State of the Fitness Industry: New Tools

State of the Fitness Industry: New Tools

I recently bought a treadmill.

I took the advice of other people like me online. I don’t know them, but they do the same sports I do, so their recommendations were worth a $3,000 purchase.

On Tuesday, I received a shipping notification from the treadmill company.

On Wednesday, I got a little email showing me how to unbox the treadmill, how to set it up and how to start out.

On Thursday, I got one more email: some tips to start (and stick with) a walking program—because most treadmill buyers are first-time exercisers.

I used to sell treadmills for a living. I know that most treadmills turn into clothes racks within a month and garage-sale items within a year. I know that the industry was front-loaded: People bought one treadmill in their life, and the transaction ended there.

But home fitness equipment companies have new opportunities. They can sell ongoing subscriptions to training plans or online classes or games like Zwift, Aaptiv, Mirror, Tonal, Hydrow … and they can call it “coaching.”

But we can turn it around on them.


First: The Tools You Need


When I found online scheduling software in 2005, it was a huge epiphany: We could throw out our messy day planners and let clients choose their own appointments. No more no-shows or last-minute cancellations. And then, in 2006, we found MindBody, which tied payments to bookings! Hallelujah: no more awkward “you owe money” talks with clients!

But since then, software tools in the fitness industry have morphed into slow “scoreboards” with appointment tracking and payments tacked on as an afterthought. (There are a few good ones bucking the trend—read our detailed report here.) But what do gym owners really need to run a business?

I think it’s:

  • A client relationship management (CRM) platform to track clients and leads (we like UpLaunch).
  • An appointment scheduler that integrates with payment processing.
  • Something to track client results and show their progress.

By the end of next year, you’ll need:

  • A way to deliver programming to clients who aren’t in the gym and have them track their progress.
  • A better camera and microphone.
  • A nutrition program for everyone you coach.
  • A fluency in tools available to you outside your gym.

In our report on coaching software, we found that Trainerize has a lot of this covered. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably the best option for personal trainers, and maybe the best choice for gym owners, too. At least for now: Several others were close.

But the tools don’t make the coach. Tools should extend and scale your care, not replace it. In the end, your success will be determined by the personal care you extend, not the emails you automate.

And new tools give you the opportunity to extend that care into new markets. Below, I’ll tell you how to see these tools as opportunities instead of competition.


Second: The Tools You Don’t Need


Many gyms sign up for things they don’t need and then fail to use them.

Then, when they do an expense audit, they add up what they’ve spent and regret the purchases.

Here’s what you shouldn’t spend your money on in 2020:

  • Marketing agencies that will “do it for you.” Every marketing agency is incentivized to increase ad spend. They’re a lot like mutual fund salespeople: As the market gets worse, they tell you to spend more. It has a ratchet effect that costs you more and more for fewer results. And without skin in the game, marketing agencies really never have to get creative with their own money. Learn to do it yourself, teach a staff person, and continually track and improve your funnel instead.
  • Coaching courses that teach something beyond the scope of fitness. Partner with local health-care professionals instead. Read “Scope of Practice” here.
  • Equipment or education you can’t tie directly to more revenue. Too many box owners are over-educated and poor. Plan to upgrade your coaching education in 2021 and your business education in 2020.


Third: The New Opportunities


Online spin classes, Zwift, remote trainers—they aren’t your competition. They’re a breeding ground for your next clients.

Every time a spin bike company sells a monthly “coaching” subscription, it’s doing you a favour. The company is teaching its clients the value of coaching.

You don’t have to do that part anymore. All you have to do is reach those people and tell them that you’re the next step.

Now, I’ve screwed this up. When I brought CrossFit to our city, I thought I was competing with P90X. Remember that? A bunch of DVDs that people followed for eight weeks.

A couple of firefighters told me “I don’t need to do CrossFit. I can do P90X at home!” so I thought I was in a life-or-death battle with the program.

What I should have said was, “That’s great! I hear good things. When you get bored, give me a call.” And then I should have called them eight weeks later—because everyone got bored with P90X. They would have been ready for CrossFit. I could have said, “You’ve taken Step 1! Here’s Step 2.”

People sign up for at-home coaching programs for many reasons. One is that they’re scared to exercise in front of other people. They think, “I’ll get started at home and then join a gym.” But if you tell them that’s dumb (like I did), they’ll just stay in their basement. If you pit yourself against the treadmill company, you’re also pitting yourself against its user.


Not-so-Obvious On-Ramps

Here’s another story: I used to publicly denounce laparoscopic surgery. I thought our government was crazy to subsidize “the easy way out.” I thought people were wasting their time having their stomachs cinched off with rubber bands. I thought they should exercise instead.

One day, as I was working up a good rant about it to a couple of clients, one of them touched me on the arm to interrupt.

“Chris,” she said kindly, “I’ve had the surgery.”

I was shocked: “You, Cathy? I don’t believe it!”

Cathy was one of our most hardcore CrossFitters at the time. She followed every blog, watched every video. She’d usually be the one to fill me in on the CrossFit Games gossip.

But she’d had stomach-reduction surgery. And she changed my viewpoint with what she said next:

“I needed to feel good about myself before I could join a gym.”

Laparoscopic surgery wasn’t my enemy. It was my on-ramp!

Peloton isn’t your enemy. It’s your on-ramp!

Bowflex isn’t your enemy. Strava and Zwift aren’t your enemies. Orangetheory isn’t your enemy. They’re all on-ramps to your service!

Instead of “us, not them,” we should be saying, “Would you like a bit more?”


Leveraging the New Tools


Think about online coaching the way you’d think about a library.

“Here is all of the information you’ll ever need organized in one place.”

But nobody learns how to do open-heart surgery at the library. No one quits smoking after reading a book about it. And no one reads the same book every day. Eventually, people need a teacher. And then they need a coach.

If I wanted to attract local cyclists to my gym (and I do, because I am one of them!), I would start by posting my own rides on Strava.

In my Strava profile, I’d post a link to a local group ride. I’d create the ride if none existed.

At the group ride, I’d mention how much my climbing speed had improved since adding front squats.

Then I’d say, “Hey, all of you guys keep asking me about front squats. Tell you what: Let’s just start the ride from my gym next week, and I’ll show you what I mean.”

And then I’d book 1:1 appointments with each person who showed up.

People seek out groups of others like them. The key to marketing is “finding the others.” The key to sales is showing “the others” how you can help them.

I searched for “Peloton” on Facebook and found dozens of open groups and forums. Here were a few categories:

What if I told you that the next 20 clients for your gym were waiting in those groups? Would you dive in and grab those gold coins?


How to Take Action in 2020


Forget about ads: Start 20 new conversations next year. (Actually, run your ads, too—and retarget the new audiences you create through these conversations. Your ad spend will go down and your conversions will increase.)

Write love letters to the people in these groups.

Talk to them on video. Record a podcast—whatever. Show them you care and how you can help them.

If I had an Orangetheory franchise next door, I’d be happy. Orangetheory is great at taking average people who are scared of intense exercise and introducing them to our world.

Over time, the thing these people once considered “extreme” becomes normalized in their brains. And then it’s easier to introduce something that’s just a little … bit … harder. Instead of taking them from a zero to a 9 on the “things I’m willing to do to lose weight” scale, we can allow Orangetheory to take them from zero to six and then accept the baton.

Microgym owners who open next to globo gyms are also very smart: People can try to exercise on their own and then add coaching when the results slow down.

Turning these potential competitors into new opportunities doesn’t require a pivot in your business model. It doesn’t require a rebrand. It requires a new perspective. That’s really what a mentor is for.


Other Articles in This Series

State of the Fitness Industry: 2019
State of the Fitness Industry: Your Brand
State of the Fitness Industry: The Disappearing Middle
State of the Fitness Industry: Rebirth

The Panic Vaccine

The Panic Vaccine

It’s the 28th of the month.

You don’t have enough for the rent.

You just remembered your insurance is due. And this is a three-pay month … .

Anxiety is your cardio now.

You live in constant fear of “what’s going to happen next?” because you’re stuck in a meteor shower, and you know that any little hit could be your last. You’re overwhelmed, overworked, and just kinda over it.

That’s panic.

And data is the vaccine.


What Data Does


Data tells you, “Here’s how other gym owners got through this same situation.”

Data tells you, “Next month will be better.”

Data tells you, “Here’s how to stop this from ever happening again.”

Data is the laser beam that blasts the falling rocks out of the sky before they get close to you.

Data is clarity. Data is a look into the future. Data is absolutely critical to the success of your business.

So why isn’t there any data in the fitness business?

Because, until now, no one would collect it, analyze it and report on it.


Data and Duty


Big chain gyms collect tons of data about their customers’ spending habits. They know when they’re busy. They create budgets around peak seasons. They know when to boost their ad spend, when to hire and when a client is about to leave.

But they don’t share.

Franchisors collect data on their franchisees but don’t give that data back for analysis because it’s their intellectual property. Gathering data is very hard and very expensive, and they want to keep it in the mothership.

And licensors, like CrossFit, don’t collect data at all because they charge too little to pay for that level of business support.

When I visited CrossFit HQ last year, I asked the question over breakfast:

“What if you tracked data for all of your gyms and just released it for anyone to analyze?”

The response: “Good idea. But we’re not going to do it.”

I quickly realized that our company, Two-Brain Business, was in a unique position: We were already the largest mentorship practice in the world, and gym owners trusted us. We had the resources and the ability.

That made it our duty to collect data, analyze it professionally and report back to the community who shared it with us.


The Two-Brain Dashboard


We unveiled the new Two-Brain Dashboard to those in our Incubator and Growth Stages last week. It’s simple and clean but very powerful—all of the individual gym’s information stays private, but we can analyze metadata trends that will benefit the whole industry.

Most importantly, the dashboard makes it really easy for a gym owner to enter data, track it long term and see trends in his or her own gym.

But this is just the start!

The Dashboard will also clearly show gym owners their next step in the path to wealth. Using data and experience collected from over 10,000 one-on-one mentorship calls, our mentor team has mapped several paths to Tinker Phase. Those will show up on the Dashboard soon.

No one else has done it. No one else will. But when you care this much, it’s your duty to give as much help as you can.

Take your hand off the panic button.

Write down your numbers.

Write down your feelings (they’re important, too).

Next time you’re panicked, look back.

Then look ahead. Build your path with stones instead of shifting sand.

And call if you need help.

Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.

Episode 114: The Baltimore Connection

Episode 114: The Baltimore Connection


2:46 – The Baltimore Crew Introduction

5:00 – Meet the Baltimore Crew

6:10 – What brought CrossFit to Baltimore and how did the Baltimore Crew get started?

8:14 – Reacting to an employee leaving your gym to start their own

11:41 – Providing a holding spot for a fellow CrossFit Gym owner

14:39 – How Butch got started in the CrossFit World

16:26 – What it is like to leave a high paying job to start a CrossFit Gym

19:45 – Catering to individuals with a new take on the CrossFit Box model

23:50 – How rare is it to have box owners working together?

32:20 – What it was like to join Two-Brain after being a longtime box owner

33:58 – How to be vulnerable amongst your fellow gym owners

35:29 – What is the first step to forming a box owner group?

40:09 – What happens if there is a dispute amongst gym owners within the group?

42:00 – Here is what to do when you encounter a difficult client

44:26 – What does it take to be a part of the Baltimore Crew or to be kicked out?


In the Baltimore group:

Butch Santucci, WreckRoom CrossFit

Ardyth Hall, Push511 A CrossFit Life

Geo Rockwell, CrossFit Federal Hill

Matt Ropke, Clipper City CrossFit

Bronson Dant, CrossFit PCR

Kevin Lynch, Nevermore CrossFit

Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.

On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories, and Sean Woodland has great stories from the community on Wednesdays.

Thanks for listening!

To share your thoughts:


To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help, and we read each one.
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Episode 113: Working With Entrepreneurs

Episode 113: Working With Entrepreneurs

Your gym is a platform. On that platform, you can sell fitness through group classes, or one-on-one. You can also sell nutrition coaching, or smoothies, or guitar lessons. I sell cognitive training on mine. And some gyms are starting to sell co-working space between their class times.

When the building beside my gym came up for sale last May, I jumped on it. I bet half a million dollars that entrepreneurship would save my city, and that the next generation of founders would need my gym to help them thrive.

YOU probably don’t want to do the same. But you can partner with co-working spaces, service professionals and clubs in your city to meet–and attract–some of the best clients you’ll ever have.


In this episode, Eden breaks down what we sell at the Workshop, what we teach Entrepreneurs, and how we get them next door–into the gym.


I also talk about the concept of “Skin in the Game”, what I think of “free” mentorship, and why CrossFit gym owners have to learn FASTER than other entrepreneurs.


For more, deeper reading, I recommend Nassim Taleb’s new book, Skin In The Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. Get the audio version so you don’t miss the dry jokes.


Got a question for Chris? Visit and ask away!

Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.

On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories, and Sean Woodland has great stories from the community on Wednesdays.

Thanks for listening!

To share your thoughts:


To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help, and we read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.
Episode 112: Where Should Your Focus Be?

Episode 112: Where Should Your Focus Be?

Episode 112 – Where Should Your Focus Be?

I still do between 5 and 15 free calls every week with gym owners. I’ve been doing that for over 5 years.

Over that time, the quality of questions has gone up, and the number of panicked “going-out-of-business tomorrow” calls have declined. I’m pretty grateful for that. It makes the thousands of blog posts, videos and books worthwhile. So congrats, gym family! We’re doing SO much better!

In the last six months, our educational content–including this podcast–has really focused on getting gyms to the next level: freeing up the owners’ time, creating passive revenue and paying themselves more. But what many current callers really need is FOCUS: they’re trying to do everything for everyone all the time, and really getting nothing done as a result.

Markets are different, depending on the age of your box, and your city’s exposure to CrossFit. Competition between boxes (and between gyms) is different. Every single gym requires a different strategy. And while most gym owners understand they’re not the same as anyone else, they don’t know how to play to their strengths, or avoid doing worthless work.

For example, many OG gyms–the first CrossFit gym in a major city, for example–used to brag about achieving success without “any marketing whatsoever.” Unfortunately, many of them are now gone, or struggling. As the market around them matured, and their target audience changed, their tactic of “wait for people to find me” just stopped working.

Let’s say you were the first CrossFit gym in Capital City (I’m making up a name to keep it anonymous, because I can name a specific example in every major city, and I don’t want the owners to think I’m picking on them). You opened your doors in 2006 or 2007. Slowly, a band of outcasts and rogues started showing up. These were the early adopters. They were evangelists. They would have posted pictures of their torn palms if they had Facebook accounts back then. But they WOULD bore their friends to death talking about CrossFit.
Then they left: do do a Ragnar race, or open their own box and try to qualify for the Games.

They, in turn, attracted the Early Adopters: the folks who wanted to be like them. These were the torn-palm pics (“see how hardcore I am, daddy? Just like YOU!!!”) These were the first to popularize CrossFit on Facebook. They were quiet evangelists, but they drew a lot of people with their crazy posts about doing Fran-Murph on Sunday.

But meanwhile, the OG gym owner wondered why his trickle of newcomers was slowing down. Maybe he read Nicki Violetti’s original article about OnRamp in the Performance Menu, and thought “Gee, I should do OnRamp” but was paralyzed by other business advice. So he gave every coach a share of the gym and went back to his firefighting job. Then he blamed the coaches when sales didn’t go up.

Meanwhile, the Early Majority clients began to flood into the newer gyms. For a little while, hanging a sign on a wall was more than enough to draw people in. I remember my friends Luke and Bree getting ready to open. They had a bright red rig. People could see it through the front window. Passersby would bang on the window and ask, “Are you doing CrossFit in there?” They opened with 63 clients on the first day, if memory serves (that was 2014.)

And then the story played out again, into the third wave…

Every city, every box, is at a different point in their lifecycle. Some places in Europe are still attracting early adopters. Some places in Southern California are fighting over the laggards. And everyone is trying to stay on top of the curve, because there’s still PLENTY of opportunity. CrossFit is still growing. But the guy who showed up in 2006, bought his Infidel t-shirt online, followed the CrossFit Greyskull and Couch Thread sagas closely, and camped overnight at the Ranch–he’s long gone.

Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.

On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories, and Sean Woodland has great stories from the community on Wednesdays.

Thanks for listening!

To share your thoughts:


To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help, and we read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.
Episode 111: Love and Logic with Garner Tullis

Episode 111: Love and Logic with Garner Tullis

Garner has a lot of life experiences to share on today’s show. He is married, has five girls, and has also taken up four completely different profession throughout his career. Upon graduating high school in the early 1970s, he ended up moving to Oregon and working some dangerous jobs within the logging industry. After saving up over one hundred thousand dollars, He and his brothers bought a farm in Oregon. After working the farm for years and years, Garner realized he was going to become half bent over and crazy if he works on a farm for another 40 years and decided to jump into the futures and trading industry in Chicago in June of 1979.


It wasn’t until the mid-90s when Garner became a person of faith and decided to become a youth pastor at his church that his journey toward building an organization that can reach out to youth in his community began. Since beginning the ministry of Our Greater Good, they have been able to start many programs within local schools in Valparaiso, IN. This has been making a huge difference for not only the students in his community but also the parents as well.


It wasn’t long after the start of the foundation that Garner became heavily involved in triathlons and fitness in general. After being invited to workout at a CrossFit gym one day, he instantly became hooked on this new found passion. It was at this point that he met a local CrossFit leader at another gym across town and learned that he wanted to open a second gym. Together they opened Top Fuel CrossFit which is still running strong to this day.


Nowadays in Garner’s spare time, he has helped start Love and Logic which is a program being used in local schools that provides parenting classes to strengthen families.  Join us today as we discuss not only CrossFit but also how to build a better, strong family in the process!



2:10 – Garner Tullis Introduction

4:00 – Garner Tullis’s story about growing up and how he got to where he is now

6:37 – From the farm to trading livestock futures in Chicago

7:27 – Becoming a person of faith

10:48 – The beginnings for the idea behind Our Greater Good

14:14 – What actually converted Garner to a person of faith?

19:50 – The opening of Top Fuel CrossFit

21:24 – The Love and Logic program being instituted in local schools

25:28 – How do faithfulness and fitness strengthen each other?

29:25 – How do parents react to the Love and Logic program?

37:48 – Transitioning to a new business and putting past skills to use

41:35 – What are some steps gym owners can take to spend more time with their family?

45:33 – Garner Tullis on Barbeque!



Contact Garner:

Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.

On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories, and Sean Woodland has great stories from the community on Wednesdays.

Thanks for listening!

To share your thoughts:


To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help, and we read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.