By AMANDA VOGEL, M.A.
The other day when I picked up my daughter from kindergarten, I found her racing around the school playground with friends. When I caught up with her, she was out of breath and grinning from ear to ear. I was happy to see her exercising. But was it exercise to her? Not at all, it was just a fun game, the kind that fitness pros can easily translate to the world of adult fitness, too.
Why Games Work
It’s natural for kids to get exercise through fun activity-oriented games—organized ones like Duck Duck Goose or impromptu ones like tearing around a playground—but somewhere along the way, exercise for adults took a turn to the serious side. As a result, many adults are quick to describe the kind of gym-based exercise they do as, quite frankly, “no fun.”
Fortunately, fitness professionals know it doesn’t have to be that way. The trick is to plan workouts (and perhaps not even call them workouts?) that deliver the same variety and unpredictability that naturally unfolds in kids’ games, like tag.
When fitness clients hop on a treadmill for half an hour, they generally know what to expect from that exercise session—it’s predictable. Games, on the other hand, are a good way to take the monotony out of standard workouts, says Beth Middlekauff, a California-based personal trainer, boot-camp expert and owner of BethMidFitness.com.
In a class or boot camp where games are part of the experience, there is an element of newness. “Games offer a break from the typical structure and routine that is all too familiar in life and in fitness,” says Tim Haft, a fitness pro based in New York City and president of Punk Rope Inc, a fitness and instructor-training program described as a mash-up between boot camp and recess. Besides breaking away from the serious side of exercise, clients are able to focus on both teamwork and excelling at the game’s objective. This may be especially true if the game introduces an element of friendly competition.
“Some adults particularly enjoy trying to win as it gives them a specific objective to shoot for,” says Haft. And for those clients who couldn’t care less about winning? “Games also help ‘distract’ students from the discomfort that often accompanies intense exercise,” adds Haft.
Games Rev Up Client Effort
One major benefit of playing fitness games is that it motivates clients to ramp up their exercise efforts, either because they have a competitive streak or because they don’t want to let their teammates down. Most clients—whether they are competitive or not—are more likely to do their best when they know others are cheering them on as part of the game.
“I’ve had a number of students that go into ‘overdrive’ when a game is played. They thrive on competition and hate to lose,” says Haft. Competition aside, though, Haft says helping clients rev up intensity comes down to an important element of any good game: a clear goal. “In general, most students crank up the effort level a notch when there is a clear objective that can be quantified,” he says.
It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose ….
Haft, who’s been teaching games in his Punk Rope program since its inception in 2004, says the amount of effort clients put forth during “game time” hinges somewhat on their personalities. For example, some clients are motivated by the cooperative aspect of a game more than by the opportunity to compete. Managing the right balance of both helps create games that appeal to everyone.
Middlekauff makes sure she sets the tone for fair play in her boot camps. “When I coach, I like to recognize clients’ triumphs and milestones,” she says. “The campers become aware of that and tend to behave similarly. Everyone roots for everyone else!”
Another teaching tactic for fostering camaraderie is to break up competitive cliques before any one team has the chance to dominate every game. “When I see that the same teams and partners are being formed repeatedly, I make sure to mix it up, often before it happens,” says Middlekauff. Her solution: Assign teams versus asking clients to form their own.
Haft likes to provide a pre-game pep talk to get play moving in the right direction. “Before our relay races, for example, I tell students that the most important thing is that they cheer for their teammates. There’s no ‘us-against-them’ mentality,” he says. “This approach has worked beautifully and resulted in a very positive community spirit.”
It’s Game Time!
Bringing team spirit to your classes and boot camps in the form of fun games and playful activities can encourage clients to not only adhere to your program but to also work out more intensely than they might on their own. The benefit? Better overall results, for them and you. Here are four fun and easy games to get you started.
Amanda Vogel, MA, holds a master’s degree in human kinetics and is a certified fitness pro in Vancouver, B.C. In addition to being the co-author of Baby Boot Camp: The New Mom’s 9-Minute Fitness Solution (Sterling, Jan. 2010), Amanda owns Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for the fitness industry. Her articles have appeared in Prevention, Shape, Health and SELF. You can reach her at www.ActiveVoice.ca, http://FitnessWriter.blogspot.com or www.twitter.com/amandavogel.
Article in its entirety at http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1077/let-the-games-begin-help-your-clients-get-fit-and/
One of my favorite books was given to me by Joe Vitale. The book is called, “177 Mental Toughness Secrets Of The World Class.” It’s chock full of motivation, business advice, self discovery and more. One of my lunk head pro bodybuilder friends read through it a few years back and said that it was now one of his favorite books.
THAT’S SAYING A LOT.
Anyway, on page 164 of the book there’s a short passage called, The Great Ones Know Salespeople Drive All Business. Here is the passage in full:
I love this and I find it highly motivating. I especially love the line, Salespeople are the athletes of the business world. As a fitness professional sometimes selling our services to potential clients is the hardest part. It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting our services sell themselves. Sure, that works but are we reaching as many people as we can like that?
No, we’re not. To me, bootcamps and group training are the hands down best way to get people to exercise, keep them motivated and have fun with the entire process. Reading the above takes some of the edge off of the stigma that is attached to salespeople.
Here are some ways to get out there and sell our fitness services:
- Public speaking – I’ll be speaking along side Bill Phillips, Joe Vitale and others here in Austin in November at Joe’s event. You can bet I’ll be LOUD AND PROUD!
- Volunteer at local schools – wear your company shirt, be known as the “fitness watchdog”, offer to do free group sessions for teachers, offer to teach fitness games to the kids at recess
- Start a local fitness publication. I’m thinking of doing this in my area if I can commit to the time. Hire a local photographer to shoot pics of you, your area, anything of interest and put together a quarterly fitness ezine. Write 3-4 stories about fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, things to do, local interest stories and sprinkle those professional pictures in the ezine. Give it away free. Spread the word via facebook, email groups. I think this would work GREAT for those of you in a small town. You’ll become the local fitness expert, get new clients and grow it into something longterm and take on local advertising (this topic deserves its own post).
- Train people for upcoming mud runs, adventure runs.
- Join the local chamber of commerce and/or toastmasters.
- Write a book. I just finished my third Amazon book and gave it away to nearly 4000 people. I gave it away to people in my community as well.
These are just some ways to get out and sell your services both directly and indirectly. What are some ideas that have worked/are working for YOU?
Seems to me that In order to sell your bootcamp services (short term, long term bootcamp packages, nutritional services, supplement services, etc) you must be able to effectively communicate with your clients. Keyword here being “effectively”. I don’t know about you but I find it hard to effectively communicate with my clients when they’re in the middle of a bootcamp beatdown. The last thing they want to do is talk…or listen. So communicating during the workout is out.
What about after the workout? Nah. That’s not a good time either, it seems, because they are in a hurry to get wherever they’re going. School, work, home, whatever. So after the workout is no good.
Before the workout is definitely not the answer because they’re half asleep and they just want to get into the workout.
Some of you will probably say “Facebook” and that seems pretty good because people have time to jump on there from work or home. You can upload workout pics, give shout outs to people and share other things related to your bootcamp.
Others may say “email” is how you mainly communicate with your bootcampers. Personally, this is what I use.
What are some other ways? Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, snail mail, word of mouth (“hey, no class this Friday, pass it on”), blogging or weekly in person meetings.
I’m interested in not only HOW you communicate but WHAT do you say in your communications? Do you keep your communications to “just the facts”, do you try to motivate, inspire, sell benefits?
I’m currently reading Crossfitter Extrordinaire Rich Fronings book, “First – What It Takes To Win”.
It’s a good book. Rich comes from a hard working family and you get insight into how he developed the mental toughness that he possesses.
He owns a Crossfit Affiliate, Crossfit Mayhem. In the book he talks about selling benefits to potential clients.
I love this.
This is exactly what we need to be communicating to our bootcampers (if we’re not already) and to our potential bootcampers.
And not just every once in a while.
People need inspiration and motivation regularly. So the benefits that Rich mentions above should be a weekly message whether it be on facebook, email, blogs, snail mail, etc. If you’re not doing this regularly, get fired up and start. You’ll reinforce WHY you’re in the bootcamp business and HOW you’re making a huge difference in your community. Although they know it deep down, people need to be constantly reminded by you.
Have a great day!
We hear a lot about the Paleo Diet and while its
a step in the right direction, it doesn’t
account for “The Human Behavior Aspect”
We’re too far along the fast food and sugar
lanes to cut out these foods for any length
In my experience, you’ll do much better with
client retention and long term results by
NOT cutting out certain foods.
Instead, have your clients focus on how they
feel after eating certain foods. Could it be
the food, the combination of foods?
If they feel tired, bloated then most likely
the problem was how the meal was constructed.
I’ve lost 30 lbs long term since following these
methods. 20 of those pounds have been erased
since just last year.
I feel energetic, strong and ready to take
on any challenge.
Current weight? 176lbs.
Never thought I’d allow that low of a body weight
but since my strength is still up there and
my energy levels are too, what the heck.
It feels great!
Reading Rich Fronings “First – What It Takes
To Win” and read where Rich eats sugar, avoids
pasta because it makes his stomach feel funny.
Wonder Why? Could it be impaired digestion?
So choose a nutritional program
that you can live with long term. Don’t try to
cut out certain foods – you’ll set yourself up
My bootcamp clients struggle the most with their
diets. They can handle the workouts. Heck, that’s
fun compared to trying to figure out what to eat
at night when they’re alone sitting on the couch
in front of the boob tube.
Hundreds of food commercials targeting them with
their confusing messages – telling them it’s “light”,
“sugar free”, “no fat”, “only 100 calories”, etc.
Work on understanding “Food Science” and how
certain macronutrients affect each other during
More on this important topic coming!
Barbell Clean and Jerk up to 225lbs
Barbell Squat x 20 reps
5 30″ Box Jumps
500 meter row
– Scott York