How Any Gym Owner Can Run a Nutrition Challenge

The Wodify Guest Blog Series is part of our initiative to open our doors to the Wodify fitness community around the world, so they may share their experiences, news, and advice.

EC Synkowski runs OptimizeMe Nutrition, a company offering B2B/B2C educational products, mobile app-based challenges, and corporate wellness programs. She holds an MS in Nutrition & Functional Medicine and is a Certified Level 4 CrossFit coach.

Nutrition challenges are a great way to engage one’s community beyond group classes while simultaneously delivering better results! Nutrition is the foundation for health and performance, so incorporating nutrition services is a win-win for a gym owner. The problem is, running a good nutrition challenge takes work. A month-long nutrition challenge can require 60+ hours from the organizer (and that’s even with a helpful app like Wodify Rise to handle all the scoring).

Does it really take that much work?!
A good one does. 

In a good nutrition challenge, members get enough direction AND motivation to make proper dietary changes that result in weight loss, better performance, and/or improvements towards their personal goals like being able to keep up with their kids. Good nutrition challenges get participants seeing real results in just four weeks!

But delivering this value requires a lot of organization and planning. When a gym owner decides to run a nutrition challenge, they need to consider the three phases:

  1. Planning Period
  2. Promotion Period 
  3. Challenge Period

I recommend reviewing all three phases and developing material in the Planning Period before beginning the Promotion Period. I like to spend at least two weeks developing my materials (described below) before promoting any challenge. 

Build exciting digital challenges with Wodify Rise.
Nutrition, weight loss, wellness.

Planning Period

To get things started right, the gym owner/organizer has to decide what type of nutrition challenge they want to run (e.g., Paleo, No Sugar, Macros, etc.) They must come up with an idea and figure out their rules for permissable foods. They need to think this through completely as there will be a lot of questions. A lot of questions! 

Next, they have to determine the point system. For example, if they decide to do a “no sugar” challenge, what sweeteners, if any, are allowed and how do members score their results? Will there be enough of a point spread to decide a winner? Are there points for working out, and if so, what counts as a workout? 

The organizer needs to outline all of this ahead of time, as well as how they plan to run their leaderboard. (As much as I love Google, I don’t recommend spreadsheets for a nutrition challenge leaderboard!)

Other details to consider include: 

  1. Staff roles and responsibilities;
  2. Challenge start/stop dates;
  3. Registration system and price;
  4. How the winner will be decided; and 
  5. Prizes!

Promotion Period

The Promotion Period occurs weeks before the challenge begins, when the gym starts marketing their challenge to members. From personal experience, I recommend promoting your challenge three weeks ahead of time. This may sound like a long time, but driving sign-ups requires a coordinated effort across multiple channels to maximize reach. Most members are busy and won’t see all of the gym’s posts or emails. 

Ideally, the marketing campaign will include social media posts, emails, blog posts, in-person meetings, and flyers at the gym. Here is a suggested minimum number of assets:

  • Website/Blog Post - 1
  • Flyers for the Gym - 1
  • Emails to the Member List - 2
  • In-person Meetings (Coaches & Members) - 2
  • Social Media Posts - 5

A gym owner can certainly add more, but they should try to maximize reach without being too overbearing. Also, the registration and payment system needs to be set-up before any promotion begins so that each communication has a clear call-to-action directing members to the sign-up page. Here is a suggested template calendar for an overall marketing campaign:

Download Promotion Period pdf here.

Each gym owner is encouraged to tweak this template based on their own experience, using the channels that have worked best in their community. Whatever they do, owners should not underestimate the importance of in-person meetings (with coaches/staff and potential participants). 

Early in the promotion period, I strongly recommend that the challenge organizer sit down with their staff to explain the challenge. This meeting is important because the entire staff will become an extension of the marketing campaign to target members before and after classes. Armed with information, they can answer questions and drive community interest. Digital marketing is great, but an in-person connection is better. It is ideal that coaches participate in the challenge as well to send the message that members should, too. It’s a hard sell if coaches are telling members to do something they are not!

It is also highly recommended to hold a meeting for members the week before the challenge starts.This is where the gym owner can cover the basics of the challenge, explain why the gym is running it, what the rules are, and what participants can expect. In my experience, most sign-ups occur following an in-person meeting with members at the gym. 

I’d also recommend creating a one-sheet with basic challenge info (e.g., dates, rules, price) to pass out at the meeting. It probably sounds outdated to suggest paper copies in the digital age, but a physical printout can be really useful in this environment. 

The Promotion Period is the most time-intensive phase.

The gym owner has to run a marketing campaign, handle an increase in customer service, develop material for the Challenge Period (below), all while keeping up with their other day-to-day responsibilities. 

Challenge Period

The first few days of the challenge are usually pretty busy with last-minute registrations, scoring or app questions, and clarifications about food rules. This will drop off after the third day or so and will allow the gym owner to focus on the content for the Challenge Period. 

One of the biggest issues with nutrition challenges is trying to prevent members from dropping out early. Everyone starts with a ton of motivation, but it’s pretty typical to have at least a third of registrants not finish the challenge. One of the best ways to combat this is to provide regular content that keeps participants interested and motivated. The gym owner decides how to distribute the content; it could be with an app messaging system like Wodify Rise, a closed Facebook group, or even via an email distribution list. Whatever the channel, it’s that your participants receive targeted content that matters.

But what does the content consist of? Some of the best posts can come from member questions. If a gym owner has answered the same question more than once, a short blog or Facebook post for the whole group can be valuable. There are plenty of other topics to consider:  tips to make the challenge easier, what to order in restaurants, challenge-compliant recipes, or even a success story. Regular messaging helps remind people to stick with the challenge, particularly when they see how many others are. 

I’d recommend at least 2 posts or emails per week directed towards the group. You will find a template schedule in the calendar below. Again, owners should not worry about following this exactly! I’ve had gyms do things like challenge-approved potluck dinners, which can be a big hit! Each owner knows their community best and should pick the events or resources that will resonate with them. In addition, I also recommend a public-facing weekly social media post. The purpose is two-fold: it continues to provide value, and interest, to members who didn’t sign up, and to show the greater community (i.e., potential members!) all the services at the gym. 

Download Challenge Period pdf here.

Finally, it is important to have one or two final posts at the end of the challenge announcing the winners and prizes, as well as sharing any member successes. 

And, that’s it! It may seem like a lot, but having a good plan and simply following through on that plan is half the battle. The good news is that hard work builds the culture at the gym. When members see the results of their nutrition challenge and have a positive experience, other members want to join in. It will create buzz. Those that missed out will ask when the next challenge starts, creating a snowball effect. I’ve had gyms sign up 30% of their member base because of the culture they have created around nutrition challenges (and have generated $9,000 in revenue as a result). 

Interested in running a nutrition challenge without starting from scratch? 

Why not run the plug-n-play #800gChallenge® I’ve created for Wodify Rise! Join the over 200 gyms that have run the #800gChallenge® with pre-built marketing and content materials. Combined with the interactive Wodify Rise app for scoring and content distribution, gym owners can reduce their workload by 80% and still reap the benefits of offering a rewarding challenge to their members! Email me ( with questions or to get product samples. 

Ready to put what you’ve learned into practice?
Download a free PDF handbook with many of NCFIT’s gym management procedures and philosophies that you can implement in your gym today.
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