Unleash the Power of Communities & Groups in your Gym

Let's talk about tribes, groups & communities in the gym landscape. 

In this article we’ll be delving into the power of gym communities, and how they can enhance the overall gym experience for your members.

In “Tribe”, author Sebastian Junger says, "the path to human contentment revolves around three core needs: competency, authenticity, and connection."  A good case can be made that a back squat or a tabata session doesn't tick off those boxes, but hear us out.

Where There's a Tribe, There's a Way

Picture a Women's Fitness group in a gym. 

Here, ladies from all walks of life come together to bond over burpees and battle ropes.  They forge connections that go way beyond the sweat and grind. They don't just 'workout' -- they motivate each other, share wins, and build strong, supportive relationships. They foster a sense of belonging and safety, growing more competent and confident with each fitness milestone they achieve together.

They're given a way to further these bonds through social gatherings. 

Their trust and loyalty for the gym skyrockets. 

They invite their friends to events and Bring-a-Friend Classes. 

The gym grows, organically.

Sounds enticing, right? 

It's not just about women's groups - any kind of group can have a similar impact in a fitness setting. We’ve found though that women’s groups work really, really well in strengthening a gym community. Afterall, more women equals more men.  Plus, where women congregate acts as social proof to other women that this space is “safe.”  

Gym sub-communities not only boost member retention, but also decrease workload for gym owners -- members tend to self-regulate and support each other, without relying solely on the coach or owner for their sense of belonging. 

As long as these groups remain inclusive, they can bring about significant growth and long-term sustainability for your gym.

It's Not About 'Cliques'

Before you imagine "Mean Girls" in activewear, let's clarify: the objective isn't to create cliques, but to foster healthy communities within your gym

These micro-communities should cater to specific needs, like a 'Parents Night Out' group that provides babysitting, or  a homeschoolers group for those juggling remote learning and fitness.

If your gym feels like it's turning into a testosterone-heavy setting, forming a women's group could bring balance, attracting more women and consequently, more men to your facility. 

In one instance, a gym's population shifted from 82% male to a comfortable 65% female after introducing a women's group.  It's not fewer men -- it's more women … women members.

So, not only do these communities make the gym experience more enjoyable for members, they can also enhance your gym's demographic diversity.

Creating a Gym 'Tribe'

Looking to get started creating your own gym community? Here are some quick tips:

  • Initiate a group based on your gym's needs. It doesn't have to be the gym owner - sometimes, a member may be the best person to lead. (The best person for this role should already be “doing” the thing -- leading, motivating, uniting people of this sub-community)
  • Use platforms like Facebook or GroupMe for discussions. Believe it -- a place for privacy and candid conversations build intimacy and trust. (In the women’s group example, it can be a game-changer to facilitate a secret group for women to share topics and stories that were private or specific to female-interests.)
  • Ensure every voice is heard. Use polls or surveys to involve members in decision-making.
  • Organize out-of-gym activities. It's always a good idea to change the backdrop occasionally, from barbells and rowers to mini-golf or a picnic.

Let the Barbelles Chime In

Take, for instance, the women's group we’ve been sharing about, Barbelles. With a name chosen through a voting process, the group exhibits a spirit of humor, democracy and involvement from the get-go. 

From hosting zoo visits to ballet classes, they believe in experiencing the fun together, both inside and outside the gym. 

And guess what?

They document and share these Powerful Moments (lots of pictures, stories, inside jokes shared on social media, whether in the Women’s Group or in the overall gym-members group on Facebook), luring in more individuals who want to join in the community.

Pretty smart!

When a member of Barbelles has an idea for the next Barbelle’s Event, it’s acted on and organized -- showing again that each person’s ideas are heard and considered.  

All Hail the Group 'Creed'

Let's not forget the glue that holds these communities together - their shared values or 'creed.' This isn't some hard-and-fast rule book, but rather, a guiding principle that shapes the group's identity. 

It's like a gym community's secret handshake that fosters cohesion and a sense of belonging. 

It even boosts self-esteem among its members.

In our Barbelles example, they adhere to a code of conduct based on being friendly and welcoming to all new members. Every person who walks through the gym doors must feel instantly that they belong. 

The Barbelle’s motto: “Strong, Gentle, Tough” -- kindness being the most valued trait. 

Women who display kindness towards others and strength (of mind) are celebrated.  They get letters of encouragement from the group leader(s) or coaches.  Their story of kindness or resilience is told as gym lore.  They are highlighted on the monthly Success Board.

The results; a warm and welcoming atmosphere with no drama, lots of strong women, and plenty of laughs. 

So celebrate the qualities you want to see more of, and your gym will thrive.  

Wrapping Up the Fitness Session

Establishing sub-communities within your gym can transform your space into more than just a place to lift weights or do an AMRAP. It can become a haven, where members feel supported, motivated and connected, ensuring they keep coming back for more than just their love for exercise.

The magic ingredient? A shared sense of purpose and belonging, fueled by a sense of fun. After all, as the saying goes, “those who sweat together, stay together”. 

Until next time, keep that community spirit high -- remember, you’re in the business of RELATIONSHIPS, disguised as fitness.