Ways to Gamify Your Gym Experience

Here are some ways to gamify your gym experience using fitness tracking as an amenity in your gym.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on xing
Share on email

The fitness world has definitely dipped its toe into gamification over the past few years and is in the process of diving in headfirst. Following the success of the language app Duolingo, many apps look to gamify tasks and jobs that are not always perceived as enjoyable yet nevertheless need to be completed. Fitness (and nutrition) are a perfect example of tasks that can be spiced up with gamification.

Following our last article Fitness Tracking as an Amenity, we’ll talk about the different ways offering fitness tracking as an amenity can gamify your gym experience.

What is Gamification?

Remember when you were a kid, your parents probably gave you and your siblings household tasks to do. Make your bed, wash the dishes after your evening meal, or rake leaves from your yard. In an effort to engage with you, they may have turned this into a competition. Who can rake the most leaves? Who can dry the most plates? Who can make their beds the best?

While the competitive element would not necessarily make the tasks fun, they would certainly have motivated you to perform them better. This is gamification. But it’s not just competition between people. Gamification is also about turning tasks into journeys and rewarding accomplishments.

Let’s stick with the childhood example. Many parents offered a prize for weekly tasks. Perhaps a star chart, where each household task was marked down, and if you hit a certain number, you would get a prize, or some pocket money. My parents gave us points which could be redeemed at Toys “R” Us (R.I.P) for each book we read. This is another form of gamification, looking at building habits over time. 

The third aspect of gamification doesn’t lend itself quite so well to childhood memories. It is creating a hero’s journey. Video games are a superb example of this. Think of a video game that has a fairly repetitive aspect. A tennis simulator for example. This type of game is pretty repetitive, there is only so much you can do. Serve, volley, ground strokes, smashes.

In the early days of video games, that’s all you would get. A basic, repetitive tennis game. These days, you will have a career mode, where you will be able to take your player from the lowliest competition to winning a Grand Slam. The movements and gameplay will still be the same, but you will feel like you are following an overarching story.

Gamification attempts to achieve this with real world tasks. Take Pokémon Go for example. It’s a game that is very repetitive and is designed to get you walking more. It rewards you for walking and playing the game daily. It’s basically a pedometer with distractions! But through gamification, it allows users to feel like they are Pokémon masters.

Fitness tracking lends itself amazingly well to gamification, as you can imagine. It’s already used in all sorts industries and markets. But rarely do gyms themselves employ gamification for their members. Doing so could truly help you stand out from the crowd and add significant value.

How can you gamify your Gym Experience?

Fitness tracking is the easiest way to gamify your gym experience. It provides the vehicle for your members to compete with each other, be rewarded for their achievements, and be motivated by their own hero’s journey. Integrating it with your services creates massive potential for added value. So for this article, we’ll assume that you have connected equipment and an app that work in tandem to enable your members to track their fitness in your gym. How can you use it to gamify your gym experience? 

Easy-win Badges

Badges

One of the smartest moves that most video games and apps make is to start players off with some easy wins. This helps them to gain confidence and prevents them from giving up too early. Considering many people stop attending the gym within the first few months of signing up, this is definitely something to take note of.

Creating easy wins is pretty easy (pun intended), and you want there to be a lot of them for the first few weeks.

  • 1st Gym session badge – The first gym session that your member logs should be celebrated with a badge. This will not only encourage them to keep turning up to the gym, but it will also encourage them to use the fitness tracker.
  • 3 Gym sessions in a week – Three sessions per week is the ideal number of sessions needed for most people to see good results. Getting a badge when they first accomplish this task is a good idea. You may want to start smaller and have a two sessions per week badge. You may also fancy a 4 sessions a week badge, and even a 7 sessions per week badge!
  • Strength machine badge – a great way to encourage your members to try the full suite of your strength machines is to award a badge(s) for it. Too often do members avoid using a machine because it’s intimidating or they just have no idea how it works. A badge might encourage them to give each piece of equipment a try (or a certain piece of equipment). This is especially useful when introducing new equipment.
  • 30-minute gym session badge – Another thing that you want to encourage is spending the right amount of time in the gym. People often make the mistake of spending too much time in the gym when they first start and getting themselves injured. A 30-45 minute session is perfect for most beginners and earning a badge as congratulations for hitting this target is a good idea. It may also be a good idea to specifically define what amount of exercise the member has to do in the 30-45 minutes, to ensure members aren’t spending that time in the locker room. You can even take it a step further and reward members for getting more done in less time (but you have to be careful that it doesn’t cause injuries). Time-based badges can help members, who only have a small window of time, to get into a habit of getting more done with less time (which is one of the most common factors attributed to gym attrition).

These are just a few examples of the kind of achievements you can celebrate within the first couple of weeks. There are a ton of other badges you can introduce to keep your members engaged longer-term. The point is, they can provide excellent motivation for new members as well as highly experienced members. For members who might already be intrinsically motivated, offering exciting targets could really help to engage that audience which can easily be overlooked.

Personal Bests

Competing against your previous best is one of the major tenets of resistance and cardio training. While competing against others is great, it isn’t always practical and doesn’t always work. Particularly for new gym members.

Comparing yourself or competing against someone who has been going to the gym consistently already for years, would be ineffective and probably counter productive! Whereas, if you’ve been working on your bench press for 3 weeks and compare your results from when you first started, it might inspire confidence and boost motivation.

A great way to showcase this, is to indicate when a member has achieved a personal best. Whether that means running the longest distance on the treadmill, fastest row, longest plank or heaviest weight lifted for a single repetition of bench press. It’s important that they notice and celebrate their achievement. This could be done with a “Personal Best” dashboard and/or instant notifications when a personal best is achieved. Just recognizing that achievement shows you care about their progress.

What is also important is to help educate your members that hitting a new personal best every week isn’t possible, nor is it something that you should aim for. Combine this with coaching and seminars (or personal training) and these badges can be the most powerful aspect of the gamification process.

Performance Indicators & Goal-setting

Speaking about progress, those that have measured any business metric might already know what I’m talking. Key Performance Indicators help gauge a company’s performance. They help to compare to previous performance, determine if the company is on track to hit its targets and forecast the result of a business activity if continued into the future.

Same applies to fitness tracking, and can serve as a motivator in the gym. For our purposes, we’ll just call it Fitness Performance Indicators (FPIs) instead. 

As with anything else, you should always start by asking, what is your goal?  Fitness tracking is no different. Without overall fitness goals set in place, your members would not see progressive results toward that goal and therefore will not be happy with the results. For example, if my goal is to lose weight, my fitness journey will look different compared to someone else’s fitness journey who’s goal is to gain muscle. And therefore, the FPIs will be different.

Once an overall goal like losing weight or gaining muscle is established, the member can then set some quantifiable short-term goals or FPIs that contribute to the overall goal. For example, if my overall fitness goal is to lose weight, then the fitness tracking app might suggest a monthly FPI like “burn 5K calories every month” or short-term goal like “perform 500 reps of any exercise in 2 weeks”

Here’s where the fun begins. As your members workout with their goals in mind, they might need some encouragement along the way to stay motivated. Here are a few ways this could gamify your gym experience:

  • Acknowledge goal achievers – post on the app or in your gym the members that achieved a goal every month. You could even offer rewards based on this such as a “goal achiever” badge, a free protein shake for the top goal achievers or a goal achiever raffle where each is entered into a pool to win a massage or free personal training session.
  • Halfway notifications – a setting to email or notify members in app congratulating and encouraging them when they’ve reached halfway toward their goal. Supplement this with praise and encouragement from your staff and your members will deeply appreciate the gesture.
Push notification v2
  • Goal suggestions – based on previous goals. If a member successfully achieves his/her goal, a new, more challenging goal could be suggested for the member. This way he/she doesn’t go “goal-less” for too long and continues to work toward their overall fitness goal. If the member didn’t achieve their goal, and/or develops a pattern of failing to reach his/her goals, this could be a great opportunity to reach out and ask if they need any help, offer a personal training session or suggest a different or more attainable goal. It could potentially save you a cancelled membership.
  • A progress “bar” – it doesn’t necessarily need to be a bar, but a visual representation of the members progression towards their goal does a lot towards motivating them to cross the finish line. This is gamification in its most intrinsic form, to complete something that is incomplete. This can be used in regard to goals, workout routines or even setting up a profile with the needed information. If you have any kind of app that requires the member to complete a profile, which could be used to improve your gym/user experience, a progression bar could ensure more profiles are completed. 

The key here is again to educate your members that this may not be a complete representation of what they’ll need to do to achieve long-term goals like “lose 20kgs in one year” or “gain 5kgs of muscle in one year”. It primarily serves as a way for your members to gain confidence, build healthy habits and stay engaged. In order for your members to get the best results from setting goals and FPIs, they need to work with your trainers. So it’s important the fitness tracking app does not try to replace trainers, but rather act as a mechanism to upsell training sessions and as a tool for trainers.

Challenges

Gym challenges have been used for years in gyms, but they still aren’t nearly as popular as they should be! Challenges are a great way to foster a friendly competitive culture and build a stronger community.

A fitness tracking app integrated with your equipment and services makes holding competitions much easier. You can create different challenges on a weekly, monthly, or random basis. They could last for one week or several weeks. Some of them could be one-exercise challenges (bench press, squat, etc.) one-metric challenges (calories burned, reps performed, etc.), a combination of both (bench press repetitions performed), or multi-exercise challenges (a strongman competition consisting of deadlift, squat and bench press).

Say you want to hold the strong man competition for one week. Promote it, prepare your gym floor and inform your staff. Members would opt into the competition through the app to officially participate. They could go to the gym and compete whenever suits them. The fitness tracking app will record your members results which can be displayed in the app and/or on a LED screen in your gym if you have one. Your staff can create awareness and encourage your members, who may not have heard of the competition, to participate. At the end of the competition, you could share the results with your gym community. You could even offer a prize to the top 3 participants with the best results. 

This doesn’t have to be limited to individuals. You could even offer your members to form teams and participate in team challenges. This could help build cohesion and even lasting friendships that extend beyond the gym walls. Ultimately, the more you do these kind of challenges, the more engaged your members will be with your community and staff. 

Leaderboards

A fitness tracking app could offer a digital leaderboard for your members. The difference from challenges is that leaderboards are constantly running and therefore constantly engage your members. Points can be earned through different fitness activities to score and rank members on the leaderboard accordingly. Or it could be based on a given metric, highest to lowest (reps performed, weight lifted, calories burned, etc). It could be further filtered by time period (day, week, month), by category (cardio or strength), and/or by muscle group (chest, back, etc.). 

However the leaderboard is organized, it would have to be fair across different experience levels, membership lifetimes, fitness goals and routines. A member who just joined yesterday should not be competing against a member who’s been going to the gym and tracking his/her fitness for more than a year. Therefore, the leaderboard should only show members that are within a certain range of their current ranking. Additionally, a member who only goes to the gym to do cardio should be able to compete with a member who goes to the gym solely to lift weights. Both should have a common metric to be ranked against each other, such as points or number of gym visits.

You can use the leaderboard to recognize top ranked members or use it to incite friendly competition. The important thing here is that you do not promote unhealthy habits. The leaderboard should be used as a mechanism to motivate and interact with the community. So choose your leaderboard metrics accordingly.

Quick question!

Final Thoughts

Gamification in the gym is underutilized and underestimated. The value added by gamifying your gym experience is huge. And the applications are really much more vast with some sort of fitness tracking technology integrated with your existing services. 

We at MoFit have tons of ways we could help you gamify your gym experience and take advantage of this untapped potential. Contact us to learn more or subscribe below. We’ll keep you in the loop with MoFit updates and our weekly articles on topics that can help you improve your member engagement, retention and/or experience.

Copyright @ 2021 MoFit Technologies. All rights reserved.