Many runners avoid gym memberships because the outdoors is their gym, regardless of weather or season. Some of them feel like gyms and fitness clubs have nothing to offer them, and they neglect all the potential strength training and cross-training that can help them get faster and stronger over the long haul while minimizing their risk for a running-related injury. Fitness club owners and operators have a huge market of runners that they can tap into, but appropriate marketing is critical.
I’ve been a runner for nearly all of my life, and I’ve spent nearly the past decade training for and racing everything from neighborhood 5Ks through my city’s residential areas all the way up to a 50-kilometer ultramarathon on technical trails. In all my years of running and racing, I have so infrequently seen any gyms near me market anything to runners, and I think it’s a disservice to both communities. I’ve known too many runners who get injured, and they often don’t even step foot into a gym until after they’re injured.
Here are four ideas to help get runners into your gym:
1. Start a gym-based running club. Many people who regularly work out at gyms are new to fitness and exercise, and many of them are looking for friends and accountability buddies. Setting up a running club at your gym could be a great way for members to connect with each other while also encouraging members to get outside their comfort zone and try a new activity. It doesn’t have to be specific to a particular race in your area — although setting up a group that’s focusing its training on one race could be an option — but for starters, just having a group that participates in organized group runs is tremendous.
2. Connect with running stores. Runners revere their local running stores in their community, and many runners go there religiously, either to participate in their weekly fun runs or simply just to shop. Another simple and straightforward way to get runners into your gym would be to meet them where they’re at, perhaps by going to running stores on their fun run nights to talk about your gym or by volunteering your gym space for a running store’s special event. Visibility will be key, and while you have the captive audience of runners, you’ll be able to talk about all your gym’s amenities and why the runners ought to give your space and your staff a chance.
3. Offer running-specific cross-training classes and programs. Many runners often cross-train by cycling, swimming or pool running, but others also enjoy group fitness classes and weight training. If you’re trying to target runners and get them to use your facilities or participate in your classes, consider offering some that are specific to runners, such as “Pool Running 101” or “Yoga for Runners,” for example. Advertising these running-specific programs and services at local running stores or races will allow you to tap into this enormous market. Runners often don’t want to spend any time on non-running activities, but if they know that what you’re offering will help make them faster, stronger, or injury-free, chances are high that they’ll seriously consider it.
4. Register your gym for a race, and chat it up with other runners. If you’re lucky to employ staff members who also enjoy running, consider asking them to register for local races and wear your gym’s gear while they’re racing. This will allow them to not only visibly promote your gym, but they’ll also be able to have organic conversations with other runners and help connect their fellow runners to your gym and your gym’s running-specific programs and services.
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan Chabert is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time online at runnerclick.com, monicashealthmag.com and nicershoes.com, and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.