Blog / Business

How to Motivate Your Gym Members for Better Retention

Learn tips and strategies on how to keep your clients motivated to keep your members happy and your retention rates high.
motivating gym members for better retention

It’s no secret that the primary reason for gym members canceling their contracts is a lack of motivation. 

Research suggests that 50% of people starting an exercise program will drop out in the first six months. Now if that were the actual retention rate for your club on a monthly basis, you would have a problem. 

One of the biggest reasons as to why people drop out of various exercise programs are a lack of motivation

But the underlying question is, what causes them to lose motivation?

For starters, they set unrealistic goals, have inconsistencies in their schedule, or simply have no one to hold them accountable for progress or lack thereof. 

But motivation isn’t just something you can measure, like the gas gauge on a car. There are certain precursors or indicators that you can look at to try and understand if clients are beginning to or have already lost motivation. 

Thus, if you take a few extra steps to understand what your members’ motivations are for wanting to get fit, you can develop strategies to keep them on the correct path and increase their motivation to retain them as members. 

In this article, we’ll go over what we call a “Motivational Loop”, which is essentially a system of checks-and-balances that give you and your client a feedback loop to try and open up the lanes of communication as much as possible to keep them motivated. 

It goes as follows:

gym member motivation feedback loop

This strategy outlined above works wonders for beginning a workout program with each step measured and monitored by you or another 3rd party to keep members on the right track. 

We’ll go through this strategy piece by piece with tips on how to implement and reinforce good habits with your members to boost their motivation and retain them for longer periods. 

Setting Client Goals

Why do clients want to exercise in the first place? A lot of the time it has to do with their own self-perception

They have either intrinsic motivations (personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or developing skills) or extrinsic motivations (social acceptance, avoiding disapproval, etc.) that encourage them to exercise. 

In other words, intrinsic motivations are for the joy and pleasure of doing it and extrinsic are for the rewards. 

Clients with more intrinsic motivations are more likely to stick to a workout as it gives them joy out of doing it. 

However, many people who join a gym are in it for the rewards; they want to fit into a wedding dress, or lose weight so they can wear a bathing suit, and other reasons. 

This is okay, but it will take some discipline in your goal setting to make sure that they are continuously winning on their path to their goals. 

You should have a mechanism in place to record what client goals are, either in the sign-up or sales process. You can even automate this online. 

gym member goal setting in sign up forms

You can even add an additional field or drop-down menu to get more information about the goals and ensure that they are:

  • Realtistic
  • Small
  • Measurable
  • Timely

Setting goals is the beginning of the process; however, it is perhaps one of the most important aspects of any fitness routine. 

Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals means that these goals should be attainable with an above-average output in terms of time, energy, and money. 

Often times clients come in and say, “I want to lose 50 pounds in 2 months” and are sold on this idea that it is attainable. 

When 2 months go by and they’re not even halfway to their desired goal, they usually lose motivation and may even quit altogether. 

That’s why each goal should be realistic at the outset. If the overall goal is to lose 50 pounds, these should be staggered out into small or micro goals so that clients are winning on a regular basis and staying motivated through their achievements.

Micro Goals

So if the overall goal is to lose 50 pounds, then its important to benchmark certain sections and make micro goals so that clients can become used to achieving them.

For example, you can stagger the overall goal of 50 pounds into micro goals over 2.5 pounds a week for 20 weeks. 

The repeated success of these goals helps instill a feeling of continual progress within clients which keeps them motivated. 

Measuring Progress

Creating goals is great, but if you and your clients aren’t measuring them then it’s impossible to gauge progress. 

Make sure each goal your client creates is measurable and that they have a method for recording their progress. 

If clients want to improve certain exercise metrics, then they should use an app to do so that can be easily checked, shared, and referenced. 

Timely Checkpoints

In conjunction with micro goals, each goal should have time periods for their achievement. If goals are repeatedly not met within certain time periods, then clients should re-evaluate their workout plan with trainers and try to understand what isn’t working.

Establish the time periods that you want to evaluate your success and reach certain benchmarks so that you have a continual correspondence with your trainers to check in on your results. 

Overall, each of these 4 tenets should be at the foundation of any goal setting clients do for their workout programs to ensure that they are accountable and staying on the right track to stay motivated toward reaching their fitness goals. 

Reinforcing Motivation

Remember that there are different kinds of motivation that clients use for working out. It’s important that if clients have extrinsic kinds of motivation for their goals, that you do your best to instill intrinsic benefits for their workouts to maintain their motivation. 

This means creating workouts that clients begin to feel are rewarding and/or exciting so that the extrinsic value they get becomes secondary to the joy and personal feeling they get from participating in the workout. 

Of course this is much easier said than done. Chances are that the people coming to the gym to achieve these goals have tried a wide array of different alternatives already. 

Be sure to ask what kind of activities they like during the sign up process to better understand how you may help them create workouts and offer classes that are in their sphere of interest. 

Furthermore, you should have a checklist that ensures trainers know a client’s:

  • Workout experience
  • Physical limitations
  • Schedule & preferences
  • Eating habits & allergies

Once you have this information, it will be much easier to tailor a workout to specific client for maximum results. 

Once you decide on a workout that is best suited for their goals and interests, you’ll need to set up a few methods to keep them motivated such as:

  • Reinforcing good workout behavior and attendance
  • Providing them with sociable or group options to increase their attendance and overall accountability
  • Giving them positive feedback

We’ll go through each of these three tenets and highlight good practices you can take to ensure your members are staying motivated during their workout routines. 


Some clients need an extra push, whether it’s before their workout or during one. Luckily, you can set up automatic messages to be sent to clients that inspire them and provide extra motivation to get in the gym. 

Use motivational quotes, goal reminders, current progress data, pictures, or anything the client might like or use to give them extra incentive to get into the gym that day. 

You can even set these up to occur at a recurring point daily at the time they may be considering skipping a workout. 

You can also let your members be responsible for this with some accountability apps like:

accountability apps for gym member motivation


These apps are great for tracking performance and keeping members motivated with messages and workout arrangements to stay accountable. 

You can also set up reward or loyalty programs to reinforce clients to stick to their programs. Tying fitness progress to financial incentives can significantly boost results among your members. 

Simply create a loyalty program and reward points for attendance or certain milestones reached to motivate them even further.

Ultimately, reinforcement is about establishing channels of communication to reinforce the value of adhering to a workout program and keeping them motivated to do so. 


Working out in groups or among friends can improve member motivation significantly. A recent study concluded that 95% of people who started a weight loss program with friend(s) completed the program compared to 76% of those who did it alone. 

This is one reason to promote classes and group workouts among your members as much as possible when helping them configure a workout plan. This is due to:

  • Group accountability
  • Social benchmarking
  • Shared experience of success
  • Competitive motivation

These groups can help facilitate member socialization which can ultimately make your members more likely to attend classes, build reciprocal and motivating relationships, and share their success on social media--which is always good for brand marketing. 

Of course, some members may prefer to workout alone or have completely different goals than their peers, which is okay. This is where challenges and competitions can come into play. 

Members can take part in challenges and receive all the benefits of a competitive workout while completing their workouts independently. 

You can implement these through your Mobile App and integrate with other 3rd party tools to monitor participation and results. 

fitness challenges for increased motivation for gym members

Always encourage class sign ups and group workout sessions to boost the likelihood of your member engaging in social workouts to boost their motivation. 

If they prefer not to work out in groups, implement challenges to produce a similar psychological mindset for extra motivation. 

Observe and Provide Feedback

As mentioned above, having trainers or other staff members present in the gym is always a good tip as they can provide members with actionable insights and encouragement. 

This can also tie in with micro goals as clients should always receive acknowledgement when hitting a benchmark. 

You can integrate with 3rd party workout tracking tools to monitor these results and automate messages to be sent when a new milestone is reached. 

Furthermore, you can flag certain member profiles that may be stagnant in their progress and offer them free personal training sessions to get them on the right track and provide positive reinforcement. 

However, if clients aren’t using 3rd party apps and trainers are not always in the gym or available, its important to set up intervals at which high-churn risk clients or clients on specific workout regimens get feedback.

Some clients who may be new may not develop the required motivation or knowledge to get the most of their workouts. By setting up meetings with your professional staff at predetermined intervals, you’ll ensure that they’re performing exercises correctly while getting valuable opportunities to give feedback, get feedback, and encourage them further. 

If clients are in classes then the class leaders or trainers can give specific feedback to attendees during or after their workouts.

Whatever the choice may be, if a client prefers to workout alone it’s important to implement meetings for them to gain encouragement and feedback to keep their motivation high.

Evaluating Performance

As we’ve discussed many of the tenets needed to maintain and boost client motivation so far, once clients begin their workout it’s a simple process of evaluating their results, acknowledging their effort, and intervening to provide positive reinforcement or offer tips when progress has slowed. 


As discussed above, you should be providing feedback to clients on their progress so far and offering ways to help them so you keep their motivation high. 

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge members within your club on a large scale (with their permission of course). 

You can put their progress photos or data in your newsletter as a “Member of the Week” or “Client Spotlight” section to acknowledge their success and motivate them and other members to keep achieving their goals. 

gym member success and progress acknowledgement

You can add this section into a newsletter template and reach out to clients you’re monitoring to ask them for their permission and simply insert their data or photos into the newsletter. 

Some members may not want to be acknowledged on a large scale, and if that’s the case then a simple email to them congratulating them is good enough. 

Even if you’re client hasn’t hit their initial goals, acknowledging their effort can be a good form of motivation as well. If a certain member made it into the gym every day that they intended to, you can acknowledge their spotless attendance.

Assessing Progress

As clients have already started their workout programs, you’ve hopefully now set up a method to measure their progress. 

You can manually check the progress results for these clients or use Business Intelligence to automatically do it and create campaigns to foster more self-esteem and engagement. 

This is perhaps the most vital point in client motivation loss--a lack of progress. So be on top of their goals and how they’re progressing and step in when necessary. 

Motivational Loop Adjustments

Since you’ve now implemented all the necessary steps in your motivation funnel to measure, assess, and acknowledge your clients, you should have the knowledge by now whether or not they need an adjustment to motivate or challenge them more.

If they have dropped off in attendance or stagnated in their progress, it may be time to switch things up and make adjustments.

These adjustments can be, but are not limited to:

  • Workout plans
  • Feedback loop
  • Classes or trainers
  • Goals

Each step has its own function in creating a process that sees your clients either progressing or getting the help they need. 

In other words, they have all the motivational material they need--both internal and external--to achieve their goals. 

By adhering to this loop, you’re ensuring that you’re there every step of the way. 

Thanks for your attention.
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About the author

Adam Coombs

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