Why Systemized Onboarding Matters for Gyms

4 min read
Jul 12, 2023

Whether you’re diving into the world of online coaching or running a brick-and-mortar facility, having a uniform onboarding process is a key component to signing up new members. A systemized onboarding protocol establishes clear organization for collecting and storing member information. It also allows you, as the business owner, to delegate this process to other coaches or managers without fear of something slipping through the cracks and brings clarity.

From the consumer’s perspective this is an opportunity to open up communication and develop a connection with your company and its coaching staff. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate the quality of service they can come to expect while also giving you the ability to lay out your expectations of them. Everything from gym policies and class schedules, to a cancellation policy should be covered during this time. New members, especially in the fitness industry, are often met with feelings of anxiousness and intimidation when entering a new facility. This is your opportunity to not only provide them with any information they need to navigate their membership but more importantly to establish a relationship and help them feel welcome and excited to be a part of your training/gym community.

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I have worked as a contractor in a gym and now work primarily in the online space. Even though the nuts and bolts of the process are similar for both, it is the human interaction and connection that can be trickier to develop online. Over the years I have tweaked and stylized my onboarding process to provide clarity and establish a connection with new members. Every organization’s onboarding process is different. Your process should be unique to you and your brand. It can be as simple or elaborate as is deemed appropriate. Below are a few of my recommendations to consider. These will vary based on the style of your business, the services you provide, and if you operate online or in person.

Gym Tour/Building a Relationship

Even if you take a prospective client on a tour of the facility, it is still important to walk them around again once they have officially signed up. A lot of times prospective clients aren’t paying attention because they are weighing their options and deciding if this is the place for them. So navigating them through the space once they have officially signed up allows them to look at the facility from a different perspective. You can also use this opportunity to personalize the tour and build a relationship along with reiterating the features offered at your facility and reinforcing things such as the locker room location or where they can find certain pieces of equipment. 

If you’re navigating in the online space, this can be more of a challenge. The services you provide are going to determine how much communication and access your clients will have with you. For individualized one on one coaching, part of my onboarding process is jumping on a Zoom call when an athlete submits an application. This allows me to speak with a potential new client and get to know them better as a person. I am using this opportunity to not only connect with them but to further explain what they can come to expect from training with me online. This can include how their programming will be delivered, how often they will have a check-in etc… The biggest thing in this scenario is to be yourself, this client chose to work with you for a reason, the only thing that is different is the training medium. 

Intake Form

An intake form allows you to collect pertinent information for all new members. This can include but isn’t limited to contact information, payment information, fitness goals, and pertinent health information. The health information you collect is important to not only ensure the safety of the client but to protect the liability staff and the facility.

Liability Waiver

Along with collecting health information, every new member must sign a liability waiver to protect yourself and your company from being held liable in the event of an accident or injury. It is important to note; you may need different waivers for your facility as well as any one-on-one coaching depending on the services you offer. If you are strictly working in the online space, you need to make sure this document is legally signed through a service such as Docusign to ensure its legality and your full protection.

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The contract allows you to clearly lay out the terms and conditions for any new member to understand and agree upon. Here is where you can outline your gym/training policies, services provided, expectations for new members, membership/payment terms, and cancellation policies. This contract will protect you as the business owner from members who may dispute payment charges, wish to terminate early, or break any gym rules that may need to be addressed. Referring back to this contract not only protects you legally but also allows you to reiterate that the client was fully aware of these policies and procedures at the time they signed up. Again, if you are working in the online space, make sure you have a service in place to allow them to electronically sign, making it a valid and binding contract.


Depending on the kind of services you offer, you can also perform a movement assessment or analysis at this time. This assessment will allow you to collect data on the athlete from a training perspective. It can be a movement screen to highlight strengths and weaknesses or a performance test to show improvement over time. As the coach, you now have a baseline to build any programming or provide training recommendations based on the things you observe and the goals the client may have. This is another opportunity to get to know your new members better and connect with them on a personal level.

New Member Swag

If you offer some sort of welcome gift to a new member you can give it to them during this process. Or mail it to them with a welcome letter if they are an online client. Whether it is a t-shirt or a coffee mug, little touches like this bring an added feeling of welcome and inclusion. Being a new member of a gym can be a little nerve racking for some and helping them to feel included and supported will further help that new relationship to flourish. Plus, who doesn’t love free stuff?! 

The onboarding process is the foundation for every new client. It allows you to collect and save all the necessary documents you need to not only protect yourself as a business but to provide the best experience possible for your consumer. It should be unique to your business and systemized so that any member of your staff can step in at any time. As you grow, you can always make changes and add things to your process, but ensuring you have something in place will lead to less frustration and hassle in the long run. 

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