The formula for successful new member integration may be as simple as this: offer a personal connection, and then teach and repeat. And then teach and repeat again and again. Club One Fitness in Pittsburgh has learned this lesson and uses this formula in its New Member Tutorial Program.

New members are assigned a fitness coach who does a fitness consultation and teaches them how to use the machine and exercise effectively in a program built specifically for them. The repetition of fitness consultations, machine circuits and staff-member interaction sets the program apart from other new member integration programs, says Renee Sarracino, health and fitness director at Club One Fitness. Members receive 10 complimentary sessions to familiarize themselves with the facility's fitness equipment.

“Our whole idea with the program is that we never want to go away,” says Chris Labishak, managing owner. “We never want to leave you alone. One of the big differences between us and everyone else is that we want to enforce the interaction. We're not trying to sell you a service. We want to treat you right and get you comfortable so you reach your goals.”

The sessions are based on the individual's previous exercise history, present medical condition, fitness interests and goals. They are one-on-one teaching experiences that show members at their own pace the basics of exercise programs and how to use fitness equipment.

“When the prospective member comes in on a tour and we bring them into the fitness center, that's one of the highlights,” Sarracino says. “We let them know that this is how much interaction we're going to have with them from the beginning.”

The club averages between 30 and 35 new members per month. New members receive immediate staff interaction and personal attention during the first meeting as their fitness coach works with them to create fitness goals based on their fitness level and medical history. The initial goal is to get members into the facility, introduce them to the machines, teach them which muscle groups each machine works and then practice how to use the equipment, she says.

The goal of the program is to increase membership usage, which then increases retention because members feel more vested in the club. Establishing a strong bond between fitness coaches and members is key in making members feel comfortable at the club so they will attend regularly.

After the first few sessions, the fitness coach takes the member through the machines again. This repetition helps the new member gain confidence. During the sixth session, the member receives a fitness consultation in which the health and fitness director assesses how much the member has learned and retained.

Once the members reach a certain comfort level, the fitness coach discusses other strength exercise options with them. The subsequent sessions include additional circuit reviews and an in-depth discussion regarding exercise guidelines that incorporate the member's interests, abilities and fitness goals.

A side benefit of the integration program for the club is that it has increased personal training sessions. Many of the club's trainers also serve as program fitness coaches, so the one-on-one interactions not only create a bond between members and their coaches but it introduces new members to the advantages of personalized attention, which often leads them to book training sessions once their complimentary tutorials are finished.

During the scheduled introductory sessions, fitness coaches call members who miss appointments and touch base with members who have been absent for a significant time after their initial sessions are over. Included in the membership are free, ongoing reorganizer sessions as a way to get less active members back into the club. The reorganizer sessions reconnect the members to staff and the club. They also allow fitness coaches to follow through with them on what they have been doing, so staff can offer adjustments and encouragement, Sarracino says.

As a result, members have increased their usage of all areas of Club One Fitness. When members feel comfortable in the club, they enjoy being there and want to come back, Sarracino says.

“It all boils down to the feeling that they get when they walk in the door, while they're here, when they leave, knowing what the experience will be like the next time they're here,” Sarracino says.