Athlete resting with his hands on his knees in the gym

The Best and Worst Ways to Onboard Athletes to Functional Training

By Meredith Simmons

February, March, and April are the perfect time to bring in new athletes to your box. Think about it—the new year rush is over, and there's enough time before Murph that you can fully onramp new members before asking them to do one of the hardest workouts ever. 

You may be wondering how to bring in those new clients, so here are three of the best ways to onramp new athletes—and one of the worst.

Bring on the recovery

WODs are hard, and offering recovery classes like restorative yoga or range of motion-based classes can help help your athletes' performance—and your gym numbers.

Think about partnering with a local yoga studio for co-promotion, or offering a Saturday morning recovery class after your last workout. Ask your members to bring a friend for free, and end each session with a facility tour. That way, when you email them with a special onramp offer (see #2), they'll know what to expect. 

Create a special onramp program—or make yours longer

Many affiliates have onramp programs, but those that don't are missing out on a critical way to bring new members in and get them up-to-speed safely. Some affiliates offer an onramp that's only one or two sessions long, and that's probably not long enough to get a new athlete up to speed on what the difference between a Russian and American kettlebell swing is, let alone how to execute them correctly.  

Onramp programs offer two benefits. For you, as a gym owner and coach, they help you set a reasonable expectation of each member's knowledge. It'll help you be more effective and efficient at coaching pre-movements in class, and keep your long-term members engaged. For your new members, it helps them get familiar with the equipment, scaling, and correct, functional movement. 

If you’re concerned about dissuading members who are transferring from other gyms or have Oly backgrounds offer the ability to test out of the onramp class. As a bonus, you can use their test as a benchmark. And who doesn't love benchmarking? 

(Have an onramp program, but don't know if it's working? Measure your retention using gym software like MINDBODY.)

Program beginner WODs

This option may not be for all boxes—some only want Games-level athletes, but if that's not you, consider offering a beginner WOD once or twice a week.  

Why?  

Some members may not feel comfortable entering a regular class after graduating from onramp and may want more time before feeling confident enough to perform all movements safely. A beginner WOD will allow you to program a specific class without certain movements that can strike fear into the heart of any athlete. (I'm looking at you HSPUs.) You could even offer it as an exclusive membership that includes personal coaching to help new athletes build confidence. 

And the worst way? Ignore the needs of your new members. 

Be honest with yourself—do you have a plan in place for when you have a drop-in that really should have signed up for an onramp? What do you do if someone brings a newbie to a Hero WOD?  

The beauty of functional training is that it’s infinitely scalable, but that doesn’t mean it’s always safe for new athletes to participate without an understanding of what’s happening. You wouldn’t hand someone without a Level 1 Cert the keys to the gym, and you shouldn’t put your new members in a losing situation either. 

There are more ways to welcome new customers to your gym, you have to do something—ignoring the needs, backgrounds, and abilities of your new members is a recipe for disaster. 

About the author:

Meredith Simmons

Senior Content Marketing Specialist and Certified Group Fitness Instructor

Mindbody

Meredith is an avid sports fan and group fitness addict, which lead to her becoming a certified fitness instructor in 2019. A long-time Mindbodyian, Meredith helps tell the stories of the thousands of businesses using Mindbody to make the world a happier and healthier place.

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