THE BLOG
10/27/2014 12:52 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2014

Have a Running Club? 9 Ways to Keep Everyone Engaged

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​It's no mystery that running with a group can be one of the most fun ways to help you get fitter faster. Having a network to lean on that can support you while also challenge you and hold you accountable for workouts can be the best and easiest way to stay motivated. Plus, let's face it, it's so much easier to tackle those miles when you've got some great company.

Even so, whether you have a small group of friends that meet for a few miles each week or a large community group, one of the biggest challenges can be to get people to come back week after week and stick with it. So try these 10 tips for keeping your group engaged, accountable and coming back for more:

1. Group training plans: There's no "I" in group! Contact a local race that you think your group would be interested in running and see about a group discount. Provide your members with the discount on race entry and make it a club event. There's nothing like working towards a race together that will keep people coming back for more!

2. Offer incentives: What's in it for me? Well... besides a great workout with even better company, think about what else you can offer to your running crew. Consider contacting local race organizers for discounted race entries, local running stores and even healthy food and drink companies for product donations. The more you can give back to your community, the more they will give back to you. It's a win-win all around!

3. Initiate challenges: We all like a little healthy competition. Get people to come back by offering up challenges: try a virtual race for the most miles completed per month or most active member in terms of minutes. Consider offering prizes and sending out leaderboard messages each week (you can easily do this in your club's SweatGuru.com dashboard). Not sure how to initiate a challenge? Visit sites like Fi.tt or ChallengeLoop for inspiration.

4. Mix it up: One of the best ways to keep people coming back for more is to make it too damn fun to pass up. Consider swapping out one run a month for a happy hour or partner with a local yoga or fitness instructor for a monthly workout session. Or partner up with local health professionals for clinics on nutrition, training technique and complimentary cross-training to round out your regimen.

5. Paid membership: If you're looking to grow your group or offer incentives (i.e., race entry discounts, t-shirts, local running store discounts), it might make sense to have a yearly membership fee. You could use it to cover group outings (happy hours, workout classes, and even branded swag). Plus, people are more likely to commit to things they pay for. For an easy solution, you manage your club and memberships on SweatGuru.com.

6. Branded swag: Another great way to incentivize members and get them to do some marketing for you is to create fun, branded swag -- t-shirts, hats, and water bottles that have your group's name and logo on them are not only a great way to make members feel more connected but also helps you advertise your club to others. And, if members aren't paying to be part of the club, you can always sell branded swag to help cover the costs!

7. Be a brand ninja! If the majority of your group likes running with Gu or drinking Nuun, reach out to those brands to see if they will donate product or even sponsor your group for a race. It's a great way to keep members coming back, and it also gives brands a terrific channel in which to keep loyal fans engaged with their product.

8. Be social: If you're having trouble acquiring new members or retaining your current ones, make sure you're showcasing to everyone in your community just how much fun you're having. Whether you have a website or have listed your running group on SweatGuru, make sure you also have up to date social links (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) where you can document all the fun you're having. Take group photos, action shots and group outings -- just be sure you use a designated hashtag!

9. Blog: If your website has a blog, make sure you not only talk about what's happening with your run group but also with your members. Encourage them to share race recaps, photos and workouts to keep people engaged and motivated. Got a writer in the group? Ask them for guest posts to lend another voice and give everyone an inside peek at training from one member's perspective.

Even though your run club members may initially connect of their love of running, it's important to keep them engaged with a variety of other activities. Hook 'em with some great cardio, but keep 'em coming back for more by finding other common threads and mixing things up each week to keep it interesting for everyone!