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Managing a Successful Gym (How-To Guide)


Get the Basics…

  • Ensure you have the most up to date and popular equipment
  • Trendy classes every gym should feature
  • Beef up your marketing skills
  • Finding the right gym management software
  • Happy employees make a happy gym

Taking on the role of managing a gym can be a stressful, hectic job that is full of surprises and long hours. However, there are ways to find your groove to ensure all new and existing members are happy, that the facility is clean and well-functioning, and that employees are cheerful and fulfilled.

Some newly hired gym managers may think that because their gym has the top-of-the-line equipment, keeps up with current fitness trends, and has rates similar to area gyms, membership sign-ups should flourish.

Unfortunately, running a gym is not quite that simple. Although updated equipment and competitive rates are important, they are only a fraction of what it takes to increase and maintain membership. Read on for some pro tips on running a fitness club effectively and fruitfully.

Of course, proper gym management requires proper fitness business software. Book a demo of our All-In-One Fitness Business Management Software to learn more!

Equipment and Services Every Gym Should Have

One common question that many gym managers or owners receive is whether or not the gym has certain pieces of equipment – equipment that can make or break their decision to become full-time members.

Some of the more commonly requested items and services include:

  • Squat racks
  • Smith machines
  • Cables
  • Free weights
  • Steam rooms
  • Sauna
  • Pool
  • Massage offerings
  • Niche group classes
  • Olympic weightlifting platforms
  • Kettlebells
  • Rowers, stationary bikes, and treadmills
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Personal training
  • Sport-specific training

People want to know if your club fits their needs, so it’s imperative that you offer a wide range of equipment, features, and services for all ages and physical activity levels.

Double up on Popular Equipment

Know the workout world. Understand why one squat rack is not enough and why two bench press stations might get too crowded. Don’t limit yourself to one set of each poundage of free weights. Consider the fact that many people use 5 to 30-pound free weights more than 65 to 100-pound free weights. Think outside of the box and consider larger equipment that can act as many different machine types.

One example is The Octagon. The Octagon is a large gym apparatus that serves over 20 different purposes. Clients can set up bench press or squat rack stations; they can hook up a jointed bar, ropes or utilize the monkey bars on top; a heavy bag can be hung and TRX stations can be tied to its frame. The possibilities with this piece of equipment are endless.

Get to Know Your Equipment and Find a Great and Reliable Maintenance Worker

Gym managers should know their equipment well enough to fix many of the smaller problems that pop up in their clubs. Knobs that pop off the cable machines or broken or bent rods that are used to choose the various weight plates are some of the more common fixes that occur around weight rooms.

However, for larger jobs, like mainframe malfunctions within an elliptical, a belt break on an abductor machine, or even broader issues like an AC vent clog or a broken wall mirror, it’s time to call in the professionals. The easiest way to find reliable help is to ask around. If you have friends that manage other clubs, ask them for recommendations. Ask your current members. Scour your local Yelp pages for testimonials and reviews to ensure that the maintenance workers you hire are reliable and knowledgeable.

Additionally, make sure that you have a maintenance worker who is the taskmaster of all maintenance duties. Whether you need a pad replaced on a piece of equipment, a showerhead replaced in the locker room, installation of a new TRX hook, or need torn gym flooring replaced, it’s easier to have one person to call than five.

Do research on outside companies as well, such as plumbers, glass workers for mirror replacements, electricians, and more. Make sure you also have a good, communicative rep for each type of equipment in your gym; oftentimes they can offer you deals on part replacements.

Workout Classes and Group Instructors

Remember, there is a large population of fitness enthusiasts that won’t go near a leg press machine, are intimidated by a squat rack, and have zero clue what that massive Octagon above does. For those folks, you’ll need group workout classes.

Find the Most Popular Workout Classes and Implement Them Into Your Location

Gone are the days of Jazzercise! Don’t let your club fall out of touch with what’s in. Do your research, join platforms like ClassPass to see what is offered around you so that you too can ensure you’re covering your Group X bases. Check out the websites of the largest national gyms and click on the links for their class offerings.

Be sure to always include something for everyone. Yoga is a must; remember there are dozens of types of Yoga classes: hot yoga, advanced, prenatal, and more. Zumba is a dance-directed type of class that also caters to many types of members. BodyPump and any Les Mills certified classes are always popular and let’s not forget a cycle or spin class!

Find the Right Instructors for Your Group Fitness Classes

Of course, as a gym manager, you are free to become certified and run any of these classes, but it’s also important to find instructors who are experts in their fields.  Many members keep coming back to their chosen Group X classes not just because they love the class structure, but because they love the teacher and will often jump into other classes that he or she teaches, no matter the niche.

Research, interview, and pay your instructors accordingly. Many of these folks are freelancers and will go where they can get the most class hours and the best pay.

Grow and manage your fitness business better with Exercise.com

Attracting New Members

Simply putting new gym equipment, cycle classes, and a fancy steam room inside four walls will not attract people to your club. Whether your gym is new, or whether you are new to taking over the management for your location, it’s all about the marketing.

Beef up Your Social Media!

The exercise social media fad is booming right now. Make sure you have a Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, and even a Snapchat page that you (or an employee) are in charge of running. You should post almost daily. Show videos of members using your equipment; share pictures of happy, sweaty faces in your group fitness classes; share demo videos, testimonials, and even a healthy protein-packed recipe or two.

Create winner-driven challenges like body fat loss contests, drawings for a free month of membership, giveaways, and more. Create buzz that your members will share on their social media platforms.

Another tip? Advertise in-house. Download poster templates and print them at a local Staples or OfficeMax.  Use eye-catching graphics, fitness models, and more. Properly placed advertisements can not only keep people motivated to reach their personal fitness goals but will create buzz and curiosity among members.

Know the Latest Workout Trends

Most gym owners and managers have been in the business of fitness for years and have seen hundreds of workout fads come and go. As a gym manager, it’s important to stay up to date with these trends and to not only utilize them to market to new and existing members but to continue to keep things fresh inside of your location as well.

Try a Pop-Up Class!

Want an inexpensive way to drum up business and buzz around the club? Pop-Up classes are fun, exciting ways to create something new and test the waters on possible future Group X classes.

Pop-Up Classes are temporary twists on a program you already have. Some ideas are:

  • Hip-Hop Spin (an upbeat cardio thumping hour)
  • Yoga-Lates (Adding Pilates movements to a yoga routine) See video below for a glimpse into some trendy yogalates moves you can use to implement into your class
  • CrossFit eXtreme (utilize your existing equipment to work small group sequences)
  • Couch to 5k (Train groups on a treadmill, then head outside for small runs)
  • Core n’ More (Hit those ab muscles in a core-focused class)
  • Post-Holiday Boot Camp (Sweat off those Christmas calories!)

Add a customized playlist to the above classes and have your instructor ask for feedback at the end.

Give Back to Your Members

Consider giving back to members by incorporating an annual “Member Appreciation Week.”  Advertise for this a month or two in advance and offer the following:

  • Sign up for a free training session (this is a great way to highlight your personal training program and get potential clients)
  • Free protein shake and healthy snack samples (if brands often offer to give you free samples, this is when you should call in those favors)
  • Enter to win a free month of membership
  • Bring a guest for free
  • Sign up for no money down
  • Decorate the place with balloons, turn the music up a notch, and kick up the fun!

Gym Management Software

Some companies will try and sell you on using one type of software for billing, one for scheduling, one for employee tracking and more. However, is there a way to keep all this in one place?  The answer is yes!  Exercise.com carries an entire business platform that can be your all-in-one business management software.

What can Exercise.com’s business software do?

  • Schedule appointments and classes
  • Accept payments
  • Manage clients with individual and group calendars
  • Schedule workouts to a client, group, or class workout calendar for easy member and trainer logging
  • Take clients through your personalized assessments to automatically create personalized workouts based on the data important to their success.
  • And so much more!

Promoting a Positive Gym Culture

One of the hardest parts of managing a gym is finding good employees and keeping them. Most positions at fitness clubs are part-time and rarely offer benefits or full-time salary pay. So, what are some things you can do at your location to find and retain a happy staff?

  • Focus on athletic/fitness-minded applicants – The majority of applicants are of the younger crowd, mostly college students or entry-level candidates. Students majoring in fitness or physiology are a plus as are fitness enthusiasts. When you find a candidate who meets those parameters, you can offer them more growth within the company.  Typically, they are more excited about coming into work, they take their time helping members, and they care more about the equipment and proper usage of the facility.
  • Competitive pay – Get to know the gyms around you and what they are paying their front desk staff, personal trainers, fitness assessment consultants, and group class instructors – then, meet or exceed that, even by a small amount. Do not pay below minimum wage for your geographical area and always give your employees a free membership to your gym.
  • Offer to help pay for their personal training certifications. Employees who have the option to build on their resumes while employed with your location are more empowered to stick around, grow their book of business, and become personal trainers for you. Some of the more popular certifications include:
    • NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine
    • ACE – American Council on Exercise
    • FM – Fitness Mentors
    • NCSA – National Strength and Conditioning
    • ISSA – International Sports Sciences Association
    • Les Mills – For your group X classes
    • Zumba – Requires a separate certification than the LesMills umbrella of classes
  • Offer bonuses – Whether it’s an end-of-the-year bonus based on commission earned, new members signed up, training packages sold, or another task completion, it helps to feel appreciated. Too difficult to calculate? Throw an end of the year holiday party for your employees! Make them feel special and valued. It will go a long way towards minimizing turnaround.

As you can see, managing a gym can be chaotic, daunting and even stressful at times. However, if you are organized, utilize the right tools, and plan ahead, it can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding jobs you’ll ever have. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help, do your research and never stop educating yourself in the newest research and latest trends in the fitness business. Stay up to date, keep the pace swift and know that you’ll never stop learning as long as your mind is open and you’re acceptable to change.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is it better to buy or lease gym equipment?

Leasing your gym equipment is often a better option because it’s easier to finance over time and comes with better maintenance and financing options compared to inheriting a fitness equipment loan. Just remember that over time it does end up being more expensive because you do not inherit the asset of the equipment. For more information on buying versus leasing equipment, check out this article.

What type of group fitness classes are the most popular?

According to ClassPass, the current top 5 ranked group classes are Strength Training, Cycling, Yoga, Pilates, and Barre.

I know nothing about marketing – where do I start?

Social media is the most popular and most seen marketing platform to date. Take your time and make your social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) the best and most appealing pages they can be. Be sure to share the links to your pages in your facility. Word of mouth travels fast and is free! Read this guide for additional gym marketing tips.

What type of software do I need to manage my gym?

Exercise.com’s fitness management software is your all-in-one solution to your fitness business management needs.

Do I need to hire a human resource manager?

Unless your club employs more than 10 full-time employees, the duties of a human resource manager can be done by you or your club’s Assistant Manager. If it is not you taking on the responsibility, be sure the person can be trusted and has all employees’ best interests as their main focus.

Now that you’ve read more about how to manage a gym successfully, let us help you with the fitness business management software side of things.  Request a demo today to get started.



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