Rodney Wynn, founder of Wynn with Fitness, holds both a master’s of business administration and a bachelor’s degree in information systems management from the University of San Francisco. Wynn is also a Certified Specialist in Performance Nutrition. You can reach him at rodney@wynnwithfitness.net.


Trying to lure beginners into a health club is not a difficult task, but keeping them there is a different story. We live in an image-conscious society with infomercials and diets that promise to help us lose weight in less than 30 days, so people are typically lured into finding better ways to get in shape than inside our facilities.

Club memberships spike after the New Year but tend to taper off around March. People make New Year’s resolutions every year to lose weight and take better care of themselves, but most people don’t have a structured program when they start. Beginners generally work out an hour a day, five days a week and typically do the same exercises everyday. Or worse, they do a tremendous amount of cardio without performing any strength training and wonder why they don’t see results. After a couple of weeks of doing this, they are completely drained, have sore muscles and see no progress. Beginners tend to spiral out of control at this point by taking a few days off and then go back to the same exact routine. After repeating this pattern for a couple of months, most beginners are ready to throw in the towel.

The other scenario is that some beginners make New Year’s resolutions to get in shape and hire personal trainers to help get them started. This is a great idea, but what generally happens is the beginner will use the personal trainer as a crutch and struggle to make progress once they are on their own. Because most people can’t afford to hire a full-time personal trainer, they become frustrated with their progress and eventually quit.

Personal trainers need to make sure that beginners are retaining everything that is done during their sessions. This could be accomplished by letting the beginner take more ownership as they meet more with the personal trainer. The personal trainer’s job at this point should be to remind clients when they are doing something wrong. If the beginner spends exuberant amounts of money for personal training sessions and feels they are no better off than when they started, this could be to the detriment of the health club. The beginner will be hesitant to hire a personal trainer in the future and may tell their friends and family members not to waste their time.

How do we solve this problem? The best way to retain beginners is to have group workshops that lay out expectations, and to inform clients of proper nutrition and technique. This could be done initially in a group setting in which all new members meet on the second Tuesday of every month for an hour to gather information. Of course, this is not mandatory because you may have new experienced members who feel that they don’t need these services but later decide to participate because they are frustrated or not seeing any progress. A group setting brings together the dynamic of different people having different perspectives of diet and fitness.

In addition to this, there could be a small area of equipment set up for demonstrations. Members usually feel more comfortable and confident if they are shown how to properly perform an exercise. Once beginners have proper technique and nutrition, working out becomes just as much a part of their lives as going to work, thus retention levels remain high. We must collectively strive to get beginners to this point so that it is as seamless and painless as possible, or we will all face the revolving door dilemma.