Two Different Fitness Clients: Info for Access and Coaching Gyms

Happy athletic couple giving each other high five after finishing sports training in a gym.

How different are the clients at big-box access gyms and coaching gyms?

Answer: about as different as an NFL lineman and a marathon runner.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

Two-Brain’s 2022 “State of the Industry Report” is now at the printer, and we’ll tell you exactly how you can get it in mid-December.

I’ll offer just one important stat as a sneak peak: The average monthly price of group classes is $196 for all gyms in our survey. (While some owners of access-only gyms submitted data via our survey, the vast majority of respondents own coaching gyms.)

The monthly average is very close to the $205 average revenue per member Chris Cooper has presented as a starting point for gym owners who want to earn $100,000 per year.

Now compare those numbers to data on big-box gyms pulled out of “Actionable Industry Insights for 2023,” published by ABC Fitness Solutions:

  • 53 percent of people in the data set spend less than $25 a month on fitness, and about 5 percent spend $150-$199.
  • The most common factor that would encourage interested people to join a gym: Make membership more affordable.
  • On a list of campaigns and offers that would encourage people to join a gym, eight of the top 10 involved finance. Examples: “join for $1” and “try us free for 10 days.”
  • When it comes to membership cancelations, “financial/budgetary reasons” earned top spot—by a margin of 17 percent.
  • The most important factor that would encourage people to rejoin a gym: “make membership more affordable.”


If you own a gym, you can’t read that list without realizing the fitness world has at least two dramatically different types of consumers.

On one hand, you have a group of people who want to work out on their own in a facility that provides equipment and little else. According to the ABC report, the majority of these people budget about $25 a month for fitness, and they are highly likely to cancel their memberships due to financial concerns despite the extremely low rates they pay. For example, a price increase of $2 a month might send them running for the door even though $27 isn’t going to make or break any budget. When looking to join a gym, these consumers want crazy deals, huge discounts and free stuff.

On the other hand, our “State of the Industry” report is packed with gyms who serve another group: People who will pay $200 or more for coaching in group classes. Two-Brain data also identifies a subgroup of clients who will pay way, way more than that for packages involving personal training, nutrition coaching, sleep coaching and mindset coaching. Our September 2022 leaderboard for average revenue per member ran from $365 to $827: See it here.

You can make a living serving either group if you build the right business. But it should be clear that big-box access gyms and coaching gyms are very different.

Some people forget that. We hear about it regularly on social media when people protest that “no one will pay $250 for a gym membership.” While it’s true that some gym members will never pay $250 for access to the pec deck and recumbent bike, it’s also true that some people will pay way more than $250 for high-touch, tailored coaching that gets impressive results fast.

The key is in knowing whom you serve. Once you figure that out, you can figure out how to acquire and retain clients, and how you can add value to your service.

At a big-box gym, that might mean you focus on selling post-workout protein bars to drive up average revenue per member with people who won’t pay more than $25 for fitness but might not bat an eye when spending $5 for a snack. At a coaching gym, you might add a platinum service tier for clients who want high-touch coaching in several areas of their lives.

The principles are the same, but the exact approach will be different for each gym owner. A Two-Brain mentor can help you in either case. If you’re selling coaching or access—or even a combination, as in some gyms—a mentor can analyze your gym, help you dial in your market and tell you exactly what you need to do right now to improve your business.

To find out more about how mentors use data to help entrepreneurs build profitable gym businesses, book a call.

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