the expertise of trainers and instructors who can show me how to position my body just right or explain why I’m at risk of injuring myself if I’m performing reps incorrectly.

But the best thing, the thing I most lack at home? External sources of motivation. No matter how great the podcast I’m streaming might be, it’s nothing compared to the rush I get when I’m trying to run faster than the guy on the treadmill next to me, or the comfort I feel when I mess up a Zumba move and a sympathetic classmate tells me not to worry about it, or the simple satisfaction that comes from not being the only one, all alone, trying to keep myself healthy and live right.

So your task as a health club owner or manager is to remind me why I’m better off at the gym. Have your fitness concierge (you have one, right?) send out emails to folks like me to tell us what the gym can offer us that we can’t get at home. Post videos on social media that show me other people who managed to get themselves to the gym that day. Even ask one of your trainers to call and check in on me — you can bet that being held accountable by someone I’m eager to please is going to finally get my butt out the door. I know I’m saying the onus is on you, but that’s really how it is. You got the gym up and running; it’s your job to get me coming to it.

Keep in mind, too, that you actually can compete directly with some of the home-based workout benefits. Given that convenience is a big factor, you can offer special deals to people who live close to your facility — within a few blocks, say, or within a mile or two. You’re convenient for at least some people. Make it your business to make sure those people know it. And given that saving time and money is a big factor, you can consider offering winter discounts and designing (and widely advertising) super fast classes, ones that get members in and out of the gym in under thirty minutes.

It might be hard to lure people like me out of our houses before the crocuses start blooming and the birds start singing, but it’s not impossible. Make it worth our while.

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