The coaches at the gym and I have been creating an assessment rubric over the last month to integrate in to our Personalized Success Plans for new gym members. While we’ve always included some type of mobility and safety assessment, we’re beginning to explore long-term adherence to gym attendance. What external factors keep people engaged? What do the other 23 hours outside the gym need to look like in order to support the 1 hour spent inside the gym?
This morning, someone shared another “Dear Fitness Industry…” article with me. The author explained how he, like many standing on the outside, feels as though the fitness industry does not speak to him; that the messaging from the industry is missing the mark. I couldn’t agree more. However, we’ve seen literally hundreds of examples of “outsiders” finding their home in our gym. From Adaptive Athletes to Cancer Survivors, we see people finding their gym home everyday. I believe that fitness is for everyone. But, you have to find the right tribe for you. And that means you’ll need to keep an open mind.
People still think we’re crazy for thinking CrossFit is ideal for cancer survivors. Swing by some Tuesday or Thursday evening and I’ll introduce you to dozens of badass survivors that will disagree. Training seniors outside of a four-foot pool? No way. Swing by our Legends class and meet some amazing folks building serious functional strength and independence.
What’s the right gym for you?
Use the following quiz as a rubric to determine what type of gym or workout plan will keep you coming back. Keep in mind that you’ll want to be doing whatever you choose to do for the next 50 years. Also keep in mind that you’ll need to begin working on things in addition to working out – things like nutrition, stress management, recovery, and sleep. All these factors are just as important as the workout itself. A good gym or fitness professional should be able to speak to these.
Also keep in mind that your motivation will run out. Most folks can maintain their own motivation for 6-12 weeks after which they will need some external supports to maintain their gym routine. A lot of the questions in this quiz will related to those external factors since they will have the largest bearing on your long-term adherence.
Each of the following questions are yes or no. If you fall in between the two, try to honestly assess toward which answer you’re leaning.
Without deviation, FOR THE LAST 18 MONTHS:
- I have attended a gym for at least 3 hours per week interrupted only by holidays and vacation.
- I go to bed and wake up at the same time at least 6 days per week.
- My job has predictable daily and weekly hours, with duties rarely eating into my personal time.
- I travel less than 10% of the year for work.
- My work is rarely stressful nor do I think about it outside of working hours.
- My five closest friends and significant other all work out at least 3 hours per week.
- I eat at restaurants two or less times per week.
- I have 80% of my daytime breakfast, snacks, and lunches planned before my week begins.
- I generally stay with a consistent workout program for at least 6 months, knowing that results take time and consistency.
- I have a morning routine that includes things like cooking breakfast, practicing gratitude, making my bed, going for a walk, or meditating that I maintain at least Monday through Friday.
Go ahead and tally up all of your “yes” answers. Be sure that you’re answering based upon your last 18 months, not your last 3 weeks of really high motivation. It’s important to remember that your motivation will run out typically in the first 12 weeks. After that, you’ll need additional structures to maintain your new habits.
Score: 8-10. Access Gym, ClassPass, or Home Gym
You have strong external supports and built-in habits already. Your work and home life are conducive to you maintaining consistency in the gym without adding much additional support. It typically takes 3-5 years of consistency to get here, but going to the gym is an integrated part of your day. You wouldn’t feel right if you didn’t go to the gym.
You should feel confident signing a long-term one or two year contract at an access gym – like Gold’s or Planet Fitness – since the likelihood of you using that membership are very high. ClassPass is a fun option if you like to work out with other people. ClassPass is also good because you have the knowledge to manage your own program and will, like the Access Gym, utilize the full value or your passes. You can also feel confident investing in some good Home Gym equipment knowing that it won’t be a coat rack in a few weeks.
Score 5-7. Hybrid Gym or Dedicated Class Program
You have some of the supports that will predict success, but not quite enough to ensure long-term adherence. Work or home life may be in conflict with your goals, which means you’ll need some structure from a fitness professional. Before going down the road of finding a fitness pro, be sure to really evaluate if you’re ready to re-structure things in a way that will be in line with your stated goals.
You may tend to feel really motivated at certain benchmarks – New Years or at the outset of pool season, for example. At these times, you may sign a long-term contract at an Access Gym only to fall off after 6-8 weeks. You may also try a ClassPass, but randomly try classes that sound fun but soon find yourself only using a pass a week. Access Gyms and ClassPass make all their profit off the 5-7 group. Really motivated at first, but then continue to pay for a service they never use.
5-7’s do really well with structured, linear group classes coached by emotionally intelligent coaches – not cheerleaders. This group tends to find motivation in learning new skills and progressions while the body composition changes are happening behind the scenes. 5-7’s will meet new friends at the gym, building out their external support structure. They will begin to make adjustments in their day-to-day schedule because they’re finding working out to be fun (weird, right?).
If you found a lot of your “no” answers were related to work & schedule, this group will need some 1-on-1 support. Whether this is weekly or monthly, you’ll need just a bit more accountability. If work obligations tend to creep into self-care obligations, the financial and personal accountability of a 1-on-1 session will be a good benchmark to keep in your calendar. If you travel a lot for work, having a skilled coach create some programming or meal planning options while you travel will help you maintain some discipline while on the road.
Score 0-4. 1-on-1 Training, Nutrition Coaching, or Outside Help
The first thing to recognize is that everyone starts here. Whether they were 14 or 40 years old, anyone starting a new habit begins in this range. When you first started brushing your teeth as a toddler, you were a 0. Now you’re (hopefully) a 10. You probably had a parental figure providing 1-on-1, daily assistance as you built that habit. Approach your fitness with the same mindset.
Your goal (if you’re, in fact, ready to start) is to find a trainer you trust. More important than their credentials is their ability to listen and empathize. The purpose here is not necessarily to see results, but to build a positive experience – to have a “win” – each time you walk in the gym. You’ll see results, but only after you’ve created a habit and trust with your trainer. You may also be a great candidate for in-depth Nutrition Services. Again, the goal with Nutrition Coaching is not necessarily education (you know what you should and shouldn’t eat), but to build trust and positive experiences around food.
This is also a time to evaluate if fitness is the immediate need. There are times when someone’s needs may be outside the scope of a fitness professional. When your feelings about your abilities, your body, and food go beyond needing to make some tweaks in your routine and schedule, it may be a good time to seek some professional counseling. Again, this will also lead to building positive experiences and feelings which will, ultimately, set you up for success in the gym.
Everyone is different.
We live in a time in fitness where every gym or program is screaming: “OUR WAY IS THE BEST WAY!!!” Generally, this is well intended. The trainer probably stumbled upon that thing – yoga, CrossFit, spin, or powerlifting – and had a life-changing experience. Of course they’d want to share that with the world! But the reality is that no two people are motivated the same way. More importantly, your outside-the-gym life is a much greater indicator of your success inside the gym. So be honest with where you are today and make a decision accordingly.