Sheldon McBee Featured Photo

By Sheldon McBee

The opportunity to attract new members and retain the ones we have can take an incredible shift in 2022.  We are clearly moving to the other side of an awful pandemic that challenged how we do business.  Our prospective and current members come to us guide them to overcome a challenge.  That challenge comes in some form of the state of their health and fitness.  As health club and studio operators/owners, whether we know this or not, we are in the business of motivation.  This can be framed many ways but the value we offer the world is to motivate people to be the best version of themselves and overcome this challenge.

Clearly leveraging technology, diversity, and inclusion, repositioning the perception of clubs and studios to lobbyists, competing with at-home fitness options, and on demand and livestream experiences are just a few of many industry factors that will affect the big comeback for brick-and-mortar facilities. 

That said, the future should look bright for health clubs and studios in 2022.  There is little doubt that consumers have more access to fitness solutions today.  Heavy hitters like Peloton, Mirror, Apple+, Oculus VR, and a myriad of fitness applications are grabbing the attention of fitness consumers.  Interestingly we are still seeing members returning to live fitness experiences.  As health club operators we are in a unique position strengthen our niche and reposition our offering to potential and returning members.

When we consider the impact the pandemic had on our industry, it’s important to understand our consumers views on being active pre and post pandemic.  This can help us shift the way we market, our acquisition process, and member integration strategies.  Every individual will have their own compelling and personal reason for choosing a facility.  A recent survey conducted by Club Intel, IHRSA, and ABC financial uncovered that the top 3 reasons people choose to become active post pandemic were simply to be active, improve mental health, and lose weight, in ranking order.

One interesting topic to uncover for businesses looking to amplify revenue growth in 2022 is shifting the perception of what life will be like to be a member or client with them.  Too often we are viewed as a place to sweat, work hard, move intensely, challenge yourself, and roll up your sleeves to grind away at achieving an outcome you desire.  We know that most people don’t choose to exercise, although they want to, because they may view it as too challenging, a loss of personal freedom, or they lack the ability to be successful.  As more consumers are coming out of the pandemic interested in health, wellness, and a more holistic approach to improving their fitness this gives businesses a unique opportunity to leverage this shift.

At Universal Athletic Club, we have been seeing this shift in our consumers.  We took the strategic approach to shift how we integrate new members.  The primary goal was to leverage our consumers “post pandemic” views of reconnecting to who they were or want to become.  We wanted our new members to experience more intrinsic motivation at the onset of their journey.  We offer a concierge appointment early in the member journey where they are facilitated to negotiate and personalize how their life will improve with us.  This helps create tremendous buy in, autonomy, and ownership to their decision.  We reward members by gifting them resources on habit forming and wearable technology to help give them instant gratification for every small or large commitment to movement they do.   This way they feel competent without an over-commitment to work too hard in the beginning.  We restructured our staff organization to better guide new members to either train in small groups or group fitness.  The primary focus is “get all new members with a group and in front of a coach”.  This approach enhances our community building efforts. 


Sheldon McBee MS, is an Executive Director for Universal Athletic Club based in Lancaster, PA.  He has a Masters in Degree in Human Nutrition, is an ACE certified Personal Trainer, and has over 20 years of experience in health and fitness. Sheldon is an experienced international presenter, lecturer, business consultant, fitness content developer, and personal training director. He has presented at IHRSA, IDEA, SCW, canfitpro, and has been featured in numerous industry publications.  He currently sits on the canfitpro and Club Solutions Magazine Advisory Panels.