8 Fitness Challenges Ideas to Supercharge Retention

Retention is crucial to the success of a gym or studio and while fitness operators can struggle with this aspect, the solution, more often than not, is simple strategies done really well. One of these simple strategies is the fitness challenges. It’s simple because it’s easy to organise and easy to incentivize members to take part. And, as we will explain further in this article, it’s highly effective for keeping retention rates high. 

The cost of poor retention is significant and two regularly cited articles explain very clearly why. Leading fitness industry organisation IHRSA discovered that when a member leaves a fitness studio, it can cost as much as $674 in annual revenue per dropped account. The potential impact of losing 10 members, for example, is a nearly $7,000 loss per year. 

Similarly, according to the Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new client can cost anywhere between 5-25 times more than retaining an existing one. If you’re not convinced on the value of customer retention, increasing customer retention by just 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. The cost of poor retention can be potentially business ending. There is no easy way to say it. 

In 2020 fitness operators faced a tough challenge when it comes to retention. With the closure of gyms around the world and the shift to online fitness the risk of huge member losses was high. Some gyms were able to react quickly, while others hesitated, losing members potentially forever. A year later, however we are still in the middle of a pandemic and some countries are still locked down. Even the switched on fitness operators at the beginning may now be finding it hard to keep their retention rates high during a prolonged period of solely online services. 

Fitness challenges can offer a solution to this problem and in the rest of this article we will look at what a fitness challenge is, why it drives retention, what the best in the business are doing and then list some fitness challenge ideas that you can try yourself. 

Skip ahead to:

  • What Is a Fitness Challenge?  
  • How Do Fitness Challenges Help with Retention? 
  • Fitness Challenge Ideas From Major Fitness Franchises
  • 8 Fitness Challenges Ideas to Supercharge Engagement and Retention


What Is a Fitness Challenge?  

A fitness challenge is a competition where a goal is set and the person has to go through a number of tasks or singular tasks that tests their fitness ability. The idea behind a fitness challenge is to motivate the person to achieve something and push them beyond what they believe their limits to be. 

Motivation is such an important part of someone achieving their fitness goals. A study by Bodybuilding.com found that 73% of people give up on their New Years fitness goals. By giving the members something to aim for and a platform for them to test their fitness ability it incentivises them to keep turning up to classes.  

A fitness challenge comes in many shapes and sizes. They can take place over a day, a week or a whole month and be in person or virtual. Recently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been necessary to move challenges online and they have proven to be essential tools for retention. Let’s now look at a couple of reasons why. 

How Do Fitness Challenges Help with Retention? 

There are a couple of key benefits to using fitness challenges as a retention tool. Not only did they increase focus and drive performance, but they also help build community amongst your members. This has been especially important now that gyms and studios have been online for the past year. In some areas around the world this will be the case for the next few months at least. Here is a breakdown of the reasons why fitness challenges help with retention. 

Increases Focus

To achieve anything in life, it requires discipline and focus. If you want to grow a successful business or progress in any way in life a focus needs to be  maintained on the goal you want to achieve. It’s the same for your member. No matter how much you coach them, encourage them and lay out plans for them, if they don’t have an internal drive to succeed, then they will fail. 

An alarming finding from a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that 50% of people drop out of a fitness program within the first six months. An incredible statistic if you think about it. To combat this, fitness operators need to motivate their members to achieve what they want to achieve through target based fitness challenges. 

Drives Competition 

There is no harm in a bit of healthy competition. In fact it has been shown that competition can be good for increasing physical performance. In another study by NCBI, the researchers found that in a physical task, the reaction times of participants were far greater in a competitive environment. If you want your members to push themselves beyond what they think their capabilities are, challenge them. 

To help improve performance even more, try splitting up your members into smaller groups for challenges. An article by Forbes featured a 2009 study by Stephen Garcia that discovered the advantages of small group challenges and competitions. Garcia found that a person competing in a group of ten people achieved better results than a person competing in a group of 100. 

Builds Community

While focus, competition and performance are important, there is also another, less talked about but still important aspect of fitness challenges and their importance to retention. This is a community. It has been shown that an engaged community is one of the main reasons that a person joins a fitness studio. 

During the fitness challenge, it’s a good idea to set up a specific Facebook and Whatsapp group for the participants in your fitness challenges. A messaging group is great for helping members encourage each other, share advice and post updates on progress. 

Fitness Challenge Ideas From Major Fitness Franchises 

Fitness challenges are an integral part of the most successful fitness franchise brands. To give you an idea of how you should structure and format your own fitness challenges, let’s take a look how 2  of the most well known studios in the world run their fitness challenges. 

Gold’s Gym Challenge

Gold’s Gym is possibly one of the most recognisable brands in the fitness industry and we profiled the franchise in a recent article. In the article we looked at the history of the brand, how its structures and what they offer to their members. A part of what they offer is the Gold’s Gym Challenge. 

Typically beginning in January of every year, this tough but rewarding fitness challenge really pushes participants to achieve their fitness goals. At the beginning of the challenge, photographs and measurements are taken to give a baseline to begin with. Every Gold’s gym can put forward the best challenger in their gym into a national competition which cash prizes totalling $100,000. 

F45 Playoffs 

While Gold’s Gym is a legacy brand in the world of fitness, F45 are the new fast growing upstarts. This Australian founded brand has soared to success on the back of the growing popularity of group based fitness studios and now has studios in most major cities around the world. Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg has invested in the franchise in the last year which has raised the profile of the brand even more. 

The F45 brand is inspired by collegiate sports in the US and the fitness challenge they run follows this line of thinking. Named the F45 Playoffs, this fitness challenge runs both individual and team competitions. The format consists of quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final to determine the winner. According to F45 the playoffs will become the benchmark for fitness testing globally. 

8 Fitness Challenges Ideas to Supercharge Retention

Fitness challenges not only help with both acquisition and retention but are very adaptable to corporate and workplace wellbeing. Offering an incentive or reward can motivate members to join. Keep track of progress and always deliver on the rewards promised. Here are some fantastic fitness challenge ideas to get you started.

1. Weight Loss Challenge

One of the best parts of a weight loss challenge is that it’s easy to monitor as everyone can submit their weight before starting the program. People love to see a physical difference in their appearance, and by making weight loss more of a game, it may encourage members to stay motivated.

2. Transformation Challenge

A transformation challenge is a little different from a total weight loss challenge. With a transformation, the result looks at the whole body including muscle building, strength and body fat. Creating a plan for nutrition and exercise is crucial for this type of challenge. Set a time that is realistic for members to achieve their goals such as eight weeks or three months.

3. Charity Challenge

Getting involved in a local charity keeps members motivated while helping them raise money for a cause. Start by asking your members what they would be interested in doing; they may have a charity they would love to raise funds for. Organize an event and tailor classes specifically to help individuals train.

4. Walking or Running Challenges

A walking or running challenge is one of the most straightforward challenges and an easy way to encourage exercise. This is a good option for the workplace as well as those looking to up there fitness gently and just move a bit more. To keep the challenge fair, how steps or distance are tracked would need to be the same or at least similar. Using fitness trackers or wearables would be ideal.   

5. Calories Burned Challenge

This type of challenge gives your members a little more freedom as they can choose the type of exercise they do. There are a ton of apps that can help calculate total calories burned for specific exercises and time spent. They can run, swim, walk or do anything they want to participate and join in.  

6. Healthy Eating Challenge

Healthy eating and proper nutrition is an essential part of overall wellbeing. It can be one of the most challenging parts to get right, that’s where a healthy eating challenge comes in. Perfect for both the gym and the workplace, this challenge is all about giving users the nutritional information they need. It also works in encouraging them to make healthy food choices. This can include eating five fruit and vegetable portions a day and cutting out soda or junk food.

7. Workout Challenge

Workout challenges are designed to test the fitness of members. You’re pushing your clients out of their comfort zone. For this type of challenge, set a goal that tests the capabilities of your members. Then put a time limit on it and show them the exercises they need to complete. Make sure to use branding for your challenge and use a popular hashtag to boost your social media presence.  

8. Mindfulness Challenge

Mental health is not only crucial in the workplace but all areas of life. To manage stress levels and prevent burnout, a mindfulness challenge will encourage positive activities such as meditation. Similar to other fitness challenges, users can be rewarded for regular use of mental wellness apps or frequently taking time out to meditate.  

In Summary

Always make it as easy as possible for members to join your challenge, track their progress and offer rewards at the end. Launching a fitness challenge helps to create a sense of community and encourages a healthy lifestyle. By assisting members in meeting their fitness goals and providing results, you can retain clients and acquire new ones. 

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