5 Things You Need to Create a Strong Gym Culture

4 min read
Oct 25, 2023

Gym culture is an intangible factor that does more than just attract new members. It sets the foundation for member retention by creating a community that like-minded people want to be a part of. A strong gym culture is vital for creating a positive environment that allows members to feel included and supported in both their fitness goals and personal growth. As a new Olympic weightlifting coach, I’ll never forget what one of my mentors Phil Sabatini told me, “Athletes come for the knowledge, but stay for the culture.”

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At East Coast Gold, there is a strong culture that was created by President/Founder Leo Totten. His belief in doing the right things, for the right people and the right reasons created a trickle-down effect to the coaches he brought in to represent the ECG brand. It is a selfless mantra that allows those in and around the team to know that they are more than just another athlete paying for programming and coaching. They are now a part of an incredibly tight-knit family who look out for and support one another all while growing in the sport of weightlifting.

The culture of ECG is something you feel when you enter the gym. Athletes and coaches are genuinely excited to see one another. They’re invested not only in their training but in their lives outside of the gym. The coaches care about more than a clean and jerk max or how many pull-ups someone can string together. They care about the human and that care and concern is not only evident in their coaching, but in the attention to detail and camaraderie off the platform.

Here are the top 5 things I believe you need to create a strong culture for a gym that allows for unlimited growth potential.

1.) Establish your values and beliefs.

As a gym owner, you need to have a clear understanding of what it is you and your facility stand for. Who are you as an owner, a leader, and a human being? And how is that reflected in the way you run your facility and treat your members and employees?

We often see these things included in the mission and vision statement of a business, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words. As the leader of the organization, you must embody those ideologies. You are responsible for setting the standard and cultivating a community.

By creating a positive environment that you want to be a part of day in and day out, you will attract employees who share in those desires. They will not only recognize your passion and love for the gym, but will allow that passion to be a catalyst for how they show up to work every day.

There is nothing more telling for a member than a coach or an employee who can’t wait to clock out and go home for the day. If your coaches don’t want to be there, then why would a paying customer?

2.) Be authentic.

Don’t try to be something you’re not. Whether you’re the overly bubbly and excited type or more of a quiet reserved personality, that’s okay! It doesn’t matter as long as you aren’t trying to be something you’re not. The disingenuous can be felt from a mile away and it will only make members feel uncomfortable instead of welcomed.

Remember you are looking to attract people who share in the values and standards that your gym represents. You’re facility might not be for everyone but it is for someone and those people need their own communities too.

3.) Communicate open and honestly.

As an owner, you are the leader, and your coaches/employees will look to you for more than gym policies and procedures. They are looking for guidance on how to interact with members. They are watching to see how you build relationships and connect with your members. This not only strengthens the member-to-coach relationship, but it has a direct impact on the quality of coaching within the gym.

Coaching is more than just counting reps, demoing exercises, and watching technique. Coaching is about connection and trust. Get to know your members and better understand who they are outside of the gym so you can better understand how to help guide them toward their fitness goals.

4.) Create opportunities to grow together.

Every gym has members that will linger and chat after they’ve finished training. These members are the easiest to connect with. But there are also members who are rushing in and out to get a quick workout before racing to the next thing on their schedule. They would love to stay, chat, and get to know everyone but their schedule simply doesn’t allow for it. The last thing you want is for those members to feel less included than the others.

Find ways to host events outside of gym hours where you can bring all of your coaches and members together. Holiday parties and celebrations are the obvious ones, but this is also an opportunity to host workshops, group classes, and competitive events that cater to different interests and fitness levels. Mention these opportunities and market them to all members and be sure to include the benefits of their participation. It provides members an opportunity to learn and grow, to show up and support one another, or to volunteer and feel a part of the event.

All of which brings out that feeling of connection and inclusivity while continuing to foster relationships in and out of the gym.

5.) Celebrate everyone’s success.

Whether it is a member new to fitness who just got their first push-up, or the seasoned athlete working to hit a new PR, both should be celebrated equally. People aren’t naïve, and they understand what level of fitness they fall under. That doesn’t make their goals any less important than the next person. As a leader and a coach, it is your responsibility to make sure they feel the excitement you have for their milestones as much as the person next to them. Showing your care and support for each individual member also opens the door for your members to show their support. When your members begin to emulate that same support for one another, that’s when you know the culture is thriving.

Your gym’s culture should be as unique as your own identity and should highlight the positive attributes of your character. It is represented in the facility, through your employees, and embraced by your members. People don’t always remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

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