By Kate Browne, Ph.D. (she/her)

Once every decade or so, I deep clean my closet and take a good, hard look at what I’ve been holding on to “just in case.” In past years, I held on to clothes that were too small for my current body, but since aspirational clothing is no longer part of my body positive worldview, I noticed that what I hold onto these days is more about the kind of athlete I once was and who I might be again.

In the very back of my closet, underneath all the women’s business casual separates from at least two career changes ago, I found the padded shorts I wore playing roller derby. My playing days in the early 2010s are long gone, but my skates, helmet, and safety gear remain in a box in the garage. (I’m afraid to look, but there’s probably still an old mouthguard in there, too.) That gear was expensive, which is one of the reasons it’s hard to let go of, but letting go of the stuff also means letting go of the dream that–like the very inspiration of the name–KateThulu might live again.

What I don’t have anymore are the VHS tapes, DVDs, and infomercial ab-roller-crunch-band-lift devices that I bought when exercise was something I thought I had to do. Every few months, I swore this time would be different. This time, I would get up at 5am every day to do my Insani90X boot camp class at the gym. This time, I would be the kind of person who makes fitness a priority no matter what.

It never happened.

I never set out to be a roller derby queen. I just wondered what would happen if I showed up to tryouts. I never set out to be a runner, either. I just signed up for an 8-week 5K training program. Giving myself permission to follow my curiosity led to experiences that changed my life in ways that no resolution could match.

This time of year, lots of gyms are pushing their 2022 programming with the idea that this time will be different. You will be different. But what if we approached the new year with curiosity instead of dogged determination? Could breaking the cycle be better for business?

Rachelle Clayton of MEE Active uses free, short-term programs as lead generators that help new clients get to know her. Positioned well, these programs lead to longer term memberships that give new clients “plenty of contact/connection with the instructor & community as they learn and share their own path with others.” Here are some tips based on other BPFA members’ experiences with short-term programming:

Keep Your Goals Aligned

Starting a new exercise routine can be intimidating for clients, especially if they come from an “all in” mindset. To meet this expectation, a lot of gyms offer “total body,” “full immersion,” and “complete transformation” new year programs. Trying to recreate that experience in the short-term can lead to burnout. Keeping your short-term offering aligned with your other services is efficient and helps clients see the progression. For example, an intro workshop can lead to a paid trial or directly into regular programming.

Make Them Pay…a Little

It seems counterintuitive, but people tend to be less invested in free services. Not charging any money can also lower the perceived value of your services if you are giving them away. Keep the price in line with your overall goals. It isn’t about offering more than it makes sense to give, it’s about making your services accessible for clients who need to know more before committing.

Connect with the Right Emotion

Every infomercial fitness program and “new year, new you” promo at the gym connects with the same emotion: longing. These programs offer hope that you’ll be able to escape your crummy life once you have visible abs. It doesn’t work that way, but by the time you’ve spent $99.99 on the app, it doesn’t matter anymore.

Curiosity is just as enticing and still gives new clients what they crave: a positive, inspiring vision for the future. Could this change my life? What if I were a person who tried this? Do I belong here? Short-term programs invite new clients to find out.

Marketing Fitness Programs

Emotional HookThis will change your life!Could this change your life?
Trigger Wordsnew, transformation, total, complete, whole, all, challenge, lifestyle, no excuses, worktry, find, connect, wonder, hope, learn, discover, future, first step, small steps, start, go, fun
Success Defined By…AchievementShowing Up