How do I get more people to come to my fitness class? By Rachel Holmes

30 min read
Jul 21, 2023

As part of our MORE THAN campaign - where we raise awareness of the hard work, investments and dedication fitness instructors put into their profession, we are running a series of free workshops.  The first one kicked off with fitness expert Rachel Holmes hosting REACH! - a workshop to show ways for fitness instructors to increase their class numbers.

We would love you to check out the microsite and ask if you can fill in our 3 minute anonymous Instructor LIVES survey.  We will be posting lots of great video content, taken from interviews with 20 group ex instructors, on our Facebook page, so it would mean the world to us if you could follow us and participate in this campaign!  

On July 18th, Rachel Holmes, a Fitness Programme Creator, Educator, Presenter and Entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience, shared her wisdom with group exercise instructors as to how to attract more people into classes. 

Over the years, Rachel has amassed over 180,000 followers, and is a frequent producer of content on social media so we were in great hands! 

We would like to thank EMD UK and SH1FT Fitness for supporting this event. EMDUK has recently launched a fab FREE membership website specifically for group ex instructors.  It contains over 240 resources so is a must! You can find the details here -

Our next event is scheduled August 22nd.  Hosted by Elle Linton, who runs the Online Fitness UK Facebook Group, this will be a virtual fireside chat, where we can all thrash out ideas as to how we can reach out and appeal to the 85% of people still not exercising. 

How do I get more people to come to my fitness class? By Rachel Holmes


REACH! by Rachel Holmes was a fab hour-long workshop packed with insight, tips and inspiring ideas, for both instructors starting out and instructors who have been in the business for years.  In it, she covered: 

Standing out in the noise - Who are you, what do you offer and who are you serving? Tips on fine-tuning your offerings.  How to reach those who are looking for something they can't get elsewhere. 

Mastering the social media maze - How to create content quickly and easily on the go that is compelling and attracts new participants. 

Business buddies - Tips to foster partnerships with corporates and local businesses, unlocking a treasure trove of new clients.  

You can watch the recording below.  We have also transcribed the interview too!  Please share with other instructors that you feel could benefit!


How do I get more people to come to my fitness class? By Rachel Holmes

REACH! by Rachel Holmes abridged transcript

How to position yourself

We're going to talk about positioning, and understanding who you are and what you offer. Because in your area, it could be 10 people that are doing a Clubbercise class, or it could be 10 people that are doing a body conditioning class. So how do you differentiate what you're doing and what makes you different? 

Of course, you're the differentiator, it’s your personality.  It’s about creating a brand around you.  You're the personal brand, it’s you showing up on social media.  It’s people buying into you.  I'm sure you've all got lots of qualifications, you've been in the industry for a long time, and you've got great experience, but ultimately, people are coming to you. We're in the people business. When you are putting content out for social media, or you're thinking of selling your services, people are actually buying from you.  

So understanding who you are and having that self-awareness of why people come to you and what you bring to the table is really key. When you can identify those traits about yourself, you can put that out on social and that's what people are really buying into. It makes it so much easier. You don't have to be selling, selling, selling all the time because people are just seeing you and showing up on social being authentic. 

We hear that word all the time, but what does it mean? It's just being more of you. It's a brilliant time to be in the fitness industry because we are seeing so much more diversification than we did 20/30 years ago when it was very much a stereotypical image of what a fitness professional was. We see instructors of all ages, all shapes, all sizes, from all backgrounds and that's to be celebrated.

I really want to give you the confidence to put yourself out there and be completely authentic, because that is your superpower.

What are the things that people say about you? When they come to your class? What kind of things are they saying?

Oh, I really liked your class Claire because you're always there at the end, you take time, you care. You give an explanation about the exercises, you make me feel comfortable, you are relatable, you're down to earth.

How many times do you hear that you're down to earth, they feel like you're one of them, that you're a role model? It's those little nuances that are the reason why people keep calm, fun, and friendly.

When we talk about social media, it's about remembering those traits, remembering those things about you that people say, and then putting that out on social to make things fun.

Everyone's saying that making fitness fun is a real is a real key component to keeping people coming back, and making people feel welcome and included. 

Know your audience.  Address their concerns.

We always got to remember our audience. Most people aren't obsessed with fitness like we are. We're a very small group of people. Most people don't live and breathe fitness like we do so it's very intimidating for people who are not fit and are not going to an exercise class regularly. They're kind of watching on the sidelines thinking, what are people thinking? Would I fit in? Will I be the oldest? Will I be the biggest? Will I be able to do it? Where will I stand? Where will I park?

These are all things that potential clients are thinking about when they're seeing you on social or when they're picking up your leaflets in the local beautician or when they're seeing you on the street. They're thinking yeah, I'd love to get fit. But is that environment going to be friendly for me? Is it going to be welcoming? Am I going to be fitting in? So putting yourself into your consumer or your potential consumer’s shoes is really helpful. Again, if you're creating content for social media, answer those questions.

Think of all the barriers, why aren't they coming? Do they have a medical issue? Are they nervous? Have they had a bad experience with fitness before? Have they had an injury or an illness? If you can create content for social, pull those questions though, pull down those barriers and you are going to find that you're going to be getting an influx of clients all the time.

Think of the things that people say about you and then think of all the questions that a potential person might ask or want to know about your class.  Keep breaking it down and write all those points. For someone to buy into a class or a service, we need to understand what their problems are.

In marketing terms, we would say that this is niching to their pain points. What are their issues? Why isn't someone going regularly to an exercise class? What's stopping her? So if you can think of all the reasons why somebody might not be going, then write them down and keep referring back to the list.

I think in the fitness industry, it's easy to think we need to keep reinventing the wheel with how we market our services but we just need to look at the questions they might have, and then you can create content that answers those questions. It can be in written form, video form, graphic form, or even all three, and using that as social media content is going to be the key to bringing new people into your world.

I've worked with fit pros for 30 odd years. What we tend to see is you may have a core group of clients who are regulars, they love you, and they are your regulars. But what happens in fitness is people naturally fall off the other end. They may move away, they may go to another gym, they may try something else, they might join hot yoga, they might take up the running club, or they just stop for a million other reasons, and it’s nothing to do with you or your class. If you aren't bringing people in on the other end constantly, what happens is your pool of people gets smaller and smaller and smaller. We start to get a little bit panicky when we can see the numbers are going down and we don't really have a method or a system to bring new people into our world. 

It's about creating a really simple system. So you are using social media if you want to get people into an online or a community class. So we're using social as a funnel.  At the top of the funnel, you're putting out content that's interesting to your target audience. So if you generally want ladies of a certain age or people who are beginners or people that have got a medical problem, or maybe active seniors or older adults, or whatever your niche is, it's creating content that's speaking to that audience. It might be tips, exercises, updates, or information, specific to your target audience. So that becomes the top of your funnel but then how do they come into the business? 

If it's an online business, do you have something that's a really low barrier to entry? So it might be that you have some pre-recorded classes that you've already done that live on your website, or somebody could message you and you could send them on so they could ultimately try before they buy. Once they've tried and they've enjoyed that class, you would follow up and maybe sign them up for a course or join your membership or sign up for block booking. There needs to be a few steps where you nurture that person. 

In sales and marketing terms, I always think this is so impersonal. But like a lead, you're using social media to generate leads, they then come into your world on something that's either free or low cost. If it’s a very low-cost class or a free session, then your carrot, your charisma, your personality, and your amazing skill set will be enough to get that person then to continue on with you on their journey. 

It’s what we call an ascension model. It's a staircase, people are coming in this end, through social media, they're coming in, they're trying something free, they're jumping into something that is maybe low cost, they're enjoying it, then moving on to the main part of your business, whether that's a membership, or whether that's a block book. It's a really simple model to understand. We need to nurture clients so that they feel they're ready when they're ready to jump in and make a longer-term commitment. They've already tasted and sampled what you offer. And then we can hold them in that that that main membership, or they sign up for the blog booking. And then at the end of that, you've got an option to either upsell something. So you may offer a workshop or a retreat, or a social event, or something that might not even be related to fitness, you might be pairing up with another professional and running a health and fitness day or mind-body day, you know, there's something on the other end that potentially, we would call that you could upsell. Or they may then jump into something that you have, that's more exclusive, that's maybe a higher cost a high ticket. 

When you're starting out, and when you're just in the industry, it might be tempting to just blast it all out on social media, and bring everybody in. That's a fantastic way to get going and work out who you are and what kind of clients you want to work with and what you want to teach. But as you move through that, I try to encourage all instructors to then think a little bit more businesslike and create a system. 

I'll say from my own experience, that I see so many phenomenal instructors, who are so talented, they build great amazing communities, and they're doing so well. But because they don't get the process in place, it's very difficult to have a holiday, take time off, earn more money, and build a business that is going to return a good investment. Just as Jonathan said at the beginning, this is not a cheap industry to be in. There's a serious cost to being a FitPro - your insurance, your music, your licensing, your ongoing software, Zoom memberships, travel etc. There's a lot of cost before you even open the door. 

If I can help you just understand a very simple process within your business that can really help you, then it will save you so much time, energy and emotion and tears in the long run. 

Be consistent with social media 

We don't need to be on every platform. This is why it's key to know who your market is. If your market is generally local folk, it's a community business, or you're potentially looking for women over 40, they're going to be on Facebook. So if you've got limited time and resources, spend your time on Facebook; you don't need to be doing TikTok and everything else. 

Now, you might say, well, I've got a slightly younger audience, maybe mid-20s to 40s.  They probably are on Facebook, but they're probably on Instagram as well. so you might be spending more of your time on Instagram. If you're looking to market to a younger audience, then yeah, go for TikTok as that's where your audience is going to be. 

Once you've got your systems in place, and you know what you're doing, you can be more omnipresent, you can do more platforms, or you can create what I call original content. So you might record a video, you might do a written post, you might do a graphic, you might make a short form video, and that one video, you can repurpose to all those different platforms. So you may post it on Facebook, you might post it on Instagram, you might put it on TikTok, you might put it on LinkedIn -  that's one method of doing it. 

But I would suggest that you first identify your core audience, work out which platform they're on, and then concentrate on that platform, building an audience on that. When you've got that down, you can start to move around and be more omnipresent. 


I harness a lot of scheduling tools and tools that can repurpose content. So if you're looking at anybody on social media and thinking they're everywhere, it's really unlikely that they're doing it alone, they'll have a small team behind them, they might have a virtual assistant, they might have people helping them because it's virtually impossible to do that on your own. 

So again, don't be sidetracked by seeing other fitness professionals and thinking, wow, they're everywhere. Because they probably have a team. So if you haven't got a team, just double down on one platform or two platforms. Don't get FOMO thinking, oh, I need to be on Threads now because everybody's on Threads. 

Think about how much time you have, what your mental capacity is for, and something that's not going to burn you out. You've got to think, what is sustainable for me right now, within my business? Could I post once a day for the next 30 days? Yep. Do that. Let's focus on that. Could you do a live video? Five days a week for the next 30 days? I'm not sure about that, Rachel, what I could maybe is a live once a week. Great. Let's do that. And do that for the foreseeable future. You might think, okay, I might do a Reel a day. A Reel is a one-minute or less video short-form video. I'm going to do that for the next 30 days. So it's important that whatever content strategy, you decide it needs to be sustainable. What definitely doesn't work on social media is all guns blazing. Now for next week, I'm motivated, you start doing rails, and you're everywhere. Come Friday, you're like, yeah, heads blown. It's unsustainable. So it's about creating a sustainable model for you. 

I like doing short-form video. I find that quite simple. I find writing a lot harder. So I would rather do a video. You might prefer to do written posts, and I'll give you a hack for it and post in a minute. You might like sitting on Canva, doing nice graphics, that might be your thing. You might love talking, doing podcasts, do the thing that you can manage for the foreseeable future. 

I think anyone that's has a fitness business needs a website, and I see lots of marketing gurus saying you don't need a website, I personally think you really do. 

The problem with social media platforms is they change all the time. So if you're creating content, maybe just an idea for you, is to create content for your website for your blog, that is your original content that you can then utilise, edit, and chop up for social media afterwards. Ultimately, you want to use social to bring people to your website. Once they're on your website, they're signing up for your newsletter, they're getting your free guide, they're getting a free PDF, they're getting a free workout, and they become your customer. On Facebook, they're Facebook's customers, they're Instagram’s customers. 

There's a high probability that you could get hacked, you could get your account disabled, the algorithm changes, and you could get shadow banned. It's really risky. If you're in this for the long haul, create a strong digital home of your own, that you want to bring people on to because the platforms are changing. 

We're at this real tipping point with social media at the moment with legislation and anything could happen - we are just not in control. AI is coming really quickly. Facebook is going to make massive changes in the next few weeks.  This could be a game-changer. But it could change the way we market overnight, and you're not in control. So again, bring people to your website, get their email addresses, and then communicate with them off social. 

All of you will also have a nucleus of people that don't use social media.  Again, if you've got them on your email list, brilliant, you can still communicate really quickly.  

Now you can get a Wix website for £200, and you can add your plugins, you can add a membership area, and you can plug in a free Mail Chimp. And before you know it, you've got a functioning storefront where you can sell your classes, your courses, your programs, your memberships and so on. 

I'm not technical, but you can outsource somebody to make your website and all the functionality for probably less than £500 now. I know it's another cost but it's a cost that you can offset against your business and it's going to set you apart. You're creating a business that doesn't just revolve around you doing all the work and trading your time for money. When you do a digital class, you save that class. You then upload it to your membership area, and it can be resold over and over and over again.  That's truly passive income, you turn something that's active into passive. So every time I do an online Zoom, or an online talk or a workshop, that workshop is saved, it's edited, it goes to the membership area, and it lives on an inventory on my website. I've already done the work, it's truly passive. 

Fitness is a wonderful business to be in, I've been in it all my life, and I've never done anything else. But it takes a lot of energy from you. If we set this up in the beginning, brilliant, you then create a business that you can take a holiday from,  you can go to the restaurant, when you're injured, when you need to take August off, you can do because you've got this content library that can be resold over and over again. 

It's really not difficult. It's just understanding the initial marketing ascension model that I spoke about a few minutes ago. And then it becomes a machine then that you can keep turning on and turning on. 

So if you are new, think about getting a website and you can start to develop that. Understand how you can change it, how you can edit it, and how you can add to it. With social media, decide which platform you want to spend your time on, which one you enjoy, and which one is relevant to your target audience. If you have extra time, you can be more omnipresent. 

With Facebook, it's not just Facebook, you've got Facebook, personal profile, Facebook Business Profile, you've got Live, you've got Reels, you've got Facebook Events, you've got Marketplace; you've got all these verticals underneath Facebook. Facebook is enough, it really is. 

There are so many places that you can post on Facebook, so it's having a good brand image, which goes back to who you are, what you do and what you offer. What are your core products? Who are you marketing to? Who is your target audience for your classes? What is the problem that I'm solving for my clients? What are they struggling with? 

Instagram is a very cool platform and very visual. But what we are seeing on Instagram at the moment is that blog-style posts are indexing really well. If I was doing this talk with you maybe six months ago, I would have been saying Reels and short-form video is all you need to be doing. 

Consider Facebook Reels

Definitely short-form video is indexing well, doing really well, especially Facebook Reels. The reach on Facebook Reels is phenomenal. You could have a million views in two hours. Whereas on Instagram, there's a lot more competition over there. Facebook Reels is so new, you can get your message in front of so many people in such a quick time. This is amazing for getting new eyeballs on your material. But again, it's about being consistent. 

So if you're saying to me, well, Rachel, I'm not getting any new people. You know, Reels is a way to get new people because Facebook is going to take your Reel, and it's going to push it out into the Newsfeed in front of people that potentially may be interested in your content. You can still get good traction on Instagram for sure, but long-form written posts are indexing really well. 

So if you like to write, definitely put some blog-type posts on both platforms because they're working really well. Now YouTube, I think is an interesting one for all of you. If you've got a local business, and you want to get people in the local area to your classes or your studio, then YouTube is phenomenal to do because YouTube is owned by Google. So if you teach Pilates classes and you are in Basingstoke, and someone searches Pilates classes Basingstoke, and you have YouTube videos, such as a Short, or you have a longer form video with the title Pilates Classes Basingstoke you guess whose content is going to pop up? Your YouTube videos are going to pop up, your blog posts are going to pop up on your website because that's what people are searching for. 

Think about how people are using Google to search.  People might be searching for menopause help in Manchester, or yoga classes in wherever. And if you can create content that is titled for search, you're going to pop up. 

So always use think of the keywords, if you again, going back into your customer’s shoes, what are people searching for, and then just head over to Google, type in see who pops up, see what's coming up and you'll see that social media posts and YouTube posts pop up now. So if you've got YouTube videos that are titled, Pilates classes in Gloucester, and again, make it more niche, smaller, your content is going to be popping up. 

YouTube is a social media platform but it's also the biggest search engine and it's part of Google. I think if I was starting again today, right now, and I had local classes, I would probably only focus on YouTube and title everything for search. 

If you post on Instagram today, that Instagram feed just drops. YouTube however stays there forever, and it will keep coming back up in search. So your post that you make today for YouTube is probably going to get a lot more life for months even years into the future. 

Is it better to be more niche and specific?   Because Reels is so new on Facebook, it's wide open. You could post tying your shoelace and it could go viral, you could post, you know, a great tip and it could go viral. It's kind of a bit of a wild west out there. So the idea is to just post lots of different things and see what comes back. But remember, you need a call to action. 

I'll give you a tip for search and being found for your target niche.  Let’s say you search Pilates in Google. If you scroll down a little bit further, Google will list related questions. It will tell you exactly what the questions are that people are inputting into Google around Pilates, and you can keep clicking on them. And it expands another 10 and another 10 and another 10 and another 10. 

If you just take those headings, and you use that heading on a blog post or an Instagram post or a Facebook post, and then your information is going to get indexed.  so if you do if you take that article, post it on Facebook, post it on Instagram, post it on your blog post, they're going to index so it's definitely worth doing but use Google to get what exactly what people are searching and typing into. 

How do I get more people to come to my fitness class? By Rachel Holmes

New audiences 

I think there's a huge market for people that have long-term medical conditions or are complete beginners. I launched a program called Walk fit, and everyone walks, it's just marching on the spot. It's the busiest class I run online and hundreds of people join me every morning at six o'clock to walk on the spot. It doesn’t have to be for an hour or even 30 minutes. Think outside that box. 85% of the population are not exercising. If you can tap into the reasons why people aren't exercising, and create something around that you're going to be successful, you really are. 

Another opportunity in fitness at the moment is corporate wellness and wellbeing, working with local corporates, and working with businesses globally. So many fitness professionals now are seeing that there are budgets for this and that would mean positioning yourself on LinkedIn. 

Don't be scared of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is just like Facebook, it's no different. It's just positioning yourself a little bit more. So if that's an avenue that you want to go down to go and spend some time on, look at profiles on LinkedIn, and ask what kind of businesses would you like to work for. What could you offer? Could you reach out to human resources? 

Creating content quickly 

I'm going to give you a few tips on how to create content really quickly. So are your teaching classes today? Have you got classes on? Well, that gives you a head start before you even know it. So things like when you go into your room, take your phone and film the room that you're in tonight. 

If you're setting up your Zoom, film yourself setting up your Zoom, and show people the music that you're going to be using tonight.  Document your journey into the hall if you're hiring some space. You think no one's interested in this but people definitely are. 

If you've got an additional phone, film a time-lapse of everyone signing in. These are wonderful pieces of content that are really interesting and relevant. You don't have to do anything specific. Just document what you're doing in these little clips. 

As I say, people are buying from you. If you're doing a class online today, maybe film a little bit beforehand, and a little bit after.  With that video, you can then clip and edit it to make a Reel. So it's as if that person who's interested is just looking behind the door and thinking, “Oh, that's what it's all about. That's what you do in there.” You're just lifting the curtain back on what you're doing. 

And your potential consumer needs to see you consistently, over and over and over again. I have people all the time that come to me and say, “Oh, I'm going to join your do your business club. I've been watching you for five years.” You have to show up consistently. This comes back to my earlier point of saying that when you do social media, do it consistently because people are noticing. Don’t go all guns blazing for two weeks and then disappear. 

They might not be engaging. They might not be answering or liking your posts and you might think nobody's looking at what I'm doing. But people are seeing you. They're noticing what you do. They're seeing you show up over and over again. And in their mind that builds trust that builds consistency. You’ve just got to keep doing it for the long haul. This is social media – it’s not a quick fix or something that you can build in a week. This is something that you do for six months, a year, five years. 

I still do a live broadcast called The Fitness Show, every single day on Facebook, five days a week, at quarter past seven, the fitness show, I've done it since live started on Facebook, which is whenever that was 2016, I still do it. People still come to me in business and say, Oh, I've been watching you for weeks, I've been watching you for months, I've been watching for years before they then become a client or a customer. So it is that consistency.  

Five buckets of content 

Bucket One - Show what you do 

If you're you're selling workouts, people need to see you doing it, they need to see a little snippet, an example of you teaching a class, they want to see how you speak they want to see your eyes, they want to see your personality, they want to, they want to see you. So whether that's an actual clip of you teaching or you doing a piece to camera, or even doing a speed a time-lapse video, they need to see you in action, they need to see what it's like. So that would be one bucket of content. 

Bucket Two – What separates you? 

You know so much about fitness, so think of all the knowledge that you have in your head. You could create a daily tip, maybe how to get started, what the right bra to wear in a class is, top ten tips on choosing the right trainers or ten tips on how to improve your squat. I mean the list is endless.  It's the fastest way to get people to know, like and trust you.  They need to know you're an expert, and you are an expert. 

I think it's easier to do it in a theme. So you might do a theme around mobility tips or flexibility exercises. For Pilates, you might do myths about Pilates, or you might just showcase an exercise with some technical tips. Create some expertise content that is pertinent to your niche. 

It could be episodic content, so maybe this week, you're going to do mobility tips. Next week, you’re going to do flexibility tips. And I go round and round and round around on my social with all those types of tips. Everybody's stiff, everybody wants to be more flexible. Everybody wants to get moving and you've got the keys to that. So create little micro videos of content that just adds value and showcases your expertise. And that's a bucket of content. 

Bucket Three - Use testimonials 

Every time you post in your group, ask your people if they enjoyed the workout. People are going loved it! loved it! loved it! So screenshot those, make them into a Canva template and post them on your Stories. It's social proof. It's so powerful. It's unbelievable. People don't understand how powerful just a comment on Facebook can be. Other people see and think wow, they went to that class. They're getting great results. I could look like that person. I could go there too. They're so strong. 

If you're in a community class, get an art book and ask people at the end of class to fill it in, like we used to do in hotels with guest books. Take a snapshot of the comments and put it on social media.  It’s very strong and powerful and so simple. 

Bucket Four – Sell your services 

I think this is where a lot of us struggle.  You've got classes, you need folks in them, so talk about it, sell it and don't dress it up. Say hey guys - I've got three spaces left in my class tonight. Who's going to take it? Who's going to jump into those classes right now? You've got to sell you've got to put it out there and let people know how they bought where they book. 

It's all very well having great content, but there needs to be a sales element to it as well. I would say probably 70% content 30% sales is a nice balance. 

Number Five – Be personal 

People need to see that you're a person. If you see people in the supermarket, everybody's looking at you, everybody's looking in your trolley, if you've got normal clothes on, everybody goes, oh, we got normal clothes, nobody can quite believe that you are a normal human being. So, a bit of personal on your socials is it really helps people get to know you and think that you are a real person.


And of course, I know there are boundaries, you don't want to share everything. But just that little bit of personality, it will do wonders, great for engagement, and just builds you as a personal brand.  


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