Want to improve your client retention and revenue? Switch to the MadLab Hybrid Gym Model!

The hybrid gym model is win for everyone, as it results in increased fitness levels, which means a happier client, who will continue to come for years and years. That creates a long term retention tool, which most gyms lack.”

– Terrence Limbert, coach at Forge Valley Fitness in Vernon, B.C.

Before I get into what the MadLab Hybrid Gym Model is and how it improves both client retention and revenue, let’s take a look at what types of memberships currently exist at most gyms today.

The three options at most gyms typically include:

  1. Group exercise memberships: Usually, people pay somewhere in the neighbourhood of $80 to $160 a month—or they buy a punch card for classes at around $20 a class—to attend group fitness classes. This includes memberships like bootcamps, CrossFit classes, yoga studios, spin classes, Orange Theory etc.
  2. Personal training: At personal training studios, clients usually work solely in a one-on-one environment with a coach and often receive personalized programs to reach their individual health and fitness goals. Many of these folks pay $1,000 or more a month to meet with a personal trainer three days a week.
  3. Open gym membership (aka the Globo Gym membership): Clients show up and workout on their own, usually paying somewhere between $20 and $60 a month to have access to the gym’s equipment at their leisure.

Now let’s look at the pros and cons of each model for the client:

Group exercise memberships:

Pros: The group environment is motivating, social, competitive, fun, and forges lasting friendships and a feeling of community. Generally, you receive at least some coaching and direction each time you go to the gym, which is more helpful than being on your own moving poorly. It’s also quite affordable, especially compared to personal training studios.

Cons: Because you’re limited to the group environment, you generally don’t receive any individual programming, and often very little coaching as there are 10 to 20 other people in the group. Thus, your personal wants, needs, strengths or limitations don’t have the opportunity to get addressed. You also don’t generally have a personal relationship with a coach, so accountability can be quite low. Because of this, retention is poor. (As mentioned in THIS RECENT BLOG, facilities who rely on administering their fundamentals in a group have a 70 percent annual churn rate, meaning 7 out of 10 people who come in don’t last a year).

Personal training:

Pros: You receive personalized care catered to your individual goals, wants and needs. This helps you achieve fitness goals and reduces the chance of injury. Accountability is also high because you have an appointment with a coach, who you have an actual relationship with, and are paying a premium to be there. Thus, client retention is generally much higher than in group exercise facilities.

Cons: It’s expensive and can be antisocial. When you speak to people who go to personal training studios, they often only know one person in the whole gym: Their personal coach. Thus, it’s challenging to forge a community support network in this environment.

Open Gym membership:

Pros: Memberships are very inexpensive, and if you know what you’re doing, you can follow a program that caters to your needs and goals and see real results.

Cons: There’s no guidance from coaches, not to mention zero accountability to actually show up, and usually zero community vibe, meaning the majority of people don’t see results and don’t stick around very long. Retention is dire!

The impetus behind the MadLab gym model was to essentially combine the best aspects from the above three existing models, all the while eliminating the shortcomings of each.

Here’s what it looks like:

Step 1:

Fundamentals: New clients begin by doing 15-20 one-on-one personal training sessions with their personal coach  in a one-on-one environment. These sessions help identify their current abilities and build their toolkit to prepare them for classes in a way that will allow them to be successful in class based on their individual goals, needs, strengths and limitations.

Step 2:

Hybrid Gym Membership: Clients graduate from fundamentals and begin to attend group classes, all the while continuing to check in with their coach periodically in a one-on-one setting to keep them progressing and reaching their goals. The frequency with which they meet their coach for personal training is dependent on the client’s goals, needs and budget, but is generally once a week, once a month, once a cycle (every 6 weeks), or once a quarter.

My experience switching to this model:

When I started coaching at MadLab school of Fitness nine years ago, we used to graduate new clients from fundamentals into group classes. We would graduate them and set them free to live self-sufficient lives in classes, as if our work with them was done.

Since I’m a morning coach, I would continue to coach many of my clients who came to my classes on a regular basis, and many of them did stick around and are still with me today. However, many other clients started going to 11 a.m. classes or evening classes, and all of a sudden two months would go by and I’d realize I hadn’t seen, let alone spoken to my client Sarah in weeks. A month later, I’d get a text and Sarah would tell me she had gotten injured and needed to take a couple months off. Meanwhile, others would just flat out quit.

It was frustrating because I would do all this work with my clients during their fundamentals personal training sessions and develop what I thought was a solid relationship with them. But then they’d scurry off to classes and our relationship would slowly start to fizzle, and eventually they’d fall off the wagon.

Something needed to change. We needed to find a way to ensure relationships between our coaches and clients stopped fizzling and clients stopped abandoning their commitment to their goals and quitting on us.

Enter the hybrid gym membership, which we started about four years ago.

We started by offering it to new clients first, as many older clients were resistant to pay more money. However, we soon learned the older clients simply didn’t realize the value they would be receiving from meeting their coach periodically in a personal training session. What soon happened was legacy clients started to see those clients on hybrid memberships meeting up with their coach, improving faster, fixing problems etc, and pretty soon even people who had been at the gym for five years started to want more attention from their coach.

Today, nearly all our clients are on some form of hybrid membership and it has made a world of difference in five major ways:

  • Relationships with clients (I no longer have clients I never coach. I know what’s going on with all of them and actually coach all my clients. I no longer have clients quit on me via e-mail).
  • Fitness Results (It goes without saying more individual attention, coaching and programming is going to lead to better performance results for clients).
  • Decrease in injuries (Along with the periodic personal training sessions, where we can really address a person’s weaknesses, I also often prescribe either accessory work or individual programs for clients, which has gone a long way in reducing injuries even further).
  • Client Retention (My personal client retention rate is twice as good as it was before introducing hybrid memberships).
  • Business Revenue/Coach pay: (Many of my clients pay $50-$75 a month more than they used to when they were paying for a group class membership, meaning the percentage of revenue I earn off each of them is much higher than it used to be).

Essentially, through the hybrid gym model, clients get taken better care of, are more self-aware and self-sufficient in classes (meaning the classes also run more smoothly), remain injury-free, see better fitness results, and ultimately stick around longer! And from the coach and business end, we feel better about our relationships with our clients and that we’re actually helping them reach their goals, and we get to earn more money in the process.

Though just my personal experience, every other coach I have spoken to who has switched to the hybrid gym model has experienced a similar one, such as:

Chris Spigner of 7 Mile Strength and Fitness in Grand Cayman:

“When we first switched to the hybrid gym mode, some of our legacy clients didn’t want anything to do with it. But after a few months, they started to see some of our newer members getting more one-on-one time with the coaches, having fun and fixing some of the issues they had. Now I think there are only 10 people in the entire gym that aren’t on a hybrid membership. This has been a huge piece of our retention. We have been able to build strong relationships with our clients. We have also been able to understand their (limitations) and are able to give them prescriptions to help remedy the problem, and when they come to class we now exactly what’s going on with them.”


Terrence Limbert of Forge Valley Fitness in Vernon, B.C.:

“It helps me stay connected with all of my clients, maintaining the relationship. Meeting them every 12, 6 or 4 weeks keeps them invested in improving themselves, setting new goals and staying committed to the process. The hybrid gym model is win for everyone, as it results in increased fitness levels, which means a happier client, who will continue to come for years and years. That creates a long term retention tool, which most gyms lack.”

Chris Saini of MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C.:

“A hybrid membership is always better for the client. They can’t hide in a one-on-one session. I can see what they’re getting good at in classes and what they still struggle with, and when they come in for a PT, we can really devote time to work on those things in a way you can’t do in a group.”

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