AI and Gyms: Robo-Coach Breaks Client’s Hand With High-Five

A graphic showing a robot doing biceps curls with red dumbbells.

Machines might be able to do many of the jobs humans do, but they aren’t human.

They don’t live inside your head and feel what you feel.

They can create superficial connections, but they can’t replace people and personal relationships.

It’s important for gym owners to remember that as artificial intelligence shows up more often.


Stories and Care


Stories are the key to building an audience.

And care is the key to building relationships.

Yes, you can tell AI to write a blog post about “how I discovered fitness and why I wanted to start a gym.” It could create something that might even be in the neighborhood of “not inaccurate.” But you can’t program AI to tell real, genuine stories—the kinds of tales that a service business actually needs.

Example: “Write a blog about how happy Bob was with his deadlift PR the other day.”

A machine could riff on that subject, sure. So could I, the same way a fortune teller can lead a person on with vague statements.

But I don’t know Bob and his history, and AI doesn’t either. The bot wasn’t there when the PR happened. It doesn’t feel emotion. Its story would be based on 200 keystrokes of cold data, not 200 personally coached workouts over the course of a year.

One step further: You could get a machine to send Bob a text message congratulating him on his PR. You might even program in a level of detail that would prevent Bob from knowing the machines have taken over.

But AI isn’t going to look Bob in the eyes; grab his chalk-covered, callused hand; and tell him, “You earned this, my friend.”

You have to do that. And your coaches have to do that. And then you need to tell that story to other clients and prospective clients.

Some tech tools can assist along the way, but you are the essential part of the system—you, your experiences, and your relationships.


Real Relationships


Busy, forward-thinking entrepreneurs are right to try and find ways to buy more time, offload tasks, reduce costs and solve problems. And AI can be a small part of that—just not at the expense of real stories and real relationships.

In a microgym that provides coaching, stories and relationships are the keys to client acquisition and retention. They’re the soul of the business. The stickier your stories and the stronger your relationships, the more profitable your business will be.

If you’re truly focused on serving about 150 people—a great target for a gym owner who wants to make $100,000—you’d be wise to emphasize the human touch. You can’t compete with the super-hot AI trainer who doesn’t need sleep and comes to a person’s living room on demand to crank the fully licensed Top 10 tunes and deliver a workout. But the person who wants that experience isn’t your ideal client.

At a microgym, your ideal client is looking for coaching, care and connection—a real video message from a real person when three workouts in a row are missed, a high-five after a hard session, a hug when a beloved pet passes away.

Use technology, computers and AI to improve the client experience, but don’t make those things the core of your client experience. Make relationships and trust the foundation of your business.


When to Use AI for Gym Media


In this series, we’ve been looking at the role of AI in a business, with emphasis on media.

Here’s what AI is good for:

  • Saving time and adding volume when you need generic copy—like ads or perhaps social-media posts.
  • Reducing the costs associated with producing that volume.
  • Fulfilling roles in a carefully optimized, stress-tested, human-monitored system.


What AI can’t do:

  • Create the system, optimize it and ensure it works properly.
  • Break through all the other AI content to build your audience.
  • Make and maintain real connections for you.
  • Tell your unique story.


If you’re considering adding AI to your business, remember this: In a coaching business, there is no substitute for a personal connection.

Offload simple media tasks just the way you would offload cleaning, bookkeeping and even coaching classes.

But don’t ever offload client care in a coaching gym. If you do, you won’t have anyone to coach.

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