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How To Run A Free Or Paid Fitness Challenge As An Online Coach

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We know that fitness challenges are a major trend within the fitness industry.

With any major trend comes plenty of pros and cons. While challenges are drawing a lot of people into getting started on their fitness journeys which is a major plus, they are often short-lived or motivating people for the wrong reasons and not setting them up for long term success.

The stigma of fitness challenges

As an ex personal trainer and gym owner of 6 years I used to despise fitness challenges. The stigma they carry around runs rampant among evidence based fitness professionals and is often something we don’t want our names associated with.

With that being said, my tune has drastically changed over the last 12 months as I have been helping fitness professionals build and grow their business.

You’ll also notice I am referring to them as “fitness” challenges not “weight loss” challenges. This is purely to help iterate that challenges don’t have to be associated with a specific outcome, and we are going to dig into this.

Rewarding physical transformation

Weight loss challenges…

Click here to give Episode 54 of the podcast where Laura and I rant about how rewarding physical transformation is an absolute no-no.

Much of the stigma and negative connotation surrounding fitness challenges stems from instant gratification and rewarding physical transformation. I had honestly thought this was on it’s way out until I saw a giant billboard in my gym prior to moving to Arizona. It was offering a $10,000 transformation reward… This spurred Episode 54 of the podcast.

In a world filled with instant gratification, it’s human nature to go all out, from 0 to 100. Challenges often aid in this problem.

As heart centered coaches we know that no one is created lasting transformation in 30 days. We also know what people will sacrifice to win $10,000. None of which are habits to create anything resembling a healthy lifestyle or lasting change.

But, challenges do not need to fit the stigma.

It’s not the challenge, it’s the person implementing it.

Using “Challenges” to your advantage

Ask yourself the question “What is a challenge”…

It is a set period of time where you have the undivided attention of a captive audience where you can teach them.

Just because challenges have been abused in the past does not mean that you need to follow suite.

You have the ability to take what was once done poorly and utilize the method that is familiar with people to provide them value and change their lives.

“Challenge” is just a word.

Often people don’t want to use the term and opt to use words like “kick-start”, “bootcamp”, “foundations”, etc. but at the end of the day they are all essentially the same thing. It’s just trying to put a prettier name on something you don’t like.

First, evaluate why you don’t like the term challenge…

It does not matter what you call it, if you run it for the right reasons, teaching the right things, and providing healthy outcomes for those that participate.

People are drawn to challenges so utilize this from a business perspective but simply be a good coach and you have nothing to worry about.

What is a challenge?

A challenge is simply a time-constrained framework.

There is no set time… I’ve ran 5-day challenges, you can run 30 day, 6 week, 8 week, 12 week, etc.

There is no set theme or outcome… It can be weight loss, performance, mindset, habits, business, etc.

The answer to the question comes down to you. Who you are as a coach, what you want to teach, and the length of time it will take to provide them some wins or overcome their limiting beliefs.

Challenges are not limited to weight loss, and they are not limited to macros. They are only limited by your imagination.

Why do challenges work?

This is where things start to get interesting…

There are distinct reasons WHY challenges work. And, I don’t just mean work in a results sense for your clients, but also in a marketing sense for your business.

People prefer closed loops compared to open ended loops.

Have you ever noticed how it’s easier to sell someone a 12-Week coaching package compared to monthly recurring coaching?

The answer is that people prefer to have a set end date. This comes down to human psychology, something that you should study if you want to be successful as a coach!

Challenges simply use this to their advantage.

From a marketing perspective… A short term commitment is a much easier pitch to a prospective client than an open ended commitment.

From a results perspective… People have an easier time going “hard” for a short duration compared to having no idea how long the process will take. It’s also been shown in research that quick wins for clients can aid in long term success.

As a business-man I have learned to utilize the benefits of the former to change the negatives associated with the latter.

This is the key to leveraging what people want and giving them what they need.

The 3 reasons to run a challenge

From a business standpoint I find 3 distinct outcomes for running a challenge, or whatever term you prefer to call it.

1. Lead generation or LBO

People like challenges. As a result it’s often not hard to get 10, 15 or even 50 people into a 4-8 week challenge. This is why challenges are a great lead generator or LBO (low barrier offer). They provide an excellent way to get a quick pool or leads or low cost entry point into your value ladder.

For coaches just starting out and looking to generate prospective clients, a challenge can be a great platform. They may not be ready to dish out $300.00/Month for coaching but they will participate in low commitment challenge. This allows you to get them quick wins, indoctrinate them into your process and methodologies, and introduce them into you.

It’s kind of like an interview or an audition for you as their coach. You get the opportunity to work with them, and if you do a good job, you have the opportunity to upsell or ascend them into your 1:1 online coaching.

2. Income generator

Again, people like challenges. A recurring theme…

Just as challenges can provide an excellent lead pool or LBO they can also provide a good source of income.

In #1 your challenge may be positioned as short(er) and either free or a low cost entry point. Here, the challenge would likely be positioned as 6-12 weeks with a slightly higher price point.

I know of coaches that are able to do 6-figure launches with “challenges” multiple times her year and this is pure evidence that they can be a great source of income.

As with any business model there are always downsides. A pitfall of challenges for your sole income generator is that you’re living launch to launch and you have a lack of predictability in your income.

3. Proof of concept

Lastly, I find that challenges can be an amazing proof of concept.

If you follow my work you will know I am a fan of creating proven processes and systems prior to scaling and, well challenges allow us to do that.

Here are a few things a challenge allow you to determine and refine:

  • The content/education people want or need
  • The best way to deliver content
  • How to garner engagement
  • How best to upsell people
  • Gather feedback from a captive audience
  • The people or target audience best suited for this style of coaching
  • And much, much more

If you simply pay attention to your markets feedback you can learn a lot from running challenges.

Something as simple as teaching one concept a week and seeing where people excel vs. don’t understand and have lots of questions provides you IMMENSE value moving forward. This alone allows you to go back to the drawing board, and iterate to make your process better and more impactful in the future.

It allows you to see how to best deliver content example: video, lives, written, etc. or how to best provide support example: written, q&a, etc.

It provides you a captive audience to ask questions to determine what they might need, what they are struggling with, and more.

Lastly, it provides you a giant pool of leads 🙂

Developing a proof of concept through a challenge

This is one of my focal points every time I run, or have my clients run a challenge. Using it as a testing ground to develop a proof of concept.

As you refine, iterate, and perfect your process you unlock an array of possibilities, many of which most coaches never even realize…

Here is a sample of things you can use your proof of concept for:

  • Perfecting your processes
  • Training a/your team to run your challenge for you
  • Automating (or streamlining) your challenge with pre-recorded videos once they are perfected
  • Developing an on-going group coaching program
  • Turning your challenge into a digital product or hybrid course

How do I run a free or paid challenge?

There are so many possibilities for running a challenge and there is no right or wrong way to create a challenge. The content will be completely unique to you as a coach, but you can follow a simple framework and execute it.

I walk through the exact process I use for my own challenges and how I teach all of my clients to run their challenges!

I hope I have shifted your mentality surrounding challenges. I hope I helped you realize we can take something that people are drawn to it and shift the outcome to provide REAL results and then continue to guide them to lasting change after the challenge.

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