Going Outdoors to Increase Retention in the Summer

6 min read



Summer is here, and personally I couldn’t be more excited about it. Even though it’s been quite rainy lately at the Zen Planner headquarters in Denver (much like the rest of the country), I am very much looking forward to the chance to get outside and be active. During the summer, there’s a high likelihood that I might skip a day or two in the gym to participate in some type of outdoor activity.

As a fitness business owner, you’re no stranger to attendance seasonality. Winter months are busier due to recent resolutions and the desire to workout inside. The summer months however tend to be slower due to vacations and people, like me, choosing to participate in outdoor activities instead. While there’s not much you can do about vacations, you can turn the desire to be outdoors into positive thing for your fitness business.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

This seems pretty simple, but if your members are forgoing attending the gym to workout outside, simply beef up your current schedule to better incorporate the outdoors into workouts. To keep members coming back to your gym during summer months, consider making the following tweaks to your schedule.

runningTake your workouts outside

If you have a large parking lot or if there’s open space (school, field, park, etc.) nearby, take your workouts outdoors. Even if there isn’t enough space to host an entire workout outside, consider making portions of the workout outside, such as runs, sprints or various outdoor stations. [clearfix]

Add a weekly 5k

An easy way to add some outdoor fun to your schedule is by hosting a fun run, somewhere between two to five miles, one day a week. Since running in the heat is dreaded by many (including myself), try scheduling this early in the morning or later in the evening.

Host boot camps

Another great way to get your members outdoors is to host a weekly boot camp in a nearby park. Either have a current Saturday or Sunday class relocate to a nearby park, or add additional boot camp class to the schedule. Know that many times parks require a permit to host workouts if you have more than a certain number of people participating. Be sure to check your city’s parks and recreation site before you make set plans.

Adding new outdoor workouts to your schedule, such as a weekly run or boot camp, can also serve as a great way to bring new members in during the summer months. Encourage your members to recruit their friends to the boot camp by offering “bring a friend for free” days. If you decide to offer an organized run, consider making it free for all. Not having it count towards your current members’ memberships will likely increase attendance. Having it free for nonmembers is a great way to give them a taste of how awesome your gym is, and might encourage them to join, especially once the cold weather hits and the fun runs end.

Summer Community Building

In addition to incorporating the outdoors into your gym’s schedule, you can also use outdoor activities to help build a stronger community. Get your members together to bond and have a blast with the following activities.

zenplanner-bannerWeekend fitness excursions

Organize a group of active members for a hike, trail run or bike ride. You could also organize a fun workout in a completely different and challenging location (such as Red Rocks or the Manitou Incline for all you Colorado-based businesses). Use your gym’s Facebook page to organize the event, invite members and encourage them to car pool.

Host a BBQ

Summer and BBQs go hand in hand. Hosting a BBQ is a great way to get members together to get to know one another outside of the gym. If you’re working with a tight budget, offer to provide one item, such as the meat and encourage a potluck for the sides. With summer vacations, it’s best to plan this a month or two in advance to ensure higher attendance. Again, consider using a Facebook event to organize the event logistics, have a food sign up sheet and get your members to talk about what games and additional items, like lawn chairs and grills, they’ll bring.

softball-team-groupJoin a sports league

As a gym owner, you have access to large group fitness fanatics who would form an amazing recreational sports team. Gauge the interest of your members around joining a co-ed softball, soccer or kickball league. Nothing builds camaraderie and community better than playing on a team together.

Give back

Organize a group of members to give back and volunteer within your community. Whether you decide to pick up trash, paint over graffiti or help out at an event hosted by your local Special Olympics organization, giving back will get your members outside, feeling good and connecting with one another.

As the days start getting warmer, and member attendance starts sliding, try making different tweaks to your schedule to see what does and does not get those members back into the gym. Do you have any tips for keeping your members in the gym during the summer? Share them in the comments section below!

Your member retention efforts will continue throughout the year. Get advice to help keep your member coming back for yours to come in our latest guide, 7 Strategies for Member Retention.
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