Creating a Culture of Connection

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When it comes to building a business in the fitness industry, one of the most important factors is the culture that is created.

Building a strong, constant, and cohesive culture amongst the owner(s), management, and staff is extremely important. This is the team that will funnel the company’s mission, vision, and values into the community of members, which will ultimately create the culture. It all starts from the top down. As a gym owner, I understand how important it is for myself to live and represent the culture that I want to create 100% of the time.  Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about creating a strong connected community within a fitness center. I am going to give you my top 5 ways to create a culture of connection.

1. Focus Word of the Week:

I have a new focus word every week at Lock Box LA. I select a word and send it out to the coaching staff and give them an example of how to inspire and connect to the members through this word. Each coach before class references the word of the week and explains how they utilize this to motivate and inspire the members.
For example; if the focus word is “Intension”. A coach could say something like, “This week we want to focus on creating an intension for each workout this week. Maybe today your goal is to push harder than yesterday, try something new you never have done before, or maintain your intensity throughout an entire workout even when you get tired. Whatever your drive and motivation might be, I want you to channel this and utilize it to motivate you to take your training to the next level.”

Using a focus word helps connect the members through a common goal. Even though each person may have their own source of internal motivation, each can connect to the group by setting a challenge or “intent” for the day’s workout inspired by the focus word of the week.

2. Partner/Team Workouts:

During Saturday CrossFit classes, we always host partner or team workouts. Initially, new members tend to shy away from these workouts, but in the long run it pays off and creates a strong bond between members. Bringing people together that typically would not be put in similar situations in any other aspect of their life is extremely significant.

In these classes, members work together to complete a workout. The essential part about this is that they have to communicate and create a partner or group strategy to get through the task at hand. By communicating and learning about strengths and weaknesses of others, it forces us to be vulnerable and prideful in both aspects of our fitness levels. This creates a stronger bond and stronger connections between members.

3. Friendly Competition:

In both our CrossFit Classes and our ROC STEADY Classes, we encourage people to record their scores for their workouts. The concept of competing not only against yourself, but also against other members in class creates comradery through competition. The members are not only competing against each other, but are also cheering on one another because it is fun to race with your friends.

We also host an annual competition called The Lock Box WOD-A-PAIR Competition. This is a partner competition in which our members can partner up with their friends and/or classmates to compete against one another for medals and prizes. Just as the classes motivate members to work together, this is also a fun event in which athletes get to compete and invite their friends and family to come cheer them on. It creates a strong sense of pride and gratification to compete and demonstrate all of the hard work they have put at Lock Box.

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4. Team Events:

At my gym we have the Lock Box Spartans. Our coaches select specific Reebok Spartan Races to be team captains for and members sign up to be a part of these racing teams. We then create team training strategies and have Spartan Team Jerseys made for the races. This allows us as a staff to help create common goals amongst the racers. These goals create a sense of connection between team members because we want to help motivate and cheer on our fellow teammates to get stronger and faster for our event. As a team, we know that we stick together through every obstacle, mud bath, and burpee. We are united through the goal to assist each and every member on every obstacle because we only move forward if we all complete each task. In the end, these races have challenged clients to new levels they have never imagined possible and have created life long friendships between teammates.

5. Social Events:

Another way I continue to create and build the culture of connection within my gym is through social events. Sometimes you just need to get out of the gym. When people have time to put on a pair of jeans, relax, sit down and chat, it breaks down the fitness barriers and puts us all in a new social environment. We try to have at least one social event each quarter – anything from a karaoke night, to bowling, or a BBQ/cookout – to get members & staff together to socialize and have some fun. You will see your community connect in a new way outside of the gym walls, which will build bonds stronger than ever before.

As I stated earlier, when it comes to creating a culture, it’s important that it starts at the top. I recommend choosing 3-5 of the strategies in my list above that you, as the business owner, truly believe in and want to be a part of. Then come up with your own list of events that fit within your company’s mission, vision, and values. From there, assign staff members to head specific events by being team leaders to create a visible representation of your brand and the company at each occasion. The members will feel happy and connected to what you have created and brought into their lives. Because of this they will speak out about this positive impact and continue to refer new clients. Building your fitness brand around community and a culture of connection will take your business to new levels.

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About PJ Stahl

Power Systems Master Coach, PJ Stahl, MA, CSCS is creator of PROJECT STEEL and a Reebok Ambassador. His background in competing in collegiate level Division I gymnastics paired with his experience coaching professional athletes, he was naturally led to become a fitness performance coach. PJ utilizes over 20 years of experience and over 25 certifications as a well-rounded elite fitness expert in personal and group training. PJ currently resides in Los Angeles where he owns and trains out of his studio, Lock Box Fitness & Performance Center.