Gym challenges are a simple and surprisingly effective way to motivate members. Here’s everything you need to know about running successful gym challenges. And we’ve even included 31 gym challenge ideas to inspire you.
At the start of the year, and after signing up for a new membership, motivation to visit the gym is at a high. As weeks and months pass by, motivation dies down.
There’s so much you can do to keep members motivated year-round. And gym challenges should be part of your approach. So, your members continue to see results and value from their membership.
Fitness challenges can help you to re-ignite gym member motivation. Why? Gym challenges give your members a new goal to work towards. One with a clear timeline and plan to follow.
Plus, a good challenge can bring members together. And even spark a healthy sense of competition. So, your members will feel a deeper connection to your club, part of a unique community. Again, this all increases motivation to keep showing up.
Ready to run your first gym challenge? Or looking for inspiration for your next one? Then look no further! We’ve packed this article full of need-to knows about running a gym challenge to engage members. And we’ll give you 31 gym challenge ideas too!
Let’s get stuck in!
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A gym challenge unites members in achieving a common goal in a fixed time. There’s generally a reward or incentive of some type to compete for. And your gym will supply encouragement along the way.
The best fitness challenges at gyms are simple. Think about the fitness levels and abilities of your members. And base difficulty off this. Adding beginner, intermediate and advance levels to a challenge can help increase appeal.
A gym challenge can be a terrific way to get new members motivated and involved in your community. If you can make it easy to follow and adaptable, you’ll appeal to new gymgoers as well as seasoned athletes!
Challenges can help members form healthy habits to hold onto for the future. For example, eating healthier, increasing their step count, or lifting heavier weights.
Compelling challenges last long enough for members to see results. For example, many challenges last 30-days or 1 month, so members start seeing increased strength, stamina, etc.
Likewise, gym challenges should help members get to know each another. Growing your gym community. For example, members get to work together to achieve a shared goal, cheer one another on, etc.
Benefits of gym challenges for members
Gym challenges offer many benefits for your business and your members alike. Win-win!
By signing up to a challenge, your members are saying they want to be accountable for their actions. Accountability is key to achieving a goal or making a change.
Members will know that you are seeing their progress and performance. And that can drive them on to stay accountable. So, they keep showing up and see the challenge through to completion.
In the process, they’ll learn to become more accountable to themselves too. And so, the determination needed to achieve personal goals comes easier in the future.
Fitness challenges can help you grow and strengthen community amongst your members. Both online and offline.
People connect with people. And they’ll keep coming back to work out with like-minded people and to see friends.
Yet, making that first connection with a stranger is not always easy. Especially when everyone has headphones on and are focusing on their training sessions! The right challenge will let you rectify this.
Encourage members to work together to contribute to a goal for a local charity. Pair members up to help each other complete the challenge activity. Or run a competition-style challenge, gathering members together to watch the final.
Using online tools and platforms can be a fantastic way to showcase challenge efforts and break the ice. For example, create a Facebook Group. So, interacting in-person at your gym comes more naturally.
Member experience matters. Having the opportunity to be a part of a challenge (or regular challenges) is a reward for members. Use challenges to add value to the member experience.
You may choose to offer something of value to members who complete a challenge. For example, a branded survivors t-shirt. Or give prizes for top performance. For example, a gift voucher for a local shop or restaurant.
Even the feeling of being part of a challenge and interacting with other members can enhance your member experience. So, more members stay for longer to be part of the next challenge.
Want to build stronger connections with members? Then start encouraging them more and celebrating successes. A gym challenge is an ideal starting point.
A structured challenge makes it easier for members to see progress in a measurable way. For example, completing an activity in less time or doing more reps before reaching exhaustion. This gives you something to cheer members on to and a clear measure of success to be celebrated.
And there’s opportunity to celebrate progress via social media or in your newsletter. Making members feel seen and inspiring prospects and other members.
Sometimes members need that extra push to commit and take part in a challenge. An attractive reward can help.
For some members it might be the opportunity to win a prize for performance.
You could offer prizes to keep the winner(s) engaged post-challenge. For example, PT sessions, membership extensions or vouchers for products sold. Or partner with a local organisation who will offer a prize in return for promotion.
Alternatively, offer a prize that enhances their experience at your gym. For example, a smart watch or fitness tracker.
If you don’t want to offer one prize or a small number of prizes. And instead, you want to reward all members who complete the challenge.
A freebie is a great alternative and increases brand exposure. Giveaway ideas for those who complete the challenge include sweatshirts, water bottles, or sweat towels.
Another benefit of a challenge is the opportunity to bring members together to raise funds for a charity.
Charity gym challenges could focus on members contributing to a shared goal. For example, completing a certain distance or number of reps in a specific time. Or take part in a ‘marathon’ of some type. Think spin-a-thon, squat-a-thon, or walk-a-thon.
Make the donation from your business. Have members donate to enter. Or ask members to generate sponsorships.
Promote and highlight your challenges in your marketing on social media and other channels. So, you show prospects the advantages of being a member.
And you could even focus your challenge on referring friends. This will get members using your gym member referral programme. Grow your membership base, engagement, and retention all at the same time!
What makes a good gym challenge?
A good gym challenge will have these 7 key ingredients:
- A clear goal – you’ll let members know what they need to achieve (bonus points for setting milestones along the way!)
- The right tools – you’ll give members what they need to succeed (think instructions, tips, equipment guides)
- End date – you’ll set a clear deadline when the challenge finishes
- Tracking – you’ll have a way of measuring success and progress
- Reward – you’ll provide some sort of prize, freebie or other incentive to take part
- Encouragement – you’ll find ways to cheer members on during the challenge and support them if they fall off track
- Fun – most importantly, you’ll keep a sense of fun throughout, making it a pleasure to take part. So, members know they need to be part of your next challenge
Designing & running a gym challenge to engage members
How do you run a successful gym challenge? Follow these 7 steps to success.
Step 1: Decide what you want to achieve
Start by thinking about what you want to achieve from the challenge and how you’ll measure success. Common goals of challenges for gym owners and operators include:
- Increase volume and/or frequency of visits
- Generate referrals that result in new membership sales
- Encourage members to try something new and/or make use of an underused piece of area, piece of equipment, or class
- Educate members in some way
- Grow loyalty/reduce attrition
- Attract new members
Remember to make your objectives SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Step 2: Consider your budget
Once you know what you want to achieve, look at what you can afford to spend on your challenge. Rest assured; you don’t need to spend loads for a successful challenge. Some clubs even run them without any budget.
If you want to offer prizes and other rewards, you’ll need a budget. You might also want to spend on things like promotion via paid ads and tools to help members take part.
Step 3: Choose your challenge and goal
Next up, you need to work out what you want your members to do and achieve from your challenge.
- The type of facility you run – if you specialise in a certain type of training or have a specific price point you may find certain challenges are easier to run
- Member demographics, preferences and abilities – aim to go for challenges that will appeal to as many members as possible while still being a challenge
- Typical member goals – if members have common goals you could create challenges that align with these. For example, increasing strength, losing weight, etc.
- Common questions – do members ask you and your team similar questions about certain equipment, exercises, or activities? Turn your challenge into an educational experience catering to member interests
These are some factors to consider when choosing a challenge. Remember, you’ll also need to choose a challenge that aligns with the objective you set in step 1.
Once you’ve chosen your challenge, it’s time to frame it as a goal for members. That means making sure it’s:
- Can be measured
- Appealing to as many members as possible
- And achievable
That might mean providing adaptations for different abilities. Or choosing a challenge that allows for individualised targets.
Step 4: Select the right tools
Armed with your challenge, think about what tools your members will need to succeed. For example:
- Tips & advice – you may need to create how-to guides or quick tips to advise members on proper form or how to perform a move
- Videos – create and/or collate videos that will inspire and help members to take part
- Podcasts – some of your members may enjoy or even prefer to listen to helpful advice that helps them succeed in your gym challenge. Choosing relevant podcasts can be a great way to educate and inspire members on to success
- Workouts & programmes – use your gym management software to create a programme or individual workouts for members to complete
- Group classes & sessions – could you organise classes or sessions to help members take part in your challenge
- Team – make sure your team is ready to help members succeed in your challenge. You could even get your gym staff participating too
Step 5: Pick an end (& start) date
Make your challenge time-bound by setting a start and end date. Many challenges last a month or 30-days. Some are seasonal around a specific celebration or holiday (for example, Christmas or the school summer holidays). And others may last just a day or two.
This will depend on your challenge and your members. Think about whether you need to add milestones along the way. These can keep members focused if the gym challenge lasts for some time.
Step 6: Think about rewards & recognition
The opportunity to be part of a good challenge. A sense of camaraderie with gym friends. A victory of some kind. These will be enough of a reason for many members to take part in your challenge. But other members will need more of an incentive.
Based on your budget, team, and resources you could:
- Offer a prize or prizes for winners and runners up
- Provide a small reward for everyone who successfully completes the challenge (e.g., branded merchandise)
- Give to a charity or cause meaningful for you and your members – think sponsorships, entry fees, or even a donation from your business to the winner’s choice of charity
Step 7: Motivate & encourage members
Finally, think about how you’re going to get as many members as possible to sign up to your gym challenge. And them how you’re going to keep cheering them on along the way.
Gym email marketing using the gym marketing software features within your gym management system are a great place to start. Create invite emails, add details to your newsletter, and send helpful emails to spur members on.
You could also use your social channels. And get members involved posting about their progress.
Above all, make sure you are ready to keep the momentum up for members during the challenge. Celebrate successes along the way.
31 fitness challenges for your gym
Gym challenges give your members a goal to work towards and motivation to keep showing up. A good gym challenge will be suitable for many fitness abilities. And an inclusive way to create friendly competition between members.
Looking for a spark of inspiration? Well look no further! Here are 31 gym challenge ideas for your fitness business to try.
1. Alphabet or A-Z fitness challenge
Challenge your members to complete one exercise for each letter of the alphabet.
For example, on day 1 do 30 squats (A), on day 2 plank for 30 seconds (B), etc.
The challenge is complete once they’ve completed the alphabet.
The A-Z challenge is easy to adapt to your members, your club, and the timeframe of your challenge. Get members using equipment or facilities that they might not normally try. Create different levels to suit all abilities. Loads of opportunity to think creatively!
2. AMRAP challenge
AMRAP stands for ‘as many reps as possible’ or ‘as many rounds as possible’. The AMRAP challenge involves choosing an exercise (or a few exercises). And then having members complete as many repetitions or rounds as they can in a certain amount of time.
Select your reps or rounds – think squats, burpees, treadmill or weights. Decide if you want to include one exercise or a series of exercises (include a warmup). Set a time – 10 to 20 minutes tends to be achievable for most members. Select the duration of the challenge – for example 1 month.
Members complete the challenge many times during the time you’ve set. Each session acts as a personal best to beat during their next session. Over time they’ll be able to do more reps and rounds. So, it’s a fantastic way to show progress.
Want to select a winner or winners? Measure improvement from start to finish as a % for easier comparison. Add beginner, intermediate, and advanced categories if your membership base is very broad.
3. Bench press your bodyweight challenge
Now, this one may be more challenging for newer members and those who don’t do a lot of strength training. The clue is in the name with this one! Members should work towards bench pressing their own weight by the time the challenge is up.
You’ll need to make sure your gym is equipped for this challenge. So, make sure you have a bench, a barbell with adequate weight plates, and a scale. Give members plenty of advice on technique to prevent injuries and improve performance.
Plus, make this challenge more social by getting members to spot one another. And even ask them to video the other’s effort.
If you’ve already got members who will have achieved this goal, you can create categories:
- Max number of bodyweight bench presses
- First to reach a bodyweight bench press
- Most improved
4. Body fat lost challenge
Again, this is not going to be suitable for all members, so approach it with care. It is a great challenge for members who have this goal. And even for those who want to change their body composition to increase muscle mass.
Work with members to set individual goals and provide plans to help them succeed.
5. Bodyweight workouts challenge
Want to let members get involved even if they can’t visit in person during the challenge? And even give non-members the opportunity to see what you have to offer by taking part?
Yes? The a bodyweight workouts challenge is ideal. Great for those without access to weights or equipment. And a way to show just how powerful bodyweight workouts can be. Give members a series of bodyweight workouts to complete in the challenge time.
Use your gym management software to create the workouts with videos and instructions for each exercise. And then compile that into a challenge programme. Using your member mobile app, the challenge can be accessed and completed.
6. Burpee challenge
Not to be confused with the TikTok burp challenge! During a burpee challenge you’ll ask members to do different types and numbers of reps/sets of burpees.
Make this suitable for beginners. Work up to more advanced variations with push-ups and tuck jumps over the course of the challenge.
A month or 30-days is an ideal length for a burpee challenge. You’ll allow members to perfect technique and make progress. For each day provide:
- Explanations of technique
- Number of reps
- Number of sets
Remember to include rest days in the schedule. You could also offer technique workshops.
7. Core strength challenge
Better core strength can help members improve posture, avoid lower back pain and dodge muscle injuries. Help members reap the benefits with a core strength workout challenge.
Use your gym management software to create workouts. Include core exercises like planks, crunches, leg raises, flutter kicks, pikes, and V-ups. Let members access and complete the workouts via your member mobile app.
This challenge will appeal to those members who want to have a great-looking core. And it’s a great way to educate members on the benefits a strong core brings to their everyday lives.
8. Cycling challenge
Cycling is a fantastic cardio exercise. It’s lower impact and easier on the joints than some other cardio options. So, a cycling challenge may be accessible to more members.
Measuring distance travelled and speed, you can run cycling challenges that let members take part in your gym, during group cycling classes, and outside of your club. A great incentive for members to ditch the car and cycle more instead!
Think about how you’ll judge success (e.g., total distance). And whether you want to make it a team challenge (e.g., total distance covered as a club to raise money for charity).
9. Distance challenge
Do you have members training for marathons and other sporting challenges? A distance challenge is an ideal pick.
Choose a goal distance (e.g., Land’s End to John o’ Groats – 975.8 miles) or timeframe to go as far as possible. Then let members go the distance via any type of cardio exercise that covers distance. For example, walking, running, cycling, swimming, or rowing.
10. Flexibility challenge
Help members increase their flexibility by making this the focus of your gym challenge.
Create sets of daily stretches and flexibility workouts for members to complete. You could make this accessible both in your gym and at home. And even give prospects access to showcase what your club offers.
11. Functional fitness challenge
Focusing on functional fitness consistently will help members move through their daily routines with ease. So, a functional fitness challenge is the ideal way to get them routinely doing this type of workout.
Create a series of workouts for members to complete over the course of the challenge. Include a range of different functional fitness exercises. For example, push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, planks, squats, and deadlifts.
Increase difficultly as the challenge progresses. Members complete the series of workouts to succeed in the challenge.
Also consider offering extra functional fitness small group training and fitness class options. So, members who’d like a little more support can attend.
12. Hydration challenge
Another challenge that’s really open to everyone. The health benefits of drinking more water are plentiful. Yet for many achieving optimal hydration can be a chore.
Run a challenge that motivates members to hit hydration goals. It’s a great first challenge for those who wouldn’t normally take part.
13. Mindfulness challenge
Promote the practice of feeling present. Reduce stress. Cut anxiety. And make members feel calmer. How? By running a mindfulness challenge.
During the challenge, set members mindfulness tasks to complete. For example, meditation and journalling.
14. New Years resolution challenge
Quitter’s Day takes place on the second Friday in January. It’s the day when most people who’ve set a resolution throw in the towel. A New Years resolution challenge will help your members collectively stick to their goals.
Make it easy for members to create SMART goals and track progress. Offer help where needed. And celebrate success with other members to inspire them on. Members who’ve kept up their resolution at the end of the challenge win!
15. Nutrition challenge
Fitness is a vital component that will help members achieve their health goals. And another critical part is nutrition. Run a nutrition challenge to help members build healthy eating habits.
A great example of a nutrition challenge that’s open to all is the 30 plants per week challenge. Over the course of a week members need to eat at least 30 different plants from the super six:
- Whole grains (e.g., quinoa, rolled oats, sourdough bread)
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes (e.g., beans, lentils)
- Herbs and spices (e.g., cumin, cinnamon, paprika)
There are loads of extras you could offer to support your nutrition challenge. Think cooking tutorials, recipes, nutritionist access, and personalised meal plans.
16. Personal best (PB) challenge
A personal best (PB) challenge is suitable for a wide variety of members. And is a fantastic way to help members see progress while celebrating their wins. So, you motivate and keep them engaged to continue.
Choose an activity or give members a choice of activities like running, cycling, or rowing. Help members see what their current personal best is. Then set a deadline for members to improve their personal best before you test again.
Offer personal training sessions, technique workshops, and tips to help members smash their PBs.
17. Plank challenge
Another challenge that’s accessible to new and experienced members. And a great way to show progress. The plank challenge is simple and needs no special equipment to take part.
The plank challenge is a 30-day test. It helps members strengthen their core and build up endurance. Each day, set members the goal of planking for a short time. And gradually increase the duration throughout the challenge.
Reward members along the way to keep motivation high. Give members clear instructions. And help them perfect their planking technique to keep the challenge safe.
You could add easy, intermediate, and expert levels to this challenge. For example, set longer hold goals and add different variations of the movement to increase the challenge.
18. Pull up challenge
Want another motivating gym challenge idea that will help members see how making a consistent effort can bring about results? Yes? Then consider running a pull up challenge.
The pull up is a movement that many people either never try or struggle with and want to improve. This challenge can be really empowering for members. Especially for those who’ve not yet set about trying this move.
You’ll need a pull up bar in your gym to run this challenge. It works well as a monthly challenge. Give members access to workshops, small group sessions, and how-to videos via your gym member app. Members will see most success when they understand what they are doing and how to improve.
To get members interacting, why not encourage them to video their efforts over the month. So, they’ll meet new people and capture progress over the challenge period on camera.
19. Press up challenge
Press ups (also called push ups) improve overall and shoulder strength in one powerful action. And it’s another challenge option that will really help members see progress.
Much like the plank challenge, run this for a month and each day give members a set number of press ups to perform. Gradually increase the number so members see progress. Cheer them on and provide support to help them progress.
If your members are already press up pros, you could run a 30-day press up challenge for charity. Ask members to perform a certain number of press ups a day for the challenge period. Charge an entry fee donated to charity and/or collect sponsorships.
20. Rowing challenge
If you have rowing machines in your gym consider the rowing challenge. Help your members see just how effective rowing is, even if they are pressed for time.
For your challenge period, set distance, pace, and time challenges. Provide a variety of challenge goals to suit different abilities.
21. Running challenge
Many people have taken up running in recent years. So, this is a popular challenge choice. Start by setting a realistic goal for your members. For example, 30 miles in 30-days.
Members can then choose how they achieve that goal. And where they complete their miles. It’s ideal for those who want to use your treadmills, get outdoors, or a bit of both. Plus, you could open the challenge up to prospective members too.
Apps and wearables make it easy for members to track progress and sync this to your app. Offer running technique workshops and group runs during the challenge period.
22. Seasonal and themed challenges
Have some fun and get creative by planning a themed challenge. For example, a summer holiday or Christmas challenge.
If you can get members inspired to keep fit at times when they may otherwise skip the gym, you’ll keep more members engaged and motivated year round.
For example, set a 12-days of Christmas challenge that members can complete in your club and/or at home.
The 12-days of Christmas run from 25 December to 6 January. Using your app create a workout programme with an exercise or set of exercises to complete at home. Keep it simple with bodyweight only movements.
23. Skipping challenge
Skipping gives members a total body workout that challenges coordination and concentration. And it’s pretty easy to do anywhere you have a skipping rope and a little space.
So, it makes a great focus for a challenge. Set a target number of skips in a specific time – 200 skips in 2 minutes is common. Have members complete the challenge straightaway. Or slowly build up to 200 skips in 2 minutes.
24. Squat challenge
A squat challenge will appeal to many members. And is easy to adapt to suit different abilities. Great for new and existing members with both able to see results fast.
Create a programme of squat workouts with different varieties for members to complete. Have members add weight and use resistance bands to increase the challenge.
Run workshops and offer personal training sessions to help members perfect technique. Plus, learn ways to build powerful strength. Ask members to share progress pictures and videos with you on social media. Then you can celebrate their success with your social community.
25. Stoptober challenge (or adapt to any month/period of time)
Stoptober is an annual campaign run by Public Health England. It encourages people to stop smoking for the entire month of October. This type of challenge where you encourage people to stop something is an excellent choice for gyms.
If you can help members unite and give something up, you’ll help members on the road to better health. This type of challenge also works well with vaping, alcohol and chocolate & sweets. Or anything else members may want to give up or reduce reliance on.
Partner with local organisations who can provide specialist advice to support members. You could even put on talks and seminars to educate and inspire members.
26. Step challenge
Does your gym have aerobic step platforms? Help members make the most of this versatile piece of equipment with a step challenge.
Step aerobics may have fallen out of favour in recent years. Yet, a step-based workout is a fantastic choice for members looking to increase their fitness and get toned at the same time.
Use your gym management software to create a programme of workouts with moves performed using a step platform. Burpee on step. Straight arm plank up. Bodyweight step up. These are all ideal moves to add.
Create variations for different abilities – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Over the challenge period, run classes and give members tips to help them advance through the levels.
27. Stretching challenge
So often, members will skip stretching. But you know that stretching keeps muscles strong, flexible, and healthy. As a result of incorporating stretching into their routines, your members reduce risk of joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
Run a stretching challenge to get members into the habit of stretching pre- and post- workout. This is a challenge that pretty much all members can take part in. And they’ll see flexibility increase as a result of stretching often.
Give members a variety of stretches to perform. Educate them on the benefits of each stretch.
28. Timed challenges
Challenge your members to see who can perform an exercise or routine in the fastest time. Think running, cycling, a circuit of activities. Set a distance or number of reps. Reward members who come in top positions. Create categories so everyone can take part.
The MURPH challenge is an example of a timed challenge. Ask members to complete a 1-mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 press ups, 300 air squats, and another mile run. Help members train for the challenge with personal training sessions, small group training, and advice from your team.
Timed challenges like the MURPH will get members inspired and motivated with a common goal to work towards.
29. Visits challenge
This challenge is really easy to run – just make sure your gym management software is set up to track visits. For a set period, challenge members to reach a maximum number of visits.
For new and sleeping members, this challenge can help create the habit of visiting often. And members who visit more often are more likely to stick with your club for longer.
30. Walking challenge
A walking challenge focuses on step count. Many of your members will have naturally sedentary lives. Desk-based jobs. Time spent sitting on the coach. Video gaming. All add up to time spent sitting.
By running a walking challenge, you can encourage them to incorporate activity into their everyday lives away from your club. Cheer members on to:
- Walk rather than drive where they can
- Take a walk at lunchtime
- And incorporate an incline treadmill walk into their workout routine
You could even organise walks in your local area to help members get outdoors and connect with each other.
31. Workout of the week challenge
If you want a longer-term challenge, giving members a set workout to complete in your gym each week is a great option.
Put details of the week’s workout up in your gym. Add it to your social accounts. And make it available for members to complete and track via your app. It’s a fantastic way to get members involved and trying new things too.
Running this in a class format is also an excellent way to take advantage of the power of group fitness. Members who attend group fitness classes have been found to stay for 22% longer than those who don’t.
Running regular gym challenges will motivate and unite members in achieving a common goal. Keep challenges simple and offer options so members of all abilities to take part.
Challenges are especially powerful for new members. And at times of the year when visiting is tough. The best challenges will help members see progress. And show the results that come from putting in hard work and effort.
Use fitness challenges to engage and motivate members. And take the opportunity to get members interacting to strengthen your gym community.
Cheer on and reward members throughout each challenge. That could also mean offering a prize or small number of prizes. Get creative. You could even make your challenge an opportunity to raise money for a worthy cause.
There are plenty of options to create a gym challenge to engage members. A good challenge will have a clear goal, give members tools to succeed, be time bound and measurable, and reward and encourage members onwards. Importantly, it will be fun!
Have more time to design awesome challenges for your members with the right gym management software in place. Book a demo to see Xplor Gym in action.
Article by Xplor Gym
First published: 06 November 2023
Last updated: 13 November 2023