When Nicole Carlile opened Freedom Lifestyle & Fitness in Toowoomba, Australia in July 2020, just after COVID-19 lockdowns were lifted, she knew she wanted to start something different—more importantly, that people needed something different.
“Fitness isn’t just about working out, it’s about support and community,” she says. “We know every member’s name, we know their goals and we know their needs.” And they feel welcome and supported. “It’s the complete opposite of walking into a gym and feeling overwhelmed because you don’t know the equipment. That’s not how we wanted to be here.”
Carlile wanted the gym to be personal, holistic and “not just about squats and burpees,” she says. To achieve a true 360-degree experience, she needed, well, freedom. “I owned a few gyms as part of a franchise, but it was super restrictive. We couldn’t do the dietitian and mindset stuff we wanted to do, and we wouldn’t have been able to make our own app,” she says.
Here, as part of our Wix Fit Spotlight series, Carlile explains how she created an environment that fosters gym member retention, plus how she uses the Branded App by Wix to support her clients in a hybrid fitness landscape.
How do you create a non-intimidating environment?
Nicole Carlile: We’re intentional about it. We worked with an interior stylist to get the vibe that we wanted. People walk in and instantly realize that we’re different from other gyms and it makes them feel at ease. We have areas with couches to promote community and motivational quotes on the wall. We also offer childcare, because that’s an important part of supporting parents.
Our staff is warm and welcoming, too, and this is something I talk to them about as our main point of difference. If our clients feel safe and supported, they're going to come back to their workouts, and they'll achieve their goals if they’re consistent. The clients are also more welcoming of each other because they've had a good experience with the trainers. We set the tone. Members have become friends through the gym.
Tell us more about your holistic approach.
Nicole Carlile: I didn't realize how important mindset was when I first started in the fitness industry. I get why people think, it’s just about my training, it’s just about my exercise. Then, three weeks in, they're struggling with motivation or a work thing that's affecting their goals. We wanted to address this.
That’s why we have a dietitian and mindset coaches on staff, and we have mindset videos of coaching on our branded app, Freedom Online. People can see a mindset coach each month to help with a mindblock that’s affecting their fitness goals, or if there’s stress at work that they want to talk about. We’re not counselors or psychologists, so it’s more about planning forward to include practical steps that they can implement into their lives right now to stay on track. (Read more: 5 ways personal trainers can help with the mental health crisis)
How do you use the app to help your clients?
Nicole Carlile: I built my website on Wix when we opened 18 months ago, then we started using the Branded App at the end of last year. I jumped on the app really early, the first week or something like that.
I had been looking for white label app for ages. I wanted something Netflix-style with different videos people can watch, plus a way to complete fitness challenges and online programs. Before Wix launched a branded app, I had found a service that did the job, but it was ridiculously expensive. I also got quotes to get our own app developed, and it was hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So, I switched over to Wix, which saved us a lot of money, but it also suited us a lot more. (See your Branded App by Wix plan options here.) I love that the app and website are drag and drop. You don’t need to pay a developer. You can edit most of it on your phone, which is amazing, and you can see straight away how it will look. You can set up different programs people can do, so it was quite suitable for what we were looking for. (Read more about designing your own app.)
Our 10-12 week challenges are popular on the app, and we track clients for accountability. We also have an area where clients can access any type of content around mindset, nutrition, recovery, pregnancy, things like that. That part is self-paced, and members can watch the videos at any time. (More: How to shoot a workout video like a pro)
How does the app complement the in-person training experience?
Nicole Carlile: Most clients come to the gym in person, but I love that we have the app to offer them. The app helps with education and accountability. We can see who’s doing things and who’s not, so it works really well for those fitness challenges. For education, we often refer people to go watch a relevant video in the app, say, in a mindset coaching session.
The app also gives me comfort during the pandemic. I hope we don’t have another lockdown, but if we do, we’ll just put all our clients online for that time, and we can do the same if a particular client is in self-isolation. I’m so grateful that this exists.