Looking for fun weight loss challenge ideas that your members will love? Running challenges is a great way to engage fitness clients and help them achieve their goals. Whether you’re a gym manager, personal trainer, or online coach, they can increase leads, revenue, and customer satisfaction. And if you just want to try them out with friends, they’re perfect for that too!
In this article – we explain how to run successful challenges, including fun (but effective!) ideas and prizes that’ll maximise participation.
Start With Your Goal
Defining your goal is the first step. Why do you want to run a challenge in the first place? Is it to build a sense of community and increase retention? Or is it the first part of a sales funnel that leads on to a paid program?
Depending on your overall objective, the setup of your challenge may differ.
If your goal is loyalty, then facilitate social interaction between participants. Members love to be part of a community and will keep coming back for this reason. Include more group activities or tap into social media.
If your goal is to funnel participants into a paid program afterward, then include snippets or previews of it to entice them. Get them to achieve small wins along the way to demonstrate that you deliver results. Make it a short duration (7-14 days) as people are usually more enthusiastic nearer the start and therefore convert more easily…
Once you know your goal, the next step is to choose the right challenge. It should be difficult enough that it requires some effort, but not so unrealistic that people don’t want to sign up. It also needs to be themed on something that’ll appeal to your target audience.
If you’re using it as a marketing funnel, then you’ll want to include an element that requires gym expertise rather than having them go it alone. This will help them see the value of your professional guidance.
Fun Weight Loss Challenge Ideas
Here are some challenge ideas that you can run in your gym, PT studio, online, or with friends…
- Healthy habits challenge
- Activity challenge
- Hydration challenge
- Distance challenge
- Inch loss challenge
- Calorie challenge
Now let’s look at each of these in more detail…
#1 – Healthy Habits Challenge
In our humble opinion, a weight loss challenge should be about adopting a healthy lifestyle, not encouraging extreme behaviour. Quick fixes don’t work over the long term, so developing healthy habits is a more effective option.
Set them a challenge to develop one new healthy habit every week and practice it daily. This might be eating five portions of fruit and veg per day, swapping sugar-sweetened drinks for healthier alternatives, or walking a mile every lunchtime.
Alternatively, you can give them a list of 14, 21, or 28 healthy habits and ask them to complete a new one each day. This encourages them to try new habits or activities, a few of which are bound to stick. This is also a good source of weekly challenge ideas if you’re wanting to run contests throughout the year.
#2 – Activity Challenge
Fitness challenges can relate to a variety of different activities. You can set a challenge around almost anything, from specific exercises to everyday actions. Doing 100 walking burpees each day, going for a walk every lunchtime, or trying three new classes a week can all work really well.
It’s important to remember that the activity should be tailored for someone who is overweight. High impact or high-intensity exercises (like star jumps and burpees) may not be comfortable for someone with excess weight, so including them may put them off exercise altogether.
#3 – Hydration Challenge
Hydration is the cornerstone of a healthy diet, yet it’s often overlooked when brainstorming challenge ideas.
The premise is simple – drink 8 glasses of water every day. In practice people find this quite difficult, so you can support them. Provide tips on increasing intake, education about the drawbacks of soda or caffeine-based drinks, recipes for infused water (and maybe even give away water bottles).
This works well as a 7-day weight loss challenge so it’s ideal if you want to run one for a short duration. It’s also an easy challenge to market since you can appeal to people’s desire for clear skin and more energy, as well as the weight loss aspect.
#4 – Distance Challenge
Distance-related challenges are simple to track and measure. They can focus on the distance between two points, such as your town to a famous location. Or it may be vertical distance, such as the height of the Eiffel Tower.
Many cardio manufacturers include workout courses like these on their equipment, making it super-simple to set up. If your equipment doesn’t have these features, then you can also track it visually on a display.
Distance-themed contests make perfect group weight loss challenge ideas. When you combine the workout distances of multiple participants or an entire club, they quickly add up.
Focusing on distance takes the emphasis away from ‘weight’ which may appeal to a different demographic whilst achieving the same goal. The distance theme works well as a 14 or 21-day challenge.
#5 – Inch Loss Challenge
Instead of framing the challenge in terms of weight loss, you can also position it in terms of losing inches.
Stepping on the scales can be daunting for some people, which may put them off participating completely. They may not want others to know their weight and hate the idea of a ‘public weigh-in’.
Having their body mass assessed with a measuring tape may be a more comfortable option, and encourage wider participation from members.
You could also set a group target that relates the total inches lost to a longer distance. As a club you may decide to lose 100 inches between you or more depending on the number of participants. This works well as a 30-day challenge since it takes time to reduce inches from parts of the body.
#6 – Calorie Challenge
Calories can be controversial, so this idea may not be suitable for everyone. The calories in vs. calories out model is sometimes described as over-simplified, and many nutritionists would argue that calories aren’t an accurate representation of nutrients.
However, calories are a familiar concept to many people, which make them easy to use in a weight loss challenge.
A simple challenge is to simply ask people to track their calorie intake. Don’t ask them to adjust or restrict it, just record what they consume. Many people have no idea just how many calories they eat and drink, so will be shocked into action just by this knowledge.
You can take it a step further by asking them to reduce calories, either from a specific food group such as sweets or as an overall amount. Alternatively, you can challenge them to burn more calories than usual, and use the cardio equipment readouts to track their totals. This works well as a 30-day challenge for weight loss.
How To Run A Weight Loss Challenge
Now you’ve got some ideas, let’s talk about how to run a weight loss challenge in practical terms. Knowing how to organise and promote them for maximum effect can be tricky.
The key is to treat it like any other gym event. Start by writing a simple project plan that includes a checklist of everything you need to do. Here’s an example…
- Agree on objectives and get stakeholder sign off
- Decide challenge format, duration, and dates
- Define how the challenge will work in detail, including rules
- Order prizes
- Create promo materials
- Launch challenge registration
- Execute challenge
- Announce winner and get feedback from participants
Top tip – time your challenge to coincide with health and fitness awareness days, such as weight loss awareness month in January or Hydration & Nutrition week in March.
Promoting Your Challenge
Use a combination of in-club promo materials, email, and social media to promote your challenge. Ensure all your staff understands the details and that they encourage members to participate.
When you’re marketing the challenge, focus on the benefits first so people understand why they should participate.
Then explain the mechanics of how it’ll actually work in practice. It’s exactly the same benefit-feature approach that we should use to market other products and services.
Brainstorm different weight loss challenge name ideas before settling on a favourite. Make a list of related words and then use a site like Thesaurus to find similar ones. Rearrange them in different combinations until you find a name you like (it’s a similar process to come up with a creative gym name).
Don’t limit your search to fitness-related words either. For example, the ‘Centurion Challenge’ can be used for anything that involves a target of 100 such as 100 inches lost or 100 miles of exercise.
You also need to define challenge rules that make it clear what is and isn’t permissible. Contest rules usually need to include an explanation of how to win and any criteria will be used to judge.
Remember to make it a fair challenge by ensuring an even playing field for all participants. This may mean defining success in a proportional rather than absolute manner. Think about whether it’s fairer to judge a winner based on the total amount of weight lost or a percentage?
You’ll also need to include standard legal disclaimers such as consulting a doctor prior to exercise.
Supporting Challenge Participants
Supporting your challenge participants is crucial to their success. This can be broken down into three areas…
#1 – Education
For your challenge to be valuable, it’ll need to teach them something new. It can’t be a challenge that they’re capable of doing alone, otherwise why do they need you or your gym?
Educate them with fascinating facts, scientific research, and practical tips that they can actually implement. Regular emails, a challenge recipe book, or mini-workshops are all great ways to do this.
If you’re running a challenge as a way to generate leads, then give away these resources and instructions in return for their email address. Be sure you also have an automated email sequence in place to nurture new sign-ups and convert them into paying clients.
#2 – Tracking
Tracking allows participants to see their progress which motivates them to continue. The key is to focus on the inputs rather than the outputs.
Get members to track the changes they’re making to their exercise or dietary habits since these are the most controllable. Provide a checklist template to make this super-simple. As they complete the challenge they’ll see a neat row of ticks build up and won’t want to break the chain.
Tracking things like this on a daily basis is much more motivating than tracking an output (such as weight).
#3 – Community
Taking part in a challenge is about more than the results. It’s about the friends you make along the way.
Building a community will make the challenge more enjoyable and also provide a support network too. Create a Facebook or WhatsApp group so that participants can share their successes and motivate each other.
Weight Loss Challenge Prize Ideas
- Fruit infuser water bottle
- Sports tracker
- Healthy recipe books
- Sports clothing
- Experiences like a weekend away (maybe to a location related to a distance challenge)
- In-house spa days
- Pampering vouchers
Whatever you choose, try to think of prizes that will appeal to your target audience or ideal participant.
With some careful planning, your challenge can be an effective marketing activity that also gets members results. Every gym is different, so brainstorming your own challenge ideas may be a good place to begin.
Use our six concepts as a starting point and then develop your own from there. Then follow the implementation checklist to transform your challenge ideas into reality!
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