How scary is working out at the gym for normal people?

Posted on 23-06-2023

You, as the reader of this article, are a fitness entrepreneur, manager, or trainer/coach. You realize that you work in an awesome industry. You personally enjoy training and helping people become fitter, healthier, slimmer, and more confident. Therefore, the question is: have you ever wondered how intimidating fitness, in all its forms, actually is for regular people?

First: What are 'normal people'?

First, let's create some context: What are 'normal people'? For the purpose of this article, let's consider people who did not grow up with fitness as an example. So, let's say a 35+ year old, with a partner, and therefore a relatively high chance of having children, a busy job or business, maybe even a course or study alongside work, and social contacts. And not as fit as they were about 10 years ago.

Sound familiar?

For the sake of readability of this article, let's refer to this person as 'Fred.'
For your information: Fred is afraid.

Afraid of himself

Fred finds 'fitness' and everything related to it intimidating. He is afraid of the future, afraid of his reflection, afraid of what his partner thinks, afraid of his swimsuit, afraid of himself. Because he has to admit that he is weak. That he always found excuses not to exercise, to keep postponing that healthier lifestyle.

Afraid of the super fit trainer

And let's say Fred responds to an advertisement. He even makes an appointment. But at the time of that appointment, he doesn't really feel like it. Fred can come up with enough excuses why now is definitely not the right moment to go for an introduction. But he goes anyway. Seriously, this is a victory. A bigger victory than you, as an enthusiast, may realize. But then he walks in, and there is the super fit trainer. He has never been that fit himself. And that trainer is going to ask him about... his goals!

Afraid of the real problem

However, Fred doesn't really have a specific goal yet. He first wants to be relieved of the pain of being overweight, of being out of shape, of the lack of self-confidence. Most of Fred's answers to the trainer's question are something vague about health and getting fitter again. What they actually mean is, "I want to get rid of my bad physique, and I want to feel more confident again." But well, you don't say that. Insecurity doesn't look good. It's scary to say that. So, Fred is afraid of his own words. Afraid of himself. And that is the real problem.

Afraid of 'fun' in the club

"Yeah, join us too. Exercising here is really fun for everyone!" The trainer even asked if he wanted to do fitness and build muscle mass. "Or do you want to join a fun group class?" But well, what does Fred know, he mainly wants to get rid of his bad physique and feel more confident again. Fred is afraid of that enjoyable group class, that fun. And Fred doesn't find fitness fun at all. He finds it all very intimidating; the equipment is torture devices, how do they work again, the room with the music that's just not 'his time' anymore, the confronting mirrors, the kilograms that weigh heavier than before. He starts because he has to. That's really something completely different from finding something fun.

Fitness: fun or scary?

Afraid of other sportspeople

But even before Fred sets foot inside the club, he already believes that all the other athletes are super fit! Fred is scared of that thought. Afraid of their six-packs, their sweat, their trendy clothes, their selfies, their primal screams, their tattoos. What will they think of me? "Let me wear long pants and an oversized t-shirt, at least nobody will see my out-of-shape figure." Moreover, Fred doesn't have the latest fashion in sports shoes, so he immediately feels old compared to the rest. While he actually wants to feel younger, as fit and confident as he was 10 years ago.

Afraid of 'being stuck'

And those year-long memberships! Fred already decided beforehand that he doesn't want a year-long commitment, but something flexible, something he's not tied to. No 12-month or even longer suffocating contract for Fred! But then, will Fred truly be helped towards a healthier lifestyle if he can cancel tomorrow? Hasn't he been doing that for years, canceling? But in the form of not starting, procrastinating. It's essentially the same as canceling. Giving up is a more fitting term. 

But... how do you help Fred overcome all these fears?

  1. It starts with realizing that Fred exists, that Fred symbolizes your members. And that nearly all your members have those same fears as Fred. Or at least a part of them.
  2. Next, you know that your communications (website, advertisements, social media, newsletters, etc.) should come from Fred's mindset. Not from the perspective of your coolest trainer.
  3. Following up on your leads is rapid personalized service aimed at helping Fred stop procrastinating. Because that's how you best help him.
  4. The same applies to your choice (yes, yours, you're the expert) of the program and membership that best suits Fred.

Are you offering Fred real assistance in getting started, or are you just selling a subscription?

Could you use some support with this?

Fill in your details and click 'Submit.' We'll personally get in touch within 1 business day. We'll ask you about the challenges you face in terms of member acquisition. I'm confident that we can help you grow.


This article was also published in the Dutch BodyLife Magazine nr. 5 2021


Author: Aernout Leezenberg

Author Aernout Leezenberg is founder of Hidden Profits Marketing, which, with a growing team of fitness marketing specialists, has been helping entrepreneurs and managers of studios and clubs in the fitness industry in the Netherlands and Belgium, among others, to a thriving business with an automatic flow of members and leads since 2004. All innovations and knowledge comes from our own Fitness Marketing Innovation Lab.

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