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Clients give high-fives at McAlister Training

What I've Learned (as a Studio Owner) About Fitness Challenges

By Lauren McAlister

At our fitness studio, the month of October is a big deal. 

October is when we host our biggest event of the year—a month-long challenge both in-studio and on social media.

This challenge is far from an extreme fitness or weight loss challenge (that’s not our style). Instead, it encourages clients to stay consistent with their workout schedules, give extra effort in classes, attend social events, and get to know their workout partners outside of the studio. 

Some clients say they “wait all year for this”—and while I think they might be exaggerating, I know the energy and sense of community ignited during our challenge does, in fact, stick around all year.

So, after our most successful month to date (in revenue, class attendance, and client camaraderie), here are a few lessons I’ve learned from the challenge that has fundamentally changed our business. 

Challenge doesn’t necessarily mean competition

We started our challenge as a studio-wide competition with prizes for the three highest point-earners. As the month progressed, however, we found there were two extremes: clients who were hyper-engaged and others who were minimally interested.  

The clients who were really into it took such a strong lead that the others felt discouraged and gave up trying. They figured if they couldn’t place in the top three then it wasn’t worth the effort. 

That’s when we went back to the drawing board. 

Now we use raffle tickets and prizes to reward clients for their own point milestones. Each client has a reason to work hard the entire month, regardless of what their workout partners earn. This way, our clients continue to push themselves and no one feels left in the dust. 

That said, with any challenge (ours included) there’s a chance of competition—some clients are just plain competitive. But it doesn’t have to be your main focus. The point is to motivate your clients to achieve their personal best, right?

Our clients’ networks are gold

Although our challenge is focused primarily on improving retention and building community, it’s also a huge opportunity to welcome new clients in the door. 

To make that happen, we rely heavily on our current members to get the word out and share their experiences at our studio. 

For example, clients receive points when they: 

  • Share post-workout selfies on their Instagram feed or Stories (Facebook counts too). A single post tagging our business has led to a conversation between friends, followed by a class and/or an intro offer sign-up, and oftentimes, a new member. 

  • Bring a guest to class. With energy especially high during the challenge, it’s the perfect time to encourage clients to invite friends and family. 

  • Refer a guest who signs up for our intro offer. This requires following up with each guest. For us, that includes an automated email to upsell our intro offer. 

Tapping into our clients’ personal and social media networks has created a stronger and more connected community. It doesn’t hurt attendance numbers either⁠—after all, friends don’t let friends skip a workout.

Clients want to be seen—and recognized

My favorite, and perhaps the most impactful, part of the challenge is how we celebrate our clients. Of course we do so throughout the year, but it’s an especially concentrated effort during this month. 

We do this by giving clients kudos:

  • In class: Our instructors give verbal shout-outs and bonus points to clients for things like holding an extra-long plank, encouraging others, and going above and beyond to keep the energy up in class.

  • With prizes: Each week we pull raffle winners for branded swag and gift certificates to other local businesses we love.

  • On social media: We’re all about resharing clients’ posts. Not only is it great content, but it shows our studio family that we love their support (and their social tags). 

  • At our after party: At the end of the challenge, our team determines a set of superlatives (i.e., most improved, most spirited, etc.) and announces the recipients at our post-challenge celebration. Clients love the printed awards we hand out—we’ve even seen tears, squeals, and celebration dances—and it really does end the event on a high note. 

Awards and branded t-shirts might seem insignificant. But we’ve found that our small gestures of recognition go a long way to show clients how much we care, and how proud we are of their accomplishments. 

Community should be at the heart

Building a studio family has always been our goal. We keep community at the heart of our business—and our challenges too. 

Rather than inviting clients to work out as much as possible (two-a-days—no, thank you) or compete against one another (we’re all on our own fitness journeys, ya’ll), we use our annual challenge to strengthen relationships and help our clients get closer to their personal goals.   

So, I hope I’ve challenged you to upgrade your next challenge. It doesn’t have to be long, complex, or focused on calories burned or pounds lost. It can be simple, fun, and involve costumes—just like ours. Oh, and did I mention it was really good for business?

Looking for more ways to keep your fitness members motivated?

Read the Blog

About the author:

Lauren McAlister

Lauren McAlister

Senior Marketing Content Specialist


Lauren is the co-owner of a fitness studio and a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP). Born and raised in California, Lauren has a heart for fitness, travel, and baking. She's also passionate about crafting meaningful content for others in the wellness space, which makes her role at Mindbody a perfect fit.


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