The Real Resolution Solution

In this wonderful month of January, good intentions run high. New and old members rush in thinking this will be the time they finally start and stick with an exercise program. But as we all know in the club industry, so many of these noble hearts find that one thing, then another, gets in the way, and they are again back on the sidelines.

So what can be done to make a difference in the success a member achieves in solving this most common problem?

First, set a goal to become a motivational leader for your members. Take the initiative by learning all you can about motivation and why your members have such a love/hate relationship with exercise. Basically, we are conditioned from birth to avoid what we feel will bring PAIN to us and be attracted to what will give us PLEASURE. Therefore if people associate pain and discomfort with physical activity and have this on file in their minds (from past experience), they will find ways to avoid it - no matter how much they know it is good for them to do.

If we can retrain people to associate pleasurable thoughts and feelings with exercise and to associate equal amounts of pain and discomfort with being INACTIVE, they will then regularly avoid inactivity, just as they have avoided activity in the past. This is what regular exercisers do whether they are consciously aware of it or not.

Here are four things you can do to make a difference in helping your members become regular exercisers.

1) Create a totally pleasurable/positive en-vironment. Make sure your club is full of pleasant energetic colors. Now you see the psychological reasons why your club must be fun, clean and odor-free, and why it must have quality equipment with no waiting, energetic music, entertaining stimuli, and a friendly, smiling and helpful staff.

2) Work consistently to help change the negative associations your members may have about exercise to positive ones. Try putting signs all around your club with positive affirmations about motivation and exercise. Some examples are: "I regularly make the time to exercise and be healthier and happier," and "I am more successful in everything I do because I exercise regularly." Train your staff to be on guard for members using negative association statements such as "I hate to do this" or "I'll never get into shape."

3) Have your members write down realistic expectations by first setting very reachable short-term goals and then longer-term goals. The key to good goal-setting is for people to reach their goals and get the positive reinforcement (pleasure) from these accomplishments. Make sure members also set up some type of personally tailored reward for each goal (however small) they reach.

4) Congratulations! Make sure members continually receive positive feedback and feel a sense of accomplishment from your staff and, equally important, from themselves. As they leave the club, there should be a sign above the door stating, "Congratulations on your workout! You have made a positive and powerful step to being the best you can be." It is also a must to have a smiling staff member say something similar.

Set your goal to be experts in motivation. It will take some work but stick with this goal. The pleasurable rewards of increased new members and retention will be yours.

- Bruce Carter is president of GetCyced!, a company specializing in teaching motivation to clubs and members. He is also president of Optimal Design Systems International, a design firm specializing in creating cost-effective, motivating heath club environments, and Optimal Fitness Systems International, a consulting firm specializing in health club start-ups.