Woman doing pushups with a holiday hat

The annual ritual of “season’s eatings” is almost here, with Thanksgiving right around the corner. And of course, gyms want to remind their members to keep health and safety top of mind.

This might be especially important in 2020, as many regular exercise routines have been disrupted. In fact, nearly 90% of people who used to go to the gym have experienced setbacks, says World Gym’s Senior Operations Advisor Charlie Hauser.  On top of that, many have turned to comfort foods to get them through some tough days.

However, pushing fitness is not the top message that gyms should promote as they reach out to their members, Hauser cautions. After all, for many who are still working in a virtual environment, home is a place that’s now filled with the tension of school and work.

“We have the ability to position our environment as that escape they need from their daily rut,” says Hauser. “You want to make it judgment free, which could mean toning down the rhetoric on avoiding holiday weight gain. Instead, you want people to come to the gym because it makes them feel good.”

Here are some strategies to try:

1. Rethink the “Twelve Days of Christmas” by underscoring new options.

This perennial favorite workout uses some variation of 12 burpees, 11 jumping jacks, 10 pushups, etc. But this year, it’s important to get members away from the internet and into the gym so a workout plan alone won’t suffice. Switch it up and instead create a program that’s more of a clinic, where for 12 days during December you showcase something different your gym offers, like a yoga class or a demonstration on using the treadmill effectively. “You want to make your gym approachable as you try to retrain the habits that were created in 2020,” Hauser says.

2. Make the gym a friendly respite.

On that theme of creating an inviting oasis, encourage your staff, from management down to the maintenance crew, to interact with members and visitors. Greet them, welcome them and make them feel important. “People are starved for conversation, and we have the opportunity as a gym to help them find what they need,” Hauser says. “You want them to be glad they left their house and came.” That includes instituting policies that are “COVID-safe” without making your members feel on edge.

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3. Have some fun.

Many people might be missing a playful outlet in their lives, so double down on the festive flair. “Get creative…invite carolers or a musician or bring in a drummer for your Zumba class. Hold a toy drive or an ugly sweater contest or feature Santa hat day,” suggests Hauser. “You want your members to say ‘You won’t believe what my gym did!

4. Involve your staff.

Finally remember that one of your key customers is your staff; you want them to be happy and engaged, as that spirit is infectious and will allow them to better serve your members. Have a pre-holiday planning blitz and bring in the hot cocoa and cookies (or protein-packed smoothies…however you roll) and brainstorm activities for the members. Then let your team take ownership by delegating tasks.

Remember this will be a different type of holiday for many—they might be separated from family or feeling uncertain what 2021 will bring. Now is the time to let them know you are there for them and encourage healthy, safe habits which they can carry over into the New Year.