How to Run a Fitness Challenge – A Complete Guide

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My First Challenge

I remember the first time I learned about challenges and decided we would put one on and it would increase sales for my gym! When I actually started creating the challenge I realized that it wasn’t as simple as it sounded. What should I charge for the challenge and what would be included since some of the challengers are already paying clients?

 I didn’t want anyone to not be part of it so I made it free. 

The challenge was centered around a worksheet that they would get and would fill out. 

I showed it to one of our clients and I told her about the challenge and I saw her eyes light up, so I knew it was something that created motivation in her.

However, I didn’t know what was needed to make a challenge great. Should it be weight loss focused? Or would that offend people? I didn’t have any up sells ready to go, and I barely promoted it on social media.

That first challenge I put on, I would have to say, didn’t produce much for my small studio in the form of new sign ups, more sales, or results for the clients.

 At the very least it created some excitement in the club.

My Second Challenge

The following year I put on another challenge and improved the offering, I even charged for the challenge and created an in club display.

I offered a how to manual and created a kick off event and wrap up event.  This one went better!

I estimate it bumped up sales by at least $12,000 for the month and $9,000 in future revenue.

I estimate it bumped up sales by at least $12,000 for the month and $9,000 in future revenue from the people who signed up or stayed with me because of it.

I put on all kinds of challenges, some of them were free, some of them were cheap, and some of them were higher priced. 

They definitely helped sales and bring in new customers.

Here’s everything you need to know about putting on a fitness challenge to grow your clients and your sales.

Why even do a fitness challenge?

  1. Increase Leads
    • They create excitement and chatter on social media and in the club. It keeps your services feeling fresh and alive!
    • A way to re-start the conversation with current, past and potential customers on what their fitness goals are
  2. Which Then Increases Comps
    • Each challenge should include a registration with a coach, giving them an opportunity to wow them and sell them a package.
  3. Which Then increases Sales
    • Opportunity to have special pricing/packages without discounting your main offering
    • They create urgency to start, sign up or upgrade
  4. Helps with Marketing
    • Get amazing before and after photos
    • Get clients to leave testimonials
    • Content/Photos/videos for your Instagram and Facebook page

What are your goals?

There are many ways to put on a challenge as we can see from my hard knock experience.

Before we get into how to run a challenge, we first have to understand what your goals are for putting on a challenge.

First, we have to understand what your goals are for putting on a challenge.

And what resources do you have more of and less of? What skills, time, money & staff do you have to rely on to run a challenge?

For example, if you are just starting your bootcamp classes at a nearby park with a lot of space, then put on a free challenge because space isn’t an issue.

However, if your class has limited spots left, then do a paid challenge.

Or if your goal is to push your 1:1 online personal training business then setup your challenge offer around a under $100 offer, of maybe three 1:1 personal training half hours for $99 for virtual coaching and 6 weeks of online group coaching.

What are the different types of challenges?

Grouping Challenges by Price Point

I’m going to group the types of challenges based off of price point since that will then dictate:

  • The length of your challenge
  • The amount of engagement & leads you’ll get from social media & advertising
  • How much selling you should be prepared for
  • What you are giving away with the challenge
  • The commitment level from the participants

The 3 Types of Challenge price points:

  1. Free Challenges – Price: $0
  2. Low Barrier Offer Challenges – Price – $0-$49
  3. Medium – Higher Priced Package Challenges – Price:  $59- $250, to even $5,000.

Are challenges really worth it?

I get it, you make money training clients! Putting on one of these challenges sounds like a lot of time and money. Is putting one on really worth it?

YES! The reason is leads.

Challenges do take a lot of time but they are worth it if you can effectively convert those leads into sales.

For example, lets say you spend $600 on the promoting and putting on a challenge that I’ll call 21 Days to Buns, Guns and Abs and you get 60 new leads to do a comp for.

Let’s say $200 of the $600 will be applied to repacking your current customers, and $400 went towards these 60 new leads. That means you spent $6.66 per lead ($400/60).

If your conversion rate from leads to sales is 35%, that would mean you’ve gained 21 new customers.

If in comparison you were spending on average $15/lead on Facebook/Instagram ad costs you have saved $8.34/lead ($15-$6.66).

If your conversion rate from leads to sales is 35%, that would mean you’ve gained 21 new customers.

If each customers average lifetime value is $800, you’ve made $16,800 (21 x $800) more in current and future sales!

That’s fantastic!

The key to your business is to integrate these marketing funnels.

A marketing funnel is a defined path of getting leads, and interacting with prospects in a way that converts them to paying customers.

And a good marketing funnel is one with a positive ROI meaning you make MORE sales then the money and time you invest into getting those sales.

Who are fitness challenges for?

Fitness challenges are perfect for fitness studios, class instructors and also one on one fitness coaches who are personal trainers or nutrition coaches.

Yes, if you coach online it’s still great for your business! This guide will address how to run your challenge in all different setups.

How much time does it take to run a successful challenge?

Putting on a challenge can be hands off if sales are not your priority and relatively simple.

But if you are looking for maximum return with sales and transformation photos, then you’ll have a more robust challenge that will require more of your time.

When my challenges started to include more bells and whistles like a workshop, facebook groups, video messages, I started to see the limit of how much complexity I could handle during the challenge, and sometimes felt I couldn’t deliver quality on everything I promised.

So the more you offer in your challenge will take up resources either in the form of:

  1. your time
  2. help, and
  3. money

Don’t worry though if you are starting out with just you, your time and willingness to try, you can still put on an amazing challenge!

My suggestion is start where you are and then add more features every time you do your next challenge.

Different Types of Challenges Based on What You Want to Include in Your Challenge

Here is a grouping on the types of challenge you can put on based on resources it demands. The more right you go, the more time, money and help it will take to put it on.

In another post we will talk about promoting your challenge. For now this checklist of needs is all about executing a kick-butt challenge for your fitness business!

What to includeBare minimum Hands on Coaching Meal Plan Kit Automation Integration
Theme x x x x
Time length x x x x
Success How To Manual x x x x
Poster to track everyone’s progress x x x x
Posters to put up in club and community and to pass out. Online coaches, post these on social media. x x x x
Challenge premium packages ready for sign ups & posters in the club/social media to promote the packages specifically.   x x x x
Tracking sheet or software to track & call back interested challengers & track who actually signed up   x x x
Start and end of challenge coaching that includes photos/check in/measurements   x x x
Clear sales strategy and script for Comp or registration   x x x
Request for review/referral/social media post/use of photo for website   x x x
Party/Celebration at end
(A group online sharing is a good option for online coaches)
Prizes for top winners.  (Even 1 $25 prize for top winner is enough for smaller challenges.)   x x x
During challenge check in phone calls/text messages   x x x
Meal plan     x x
Grocery list     x x
Recipes     x x
Daily emails       x
Daily text messages       x
Email automation software or send it yourself       x
Optional Add Ons        
Challenge bonuses for registering        
Workshops for challenges only during the challenge
Raffle Giveaway        

How to put on an easy Fitness Challenge

(Only do this if you are not concerned about sales)

For the purpose of this example, let’s say we are doing a fitness challenge called the 21 Days to Buns, Guns, and Abs Challenge.

The list below is everything that you need to include for this challenge:

  1. Theme: 21 Days to Buns, Guns, and Abs Challenge
  2. Time length: 21 Days
  3. Success How To Manual: How to Get Buns, Guns & Abs in 21 Days Program
  4. Poster to track everyone’s progress: I’d suggest a large 27.5″ by 36″ poster.
  5. Posters to put up in club and community, grocery stores and to pass out: You are invited to join the 21 Days to Buns, Guns, and Abs Challenge
  6. Pre Challenge Start Workshop: Workshop for signed up participants that goes over how the challenge works and how to be successful in it.
  7. Challenge premium packages ready for sign ups: it could have 3 different special challenge packages. For example, one could be $599 for 15 half-hour Buns, Gun and Abs private training, then $1299 could be for a paid in full year membership.
  8. Posters in the club to promote the packages specifically.
  9. Internal Tracking sheet to track interested challenge joiners, and who actually signed up. This could be as simple as a google spreadsheet. I wouldn’t use a piece of paper because what if you lose it.
  10. End of challenge event: Flex those Buns, Guns & Abs – Challenge Finale

I would only suggest doing the bare minimum setup if you have a strong membership base already with the primary goal of keeping your current customers engaged. 

No oversight by a coach & minimal sales efforts

The bare minimum setup doesn’t really lead to a lot of sales because there is very little contact of the coach with the clients. 

If you are an online coach one on-location trainer, this is NOT the challenge for you. Your business is based on connecting with you, so make sure to do the hands on setup of a challenge.

Theme & Name

Not having a main trainer to meet with and monitor all of the challengers saves time and money for your business but it sacrifices sales!

Always be time length focused and talk about it in days or weeks. Ex: 21 Days Buns, Guns and Abs Challenge

You should have a theme such as 21 Days Buns, Guns and Abs Challenge. Always be time length focused and talk about it in days or weeks. Don’t call anything a month or 2 month challenge.

I recommend having the time length in your challenge name because it feels feasible to the prospect when they know how much time dedication is required.


I think there is a tendency to want to try to do a theme that is totally different or neat sounding (for example, I did the NO BS Challenge (No Bad Sugars program), but I am encouraging you to reconsider.

For the No BS challenge, we had a beautiful book, video, and sign in the club, but well one, it was unclear what the challenge was about. In addition, it was all about a specific habit, and not what they would get out of it.

In the end, what I found is that people were most excited to join and pay for a challenge when it was about achieving physical aesthetic results, especially with a weight lost angle.

Challengers like themes like:

  • Weight Loss
  • Achieving abs
  • Toning up

But that’s not what they told me when I asked them?

Yes, most people will mention losing weight but often use the word wanting to be “healthier.”

But if you were to probe them more, and gain their trust, they will admit to wanting to achieve some sort of physical goal.

CAUTION – Contradiction!

However during the challenge, I find on a daily basis want to focus on being healthy and be pushed only within what they feel comfortable. No one wants to vomit in class or feel shamed for not staying on the plan perfectly.

Everyone needs to evolve their habits as they feel comfortable. Being encouraging and attentive to them is all you can ask of yourself.

So in conclusion when you talk to them they may say the words “healthy”, but when it comes to the theme of the challenge they are most excited about… they want a punchy exciting program that declares awesome physical results!

People will still join if it’s not weight loss focused, but you will work harder to convince them.

Question: What if my customers don’t like to talk about losing weight?

If you feel like a bold weight loss challenge would be offensive to your customers, you can use words more like “get lean, get toned” in your theme and wording.

Success Manual

You want the challengers to see results, or you shouldn’t run a challenge at all. No results will only hurt your reputation as a dedicated fitness business and lose the excitement of your clients. 

This is why guiding the clients through at least a success manual is important.

The success manual will actually save you time in going over what to eat, and how to set up your healthy habits & routines.

What should be included in a success manual?

It should include key dos and don’ts for eating, working out and other lifestyle habits to adopt.

Make sure the the manual is well formatted and you put a lot of headers and paragraph breaks in.

If you are short on time even a 3-5 page guide could be good enough.

If you don’t fancy yourself a writer, you can just make bullet points of do’s and don’ts. Or use your phone as a speech to text tool to get your ideas on paper.

Pre-Challenge Launch Workshop

If you feel your success manual is feeling a little thin, you could supplement it with an audio/video recording. One way to do a recording is to put on a workshop with a Q&A section, record it and then send it out to all participants.

There are 2 types of Pre-Challenge Workshops you can put on:

  • One is promotional workshop that takes during the promotion leading up to the start of the challenge.
  • And the other one is the challenge launch event that takes place usually the day before the start of the challenge. It will be an informative workshop that explains to them how the challenge works, and how to stay on the program for success.

So, if you are worried about a ton of questions overwhelming you from participants, a launch challenge workshop is a good solution.

In addition, the energy of most of the participants in the room will keep the energy and motivation high for the challenge.

PS: Don’t forget to get a ton of photos for your website and Instagram!

This can also be the time to remind challengers to put their name on the poster tracking sheet if they haven’t.

If you are a personal trainer, you can just do the workshops and launch via a live webinar or facebook live either in a private facebook group or public page.

For online trainers, the poster can be right behind you when you do a web meeting, so they can see their name and everyone else’s name.

Public Tracking Poster

Get a large poster board or order one. You want 30-40 rows, size 27.5″ by 36″. Draw the columns for each time period that you are tracking. 

For long challenges, you can do 1 column per week and put the weight measurements there. For shorter, challenges it could be daily or every 2 days. There you can put more of a point system such as 10 points for coming in, 5 points for posting to social media, 15 points for leaving a review.

The point is friendly competition and can be a hands off way to encourage challengers to stay on track and keep the energy of the challenge going.

Upsell Pricing Sheet

Even if you are looking for just a hands off challenge, you should have a printed challenge deals sheet of at least 3 different packages ready to go. You can mention it to clients and see how they might want more guidance.

How to do a Hands On Fitness Challenge (Part 1)

I’m glad you are reading this. I hope this means you will put on a challenge above the bare minimum! Challengers will feel more cared for and you will make more money. Double win!

In a hands on challenge setup, you would do all the items mentioned in the bare minimum challenge BUT in addition you will include more one on one coaching and interactions throughout.

The one on one interactions are done through a:

  1. Pre-challenge coaching session
  2. Weekly check in calls/text messages during the challenge
  3. Post challenge coaching session

Optional Add-on:

I highly recommend also adding in the:

  • Pre-challenge promotional workshop. This would be scheduled at least 7-10 days before the launch of the challenge and provide valuable info on how succeed at the challenge.
    • It should be free for anyone who wants to attend because your goal is to promote the challenge and benefits you get by joining.

To recap, in addition to the items above in a bare minimum challenge, you would also include these things in your your Hands On Challenge.

  1. Pre-Challenge Coaching
    • Clear sales strategy of offerings
    • Key sales script and rebuttals to overcome objections
  2. Post Challenge Coaching
    • Request for review/referral/social media post/use of photo for website
  3. Check in calls/texts
  4. Option: Pre-Challenge Promotional Workshop – Free For All

The before and after challenge coaching sessions are time consuming but so important. 

Also the registration for the challenge can be the pre-challenge coaching if the timing is right.

The Pre-challenge Coaching Session

You’ll need to allocate about 30 minutes for each coaching session.

The Pre-challenge Coaching Session should include on the agenda:

  1. Before photos
  2. Measurements
  3. Overview of what to do on the challenge & how it works
  4. How to use the challenge materials
  5. Dates of start and end and any additional challenge events
  6. Have them write their name on the public board
  7. Goal setting with the client
  8. Sales pitch offer to upgrade for more training/coaching/membership (need at least 15 minutes for this)
  9. Have you clients sign a waiver that it is ok to use their photos and videos to highlight them in future club emails, websites and marketing materials. If they so no, that’s OK, just add that to your tracker and know that you can’t use them. 

During Challenge One on One Text/Email Coaching

Weekly check-ins via text message is the perfect balance of check-ins without being too time intensive.

The message would look something like:

Hi Jill! Congrats on making it to wk2. Good job w/ pushing yourself in boot camp last week! How’s the eating & workouts going?

There are 4 important points here:

  1. Start with a Hi __first name__ so she knows it’s a custom message for her.
  2. Positive compliment. Make them feel encouraged.
  3. Noticed something she was doing. Reinforces that she is being watched.
  4. The how are you doing question, is at the end of the message. When you put the question in the middle of the text, the receiver often assumes it’s more of a message versus a real question for them. Finishing with a question mark feels like you are waiting for a response.

When you send out the text messages, make sure to do it before an hour that you have free because you’ll likely get a few immediate responses and it’s good to be prepared to respond quickly also.

I highly recommend doing text coaching vs email coaching during the challenge. You will get more responses and the challenge overall will feel personalized. Also texts take less time to write because they should be short.

What if everyone starts texting me at all times?

The biggest issue with opening the door to text coaching is the concern that certain clients will run with it and start texting you daily. I find most people will not start texting you every few hours.

However, there may be 1-2 people who do or ask for way too much guidance such as a new recipe or what to do because they are not losing weight.

Here are my tips on how to handle :

  1. Upon registration, be clear how the weekly check in messages work, and that you won’t be able to do in depth answers over text.
  2. If someone does ask for a lot of help over text, invite them to schedule a time to talk about it more one-on-one in person or via webcam. During that time go over how you can help them in more depth through a specific coaching program they can sign up for.

But if they are asking for nutrition advice, how do I integrate nutrition coaching in my service offerings if I’m not a registered dietitian?

A registered dietitian prescribes a specific meal plan and often does it to treat a specific health condition.

What you would be doing instead, assuming you have a strong background in healthy eating, is making suggestions and helping them think through how execute healthy food and healthy life habits.

So instead of just training them with exercise in your program with them, which we know is only half the battle, you will also do one-on-one 30-60 minute coaching with them on:

  • Program compatible foods suggestions
  • meal preparation,
  • eating in social situations,
  • eating on the go and
  • eating late at night
  • eating mindfully
  • drinking water
  • getting enough sleep
  • how to stay active at the office

Besides introducing new ideas, and helping them think through how to integrate it into their life, the biggest thing you are doing during these coaching sessions is making them accountable!

Pricing suggestions is either the same price as your training sessions, or $5-$10 less per session. So, if you are doing $39 for a half hour training session, $29 for a phone health coaching half hour session could be good.

How to do a Hands On Fitness Challenge (Part 2)

The Post Challenge Coaching

The Post Challenge coaching can take place at an end of challenge celebration event for example if on the last day you do a mini-party and give away prizes and award the 1st place winner.

Or it can just be booked on clients schedule.

  1. “After” photo
  2. “After” measurements
  3. Review their goal worksheet
  4. What worked and what didn’t
  5. What did they learn
  6. Maintenance program
  7. Review: At this time have a computer ready and ask them to leave a review.
  8. Referral: Then ask them to type in 3 friends whom they would refer email 3-4 clients a 7 day gift pass. Since people have friends all over the world, this is a good time to have your online coaching packages ready.

End of challenge winner announcements

At the end of the challenge announce even if you have an end of challenge event, you want to still announce the winner(s) via email and social media to your whole mailing list. Include photos and a testimonial. This creates interest for the next challenge and reminds all non-clients that you deliver results.

Post Challenge Photos

Make sure when you take the photos you have a high-end cell phone camera that takes clear photos, and it is synced with a back up service. I highly recommend the free Google photos. 

Also add to your post challenge tasks to organize and relable the photos.  Create a folder in your photo management software labeled: Year _ name of challenge_event name.

How to avoid accidentally publishing “no waiver photos”

Here is my secret tip to avoid using someone’s photo that said they don’t want to be featured.

As you organize them, go back to your tracking sheet, and locate the people who said they don’t want to be featured, and re-label the name of that photo as “person’s name – do not publish.”

  1. Meal Plan
  2. Grocery list
  3. Recipes

The most valuable thing you’ll find clients want and are willing to pay for is a meal plan with organized grocery list and recipes.

This is why if you can get to this 3rd level of challenge complexity you will then see more sign ups.

Also, if you are doing a low barrier offer challenge (challenge under $50) or doing a free challenge you could email the meal plan kit to them.  

Printing out the Meal Plan, Grocery List and Recipes can be as simple as printing it out from your printer, or you could order it from a printer that will bind it for you.

You should also have a print out your Success Manual. You can definitely reuse the same Success Manual for all of your challenges, which would justify you order 100 copies, which should bring the cost down per book. 

Having a new Success Manual for a challenge does create new interest from your hardcore clients that do all of your challenges.

But since a whole new one is time consuming, what you can do is just create a 1 pager with tips that address this challenge directly.

In addition, each year you can add 3-5 pages to your success manual, calling it the 2020 edition, to keep it feeling fresh.

  1. Daily emails
  2. Daily text messages
  3. Use of an email automation software or send it yourself

We know that a diet is hard to stick to. And when the challenge starts to hit the weekend or Day 10, will power gets weak! This is why daily touch points help keep the motivation strong and the clients seeing results.

But as a coach running a business you don’t have time to remember to check in with your clients everyday, so what do you do?

Beforehand, pre-write emails and text messages for each day. Then add them to a email software and pre-schedule emails & text messages to go out each day. Messages should be short, fun, inspiring, and informative emails that keep clients focused.

Email Automation Software

The best but a bit more expensive way to do this is through an email automation software that sends out emails automatically, some premium services also can send out automated text messages. 

This is going to cost anywhere between $15 to $500 per month depending on the number of subscribers you have in the database, and the bells and whistles (such as text, client management, forms) the software offers.

For example, Infusionsoft has individual contact management, auto emails and has robust reporting, widgets, dashboard, APIs, forms, online purchasing and customization for sequences that can be action based.

On the other hand, constant contact is a bit cheaper but only does email sequences and costs much less for the same number of subscribers.

Completely Free Option for Pre-scheduled emails

But if you want to save the money, no worries I have a great tip for you to do this free in a software you already use.

Did you know you can schedule emails via your gmail to be sent out at a later day? Do this for each email to be sent out.

CAUTION: Very important tip, make sure to send out the email as a BCC so that everyone doesn’t get everyone’s email. Or worse, someone reply’s all and now everyone in the challenge is seeing the conversation.

Completely Free Option for Mass Text Messages

To send out mass group text messages from a computer, you can also count on Google for a free great service called Google Voice, you can get a free number that you can text from and even send and receive calls from. There is a Google Voice app for your phone also!

The pros since you can use a computer, that you can type out messages with a full keyboard and save to a Google doc.

Caution though, the drawback in using Google Voice is that everyone sees everyone else’s phone number because they don’t have BCC function.

This could be a pro in case you have less than 20 challengers, and want to spark group support. But I think it’s likely not everyone will want to be on the chain.

In case you want to do something that feels like a text message but is more appropriate for group conversations, do a Facebook group messenger message instead.

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