Coaching in Fitness Centers—The Next Sales and Retention Tool

By Matt DuFresne
June 10, 2006

Matt DuFresne is a former owner of a fitness center in Western Massachusetts. He is a personal trainer of 20 years. Presently, Matt consults for clubs and trainers, developing coaching systems within their membership. He is sales director for FitSteps LLC. He can be reached at 413-374-9328 or by e-mailing MDuFresne@Fitsteps.net


Not every club member fits into the personal training mold, so some fitness facilities are implementing coaching services to boost their bottom line. Coaching is a system of communication between a client and a coach that enables them to discuss the various aspects of a client’s overall health and wellness. To fitness centers, coaching is the best retention and sales boosting tool to come along in many years.

Typically, only 1 percent to 5 percent of fitness center members use a trainer’s services within a health club, which is not very high penetration for what is said to be the number one profit center next to membership. Coaching is designed to potentially access the rest of your membership as well as supplement the traditional personal training relationship. These members get overall wellness plans designed for them that include workouts, nutrition plans, cardio schedules, exercise videos and access to a trainer/coach for support and guidance.

Suspend, for a moment, the desire to predetermine what your members will and won’t pay for. People will pay for information from reputable and credible sources. Why wouldn’t they pay your club and your trainers? Several club chains in California are already offering coaching to their membership. They have recognized that something needed to be offered to help the rest of the membership beyond the usual personal training.

Benefits of implementing a coaching service. By starting up a coaching service in your club, you can expand current trainer offerings. You can also convert those members who cannot afford to stay in touch with, learn from and be motivated by their trainers on a continuing basis by moving to a coaching platform. These members can be converted into a whole new receivable base paying for recurring plans.

Clubs can also market to non-traditional members via virtual memberships. By using a coaching system, your trainers can coach an online member through their whole wellness program without the client actually visiting the brick and mortar location. There are many potential members who prefer this option rather then be forced to come into a fitness center, an environment that, by surveys, is still intimidating to most.

Coaching can boost employee morale and job satisfaction. With a coaching service and the right incentive program, trainers can realize increased income by moving beyond the traditional one-on-one trainer member sessions.

A coaching service provides a wealth of information drawn together in one area as well as an organized platform within which a member and coach can communicate, which will empower your membership.

To increase sales in your club through coaching services, leverage life coaching trends. Medical experts, politicians and fitness gurus alike are espousing the need for fundamental lifestyle changes that reach into every facet of a person’s life. To tap into these trends, consider converting your fitness club to a wellness center.

Choosing a system for coaching within your club. A coaching system can be put together using paper, phone systems and e-mail, but if more streamlined and efficient means are out there, take advantage of them. Online coaching systems, built especially for health and wellness, make it very easy for trainers to manage and communicate with hundreds of clients.

Ask yourself these questions.

  • Is it a brandable extension of your club? The system you use for coaching should make members feel as if they are in your club. Your colors, logo and “feel” should be present.
  • Is it easy to use and intuitive? A system is only as good as it is usable. The coaching tool has to be intuitive and understandable.
  • Is it set up specifically for health centers and many clients? People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. If you want trainers to carry a large load of coaching clients, the system must be very easy to use and efficient for the trainer. Online programs can cut down huge amounts of time and allow your system to be available anywhere.
  • If you want the big returns on a coaching system, it must become a core component of everything you do and say about your fitness center.


Your coaching system can, and should, be aligned with all of your departments including training and nutrition. Promoted correctly, a coaching system augments these services, promoting them to all of your membership, not just a select few. The unlocking of a new receivables source from within your membership is reason enough to implement a coaching system. Add to this the increased sales of other ancillary services along with a huge boost in member retention and this new program is here to stay.