User experience for gyms, a note to gym managers

I’ve been in gyms a lot lately, whether it’s white collar boxing, generic cardio on a treadmill or powerlifting in the weights section. I’ve been at it all over the past 4 years in my ongoing pursuit of health and wellbeing, frequenting the whole range of gym type, from big box gyms to speciality boxing/powerlifting gyms, to mom n’ pop gyms for the local community. For me though, it’s difficult to turn off the analytical gremlin in my head, constantly analysing the user experience of what I’m doing, taking note of the good things, and brainstorming ideas for the bad. In this post I’ll point out my initial thoughts on UX in gyms, and how gym managers and owners can optimise the experience they provide.


Often used to give the illusion of space and openness, mirrors in gyms tend to serve a different purpose, or at least should do. Think of the end user, why they’re there, their motivations and desires. Despite what many people may be too embarrassed to admit, the primary goal for most gym-goers is to LOOK GOOD. We’re vain creatures us humans, and that’s ok, and the gym should be a safe place where you can flex and oogle your magnificent creation with pride. What I’ve noticed, however, is that mirrors in gyms so often resemble fun house mirrors, completely betraying us looking good and being happy with our workout. From a more functional point of view, mirrors are actually great aids for identifying poor form that you usually can’t see. They really are an essential element to a good gym, hence they’re at the top of the list.

My advice; pay close attention to the quality of mirror you hang in your gym, and how you hang it. Get it right and your customers will enjoy oogling themselves, while simultaneously perfecting their form. Get it wrong and you just threw away a massive opportunity for positively reinforcing your gym in your customer’s head as somewhere they like to go on a regular basis.


Similar to the mirror situation. This needs to be optimised to make your customers look and feel amazing. Don’t cheap out on incandescent bulbs or industrial lighting more at home in a warehouse. What I’ve found from gyms that have nailed their lighting is that warm lighting, possibly with a slight yellow hue, can help make your customers look more tanned and Adonis-like. Bonus points for positioning the lights over the mirror in the changing room in such a way that shadows drop below chest and abs, accentuating any definition your customer has, making them feel great and happy about paying your subscription every month.


Everyone has their personal preference when it comes to workout music. It can often depend on the type of workout too, so keeping everyone happy can be tricky. There are some pretty big no-nos that you should avoid though:

  1. Loud is good, too loud is horrible. People still need to be able to discuss how amazing that set they just did was, and how they think that girl over there in the pink shoes just checked them out. As well as this, I see a lot of people with headphones on in the gym, meaning they want to listen to their own music anyway. If they can hear your music over their own, that’s bad. Find that sweet spot where it’s not so low that the atmoshpere is weak, and not so loud that conversation is tough. Speaker position can be key here, don’t have one speaker powering a 2000sqft area.
  2. **Don’t let is stop. **C’mon people, basic DJ 101. Don’t let the music stop. Hearing the quiet groans of that old guy next to you as he reps out some bicep curls is not a good user experience. Set whatever playlist you have to loop once it gets to the end. Also, Don’t have spotify ads. Yep, I heard this before. Spotify ads between songs in a gym. It screams “This is a cheap gym that you should not be proud you attend”. Fork out for a basic subscription at least.

Soap dispensers in showers

It just makes sense. Gyms are smelly and sweaty, as they should be. Having shower gel dispensers in the showers shows that you KNOW that your customer has more important things to think about than packing soap and shampoo, like being buff and feeling amazing. This sounds a little silly, but it’s actually something that I came across recently, and was the deciding factor in making me upgrade from a free trial to a paid membership. Regarding that free trial, by the way;

Make it amazing

Don’t worry about people abusing your free trials system. Make it as flexible and care-free as possible. If your product is on point, people will WANT to pay you. They will want to be part of a gym that clearly understands them and regularly makes them feel amazing, meaning they’re far more likely to regularly attend and get actual results. Then when they’re buff and toned and they’re friends ask where they go to work out, they’ll point them to you and be a free referral system.

Creating a solid user experience isn’t easy, but if you truly understand your customers, it becomes almost common sense. I tried to keep this post fairly generic for your standard fitness gym, but if you’ve got a speciality gym, try get inside the head of your user and identify their motivations, desires, and what was wrong with the last gym they attended, and why they think yours is good, and bad. Be open and receptive, and don’t be afraid to try new things, like soap dispensers in the showers. 🙂

Did I miss something, or did I get something wrong? Let me know in the comments.

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