Running a gym that is reaching full capacity can be a huge challenge for gym managers. At first glance an influx of new year's resolutions or summer-body chasing newcomers may seem like good news for your business, yet they come with hidden dangers.

In this article, we've outlined some of the key indicators that your gym may be reaching full capacity, and three strategies to help your business cope with the numbers, without compromising on your member's experience.

What is Full Capacity?

A gym reaches full capacity when it has registered the maximum amount of members while still operating smoothly, with high member satisfaction. Though it can be hard to identify an exact number for your particular gym, it is worth defining a ballpark figure for you to keep an eye on. This will allow you to make the difficult decision to put the brakes on membership sales in order to avoid any deterioration in service level or member happiness.

To get your estimated member capacity, add together all the stations within your gym (a treadmill or a leg press would be one station, as it only allows one member at a time to use it. Other machines will allow two or more members to train at once, so take this in to consideration.) Then, depending on your facility type, multiply it by the amounts below:

  • x25 if your site has only a gym
  • x30 if your site has a gym and a studio
  • x35 if your site has a gym, a studio and another offering (eg pitch, sports hall, pool, etc)

While every facility will have unique considerations this is a tried and tested method of estimating capacity. Increasing diversitiy in fitness business models mean that newer facilities focused on functional training, crossfit or S&C may be able to get more in that the calculated maximum. A large part of this also relies on how well the space is operated.

It's important to consider the other factors which might limit this capacity as well. For example you may have a huge gym with many stations and lots of free space, yet only have one changing room or bathroom. These limited facilities may result in member satisfaction suffering a long time before membership levels reach your percieved upper limit.

Each gym is unique, and "full capacity" will feel different to each gym, meaning you have a strategy for objectively assessing the current level of your member's happiness if you want them to continue choosing your facility over others.

Identifying Full Capacity

You will most likely find evidence that your gym is running at (or beyond) full capacity during peak times. Members waiting to use equipment or unable to book in classes should be your first red flags. While an occasional waiting list can indicate popularity of a class, a permanent one means you're not offering enough to satisfy your member's needs. This will likely be a cause for frustration, dwindling motivation and potential membership cancellations in the future.

To avoid these, try the following three strategies and let us know how you got on.

hyperwear group fitnessMember Distribution

Redistributing your members is a great way of taking away some of the pressure during peak times. It takes a little bit of work at the start, but can make a massive long lasting impact on the satisfaction of your members, and how they interact with your business.

The first step is making sure that your gym is open for the maximum amount of time still viable for you as a business owner, accommodating as many members as possible. Review your class schedule and operate a reserve list.

Offering early morning classes can capture those looking for a hit before they head in to work, while lunchtime classes are great for members who look to get away from their job for an hour. You can employ a class-only membership for members who need classes to get motivated, but don't train much outside of that. Combine this with off-peak rates membership offer to attract members who use the gym during lulls, and keep them there. Separating your members will enable you to predict busy spells more easily, and allow you to adapt accordingly.#

Small group sessions can help tackle capacity issues in three different ways. Firstly, at busier times group sessions around functional rigs or open gym spaces can draw some members away from cardio and resistance zones - opening up extra stations for other users outwith the class.

The additional benefit of this, is that class attendees and other gym users will be exposed to a variety of circuits, functional and bodyweight movements that may then encourage non-machine based training in the future. Being part of small group sessions can also increase staff-member engagement, which at busy times can create more of a connection with those taking part with the knock-on impact of more loyalty as a member.

Take it outside! Hosting outdoors sessions will accommodate more members than you may within your gym, and also takes them away from the gym floor, freeing up space for other classes running simultaneously.

Customer Service

Though great customer service should always be at the forefront of your mind, it plays a particularly important role in member retention. If your facility is close to or at capacity, a good relationship with your customers can help minimise the dissatisfaction often experienced alongside growth. However, complaints may still come, which is why we recommend you spend extra time and care on the following points.

Your staff are the face of the company. If possible, allocate your staff with "chatting time" during which they walk around, talk to and catch up with your members. A small conversation often goes a long way to making a member feel like they are more than just a number to you. They will also find it easier to get a feel for the general atmosphere within the club if they are communicating with those using it.

Make sure you have your new customer journey or onboarding process detailed accurately. Welcome letters, calls and texts are a great way to create a welcoming feeling and catch up with them outside of the gym. Make sure you don't overwhelm or come across spammy - just caring enough to check in and ensure their membership is working for them.

Even if new members find the gym overwhelmingly busy, or struggle to get into classes, they may be persuaded to wait it out if they are personally invested in their commitment to you.

time fitness reward bookletNurture Your Regulars

Often, the members that are most affected by increasing membership numbers are the long term members or 'regulars'. They are likely to get fed up with the sudden influx of new faces in classes and increased pressure on equipment availability. It is vital that you try to keep them motivated.

A great way to do this is to get them involved and prepared indirectly, by asking for their feedback in December regarding any changes they'd like to see in the gym for the new year. These might include new class ideas, or acquiring new bits of equipment (these do not have to be huge investments, but big enough to indicate that you are taking their requests on board). Seeing a suggestion turned into action makes members feel valued.

Rewarding them for bringing a friend in during the new year can also be a great peace keeper, as they are part of the reason the gym suddenly seems busier than a month ago.

The key to each of these strategies is to properly communicate with your members, whether its regarding changes to classes, opening times or facilties.

Though these may not fully remedy the effects of operating beyond your capacity, they may minimise member dissatisfaction while you work on resolving any bigger issues within your facility. If you're looking to change the layout of your facility, or perhaps interested to find out more about a full gym refurbishment, you can get in touch with our team of experts who will be happy to help.