The Fitness Network interview with Will Smithard

How to Plan a Successful Large Scale Fitness Event

As Strategic Projects Officer, Will Smithard oversees ukactive’s strategic projects function which delivers work across health, major brands and research.

Prior to joining ukactive, Will spent the previous decade in the management consultancy industry and predominately at Deloitte, where he specialised in delivering programme leadership across global major events and in the public and private sectors. He spent almost three years seconded to the London 2012 organising committee, where he was responsible for planning, executive-level stakeholder management and reporting and governance of the Games. He also worked in the Middle East planning and implementing strategic programme management for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

We met with Will to discuss the considerations involved when planning a large scale fitness event and how gyms and health clubs can successfully run events as part of a national campaign such as National Fitness Day.


1) What should be considered when planning an event?

There are a huge number of national programmes out there that are all about inspiring and engaging people to be more physically active, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re absolutely right for every community. It’s not members, it’s the gyms and leisure providers – the people who work within those communities – that really know best. So one piece of advice I have is: don’t necessarily try and retrofit what’s already out there to deliver what you want if it doesn’t quite connect with your environment. You understand the local needs of your audiences, so think about what’s ultimately going to work for them. If there isn’t a service out there already, try and think what can be created. I think the success of National Fitness Day for us is about creating something that’s really fun, that’s at the crux of it; what we don’t want to do is be too dictatorial in terms of getting people active, we want to make sure that people are supported, but in a really fun and engaging way. We also understand that everyone’s different and people’s motivations and barriers around being physically active are very different, so there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of delivering a big event like National Fitness Day. I think the important thing is to understand the people who you want to inspire and motivate, understand their barriers, their motivations, and try and create something that really focuses on those, supporting people in a very consultative, supportive manner. Not necessarily something that is just ramming home why activity is good for you or the issues that can come from not being active enough, but delivering in a really fun, engaging manner to inspire and motivate people to move a bit more.

2) How important is it for companies to get involved?

Well in order to grow it, it’s absolutely essential that the fitness and leisure sector are completely behind the concept of scale, because in order to help it reach scale or grow, it’s totally relying on gym and leisure providers going out and activating National Fitness Day within their communities. This might involve talking to the local public, putting on events and activities that really engage those local people and delivering something very unique, very different, very compelling that helps actually form National Fitness Day itself. So realistically, we can’t actually have National Fitness Day without leisure and gym providers, they’re absolutely essential to the delivery of the programme.

3) What support does UK Active offer to organisations?

To us, National Fitness Day is a platform. It’s a platform to be able to put on your own event that connects with your communities. So what we’re looking to do is create a big social movement – so you generate a lot of media interest, you generate a lot of social media content as well and you create something which has a bit of momentum building in to the day itself, which enables members of ours and other people in the community to be able to activate something which therefore uses a lot of that momentum to deliver successful results. So what we do is create the campaign, we create the communications that go around it, and we provide support and tools to anyone to want to activate. It might be in the workplace, we have been working with partners like ASAPP Healthcare, to be able to put on very interesting, unique opportunities for employers to be able to get their employees moving a bit more. Or it might be gyms and leisure centres where we provide things like posters, social media, tweets, even draft press releases to be able to talk to your local stakeholders and to your local communities about actually taking part in the day itself.

Posted in Gyms & Clubs, Interviews, The Fitness Network.