Program Design & Implementation:
Flipping Gym Usage Numbers Men’s Fitness Challenge

Jenny Hill is the Director of Fitness and Wellness at The Mirabel Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.

When I came to Mirabel Club more than a decade ago, we had some simple gym space and no fitness programming at the time. My job during that first year was to establish general fitness classes that would engage the membership and promote health and wellness at the club. We had a huge response and developed support for continued growth.

We incorporated personal training into our fitness offerings during the second season that would be very effective for our members. With classes and personal training now offered frequently in our fitness center, we realized in year three that our clientele was predominantly women. We had a small handful of men who were true die-hard fitness buffs using the cardio equipment to work up a sweat and warm up before a round of golf, but very few male members were utilizing our services.

I had a conversation with one of them, a great Board member who would play with anyone and always had the betterment of the club at heart. He indicated that the less than stellar fitness response from the male membership was the lack of competition. Whether it’s golf or a lifetime in big business, our members are a competitive group who are used to battling it out in a spirited manner. Adding a competitive aspect to our fitness programming might entice more men to come and see what we have to offer. The result was our Men’s Fitness Challenge.

Our Men’s Fitness Challenge is not based on any one specific aspect of fitness – fastest, strongest, etc. It is an individual journey wrapped within a team competition. The team aspect adds accountability and camaraderie to the competition that a “me-only” concept would not. We needed to engage male members who were not using the gym space, and we utilized those who were to be our spokesmen, recruiters and captains. They would talk up the challenge and get their friends and fellow members on board.

We did NOT categorize members as beginners, novices, intermediate or experts. Everyone was equal because they all had their own personal goals and objectives to reach. The more they worked at it, the better they’d be, and the better their team standing in the challenge would be, as well. Personal goals included weight loss, the ability to carry their golf bag for an 18-hole round of golf or even the need to curtail one’s pre-diabetic symptoms before they got worse. As the facilitator of the competition, I knew their individual goals, but sharing among the group was optional.

Meeting their intended weekly activity and achieving various benchmarks would render points for each individual that would ultimately benefit the team. We’d tally the points each week and the competition grew from there.

We went from three percent male participation in our gym two years earlier to 70 percent male usage once we kicked off the Men’s Fitness Challenge. The women were still coming, but we had so many more men who’d become regulars. There weren’t just more men using the gym, but those who were would be there very frequently to satisfy their challenge goals.

We were really flying by the seat of our pants during those early weeks and months of the Men’s Fitness Challenge, but it grew and matured organically, and word of mouth spread throughout the club. We’d add group classes for the men that worked on stretching and balance and so much more. The improvement in their health, wellness and their golf games would completely open their minds to what we were doing, and why we were doing it. The Men’s Fitness Challenge helped launch our club’s Golf Fitness Program as a whole. After all, improvement in golf was a key aspect of the challenge, and remains so today. We had between 50 and 70 participants in each challenge before COVID halted our progress. These days, we’re getting back at it and are planning the next 90-day Men’s Fitness Challenge later this year.