The Anatomy of a Fitness Challenge

Trinity Perkins | 13 Aug 2019

A fitness challenge is a predetermined amount of time dedicated to improving or exploring any aspect of health, fitness or wellness. Well-designed fitness challenges can help inspire fitness enthusiasts of all levels to try new workouts, clean up their diet and practice mindfulness, all while sparking their competitive side as they compete for honorable mentions or prizes! For a challenge to run smoothly and be duplicated seamlessly year after year, the creation and implementation phases must be thoroughly planned.

Benefits of Fitness Challenges

  • Hosting a fitness challenge at your private or commercial gym:
  • Introduces members to services and programs you offer
  • Encourages members to make new friends
  • Boosts attendance in classes and gives exposure to your training staff
  • Potentially increases membership sales from non-members who joined the challenge with family or friends

Running an employee fitness challenge:

  • Motivates your employees to get excited about fitness to improve work-life balance
  • Helps improve productivity - fewer days called out for illness, pain and stress from high workloads and lack of work-life balance
  • A fitness challenge for the entire office can be the foundation for an employee wellness program that also lowers monthly insurance costs for small or private businesses

Using fitness for your online community:

  • Engage with people on your list whom you might only communicate with via email
  • Direct more traffic to your website and other programs

6 Major Components of a Successful Fitness Challenge

  1. Theme - Pick a theme or category that will determine the activities within the challenge. For example, a Plank Challenge that features a different plank variation daily for 21-day versus a 30-day Summer Shape-Up Challenge with a goal of inspiring consistency while on summer vacations. Or, a 14-day Clean Eating Challenge with different recipes or healthy eating tips each day to motivate people to ditch the fast food and sweets for healthier options. Before picking a theme, consider these questions:
    • What are you passionate about teaching during the challenge?
    • What is your business niche? Is there a theme to support that niche?
    • What pain points for your target audience can be addressed in your challenge?
  2. Relevancy - Match the challenge activities with the time of year, theme and options available to your audience. For example, a Summer Shape-Up Challenge in the summer, Winter Consistency Challenge in the colder months, cycle class participation challenge at your cycle studio.
  3. Time - The length of time can vary and be largely based on your preference and capacity. The aforementioned time frames are common for most fitness challenges. Consider these questions to determine your challenge time frame:
    • What results are you hoping participants will achieve with help from your challenge?
    • Are there any holidays or other observances that might impact your desired time frame?
  4. Delivery method - Strive for the highest number of sign-ups possible, as many who sign up will not complete the challenge. When planning how to spread the word, consider these questions:
    • What are your estimated and ideal number of signups?
    • How will participants learn about your challenge?
    • How will they sign up?
    • Will your challenge be mobile, printable, or both?
    • Will there be an accompanying Facebook group or chat forum for engagement?
    • How will you track participation day to day?
  5. Prizes - Never underestimate the power of a certificate of completion. Not all challenges need to include pricey prizes, as for many people, completing the challenge and reaping the benefits will be prize enough. If you will be offering prizes, consider these questions:
    • How will you determine the winner(s)?
    • Will there be prize tiers - first place, second place, prizes based on a range of points earned?
    • How many prizes will you offer and when?
    • What is your budget?
    • Will you offer prizes for your services (personal training, online coaching, etc.) or prizes for restaurants and retail? Or both?
  6. Communication - Regardless of the prizes, add value by communicating with your participants throughout the entire challenge. Provide ways for participants to ask questions, engage with one another and keep you posted on their progress along the way. Fitness challenges must be engaging; sending a mass email, and not checking in until the end is not an option.

Other Questions to Consider

  • Are winners chosen based on the honor code or a point system?
  • Are the activities completed with a partner or individually?
  • Where do participants complete the challenge activities? Online, their home, the community, the gym or a combination?
  • What materials are needed for you to deliver the challenge?
  • What materials will participants need to complete the challenge?
  • Is participation open to everyone or to a target audience?
  • Is the challenge free to enter?

Example Fitness Challenge

In January 2018, I ran a 30-day BINGO Fitness Challenge at the all-women’s gym where I work as Fitness Director. Generally speaking, our club could use some energizing, and therefore, there were numerous challenge goals, including:

  • Encouraging members to try new classes and at different times of day. The “evening crew” had been that way for years and I was hoping to introduce them to some of the earlier and midday classes and instructors.
  • Offer complimentary consultations with our personal trainers, nutritionist and physical therapist. Many members were not fully aware of the depth of services and programs we offered.
  • Motivate members to use the free weights and begin or continue a strength training program. Many members were doing endless hours of cardio, only taking group classes and were nervous about lifting weights.

The challenge was a major hit with the 110 participants! Everyone from our General Manager to the owners of our gym raved about how much more activity and energy the club experienced in just 30 days. As a new Fitness Director at the time, it was the perfect opportunity for me to engage with our members and gather some on-the-job feedback about what was and wasn’t working with our fitness programs and services.

The challenge was modeled after the traditional game of BINGO, with winners based on the number of activities completed in a row, including a free space. The goal was to get 5 in a row, but participants could complete as many activities as they wanted.

We spent two weeks promoting the challenge, explaining the game of BINGO and helping members pick and label their card. There were 4 different BINGO cards with the same activities and one free space in different areas on each card. Participants used BINGO markers to mark off each activity completed. All of the cards were filed in a large binder at the front desk because we didn’t have anywhere in the gym to hang them. This also gave the front desk staff a chance to interact with the participants. There was one grand prize for the winner with the most activities completed. Several participants completed the entire card, so their names were picked from a hat to determine the winner.

Based on the positive feedback we received during the 30 days, we will be hosting this challenge annually.

Fitness challenges are a fun way to spark motivation and play into the competitive spirit of all fitness enthusiasts. Done correctly, even a short challenge can drive more traffic to your website, gym or online services while also boosting productivity in the workplace and helping you gather feedback for future programming. Create 2-3 challenges that have a social media or email marketing campaign to promote them, encourage sign ups and build some urgency around participation. Address the six major components of your challenge, stay engaged with your participants and, above all else, have fun inspiring people toward positive change!

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Trinity Perkins

About the author: Trinity Perkins

Trinity Perkins is an AFAA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, ISSA Performance Nutrition Specialist and ISSA Specialist of Exercise Therapy. After working in a corporate gym part time for 1 year (while holding a full time job by day), Trinity began her own personal training and performance nutrition coaching business at a private studio in northern Virginia in 2012. The full-time owner of Fitness All Ways, LLC, formerly Train with Trin, LLC, her life’s mission is to motivate and inspire people to, “Live every day to the fittest.” Trinity incorporates principles of performance nutrition with strength training and aerobic exercises to create a training experience for each of her clients. Her client lists includes all levels of fitness from competitive athletes to people just beginning their fitness journey. Trinity holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Old Dominion University and a Master of Science in Health Education from Kaplan University.

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