Walk in the Shoes of the Deconditioned

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Over 65 million American adults are inactive and deconditioned. To attract them to health clubs, you’ve got to understand their fear of failure about improving their lifestyles, the embarrassment they often feel around fit people, and the preconceptions that they have about exercise.

Nothing teaches like experience: your staff needs to walk in the shoes of the inactive before you can successfully market to this segment.

Our view: Health clubs are looking for new growth opportunities since the superfit segment is essentially tapped out in many markets.

But business as usual will not win inactive customers, since these prospects are often reluctant or fearful.

In fact, almost everything health clubs do scares off the inactive prospect:

  • Inexperienced staff.
  • Lack of privacy in men’s and women’s locker rooms.
  • Poor or no instructional signage on equipment.
  • Equipment too small to be comfortable for overweight adults.
  • Overly challenging goals too early in the process instead of an emphasis on incremental progress through very small steps.
  • Lack of understanding of the psychology of the unfit.

A couple of easy ways to improve your staff’s sensitivity right now:

  • Load up a weight vest and have each staff member wear it for a day—or a week.
  • Have them try walking up and down stairs, or stepping up and down from street curbs—carrying, say, 50-150 pounds in dumbbell or plate-loaded weights.
  • Have them check out support forums for people trying to lose weight. Healthline’s weight loss support resources list is a good starting point.
  • If your business works extensively with significantly overweight or obese folks, check out obesity training and simulation resources.

It’ll open their eyes.