People are more likely to exercise when those around them are doing it too, right? But how do you build a fitness community for your brand? What steps can you take to foster that community? And what made the brands with the huge following what they are today?

While it’s unlikely you just pop out of bed one day and say, “I want to start a fitness community!” there are feasible steps you can take to building one, either for your gym or brand.

1. Have a clear mission

Community is defined by Oxford as: “The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.”

Your mission is the reason that people will come to your community and the reason that people stay with your community. If they resonate with your mission, they’ll be there. Once you have your mission in place, infiltrate your community with it. Your community should eat, breathe, and sweat your mission, as it is the glue that holds your people together.

The “How”: your Mission can be injected through various methods, and would probably resemble a part of your own branding, including tagline, website design and more.

But seeing as it is 2017, I would spend my time focusing on the real big thing here: social media.

Let’s take Les Mills for example. The New-Zealand-based HIIT fitness program has built a “remote” community that stretches over 100 countries with over 17,500 partners. Their mission is echoed through each posting of their social media channels: “Building a fitter planet”.

When the workout is over. Hold each other up. #fitterplanet

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Les Mills (@lesmillstribe) am

This message is also reinforced through every group-fitness session and through each new signee who is encouraged to join by his friends. Les Mills trainees are drinking this version of “kool-aid” every day. Make your own brand’s “mission kool-aid”.

2. Know your niche

Once you have your mission, you’ve got to know your niche. No community is made up of “everybody in the US who’s into fitness”. It doesn’t work that way. What kind of fitness? What kind of workouts do your people enjoy? What sort of workouts play into your mission?

Maybe you’re shooting for the sort of folks that do mud-runs and HIIT training? Or perhaps you’re looking for the more casual trainees who don’t know how to get their fitness in order, but need a supporting environment?

If your mission is to help others become better runners like the adidas Runbase in Berlin, then you’re not going to start adding bodybuilding sessions into your weekly community workouts. It just wouldn’t make sense. But rather focus on mobility classes and nutrition as extras for your community. The point is to communicate what your niche needs.

3. But be inclusive

Communities grow when your current members bring new faces into the tribe. This can be a scary thing for a newbie: walking into a space filled with hyped-up fitness folk. As a community/brand leader, it’s your job to be inclusive to the newbie and make him or her feel welcome. Let’s picture two scenarios, this time focusing on interpersonal relationships found in gyms:

#1: Sally has never worked out regularly but really wants to start. Her friend Sue has been coming to your weekly workout for a while now so she brings Sally along. When Sally gets there, the workout is quickly explained and everyone gets started. The workout ends, your community members high five each other and head home. Sally leaves feeling pretty mediocre.

#2: Sue brings Sally to the workout and you immediately go up and introduce yourself…as the community leader, it’s your job after all. Before the workout, you ask if there are any other newbies and welcome them all to the crew. You explain the workout and it gets started. You find Sally during the workout and check in to see how she’s doing; you even get her to do three more push-ups than she thought she could because you’re just that damn motivational. At the end of the workout, you give Sally a high five and she goes home sweaty and happy.

Scenario #2 is the welcoming environment you need to create in order to build a community. You should instill this in your members by encouraging them to also welcome newbs into the pack. If this is an online service you’re selling, you’d want to have a stellar customer service experience, including retention emails and increased availability. Treat your customers as you would want to be treated and your brand and community will flourish.

4. Create FOMO

That’s what the kids are saying these days, right? November Project, a free workout movement that’s sweeping the globe, has a “we missed you page” on their website.

They literally call people out for not showing up to a workout if they said they were going to. Call it light-hearted, call it tough love but, either way, nobody wants to be that dude. And very few people are that dude at NP. Why? Because they make each workout so great, so awesome that nobody wants to miss it. Who would want to miss hugging a sweaty stranger at 6:30AM?

The CrossFit open is a great example of a brand-wide event that is an awesome experience (and product) that trainees just can’t ignore or miss out on. The 5-week online workout marathon turns into a full-blown celebration of fitness around CrossFit boxes.

Trainees encourage and push one another through a series of 5 grueling workouts, which are revealed week-by-week. The camaraderie created through this season is something people cannot afford to miss out on – other than instigating FOMO, it just becomes integral to the participation in this specific fitness community.

5. Do stuff other than workout

If you’re just working out, you’re just a workout club. Hate to break it to you. Sure, you may start with just workouts but plan some non-workout adventures too.

Healthy has never looked so good. Visit @labkitchen_berlin and experience how tasty real food can be. 😋

Ein Beitrag geteilt von RUNBASE Berlin (@runbaseberlin) am

When running a gym, you’d out for a post-workout meal, maybe plan a bowling night (though I guess that is technically fitness….) or a friendly BBQ. As your community starts to form and friendships are made, these events will naturally occur but as the leader of your fitness community you can make it a point to make sure these events are happening from time to time. The bonds formed in non-fitness events will only work to create strong workouts and a stronger community overall.

Brands would want to create brand-wide events and phenomena – the aforementioned CrossFit open is a great example. But there are a lot more options including charity fitness events, online video-based fitness challenges and other internet phenomena.

What examples of great community building have you experienced? Leave a comment to let us know.


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by Frank 31.05.2017
Really enjoyed reading through your tips, Orian. Thanks for sharing. For me one of the best examples I experienced was in CrossFit. The box owner and head-coach actually treated all of us like his kids - in a good way. He held us accountable to reach our personal best, clearly embodied and followed though on the community's values etc. (e.g. "Why the f*** are you getting yourself sth to drink if there are still other people finishing their WoD? Stay and help them push through!") and he made sure everybody felt really welcome - I also experienced how he kicked somebody out because he poisoned the atmosphere, though. In short: he was a great leader and once again we can learn so much from sports to transfer it to our working lives. Thx again for sharing.
by Orian Tal Frank 03.06.2017
Thank you for sharing as well, Frank!

This just goes to show that other than being a branding issue, a sense of community can be a do-or-die for small businesses such as CrossFit boxes. Very happy to hear your box owner is upholding the standard. :)
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5 Tips on Cultivating a Fitness Community - Orian Tal