The Four Types of People Every Gym Wants

people every gym wants

What do your current members look for when they come to your Box, and what keeps them coming back? Why might they consider a new, different workout option? What does it take to get prospective members, especially millennials and post-millennials, in the doors in this increasingly diverse and competitive fitness market?

We’ve researched people who belong to gyms and work out frequently, and we found while there may be “types” – whether for CrossFit, the upscale celebrity club or the hot new spinning boutique – almost any prospect can satisfy his or her needs at almost any venue, as long as it fulfills his or her expectations for what a club or gym experience should be.

To help understand these different drivers, we’ve identified four different workout personas reflecting the complex mix of motivations that drive the decision to join, switch or drop gym memberships. Some of them more clearly align with what you probably think of as the CrossFit type, but each has selection criteria and priorities to which you can likely appeal, especially if you’re in an area with a diverse workout population, or find yourself increasingly in competition with the “hot new thing” in your area.

Also, none of these personas are 100 percent pure.  Each of the prospects you encounter likely displays characteristics of each of the four types that you may be able to dial up or down based on how you present your program and facility.

I call these four types of personas:

  • The Achiever
  • The Grinder
  • The Strutter
  • The Sampler

Achievers see their gym as one of the key pieces of a high-performance lifestyle. They work out because they have certain expectations for themselves, whether at work, home, sports or school. They want a gym that helps support their fitness, health and wellness goals, and where they are driven to grow as individuals. A successful workout experience makes them feel empowered.

Grinders see their gyms as a place to fulfill a commitment to themselves. The discipline of showing up and getting it done is central to who they are. They want a gym that keeps it simple and lets them focus on doing what they have to do today. They want to leave their workout feeling like a “quiet hero” who does what needs to be done and moves on.

Strutters see their gym as a sign of status and taste. Appearances matter to them. They work out because being fit and looking trim goes along with their job, car, clothes and home in signaling their success. They want to be able to say or show they work out in the right place with the right people. A successful workout experience makes them feel exceptional.

Samplers are looking for stimulation, novelty and interaction. Working out is an “experience” for them, and they want the flexibility to choose a different experience with different people every day. They’re more likely to want to work out with a crowd, especially a crowd of friends, and expect their gym to provide a spiritual as well as physical lift. They want to feel energized.

As you read these, I encourage you to think about what you have to offer to each of these types of members or prospective members in order to reach the four types of people every gym wants.

For instance, a number of people I know in the Box world see Achievers and Grinders as more natural CrossFit matches. If that’s the case, are you doing everything you can to help your Achievers see how your Box fits with their holistic, high-performing lifestyle? Are you clearing the way for your Grinders to feel like quiet heroes?

At the same time, don’t overlook the opportunity to appeal to your less obvious constituencies. Think of the different ways you can make working out at your Box a status symbol for Strutters, and the different ways you might create eclectic, energizing experiences for your Samplers.

The rule on all of this is if you don’t help people see it they can’t act on it. So take stock of all the ways you can engage with these four constituencies and tailor your offerings accordingly.

Michael McLinden earns his road rash as a serial entrepreneur, and consultant to health, wellness and fitness related companies in the U.S. and Europe with a focus on market analysis, branding and value creation. He has held executive management and strategic planning responsibilities in a number of regional and global advertising and marketing firms, including Mc|K Healthcare, which he co-founded and ran until 2014. He holds an MS from Purdue University and an MBA from TIAS Nimbas business school in the Netherlands. Email him at