3 Tips to Help Your Fitness Studio Be More Inclusive for Beginners
By Denise Prichard
Whether you’ve just opened your doors or your fitness business has been around for quite some time, it’s likely you and your instructors will encounter a new client who is starting their fitness regimen for the very first time. And when someone is taking that brave step to begin their fitness journey, there are multiple questions and emotions that could be going through their mind such as:
Will I be able to actually do the class?
Will I be able to keep up with everyone else who has been going to this class for months?
Will I feel too anxious or embarrassed to try some advanced poses/exercises?
These are just a few examples of what might be racing through a newbie’s mind on their first day of class. But hey—we’ve all been there, right? I know I have.
I remember walking into my first yoga class over 15 years ago—I was nervous because I was unfamiliar with the practice and didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. When I step foot in the yoga room, the first thing I see are two students—one in a handstand and the other in full splits—two things I had never been able to in my life.
If it weren’t for my friend introducing me to the calm and nurturing yoga instructor who assured me the class was a safe space for beginners and advanced yoga students alike, I probably would have raced for the doors. Because of her caring words (and how outrageously fun the class was), I decided to stick with the practice since then and even became an instructor myself over five years ago.
Along with helping our clients reach their fitness goals, it’s also important we take the necessary steps to instill confidence in them to make them feel like they belong in this class and to conquer their fitness journey. Here are just a few ways you can create a safe space in your studio or gym that will turn every new client into a loyal one.
1. Get to know each client from day one
Give yourself plenty of time to get to know new clients before the class starts. This means you should arrive about 10 to 15 minutes before the start time. Make sure you greet every client, introduce yourself, and let them know what they can expect out of your class.
Make it a point to remember their name so you can give them words of encouragement throughout the class. Cheering on a first-timer can give them loads of confidence and encourage them to come back to your class. This will also allow your regulars in your class to get to know the new client as well and build a connection with them. When a teacher and the rest of the class make a new client feel included they truly feel like they are apart of a studio’s community which will drive them to come back over and over again.
2. Create a positive environment for a beginner
Keep in mind every client you encounter has different limitations, so I like to let everyone know that all poses/exercises are optional, so they don’t feel pressured to do anything that makes them feel uneasy and remain confident throughout the class.
In a practice like yoga, there are a ton of variations and modifications for poses—and the same can be said for any type of fitness class—so I always make it a point to discuss this at the beginning of class. There are also adjustments that require the teacher to gently move the clients into a deeper variation of the pose or into better alignment to help avoid injury—but some people are uncomfortable with being touched by a new teacher, so be sure to ask for permission at the beginning of class as well.
3. Host events and have modified classes on your schedule aimed at beginners
Consider hosting a pop-up event to introduce new clients to the offerings at your facility. This could be as simple as teaching a beginner-oriented fitness class at a local park to help lure curious folks to check out your business. We have some great ideas outlined in our fitness pop-up event checklist to help you plan the perfect outing.
Another great way to help beginners feel more welcome and confident (and increase your customer base) is by expanding your schedule to include classes that cater to beginners and workshops that aim to educate beginners on the types of classes your business offers. Often, all it takes is a little information about your studio and classes to help clients feel better about trying something new.
These tips are meant to help you get started in learning how to make your studio more inclusive for clients looking to start on their path of fitness for the first time. By using these ideas and the tips outlined in our inclusivity guide, you’ll be on your way to significantly increase your client base and creating a more robust community in your fitness business.