It’s mid-August somewhere in Texas.
The sun is beating down your back as you’re running your third 400 m.
“Can I at least get a breeze?” you wonder to yourself.
You look ahead for some relief, only to find despair. Seemingly infinite burpees and thrusters await you when you finally step back inside, and you’re ready to collapse. Taking a quick look around, you see everyone else around you feeling the same physical and mental agony you are.
Let’s talk about what instantly bonds a group of disparate people.
We all know how this scenario plays out, and we also know it’s the magic behind CrossFit’s ability to immediately rally a group of people together.
The ultimate uniter. The common denominator. The glue that holds us together.
I realized during our first Whole30 challenge that there were creative ways outside of a WOD to facilitate that same degree of suffering.
Don’t believe me? Try to get people to give up sugar for 30 days, and see if you come out unscathed.
Although the sugar withdrawals (and accompanying hatred) were definitely real, they were worth it.
One participant no longer needed anti-depressants, some got along with coworkers for the first time, and one had severe PMS symptoms go away after 10 years.
The vulnerability people displayed, both at their lowest moments and in moments of victory, strengthened the community in a meaningful way.
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That being said, if you plan to offer your members a healthy dose of suffering, whether it’s through a nutrition challenge or otherwise, you also need to create the support structure for them to stick it out and succeed.
Here are 5 ways to strengthen your community by running a nutrition challenge:
1. Assign teams
Teams were unanimously the aspect of our Whole30 challenge that participants said they enjoyed most and also kept them accountable.
Teams provide three things: community, accountability, and sense of purpose.
Teams provide a great opportunity for people to get to know each other and build the networks that will strengthen the community without your direct involvement. Many of our participants said that they wouldn’t have made it through the whole challenge if it weren’t for their teammates checking in and relying on them to do their part. Although participants may still achieve their goals if doing a nutrition challenge individually, they feel a greater sense of purpose and camaraderie in teams.
From a gym owner’s perspective, having teams also helps you set the tone for the nutrition challenge. Is it about achieving your individual goals, or is it about everyone achieving their goals together, off the strength of the team? Encouraging the latter helps to focus more on your gym’s community and less on each individual’s achievements over another’s.
When assigning teams, it’s important to have an “anchor” in each team – someone who will be a good leader for that team. This person could have done a previous nutrition challenge at your gym or s/he might just be a positive influence on the team. This will ensure all teams are cohesive and that there aren’t glaring disparities between different teams.
2. Start a Facebook group
Having a Facebook group is a huge value add! A Facebook group provides an opportunity for people to interact outside the gym and also offers a different form of communication that many people feel more comfortable with.
Starting a Facebook group gives participants another venue to share and bond with each other at all hours of the day. People may see each other at the gym, but people are only at the gym for an hour or so a day. Facebook allows people to interact with each other on an ongoing basis.
There are a lot of different personalities in your gym, from your more extroverted types to your introverts. Although everyone generally wants to interact with others, there are different ways people feel comfortable doing so. Allowing people to support, commiserate, and laugh online encourages your members to share in ways they probably wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in person.
3. Share testimonials and photos
As gym owners, we all understand the value of testimonials and visible transformations. Collecting testimonials and transformation photos does two things: they demonstrate the effectiveness of your product and they help people recognize their own achievements.
Whether you share these testimonials on your website, on social media, or within your gym, people will recognize the value of what you have to offer. In reading real testimonials of real people at your gym, people will see proof that your product works.
Sharing these testimonials can do a huge service for the community, too. Not only will your community take pride and continue to believe in what your gym does every day, but those featured participants will be proud of the achievements they have made. They will probably attribute a lot of that success to the gym or the nutrition challenge, and it’s these positive testimonials that will encourage people to buy in more to the community. Everyone wants to be part of a community that is positive and makes an impact.
4. Set a healthy objective (the “What”)
Are you running a bikini body challenge, where the hottest girl wins a bottle of spray tan and gift card to Sephora, or are you encouraging a healthier lifestyle through healthy eating?
Context is king.
The objective of a nutrition challenge can fall anywhere on this spectrum, and it’s important that you as the gym owner (and potentially the lead for the nutrition challenge) communicate what the goal really is.
Make sure your participants understand the nutrition challenge isn’t just about willpower and achieving their goals at any cost. Underneath the obvious goal of improving nutrition, the underlying goal of a nutrition challenge is to provide a forum where people can support each other and meet their goals because of other people around them, not regardless of them.
5. Explain the philosophy (the “Why”)
Along the lines of setting the right objective, running a nutrition challenge is a prime opportunity for you to convey your language and culture to your community. Take the time in your information session to not just go over program rules but to also address the “what” and the “why.”
As a leader, if you focus on the bigger picture and have the right philosophy in why it’s important to have good nutrition, participants will trust you because they recognize you have intentions they can trust. All these things help with retention, too.
One of the biggest benefits to being a member at a gym is that you’re around like-minded people who also value health and wellness. Running an event, whether it be a nutrition challenge or something else, serves as a microcosm for that same benefit. Each one of your participants signed up for a nutrition challenge because they want to get their nutrition dialed in, and they probably want to be in better shape.
Communicating the importance of unity, teamwork, and positivity, not how small their waists are, will help you to communicate the values you uphold at your gym and within your community at large.
Have experience running a community-wide event at your gym? How did it go? Did it help to boost your community?
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