On Thursday morning last week I received a text from a researcher at the BBC asking if I would like to come on to Kay Adam’s show and discuss whether gyms are welcoming for people over 50’s. I agreed and…

I was to be on in two hours from the text!

They sent me a list of topics in advance that they were going to ask me about…

My eyes lit up as it was basically a list of everything I am very passionate about, and it could easily have read as a list of what Get Results Fitness stands for.

However, the reality was when I got on the air they were pushed for time and I was also sharing airtime with Mr Motivator! With him being a seasoned pro on media work he got more time to speak than I did, so I didn’t really get to say what I would have liked to.

However as I say: I thought the questions were very good. I thought why not answer them here!

Question 1: Are gyms welcoming enough for over 50’s?

My answer to this would have to be an overall no.

Gyms are not welcoming enough for over 50’s . There are some gyms and health clubs out there doing a great job with this and have created a tailored over 50’s program, with a great community that is working well.

Unfortunately at the moment joining a gym for over 50’s can seem like you have entered an environment that isn’t for you.

Like turning up at a nightclub at 1am on a Saturday night!

There is nothing to say you shouldn’t be at a nightclub, but inside you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb amongst these youngsters doing their thing. A lot of the bigger gyms can make you feel this way also.

Going over the threshold of a gym door to loud techno music pumping out the speakers, treadmills going and weight clinking all around you doesn’t create a calm understanding around what you want to acheive.

The chance are you will be greeted by someone young enough to be your child, who in all likelihood will show you around the place at a breakneck speed impassionately, rhyming off the machines names and what muscles they work, as quick as they can to be back with their peer, chatting about the latest workout or what they got up to at the weekend!

Aa manager in gyms previously I saw this happen all too often!

As I say i think things are slowly improving and I do believe / hope as our industry matures there will be more gyms offering a quality service for over 50’s, acknowledging their specific needs and learn better on how to deliver for those needs.

Question 2: What puts this age group off going to the gym?

We did a survey a few years back and this was one of our questions. The three most common answers that came back were:

✅ A fear of getting injured.
✅ Concerns about it being too hard for them.
✅ That they were too old and it was too late for them to start to try and participate in fitness.

Question 3: Is it age discrimination to play modern music in gyms? 

This is what sparked the debate: Someone in England was suing their gym for their policy of playing music that is no more than 18 months old.

Music is an issue I have come across many times over my years working in gyms.

Thinking about about it logically, at any given time in a large gym you have upwards of 50 people in at one time, and I know for certain that these 50 people will have different tastes in music. So choosing one genre / period of music is likely going to annoy a good percentage of your customers!

A mix of genres and decades is probably the safest way to do it …and certainly don’t leave it down to one instructor!

I used to despair when I walked in on a Monday morning to techno dance music blaring in the gym.

The trainer on shift liked this type of music and didn’t give a monkeys if the average age of attendees was probably 60 years old!

When it comes to music, the most important thing to think about is the volume. Too often gyms overpower their users with blaring music which takes away the option of you listening to your own music or podcast (these days blaring music can be overcome a bit with noise cancelling headphones but this shouldn’t be the point!).

If treadmills are rattling away and other members are slamming weights, gym goers will need their music pretty loud to hear over that din. 

For me music should just be there  as quite atmospheric music that takes away some of the grunts and groaning and heavy breathing that is going on.

If you’re motivated by music you should bring headphones or attend a class that is programmed around music.

Question 4. What could gyms be doing to change the experience for over 50’s?

The first thing I would do would be to try and change the image of fitness.

Much of the marketing and media around fitness is very extreme. It’s fit people doing super tough exercise, with trainers pushing them to their limits.

We need to start making fitness relatable for everyone.

Make it that someone who is a bit out of shape or has never exercised before will see that exercise can be a great tool to help them improve their lives.

Show them that getting fitter could mean something simple like getting up the stairs without being breathless or having enough energy to play with their kids!

Emphasize the benefits, let them know that it can be started easily and progressively. That they can get help to settle into the environment and learn the basics to get started.

We must start to paint fitness as a positive thing rather than something you have to endure. Exercise done properly should feel great and should be fun. We just need to let more people understand this.

Another issue I have around the marketing of fitness is that when they finally do make an effort to market to over 50’s they do it with old people sitting in a chair who look closer to late 70’s than 50, and they are usually lifting tiny pink dumbbells. Most over 50’s I know certainly do not identify themselves as being at that stage either. It needs to be inspirational and relatable.

Question 5: What does Get Results Fitness do to make your clients feel comfortable?

We meet them with a big, welcoming smile and build a bit of rapport with them.

The next thing we do to make our new clients feel comfortable is to find out a bit about them. This allows us to set an appropriate, tailored session.

We then use a technique called self determination theory, which has been shown in studies to increase adherence to exercise.

Self determination looks at giving a person autonomy over what they are doing. So we ask them what they like doing and find out what they think they should be doing. They then feel part of the process, which will increase the likelihood of them sticking with it.

The next thing is: They must feel competent at what they are doing.

Too often when people start at the gym they are given bucketloads of information right at the start and they are overwhelmed by it all, meaning they are unlikely to remember any of it and the chances of seeing them again regularly are probably pretty slim.

To combat this we tend to give them 6-8 key exercises that they can succeed at, and will be confident to repeat on their own.

As I said on the radio a new member saying “I did better than I thought I would” after their first workout is the best feeling in our trainer’s world. It means we have done our job well.

It is vital that our clients believe they can succeed to have any chance of returning.

The final piece of self determination jigsaw is having a sense of belonging to something. So we work hard to let them know that now they have trainers in their corner who are invested in their goals with them and that we are routing for them every step of the way.

This makes clients feel like they are part of something and that they have adequate support to succeed.

Was it a good experience?

I enjoyed the opportunity to speak on this topic as it really means a lot to me and my team.

I love the chance to reach people I haven’t reached before.

Some of of our clients are media trained and have given me some tips on how to make sure that you get across what it is you are wanting to say. So if I am on with Mr Motivator again I will be armed with some tricks of the trade to claim some more airtime! 😂

Until the next one,

Paul

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