Find Clients and Students for Your Fitness Programs in 2022 & 2023

If you’re a trainer or health coach with all the certs, and education, a desire to serve and to make a living, it doesn’t matter if you can’t find clients and students for your fitness programs. But there’s such an obvious need. So the question isn’t is there demand. It’s where are they, how do you get them (instead of letting them find another option). It’s also getting out of your head the idea that to find clients and students for your fitness programs isn’t the problem. If you believe that there’s too much competition, you’re sunk.  

So in this episode.. whether you run a gym and you’re struggling to bring people back in, or you offer an online fitness business, there is something in this episode, examples of how to market, in this episode. 

There is room for all of us. 

For those of you doing online programs feeling threatened by the reopening of gyms and the changes of numbers – Maybe you experienced some success during 2020 or 2021 if you got started then, and maybe your numbers aren’t quite as good in 2022. OR, Maybe you’re wondering about it being worth starting in 2022 because you haven’t yet. There’s something for you too.


05:20 Despite compelling scientific research and widespread public health recommendations, among women 45–64 years and 65–74 years old, only 18% and 11%, respectively, perform physical activities that enhance and maintain muscle strength and endurance two or more times per week (2010) 

Create a Community

06:57 Although personal involvement and commitment to any exercise program are essential, studies indicate that initiating individual behavior change is more likely with social or environmental change and support. 

A large number of women who drop out report time, and preference of exercising at home, as obstacles to exercise (in a gym). Good news for at-home exercise options not as good news for gyms, you might think. 

But post pandemic it’s a different landscape. Some are returning to gyms because they miss the, what I call, parallel play. That is, when you go somewhere for a specific reason and others are doing the same thing. You’re not distracted in the gym by laundry, lawncare, or the work desk staring at you.

This could actually be a positioning point for gyms now that group fitness and personal training options that are abundant and easily accessed online. Marketing that appeals to that pain-point of not getting to the workout, even with the best of intentions, because at home there are just too many other things to get in the way, may be one way to connect to people with fresh ads.

The elephant in the room for gyms is that:

10:04 Globally, from Q1 to Q2 in 2020 there was a 46% rise in fitness downloads:

60% of Americans enjoyed their home workouts during quarantine so much, they plan on canceling their gym memberships. 

Interestingly, India had the highest increase in downloads, rising by 156%. I bring that up for this reason: it makes sense because India had the largest lockdown in the world from March – May 2020 when 1.3 billion people were suddenly housebound. 

If you don’t have a gym in India and you’re wondering why this is important, stay with me. If you consider then states in the US, or wherever you are listening in the world – Canada, the UK, Australia – with the strictest lockdown status, the largest reported numbers of C-virus, those areas may be among some of the hardest to come back without an online option, marketing that takes an honest look at benefits of exercise vs risks of contracting the virus. 

Will the Pandemic Help Physical Activity Increases 

11:50 What remains to be seen is if this increase in accessibility and convenience will support increased fitness or a rise in the number of people consistently exercising enough for health benefits. 

Will the Physical Activity Increases Support Better Health?

This too, for gyms may be a point of distinction for those who embrace education of “activity” and “availability” compared to quality and direct tie to the needs and goals of individuals.  

It’s an opportunity to educate on the benefits of yoga and Pilates, that are not the same benefits one needs for muscle strength, metabolism, and bone density. 

It’s an opportunity to demonstrate the need for planes of motion in movement and not isolating activity to say, a spinning bike. 

Statistics on Participation in Exercise Pre-Pandemic

15:10 As age increases, participants are more likely to adhere to strength training. For example, for every additional decade of life, participants were approximately 10 times as likely to adhere to strength training.

In a study that featured comparison of web-based vs print-based physical activity interventions (a decade before the pandemic), web-based outperformed print-based, but both were effective. 

So, you understand how this went:

  • One group was given a print-form of exercises and journal to record. 
  • Another was given web-based exercise instruction and recording of activity. Both worked well. 

The results:

  • 71% of previously inactive became active 
  • 94% of previously active continued activity at recommended levels after the program 

Yes, please, all day, right?

The World Needs Options

18:26 For those of you doing online programs feeling threatened by the reopening of gyms and the changes of numbers – Maybe you experienced some success during 2020 or 2021 if you got started then, and maybe your numbers aren’t quite as good in 2022. OR, Maybe you’re wondering about it being worth starting in 2022 because you haven’t yet. There’s something for you too. 

At-home exercise works. Print, web-based, both work. Meaning, whether you’re using a pdf of exercises and just providing a simple program, or if you’ve created videos… how you provide online training may not matter. 

But, something else does. 

What It Takes

If you arrive at the right program for your ideal customer, you can create a huge and lasting impact. However, there’s one more step. You have to be able to market this program. They have to know it exists and it’s just right for them.You have to have a means to distinguish it from others and make someone say, I don’t just want any program, I don’t want any program but that one. 

Your voice – whether it’s funny, serious, educational, girl-next-door… needs to be full of conviction and inviting to the person who will thrive in your offering. You need to sound like you can hear the voice inside their head. They need to feel you know what they’re thinking, what they worry about, and what they want. That’s not branding, it’s not a broad approach, it’s marketing and it’s narrow.

How do you know when your message is distinct enough? 

20:30 You’ll have enough followers that you have some haters. Someone will say things like, “you confuse me” or “you need to get to the point” or “I don’t like your tone of voice.” I’ve heard all those. But out of 100 people if 2 people with nothing more to do than criticize tell you that, and you connect with 98? Those people will only find you IF YOU take a stand. They will find you because of the way you explain things, and don’t rush to conclusions, or whatever unique quirks you may think you need to fix! Keep them! 

In fact, marry your unique interests with your message. 

In the Marketing to Women Copywriting course, students learn how to identify not a broad target of women in midlife or women who are pregnant for the first time, or just diagnosed with osteoporosis… but that within THAT niche you choose, there are 5 unique personas that you will either repel or attract with the marketing you choose. Then you combine your personality with that? Gold. That’s how you find clients and students for fitness programs… in an evermore crowded space trying to get them.  

From the images, the script you use in videos on your pages, to your opt in pages, your emails or social media posts, what you say is important, HOW you say it is everything. Every woman in your niche does NOT make her buying decisions based on the same values.

Consider this 

23:02 How many people are socially awkward and don’t enjoy the gym? How many actually now have social anxiety since things are opened back up – who never experienced that before? How many of them were the paying members in a gym we call “low maintenance” – meaning they used it less than 2x a month? 

So, let’s say you’re targeting women in their 50s and 60’s who are concerned about bone and brain health and balance. Are you talking to the ones who have anxiety and depression? 

With pandemic weight gain (averages still range from 15-29lb), and the correlating diabetes, pre-diabetes, bone loss risks from pandemic behaviors we are still in a moment in time when we’ve got to address this in marketing. 

And few are. 

Another point of distinction. Lead with it, don’t bury it. 

I’ve attended and presented at 6 fitness conferences in the last 2 ½ years. Interestingly, not one had many – if any – sessions dedicated to what’s true right now, and how we bring up the need now, deal with long-haulers, anxiety and depression from isolation to get people started where they are. Problems people have now are not the problems they had pre pandemic. Even now, as things “feel normal” cases are coming up, weight is still there, causing the risk of comorbidities that the right exercise can do something about. 

We won’t get people active, or over the hurdle of coming to the gym for the first time, or back to the gym, without talking about these issues. What’s their comfort level in your environment relative to their anxiety and depression? It affects large masses of people. Do you deal with how to orient them and make them comfortable? Enthusiastically telling them that the exercise is going to help, isn’t enough. 

25:43 You’ve got to tell them how you’re going to make them comfortable coming in and doing the exercise. You want to describe what they feel when they go to leave their house, or get out of the car once in the parking lot. These are real things. You don’t alienate people who don’t have anxiety and depression by doing that. You probably also impress them with your openness and willingness to talk about tough issues. That’s your distinguishing feature and positioning point.

Gym Owners and Trainers: 

26:37 Will you suggest times of day that are better? 

  • How will you check in with them with a phone call to review how it’s going? 
  • What’s their preferred communication? 
  • Will you suggest a private session instead of a group program based on their individual emotional needs?

These are the kinds of things we have to keep in mind now:

  • Coming on too strong, 
  • high enthusiasm, 
  • over-the-top confidence…

could actually alienate some of the people who need you most. 

Think in the Now About Your Avatar

Who do you want to help? Who do you need to help? How many people does your current approach leave out feeling they don’t fit in or want to?  

And best question… how can you create or tweak an offering so that they have a place they can feel like home… whether it is at the gym or at home?  

There’s a place for your business model, for creating one that you love and allows you to deliver in the way that you want to for your lifestyle. You may want to keep exploring models you hadn’t yet considered for these times we’ve never been in. 

Keep the Faith

28:34 So, don’t be fooled by gym-reopenings being bad if you’re an online program provider or coach. 

Don’t be dissuaded or fearful of all the Peloton, mirror, and online trainers and apps if you’re a gym. 

There are always going to be people who choose people and need to lift heavily safely in a gym. There will always be people who have all the things sitting in their home, access to thousands of workouts, and don’t do them, needing accountability – of an online coach or program. 

We all know, we are not serving enough people and that is where the real opportunity lies. Combine the real talk about seriousness of health and fitness in this moment we’re in, not ignoring or discussing weight loss the way you did in 2019 and find your point of distinction.  

Don’t be just different. Be better. Be the perfect match for your ideal customer and the absolute wrong match for others.. Feel like home. 

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Marketing to Women Copywriting Course :

Similar Recent Episodes You Might Like: 

12 Content Ideas for Fitness & Health:

3 Reasons (and fixes) Your Female Fitness Client Isn’t Getting Results:


There were many references used in the creation of this episode, many of which were also referenced in this Flipping 50 episode:

Seguin RA, Economos CD, Palombo R, Hyatt R, Kuder J, Nelson ME. Strength training and older women: a cross-sectional study examining factors related to exercise adherence. J Aging Phys Act. 2010 Apr;18(2):201-18. doi: 10.1123/japa.18.2.201. PMID: 20440031; PMCID: PMC4308058.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top