Set Your Facility on a Journey to Success

Insights for Maximizing Member Retention and Satisfaction

by Krissy Radek

Set Your Facility

Whether you operate a small, independent studio or are part of a large, global chain, the challenges of membership satisfaction and retention are surprisingly universal. According to  research on retention sponsored by Life Fitness and commissioned by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the annual attrition rate of leading club operators in North America ranges between 29 to 31 %*—indicating that there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, Life Fitness has developed an approach that any facility can use to address satisfaction and retention issues. Based on more than 40 years of experience with global facility planning, we’ve identified four key areas that can make or break a member’s experience: environment, social interaction, progression and variety. Collectively, these pillars make up the Life Fitness Journey, and when applied successfully, it’s what separates the good facilities from the great. 
So, how do you ensure your facility is on the journey to success? Take a close look at the four pillars below, and evaluate how your facility stacks up.

Environment: Everything from flooring to color scheme, as well as how equipment is arranged can determine if an exercise experience will be inviting or discouraging. Take a look at your facility through the eyes of an exerciser. Is it easy to maneuver to different sections of the facility? Do equipment groupings make sense? Consider a broad scope, from lighting and temperature to aroma and sight lines from the equipment, to ensure that the environment you’ve created fits the goals of your space. For example, the environment for a high energy group training space is going to be much different in terms of colors, music, lighting and overall vibe than a meditation space or rehab environment. Challenge yourself to find one task per month that you can do to improve your facility’s environment. It could be as simple as angling equipment, adding fresh flowers or plants, or finding a more convenient place for towel bins—but your members are guaranteed to take note.

Social Interaction: When people connect, they keep coming back. Offer your members enough opportunities to interact with each other, while keeping the focus on fitness. Group classes are a great way to establish comradery among your members, while also creating a fierce loyalty to your facility and superstar instructors. Consider boosting member morale with healthy competition in the form of weekly or monthly contests and challenges. Out on the main floor, we advise our partner facilities to encourage interaction by grouping equipment in pod formations so exercisers feel more connected to one another.We also recommend that there is ample room for socializing, either in a lounge area or simply by creating some open space on the floor. Lastly, keep in mind that while exercisers benefit from the encouragement of others, they also need time and space to themselves for intense, focused work. Design a layout that offers both equipment groupings for social interaction as well as stand-alone stations, providing your members the best of both worlds.

Progression: Nothing motivates exercisers like seeing results from their workouts. Offer equipment that delivers the precise data exercisers crave to track their success and progression.Today’s top cardio equipment can sync directly with exercisers’ wearable devices—allowing them immediate access to their data and putting workout results and a visual representation of their progression at their fingertips. Consider your members’ exercise goals. Is it to lose weight? Gain muscle? Perhaps a combination of both? Create a logical pathway for progression by grouping spaces with a series of beginner-to-advanced equipment options, such as resistance bands to circuit machines to free weights, which allow exercisers to upgrade to more challenging equipment and workouts as they reach new goals. It’s also important to remember that equipment alone won’t satisfy members’ needs for progression. Many members will need encouragement and instruction to move up to the next level. It is the responsibility of facility staff to help create programs and offer guidance to help members progress from goal to goal. 

Variety: Give your members choices for their cardio and strength training needs. Even the most avid of runners can grow bored with the treadmill from time to time, so be sure to offer other cardio options, such as rowers and stair machines, so they can switch things up when the mood strikes. Variety also comes into play with strength equipment. Having a combination of machines and free weights ensures exercisers can vary their routines, and also provides an alternative if a particular machine or weight is being used by another member. Also, don’t be afraid to mix up the group fitness schedule on a seasonal basis, allowing exercisers on fixed schedules to try out new classes they wouldn’t normally be able to take during their workout time. Variety keeps things interesting, leads to limitless workout possibilities and keeps members coming back for more.

From staff training to equipment—and even the layout itself—when it comes to keeping members happy, enthusiastic and returning workout after workout the formula for success lies in the sum of all its parts. Utilizing of the four pillars of the Life Fitness Journey can help bring the big picture back into focus so that your facility can achieve maximum potential and differentiate from competition.For more information on Life Fitness Journey, including how to talk to an expert about facility layout, visit

IHRSA One Million Strong: An In-Depth Study of Health Club Member Retention in North America, 2015
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