The Member Connection: Increased Retention through Stronger Relationships

If your facility is like most, many members come and go over the course of the year. As an industry, and specifically as instructors, we have the opportunity to reverse this trend by striving to make stronger member connections.

Member connection refers to the relationship that members have with their facilities and fellow members. The YMCA of the USA has developed a member connection model with three levels of increasing connection and deepening relationship to a member’s facility and community: casual, connected and committed.

Casual members have the most superficial relationship with their fitness experience. They swipe their card as they enter the club, take a class or use some equipment and go home. They do not engage with staff or interact with other members to any large degree and often see themselves just “using some space” to work out.

Connected members begin to develop relationships with particular attributes of a facility. They may begin to attend a particular class regularly, form friendly relationships with a few of their fellow class participants and begin to exchange small talk with their instructor or other staff members.

Committed members have the deepest relationship with a club. They have internalized their positive experiences and become ambassadors for their facility, encouraging family members and friends to join. Working out or attending your class isn’t just something they make time for; it is a regular, enjoyable part of their lives.

It is in our best interest as instructors to move as many members as we can across that spectrum from casual to committed members.

From a financial perspective, attracting a new member costs ten times more than retaining a current one. Committed members are least likely to terminate their memberships because they see a value, not just in the equipment they use or the classes they take, but also in the experience of being a part of the facility itself. Facilities become more cost-efficient as the number of committed members increases.

A public health benefit of having more committed members is the enhancement of the wellness of each member. A member retained generally translates into a member with greater exercise adherence and greater improvements in their wellness. Committed members also bring friends and family members to our facilities and encourage them to become members, further expanding the reach of our efforts to improve the wellness of our communities.

Programmatically, committed members often serve as mentors to new members and assist them with their goals. I often ask experienced riders to assist newcomers with bike setup (which I double-check). This allows the new member to have a better experience at their first class and offers them the opportunity to immediately connect with a fellow rider. Some of these mentors have gone to become certified instructors themselves, and serve the facility in their new role as an instructor.

As a result of increased retention and the attraction of new members to the Spinning program, additional classes may be added and more teaching opportunities will become available. Becky Hanvey, senior director of health & wellness programs at the Stonestown Family YMCA in San Francisco, credits member connection efforts with more than doubling the number of classes in their Spinning program since it began in 2001.

Many members cross our paths every day. As we move them from a casual relationship with our facility to a deeply committed connection to their wellness experience we create stronger, healthier riders, increase class size, enhance the financial success of our facilities, and build communities where none existed before. As Cassandra Bodlak, health & fitness director at the Richmond District YMCA in San Francisco wisely sums it up, “Our success … depends on our ability to develop appropriate relationships with our community.”  

Sean Dries is a STAR 1 Spinning instructor and an ACSM certified Health-Fitness Instructor. Sean is a freelance personal trainer, wellness coach, group exercise instructor and stay-at-home father. He can be reached at www.jackalopefitness.com.


Six steps can help you to deepen that relationship for the greatest number of members.

Step 1: Arrive to class early and stay late. Arriving 5 to 10 minutes before class starts allows you time to say hello to your riders, introduce yourself to new faces and assist with bike setup. Staying for a few minutes after class will allow you to check back in.

Step 2: Learn member names. Remembering names shows each member that you respect and value them as a person.

Step 3: Introduce participants to each other. You can build community in your classes by regularly having them introduce themselves to each other. The warm-up is a great time to do this.

Step 4: Create team activities during class. Nothing makes people feel connected like competing against another team or groaning and complaining through a challenging interval.

Step 5:  Learn rider goals and check in on their progress. Teaching to a member’s specific training goals will increase the likelihood they will come back.

Step 6: Celebrate member successes. This is as a simple as a “great job” after a member’s first ride, congratulations on the birth of a child, or a “way to go” when a rider show a marked improvement in riding form.

Compute Your Fitness

Get the feedback you need to get the results you want. The Spinning Computer provides continuous access to cadence, heart rate and distance or time traveled.

This is an essential buy for the new Cadence, Heart Rate and Class Design home study, which will teach you to manipulate cadence and resistance as training variables.

>> Learn more about the Spinning Computer

Send to a Friend Update my Email Become an Instructor Continuing Education Spinning Events Update my Email Send to a Friend