gym owner

Gym Owner Debate: Allow Late Arrivals Or Make ‘Em Do Burpees?

As a gym owner, where do you stand on late arrivals to classes? Today, we're looking at various policies and viewpoints to help you decide what's best!

Emily Beers
May 8, 2023
Gym Owner Debate: Allow Late Arrivals Or Make ‘Em Do Burpees?
As a gym owner, where do you stand on late arrivals to classes? Today, we're looking at various policies and viewpoints to help you decide what's best!

This month on the PushPress blog, it’s the great gym owner debate! We’re having some fun discussing topics where fitness business owners traditionally vary in viewpoints. We invite you to check out each days’ topic, then join the conversation in the PushPress Facebook community!

There’s always that one member. It’s five minutes into the start of class when they come strolling in. Or even worse, what about the member who shows up 15 minutes late and misses the entire whiteboard briefing?

For some gym owners, this is disruptive and inconsiderate. For others, it just is what it is. And on this topic, there’s even a third group: The penalty burpees crew.

Gym owner debate: Late-arrival policies
Gym owner debate: Allow late arrivals or make ‘em do burpees?

Many are scared of implementing a late-arrival policy for fear of losing clients. However, those who do have rules in place say that members are appreciative. So to help you decide on what’s best for your gym, we’re looking at both sides.

First, let’s look at some common late-arrival policies created by gym owners:

Common Late-Arrival Policies.

The most important part of implementing a late-arrival policy is communicating with your members. First, explain why you’re implementing the rule in the first place.

For example, late arrivals that are more than 10 minutes past the start of class can be detrimental to class performance. Explain to members that it’s important to warm up and be present for the workout briefing. This is how they stay safe and protects the class environment you’re trying to provide. By sharing the “why behind the what,” you’ll help them to understand the reason you’ve created the policy.

Then, state the rule and remind members that your coaches will be enforcing it.

1. Zero Tolerance.

The zero-tolerance policy states that if you’re late, you cannot participate in class. Some gyms have even gone so far as to lock the doors at class time to enforce the rule. And surprisingly, there are generally no questions asked.

As a gym owner, it’s okay to create policies like this in order to protect the atmosphere of your classes. However, the last thing you want is for your members to learn about this policy the hard way. Therefore, it’s crucial to inform clients about the rules right from the start. Build it into your onboarding program, post it on a policies board or use multiple channels to communicate the policy.

2. The 10-Minute Cut-Off.

With this policy, anyone who joins the class within 10 minutes of the start time may quietly join in. After the 10-minute mark, clients must wait until the start of the next class.

This policy is kind of a “happy medium” for the gym owner. You’ll avoid having clients who completely miss the warmup and workout briefing. For the most part, this should help to alleviate the feeling of class disruption for other members.

Fitness class explanation of the workout
Implementing late-arrival policies ensures everyone understands the workout.

3. The Burpee Penalty.

An example of the burpee penalty is having a member do a certain number of burpees for each minute they were late to class.

There are two parts to the penalty policy, whether it’s burpees or other fitness movements. First, it’s showing clients the importance of being on time. Second, it’s getting them to move and warm up their body, since they most likely missed the group warmup. Despite these two reasons, it’s important for a gym owner to consider that there can be an air of humiliation to this policy. And especially for those who are new, intimidated or self-conscious, this should be taken into consideration.

Pro Tip: Use PushPress Grow to quickly and seamlessly send out policy updates and other info to your entire gym. Book a demo with our team today to find out how!

The “Things Happen” Gym Owner Mindset.

For every gym owner with a late-arrival policy, there are just as many who take the completely opposite view. This group believes that as long as the person isn’t disruptive, let ‘em in.

For gym owners in this category, the mindset is that things happen. Your members aren’t intentionally trying to be disruptive to the class, so be kind and don’t take it personally.

Consider this: Your members are paying you to be there. So if they miss 10 minutes of class time, it’s only detrimental to them. Yes, it may take an extra minute or two to catch them up and keep them safe, but being empathetic is a valuable benefit to them. Especially if it only happens sporadically, they’ll notice how you took the time. This goes a long way for the member experience and increasing gym retention numbers.

Further, your fitness business is where people come to de-stress. If being late creates another layer of stress in their life, it’s now becoming counterproductive. And as a gym owner, would you rather have people show up late or not at all?

Finally, intention matters. If the same member casually strolls in late day after day with a fresh cup of coffee in hand, it might be time to have a conversation. Once again, it might simply be a matter of explaining why it’s important to be on time. From their safety to the membership value, it’s important to protect them and your business.

When A Gym Owner Chooses ‘Help First’ Over Policies.

As you look at the options and decide what’s best for your gym regarding late arrivals, put yourself in the shoes of a member.

Imagine you just had a long, stressful day at work. At the end of the day, your meeting runs late. On the way to the gym, your spouse calls to say they’ll be late so you need to pick up one of the kids from practice. You can get it done, but it means you’ll be about 10 minutes late for class.

Help first mentality for gym members
Improve retention and member experience with a ‘help first’ mentality.

You scramble, make it happen and arrive frantically at the gym - your happy place - for the 50 remaining minutes of “me time.” For this 50 minutes, you get to de-stress and focus on something healthy for you.

Now, put your gym owner hat back on. Do you really want to turn this parent away or make him/her do penalty burpees?

The point is, you don’t always know what your client has gone through that day. Or that week or month, for that matter. So sometimes it’s worth taking a ‘help first’ mentality giving them the benefit of the doubt. Greet them with, “Happy to see you! I’ll get you up to speed on what we’re doing today.”

In Summary: Choose Late-Arrival Policies Wisely

Deciding on a late-arrival policy for your gym is a balancing act. It’s important to protect both your members’ safety and the ideal class environment. It’s tough to run a class if multiple people are late consistently, and disruptive if the same person is late day after day. But if someone shows up late here and there, is quiet and respectful about it, it might be better to just let it go.

Ultimately, it’s your choice as the gym owner. Consider the various options and the stress in your clients’ daily lives outside of the gym. Then choose the policy that best aligns with your vision and core values.

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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