Chantal: Our special guest joining us today is Brent Darden. Brent, welcome back to the Fitness Business podcast.
Brent: Thank you. My pleasure. Glad to be here.
Chantal: It’s quite a treat because we are actually in the same room, not in two different countries at the moment. We’re sitting here at Club Industry 2017. I’ve stolen you away from your presentations, just for about 30 minutes or so, to come in and do this interview with us, so thank you so much for taking the time to come in today.
Brent: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Chantal: Now, you were telling me a little bit about what you’ve been up to. One of the things that you were saying is that you’ve been out presenting on the topic of influence movement.
Chantal: Can we start today, can you tell us, what is influence movement?
Brent: Influence movement is just as the title suggests. It’s about our power to influence others, and also their power to influence us. Influence is happening all around us constantly. We’re influenced by our environment, we’re influenced by media, we’re influenced by social media. We’re influenced by those that are closest to us, and we’re also influencing those closest to us, and I talk about influencing movement.
What I’m hoping is to share some thoughts with people about we might get more people to be more active and be more active around the world, be more active in your community, to be more active as your members, to be more active in your spheres of influence, your personal network, and then, even to be more active yourself, and how that power of influence impacts that.
Chantal: I would assume that we could say that the large majority of fitness business owners have that objective, they want to help people move more often. I believe that there’s some research around the subject of the influence movement. Can you share any of that research with us?
Brent: Yes. There’s quite a bit of research. I think one interesting point about that influence, because you mentioned health club owners, I lead several REX Roundtables in the United States, which are composed of 16 club owners and we meet several times a year. As part of those meetings, one of the things I challenge them each time is let’s share one professional and one personal goal each time so the group can hold you accountable.
Surprisingly, even though these are very successful health club owners, many of them in the business for years, decades, probably still 30, 40% of them all have health and fitness goals they’re trying to achieve around being more active or losing weight or something along those lines, even …
Chantal: That’s their personal goal.
Brent: … That’s their personal goal …
Brent: … not even for members …
Chantal: Isn’t that interesting?
Brent: … so I think there’s a real need for this topic and for people to understand how they can be more successful for your members, absolutely, but also just for yourself.
Chantal: For us in the fitness industry.
Brent: Absolutely, for 2018.
Chantal: Yeah, absolutely.
Brent: But then, the research, probably the kind of foundational longitudinal study that’s out there, it’s called the Framingham Heart Study. It’s been going on now for 33 years and continues today. It’s studying 1200 residents in this town of Framingham about the effects of their environment, but also their genetics, and also their behaviours on health and longevity. There’s a lot of research that’s come out of that data. Obviously, this has been going on for 33 years, so it’s quite impressive.
For example, one of the things they found that if your best friend becomes obese as an individual, you’re 171% more likely to become obese yourself. If your best friend is more physically active, you’re more likely to be physically active. If your best friend smokes, you’re more likely to smoke. If your best friend drinks excessively, you’re more likely to drink excessively and so on. So, it’s a real sort of testimony to this power of influence, especially with those closest to us.
And as I mentioned before, it goes both ways. They’re influencing you and you are influencing them, and so, making a cognitive sort of realisation that that’s happening and as Michelle Segar would say be aware of what’s happening.
Chantal: If we think about that, that Framingham study that you talked about and the results that you just shared and some of that research that you’ve just shared, from a club perspective, what can we learn from that, and what can we implement into our business based on those learnings?
Brent: Well, one of my presentation I talk about seven things that people can do to influence themselves and influence others, and this applies to club members as well. I think part of that, that I recommend when I talk to club owners is let’s pull back the curtains, so to speak, and not keep it a secret, because it’s going to benefit both the club and the individual. If they’re successful and they’re adhering to their exercise routine, that’s exactly what our business is. We want them to keep coming back.
There’s seven things that are proven through research studies, personal experience, working with members for the last 30 years that I share. The first one of those is forget how good it is for your future health, which sounds a little bit contradictory because we know it’s good. But we also know, in fact, research suggest that if people tied their exercise and activity to this sort of general better health, particularly to live a few extra years, or when I get older, I want to be able to … those sort of generalised reasons are not very effective motivators for people. In fact …
Chantal: Isn’t that interesting?
Brent: … Yeah. They’re 33% more likely not to reach their goal if they have something general like that. So the key is to tie the exercise to immediate and noticeable things that are happening, like improved mood and less stress and looking better, moving better, feeling better, things like that.
Chantal: It’s small steps, basically, is what you’re saying, and being able to recognise small wins.
Brent: Yes. Right. Immediate and noticeable, so not too long-term that it just becomes so [crosstalk 00:05:57].
Chantal: They need to be able to feel that instant sort of … that win.
Chantal: So, that’s step number one, forget how good it is for your future health. What’s step number two?
Brent: Step number two is commit to behaviour change. I always say in my presentations that we’re in the health and fitness business, but we’re also actually really in the behaviour change business. That’s the biggest challenge we have, is we can get people to join clubs as we’ve proven that over the years, but we lose them. They drop out for all sorts of reasons.
One of those is that we’re not approaching them and helping them understand that what they’re trying to do probably is behaviour change. They’re wanting to either enhance, improve or just simply begin this new exercise programme. We need to help them not by giving them these specific exercise prescriptions and teaching them how to do a squat exactly the way it should be done, but more on this behaviour change of how can we incorporate a routine that you can consistently show up to the gym and participate?
If we can get them to come to the gym where they want to do Zumba or yoga or functional training, they’re going to get some results and improvement, but, first, we have to get them to come.
Chantal: Do you think that traditional roles in our clubs like club managers and personal trainers, do you think that those roles are qualified to help people with that behavioural change? Or is that a skill set that we need to go out and learn?
Brent: I think it’s definitely a skill set that we need to go out and learn. My masters is in Exercise Science and there was no instruction relating to this particular topic. It was all about exercise prescription and the right way to design an exercise programme and biomechanics, etc.
But what we’re talking about now is really almost like … I don’t want to say a psychologist, clubs don’t need to go out and hire a psychologist. But they need to train the people that are interacting with the members, particularly at the beginning of a member’s journey with the club, on these behavioural change techniques by teaching them to ask the right questions and have a dialogue with the member and how to guide those discussions, so that they’re digging a little bit deeper, so that they can help those members be successful.
Chantal: This is probably a good point that I might reference back to Michelle Segar again because, of course, her book, No Sweat, is all about the sort of motivational science. There’s a lot of good recommendations and examples in there of some of the things that you’re talking about. So I might just remind everyone that if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to read Michelle’s book, No Sweat, or if you haven’t listened to the interview that we did with Michelle, then jump on to the show notes for today’s show. I’ll make sure that I include a direct link there for the book and for the interview.
So number one and two. Brent, what’s number three?
Brent: Number three is pick something you like, which sounds like common sense. But you’d be surprised how many people, when you really ask them, do you really enjoy, let’s say, running, and they will just tell you, “No, I hate it.”
Chantal: I hate it.
Brent: “I hate it.” That’s not a good way to develop a lifelong habit. If you have a short-term goal, or you’re trying to get ready for a particular event or a reunion or a wedding or something, and you have this timetable that’s very finite, maybe you can do that because it burns a little more calories or seems to be more effective.
But for this sort of lifelong habit, we need to find things that we enjoy inherently, whatever that is, and that’s the best choice.
Chantal: I think that makes a little sense because if I think about the conversations that I’ve had with members over the years, the ones that stick around are the ones that feel that exhilaration, and they love the energy of the Zumba class or whatever it might be. The ones that we tend to, say, come and go are the ones that just feel like they’re doing it because they have to do it.
Brent: Right. Well, even outside the club and I know you, like me, in your non-professional relationships in your social settings, we’re the fitness people. So, they will come to us often and say, “Okay, I need to get in shape. What should I do?”
Brent: “What exercise should I do? What piece of equipment should I buy?”
The answer should always be the same, that’s what is it that you enjoy doing? They will say, “I heard that an elliptical burns more calories than a stationary bike. Is that true?” Yes, but have you tried the elliptical? [inaudible 00:10:09]
Chantal: Yeah. If we put that in the context of on-boarding a new member, then are you recommending that part of that on-boarding process should be identifying what it is that that person truly enjoys doing?
Brent: Exactly. It should be a discovery process that you go through with a member and, oftentimes, they have not really thought about in these ways. If they don’t a good answer, what they really enjoy doing physically active, then ask them: What did you enjoy doing as a kid? Were there any sports you were involved with before? What’s your history with exercise? When you’ve thought about exercising before, what’s the main reason you’ve always started exercising? When you’ve begun an exercise programme in the past, why were you beginning it, and why are you beginning it today? Those kind of questions, I think, help a lot.
Chantal: Excellent. Let’s keep working our way through the list. What’s number four?
Brent: Four is make it non-negotiable. Most of us have certain things in our lives that we just absolutely are non-negotiable about. Those might be related to our children, it might be related to our faith, it might be related to any number of things. But we need to make exercise and being physically active one of those sort of negotiable behaviours.
One of the greatest challenges people have is they don’t prioritise their own self-care. They’re basically taking care of everyone else, and they sacrifice their own self-care, with good intentions because they think, well, I need to be there for my kids, I need to be there for my spouse, I need to be a good work professional.
But what fuels all of those things is this physical activity and the results you get from that. So establishing it as not a choice every day of having to go through the thought process of, am I going to exercise today or am in not? It’s almost on automatic and trying to make sure that’s ingrained in your mood.
Chantal: Do you think that part of that process is it important to look at the overall picture of what happens in their lifestyle?
Chantal: So what’s happening in their fitness within your facility, but then, what’s happening outside of that as well, and helping them with that planning process?
Brent: Yeah. One of the techniques, which is quite simple and straightforward, that I shared with many clients is take a calendar, literally, a monthly calendar, and plot on the calendar in your dialogue with the member how they’re going to be physically active, what days, what times, what activities not only that they’re going to be participating inside the club, but outside the club.
If they take their son to a soccer games or soccer practise on Saturdays, while they’re there, and they said, “Well, I usually walk for an hour while my son is practising soccer,” put that on the calendar, because now you’re integrating their lifestyle outside the club with the activities in the club and building this concept of it’s a total lifestyle behaviour.
Chantal: I can see because I’m a very visual learner, I’m a very visual person. I can see how that would be a really effective tool for other people that are also visual learners to physically lay out a calendar and go, “Right. Let’s plot out what this looks like.” Get the complete pictures. That’s a great recommendation.
So we’ve gone through four. What’s number five?
Brent: Five is find a workout partner, or partners. There’s a lot of research, again, out there that shows that if you have a personal trainer, you’re more likely to continue working out for the accountability, but it’s also a partner. If you’re involved in group exercise and that social component, you’re more likely to continue to work out, so smaller group training.
Same is also true with one-on-one. If you have a best friend and you can work out with, then you’re going to lift each other’s spirits. Your mood is going to be better when you work out, you’re going to be more likely to show up for the workout. And just because you have another person to kind of share that time with, the fatigue is going to be perceived to be less. The perceived exertion is less when you share those activities.
Chantal: That’s a great one. And number six?
Brent: Number six is find out and understand your sort of why. I talked a little bit about this in the beginning, about the future health goals and making it more specific. But even more than that, why are you wanting to be more active and how is that really going to make you feel better in the immediate future? What’s driving you?
Then, also, it doesn’t hurt to have some goals, whether you’re just beginning or you’re very experienced. I do extreme adventure racing. That’s one of my hobbies on the side. When I have one of those races coming up, I’m much more motivated to stay on schedule and get ready. So, if you have to create those events in your life to help give you a little extra motivation, to have a goal, there’s nothing wrong with that.
A lot of people come and join clubs often and, as we know, they’ll say, “Well, what brings you today?” “Well, I have a wedding,” or, “Well, I’m going to my family reunion,” or a high school reunion, or something. Those are fine, but this really basis of why am I doing this, I think is important to motivation.
Chantal: It’s probably a good opportunity to then reflect back on the first one that we talked about, which was forget how good it is for your future health. That is, when they’ve identified what that goal is or what that why is, then it’s probably also up to us to implement those kind of short-term achievable goals, so that they’re ticking those things and they’ve got that satisfaction of the small wins along the way. Is that correct?
Brent: That’s right. Even sort of visualising your future self is a habit that’s quite successful. If you talk to a lot of professional, highly-successful athletes in just about any field, many of them use visualisation to picture themselves performing well. The same is true with us. We can picture our future self feeling better, looking better. That’s quite the motivational piece as well.
Chantal: Absolutely. So what’s number seven, Brent?
Brent: Number seven is be accountable, and by that, I mean we need to hold ourselves accountable, but we can get help. So how do you do that? Well, one is you can put some money up.
Chantal: That’s a great motivator.
Brent: Bet on yourself. Not so much bet on yourself, but you can invest in yourself by getting a health club membership, for example, by paying for personal training, by paying for small group training, putting some money on the line so that you have a commitment that you’re trying to fulfil.
Or even something as simple as just going public, sharing with friends or those close to you what your goals are makes you more accountable to reaching those goals. Keeping track of how you’re doing related to those goals helps you be accountable, whether that’s through a wearable device or something more manual, but tracking, making sure you’re making progress, all those things help hold you accountable.
Chantal: Accountability is a big factor.
Chantal: Great. So we’ve gone through all seven, Brent. Is there any last sort of advice that you would give to club owners and managers as far as this influence movement is concerned and ensuring that we are making the most of these seven ways that we’ve just talked through? Is there any kind of takeaway advice that you would give them?
Brent: I think the takeaway advice I would give them is to understand that most of us in this business are here because we want to change people’s lives, and we really get a lot of reward from that. If we’re honest about our industry, we don’t have a good history of that. There’s too much attrition, there’s too many people that drop out, there’s too many people that come to us and leave without getting significant results. So, if we really want to be true to that, I think we need to understand that we need to realise how we can help them through behaviour change.
With several of the clubs I’ve worked with, they’ve now got this coach that helps people when they first start, and it’s capable of having these direct beneficial conversations with members and going through that sort of discovery process that helps them just be more successful. So my takeaway would be to think about that. How in your club setting might you help members be more successful and more mindful of what they’re embarking on and having those conversations with them at the very beginning?
We know in our industry from looking at it for years that the first 30, 60, 90 days are incredibly important in the member experience. During that time, if we can help them gain consistency and fit activity, particularly at our gym, into their lives, then they’ll be more successful and, of course, that’s our business model, so if they continue with us, that makes us successful.
Chantal: I have one more question, Brent, in regards to what you just mentioned because you said that some of the clubs that you work with have implemented a coach that is helping with that behavioural change process. In your experience, is that coach a … because we touched on it early, is it a personal trainer that has been trained in behavioural change? Or have they bought a third party into the business who has specialised or studied behavioural change?
Brent: You know, I’ll tell you it’s been with both. I’ve seen both. The key, if it is someone existing on-staff, whether that’s a personal training instructor or a small group instructor, those people had the exercise background, they probably don’t have the behavioural science or the behavioural training background. So they need to be trained on that and there are options out there to get that training.
Then the other part is some clubs have brought in psychologist to train many of their staff and give them some of those skills, help design sort of a questionnaire that can be followed that ask these sort of leading questions that takes the members through this sort of self-discovery and uncover some of the things that are keys to their success.
Chantal: Excellent. Well, Brent, thank you so much for joining us today. I think this is a subject that we will probably talk about for many years to come. It’s probably something that I would love to get you back on in the future, and have a look at some of the clubs that are starting to implement these roles within the organisation, and what sort of effect that’s having as far as long-term member retention is concerned.
Because I think that many of us who are listening to the show can probably agree that’s an area, as you say, that it’s a focus, it’s something that we want to do, but perhaps in the past, we’ve struggled with how we go about influencing that behavioural change. I think that you’ve definitely shed some light on the subject today, so thank you so much …
Brent: Thank you.
Chantal: … for coming in and sharing your expertise with us.
Brent: Thank you, Chantal. It was great to see you as always.
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