In the 2007 movie The Bucket List, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson play terminally ill patients who escape the hospital ward to complete adventures on their “bucket list.” Most people can connect with the concept of a bucket list—the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”—because no one wants to die with any regrets. We all want to live our fullest lives.

As personal trainers, we can help our clients create their own fitness bucket lists—all the fitness-related adventures they’d like to do before they die. Then we can help them train for and participate in these events and adventures and fulfill their dreams. Introducing your clients to the idea of a fitness bucket list and helping them achieve the items on it will
enhance client retention and serve as a new profit center for long-term financial stability in your business.

Retaining Clients

One of the main benefits of promoting the idea of fitness bucket lists is that it helps retain clients. When several of our clients train for and finish an event on their bucket list (such as a marathon or adventure hike), they always remember that we were the ones who helped them get there and create unforgettable memories. We inspire and facilitate these “moments of magic” for our clients and that develops a sense of loyalty.

These activities also give our clients the opportunity to get to know each other and feel like part of a community. By being part of an environment that fosters the development of friendships, they want to continue training with us. They know that if they stop training, they won’t just be leaving us as their training company; they will also be leaving all the friendships they’ve developed.

Creating a New
Profit Center

Hosting events and adventures on people’s fitness bucket lists can also be a direct profit center for your business. For example, we took 14 clients to Crater Lake for a hiking, camping and biking adventure. Each paid $149 to attend, and that fee only included our organizing and fitness tour guide time. They were responsible for all other expenses, including food, travel and rentals. So do the math: 14 people 3 $149 for a weekend of fun!

Every month we host various events such as snowshoe treks, 10K fun runs, half marathons, hikes, triathlons and more. (See and click on upcoming or past events to get specifics on our events.) In 2008 our various events generated over $100,000 for our business!

In addition to the events themselves, we host various training clinics such as half-marathon training programs, track workouts, triathlon training clinics and more. These clinics serve as additional profit centers and prepare clients to do the events on their fitness bucket lists.

Getting Started

Find out what clients would put on their personal fitness bucket lists by asking them to write down anything they have ever thought of achieving regarding their own health and fitness. Which goal, if they accomplished it, would make this year unbelievable? Have they ever wanted to hike the Grand Canyon, complete a marathon or triathlon, learn to in-line skate or rock climb, or cycle the Oregon Coast? The only rule with this wish list is that none of their goals can be related to their bodies. Have them stay away from goals such as losing 10 pounds or taking 4 inches off their hips. Keep this list positive and focused away from body image. Then help figure out which item they’d like to do first and determine how you can help them. When you have enough clients who want to do the same type of adventure, organize a group event. Start with one event and see how it goes.

Managing the Event

Conducting a fitness-related event may sound like a great idea, but how do you actually put it into action? If you neglect the fine details of project management, you wind up dealing with chaos, crises, stress and an event that is not as successful as it could have been.

Here are some tips to help you create a template that you can use for all events you host.

Step 1: Timeline and Action Items. First, determine exactly what will make your event a winner. Determine all facets of the event and establish action steps and deadlines that need to be taken to guarantee a successful event.

Step 2: Permits and Rentals. Before you get too far into planning, determine if you will require any city permits or need to rent any space or equipment. Take this step before you start recruiting sponsors, developing fliers and planning details.

Step 3: Promotional Materials. Typically, you’ll use registration fliers or brochures, promotional posters, e-mail blasts and website pages to promote your event. Be sure to include the what, why, when and how in all materials. Depending on the size of the event, you need at least 2 months to effectively promote it. Simultaneously, you will need to put into place a solid registration system. Online registration is a huge advantage! (We are able to manage in-person and online registration for our smaller events. For our large events, we use To see a promotional brochure we used for our last “Girlfriends and Dudes Triathlon,” please go to

Step 4: Sponsorship Recruitment. Make a list of the items and services you are going to need. Begin approaching local businesses to rally their support for your cause. You can try to get financial sponsorship or just ask various businesses to donate their product or service in return for marketing exposure. Designating an important community beneficiary for your event makes it easier to generate support.

Step 5: Volunteer Recruitment. Regardless of the size of the event, you’re going to need some help. Depending on the event, you may require course marshals, aid station assistants, registration assistants, goody bag stuffers, a race timing crew, and setup and cleanup crews. The bigger the event, the more assistance you’ll need. For example, we only need five volunteers for an exercise-a-thon that we host, while we need 200 volunteers for a half marathon with 1,500 participants.

Step 6: Event Logistics. Be sure you’ve thought of everything from start to finish; write everything out in a timeline. For example, consider what time setup will happen and what exactly needs to be done by when. Do you have enough toilets? Will participants receive a certificate or other token of recognition when they finish?

Step 7: Postevent Responsibilities. Make sure you wrap up any postevent details, especially if you are going to run the event again next year. For example, send out a follow-up press release with results and event recap, as well as a postevent e-mail to participants and a thank-you to all sponsors, volunteers, contributors, municipalities and facility owners. E-mail them links with photos, event recaps and more so they really feel part of the occasion.

Helping clients create and fulfill a fitness bucket list may help you cross some items off your list as well! Happy planning!

A Fitness Bucket List Versus Weight Loss

As personal trainers we all recognize that the number-one reason people train is to lose weight. Many clients take the approach of “as soon as I lose the weight/get fit, then I’ll start doing the things I’ve always wanted to do.” At Northwest Personal Training, we take the opposite approach: Let’s set the goal and in the process of training for the event or activity you’ve always wanted to do, you’ll lose the weight and get fit! We’ve found this such a positive, motivating focus. For example, let’s say client “Jane” sets a goal of finishing a 10K run. Because this goal has a deadline, it provides a compelling reason to stick to the program and not miss workouts. In contrast, if the goal is to lose 10 pounds in 2 months, if Jane gets off track, she can say, “Well, I guess I can wait an additional week or two to achieve my goals.” But if she gets off track with her training program while preparing for an event, she can’t call a race organizer and ask her to postpone the event! She knows that every workout will positively affect her ability to achieve her goal. In addition, once Jane crosses the finish line, no one can ever take away this accomplishment. She will always have her medal, T-shirt and photos of crossing the finish line. With weight loss, on the other hand, she could lose the weight and then gain it back next month and feel like a failure.

A lot of status is associated with conquering a tough challenge or finishing an event. A client’s confidence and self-esteem receive a huge boost, providing her with the belief that she can achieve the next goal. Then she inherently looks toward her next fitness goal. It’s a positive spiral. With weight loss, however, it’s a negative spiral. She loses the 10 pounds but still is not happy. She then wants to lose another 5 pounds and so on. For all these reasons, we promote clients creating a fitness bucket list and completing the items on it rather than focusing on body image and weight loss.

Sherri McMillan, MS

Sherri McMillan, MSc, has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for 30 years, and has received numerous industry awards, including the 2010 canfitpro International Fitness Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and 1998 canfitpro Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is an international fitness presenter, personal trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals, including Go For Fit: The Winning Way to Fat Loss, Fit Over Forty, and The Successful Trainers Guide to Marketing, and a featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.

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