State of the Fitness Industry: The Disappearing Middle

State of the Fitness Industry: The Disappearing Middle

Think about the gym industry as a spectrum of coaching.

On the left side, we have gyms selling access. No coaching, just a monthly membership.

On the right side, we have coaches selling only coaching: no access without appointment, everything done one-on-one. In some cases, there’s no equipment at all; clients have to join a gym to do their homework.

In the middle, we have group fitness classes.

That’s where things get murky.

Big globo-gyms offer group fitness classes for free with membership or for a tiny rate. These classes are usually minimalist in terms of equipment—like spin bikes or yoga mats or “pump” classes with PVC weights or Zumba. Coaches are mostly following preset choreography (playlists and moves).

Slightly to the right are the group-class-coaching gyms, like Orangetheory or Barry’s Bootcamp. Coaches still follow preset choreography, but the equipment is more varied and the atmosphere is more exclusive. They can be more intense because the clients accept that intensity coming in.

This is where most owner-operator HIIT gyms sit. Unfortunately, it’s also the same chair that Orangetheory and F45 and the others want to occupy. When the music stops, I think it will be the single-gym owner who’s lost his or her seat.

A portrait head shot of blond author Allison Schrager against a cream background.

Allison Schrager, author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel” (Courtesy of Allison Schrager)

This is “the middle” of the industry: Gym owners charging more for group fitness classes and slowly being pushed out because they can’t move to the right (toward individualization).

On Two-Brain Radio, I talked with Allison Schrager, an economist and author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel.” Allison has a personal trainer she’s never met. She details her experience, then we zoom out to talk about the meta view of the entire industry and the very real threat to the microgyms in “the middle.”

Click here to listen to the interview and share it with a friend.

In the next article in this series, I’ll tell you how Two-Brain gyms are shifting toward the right edge of the spectrum to separate themselves from downward price pressure, low quality control and high competition.


Other Articles in This Series

State of the Fitness Industry: 2019
State of the Fitness Industry: Your Brand
State of the Fitness Industry: New Tools
State of the Fitness Industry: Rebirth

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

State of the Fitness Industry: 2019

State of the Fitness Industry: 2019

Change is happening faster than ever before, bringing new challenges, new knowledge and new opportunities.

Online personal training, connected exercise devices and new microgym franchises are now in the market, and their popularity is growing rapidly.

Each brings new market awareness to the value of coached fitness. But each also competes with small owner-operator microgyms. Any of the three elements above could be a huge opportunity; or any could be the end.

In this series, I’ll share insights into industry data that matters to you. I’ll talk about what we know, what others know, and how it affects your business.

I’ll organize these recommendations by key topics:

1. What knowledge can you trust? (this article)

2. How you should position yourself for 2020 (should you affiliate?).

3. How can you leverage these new tools in the fitness world? (new tools)

4. The disappearing middle—why breakeven gyms are folding (my interview with economist Allison Schrager, author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel”—Thursday).

5. What should your gym evolve to be? (Saturday)

Some of these posts will be long. That’s because they’re important. As you’re building your annual plan for 2020, you’ll need to have a clear vision of what operational excellence will look like a year from now.

If you don’t write an annual plan—or don’t know how to write one—get to the Growth Phase of mentorship fast. Start with the Incubator.

Most gym owners won’t read this entire post. But the best ones will; you can be sure of it.

Before I get into it, let’s talk about where our information comes from.

First, I have the fortuitous viewpoint of someone who’s been commenting on the fitness industry for over 10 years. Starting with, I’ve written every single day about best practices, ideas and new technologies.

But I’ve also shared what doesn’t work. I hate the online experts who sell untested ideas to gym owners. In my book, that’s close to fraud. Similarly, I don’t like the trolls who attack data-based knowledge just to get a share of the spotlight. So it’s important to understand where our knowledge comes from.


Stories and Data


Over the years, we’ve taken close to 3,000 free calls with gym owners. These calls last an hour. I did the first 1,500 myself. They cost us tens of thousands of dollars in phone bills and far more in time. We’ve also spent tens of thousands of hours on calls mentoring gym owners (we average around 270 hours on the phone every week). We tracked every story and followed every gym. We know where the real problems are, and we know what gyms have done to overcome them. That’s where our qualitative data comes from: real live conversations with real live gym owners.

Second, we’ve spent years building a quantitative tracking dashboard. Just over two years ago, I told the story of the industry’s need for objective, measurable data to prove what’s working, what’s not working, what has potential to work and what has stopped working.

Three years ago, I was having breakfast with some higher-ups at CrossFit HQ. We were sitting outside a cafe in Santa Cruz, California. I asked how many CrossFit gyms were owned by women; I had an idea that the number was higher than the U.S. average for small businesses. The short answer was, “We don’t know.”

I asked how many members the average box had; I got the same answer. I asked what the average lifespan of a gym was, and the same thing happened. I said, “Someone should be measuring this stuff,” and I got agreement. Then—dead air. So I decided to do it myself.

After hundreds of thousands of dollars spent trying to get an accurate measurement of gym health, we’ve finally got a working system: the Two-Brain Dashboard. To be clear, I don’t sell our dashboard. But spending that money and time allows us to figure out what’s actually working for gym owners, who’s really doing well and, ultimately, what’s true. We get daily data from a large sample size. We get real numbers. We get the truth. And we get it every day.

We’ve done it: the Two-Brain Dashboard is running and collecting data from 800 gym owners every single day. We have bedrock data. Now we can build on it.


Why We Don’t Trust Surveys


Several companies in the fitness industry attempt to publish an annual survey. Most of them ask us for help or commentary. But we don’t believe survey data is trustworthy for a few reasons.

First, respondents are biased by definition, so you get over-reporting from the best and worst gyms. Second, most surveys are ill defined, so questions can’t possibly provide an accurate measurement. And third, a combination of confusing software and confusing language means that many gym owners can’t provide their real numbers.

Last year, an accountant friend told me that he couldn’t even figure out the numbers required by an industry-leading survey. And I don’t know anyone else who would spend hours trying; most of us just guess.

The value of an industry survey isn’t the data; it’s the analysis. Unfortunately, any analysis built on skewed data is automatically irrelevant.

This year, we published two specific and objective reports on gym management software and coaching software.


What Does the Real Data Show?


The best gyms are becoming very profitable faster than ever before. And the worst gyms are failing faster.

What makes a gym the “best” or “worst”? Well, it has very little to do with the quality of coaching. Not anymore. A decade ago, quality coaches stood out. But now social media has really leveled the playing field (and better instruction, like the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar, has raised the standard). There are still some mediocre coaches around but few dangerous ones.

The best gyms have the best systems, the most professional staff and a close, personal relationship with each client. I’ll talk more about this in the next article in this series.

The gyms in the middle are in trouble. If you’re selling group fitness—CrossFit, HIIT, bootcamp, whatever—you’re competing against commodity brands. Five years ago, this wasn’t a big threat. But now it is: You can’t run on low margins like Orangetheory or Barry’s. When prices drop, you can’t stay on the roller coaster; you just don’t have the reserves to do so.

But if your gym is really great at offering group training—and that’s all—then you’re facing downward price pressure and some very lean times in the next two years.


The 2019 Trends We Saw and What They Mean for Your Gym


Marketing: Six-week challenges remain popular, but retention sucks.

People are attracted to six-week challenges. They’re novel and exciting. There’s a clear end point. They align well with what clients see on TV. However, the things that make six-week challenges attractive also make them very poor for retaining clients.

Our solution was to use what works in ads (six-week challenges) in a way that improves long-term retention. We do personal six-week challenges, and the end of the first challenge leads to the start of the second personal challenge. This keeps the process exciting, keeps our clients ascending and keeps them around.

There are still the old bait-and-switch tactics out there: “Sign up for this free thing. Pay here. We’ll give you your money back at the end if you complete it and jump through many hoops—sorry, we’re keeping the money.” They’re crippling gyms.

Nearly 40 percent of the gym owners who booked a free call with our team in 2019 have had a horrible experience with this marketing tactic. Now they have a crazy churn rate, their best clients are gone, and they’re no further ahead.

Get our free Retention Guide with step-by-step instructions here. Money-back guarantee! Just kidding—it’s free.


You need to produce content now more than ever.

The spotlight is also swinging back toward long-term media production. Even Facebook now recommends producing long-form content to build trust (we’ve been calling this “authority” for over a decade).

It takes a while to gain momentum, but producing content regularly works. It’s worked for my gym for 14 years (and for me as a coach for three years before that). And authority compounds: I now publish less media for my gym than ever, but we still benefit from SEO, word of mouth and back linking.

Here’s how it shakes out: If you have a bunch of people who would like to try your bootcamp or HIIT class or CrossFit program but haven’t signed up yet, Facebook marketing will push them over the edge. They’ll come in. But if your systems aren’t excellent or you don’t have a plan to retain them after their first “challenge” ends, you’ll never see them again. But if you regularly produce videos and blog posts to help your community, you’ll retain people longer and have higher trust when they do come in. You need both.

If you’re a CrossFit affiliate, you lost your content engine when HQ essentially shut down its media department at the beginning of 2019. Many are just starting to notice the effects. But the effects compound. If you’re not telling your story, and your clients’ stories, and answering questions to serve your local community—no one is.


Retention is money—literally.

Great books like “Never Lose a Customer Again” and “Atomic Habits” were money in the bank for gym owners in 2019.

Our data shows that the average gym owner could make an extra $40,000 per year just by keeping the average client three months longer. That means learning how to keep people longer is a great use of your time.

There’s a ton of research money flowing into addiction now—specifically product addiction. We know how the brain becomes hooked. We can use that power for good instead of for evil.

We now teach the “100-day journey” in the Incubator (yes, it ties into personal six-week challenges). That’s a great start. Long term, you need more than pub crawls and the Open to keep people around. Download our Retention Guide for free here.


Competition you might not know about.

While many gym owners are eyeballing the big chains or other local HIIT gyms, they should really be looking at the fastest-growing sector of “coaching”: online workouts tied to equipment.

Peloton is the most popular example, but if you haven’t heard of Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, Strava—I’ll spare you the whole list—then you’re missing the elephant in the room. Most treadmill manufacturers are positioning their equipment as part of the program instead of as a mere product for one-time purchase. Most blood-testing companies realize they can sell a coaching program or diet on the back end (and make more money). Many supplement companies are now gating their workout plans and unlocking them with purchase.

In a subsequent post, I’ll write about how to literally turn all of this around and get these ideas working for you. But if you want to read more about why these technologies are so addictive (and see some screen shots), you can read “Don’t Fear the Cyber” from last year.


Coaching is about “soft skills.”

The industry has always been dominated by tactical coaching: “Here’s how to teach the snatch better” or “Here’s how to apply the Zone Diet.” But education on the “soft skills”—how to greet people, how to keep them around, how to tailor a group workout to the individual—has always been sorely lacking. In 2019, the most remarkable shift in business thought leadership is that the soft skills are the real skills.

That means coaches should be excellent at speaking in public. They should be warm and encouraging and focus on getting the client to come back. The old coaches who loudly shout “I ain’t here to be no cheerleader!” are mostly gone. Most of the great cheerleaders are still around.

Josh Martin, one of our gifted Two-Brain Mentors, has built an amazing program for developing coaches. He starts with the skills they’ll need to deliver a program (any program) 1:1. Then he teaches them how to deliver a program to a group. Then he teaches them how to program 1:1, and then how to program for a group—using data instead of novelty.

It’s brilliant, it’s simple and it’s backed by an insurance underwriter. I’ve put all my coaches through the first two degrees. Josh is method agnostic (you can use CrossFit or bootcamp or any other tool to train people). I think every coach should start here.


Gyms need to be better at selling.

If you’ve followed our blog, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in posts and videos about “selling.”

This is where most gym owners fail.

I wrote “Help First” to provide the philosophy and strategy of selling as helping. But after going through a mountain of data, we realized that we needed to publish tactics, scripts and support. So here’s our YouTube Channel, and here’s my blog series on Building a Sales Engine.

In short, the data went like this: Gym owner closes warm leads well. Friends of clients always want to sign up when they visit for the first time. But their visits are too infrequent. And the referral rate is too passive (most of us just wait instead of taking control of referrals).

Gym owner starts marketing. New leads start coming in. First leads are warm. Gym owner doesn’t sign up everyone, but he or she signs up a ton of people.

Gym owner continues marketing. Leads get colder. Fewer leads sign up. Gym owner starts noticing a lot of no-shows and cancellations. And because the gym owner is not good at sales, the conversion rate is very low (usually 10-30 percent).

We can help best by boosting conversion rates, then by improving “show rates” for appointments, then by improving “set” rates for leads coming from ads. Basically, we walk up the funnel from the bottom and fix everything. We actually rebuilt the Incubator in 2019 to accomplish this better.


The flywheel must be round.

Out of the massive pile of data, we’ve identified six areas where gyms must improve. When a gym owner fixes one of these areas, that’s awesome: His or her business flywheel turns a couple of degrees. But if one area is lacking, the wheel is flat. The owner can push and push, but the wheel won’t turn.

Here’s my series on Building an Unstoppable Business (and here it is on YouTube).

We round out the flywheel in the Incubator with proven systems and tactics. Then, in Growth Phase, we push the six “handles” so your wheel turns faster and faster and your business grows. These are the six levers you can push to grow, and data supports the theory. Any coaching program, any book, any strategy that doesn’t take all six handles into account will just create a flat.


The Future Is Bright


As 2019 ends, I’m more excited than ever. I think first-time entrepreneurs can make an amazing living. I don’t think fitness entrepreneurs have to become slimy bait-and-switch marketers. I don’t think they have to sell shady supplements to make a decent income.

I think they can do all the right things for all the right people for all the right reasons and still become wealthy.


Other Articles in This Series

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

How to Build an Unstoppable Business

How to Build an Unstoppable Business

Your gym business can last for decades … if you build it the right way.

First, you have to get it moving smoothly.

Imagine a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted on an axle. It’s three stories tall and two feet thick. Your job is to get the flywheel turning on the axle as fast and as long as possible.

But first, you have to remove the dead spots: the flat parts of the wheel. Then you have to remove obvious obstacles from your path. Then you can start pushing.

But where to push?


The Six Handles on the Flywheel


There are really six handles on your flywheel—six pressure points where you can push to keep the thing turning.A yellow circle named The Two-Brain Business Flywheel.

Our Incubator program is built to help you smooth out the wheel, remove the speed bumps and then push each one of those handles at the right time. In short, it helps you make the first real turn of the business flywheel.

Think about the big wheel on “The Price Is Right.” You can use any one of the handles and the wheel will turn faster.

Our handles are:

  • Teaching your Mission and Vision to everyone around you.
  • Improving your operations.
  • Upgrading your team.
  • Keeping your clients longer.
  • Selling better.
  • Getting more leads.

There’s no denying it: Your first pushes of your business flywheel are all-out efforts. They’re really hard. But your mentor is going to ensure you’re pushing in the right direction.

After a lot of effort, you’ll get the flywheel to make one complete turn.

As you start to get the wheel moving, you’ll see the first few results. Keep pushing, and the wheel will turn more smoothly. Eventually, it will have just enough momentum to make a full circuit on its own. But keep pushing and the flywheel will start to gain some speed.

Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. It moves a thousand times faster, then 10,000, then 100,000. The huge, heavy disk flies forward with almost unstoppable momentum. You’re not pushing harder, but the flywheel goes faster and faster.

When your flywheel is moving, your job is to keep it rolling down the road to wealth faster and faster.


The Value of Consistent Effort


There’s never one big push that makes the flywheel turn faster.

If someone said, “Which push really made the difference? Was it the first? The 10th? The 27th?” you’d find the questions ridiculous. But that’s how the media portrays business success: as if one breakthrough moment made all the difference.

What really makes a difference? Pushing the flywheel. Now, in the Incubator, we install those six handles on your flywheel. Then we push on each handle, in order, to make the wheel go around.

Businesses never transform from “good” to “amazing” through one short-term effort but rather through the continuous pushing of the flywheel to make it go faster and faster.

After the Incubator, the next stage of mentorship is what we call the Growth Stage.

In the Growth Stage of our mentorship program, you’ll work to push the flywheel faster and faster.

Every month, you’ll work with a mentor to make better use of one of the six handles. You’ll grab one and push your flywheel faster. You’ll identify obstacles that might slow your flywheel down, and you’ll remove them.

You’ll push the wheel down the road to wealth.

You’ll be upgrading your mentorship and upgrading the tools you use to grow your business. Here are some of them

  1. Monthly mentor calls.
  2. The Two-Brain Dashboard and Roadmap to Wealth.
  3. Masterclasses.
  4. Monthly Highlight PDF with a planner and key action items.
  5. DFY media templates.
  6. Comprehensive guides on topics such as social media, the flow state, Affinity Marketing, how to grow a PT business, business and hiring plans, “intrepreneurship” (to help you build careers for your coaches) and more.
  7. The Two-Brain Bridge Fund for emergencies.
  8. Peer support.

We want to move you closer to wealth. After you’ve done the first hard pushing on your business flywheel, we want to get it moving faster!

The last step is to train someone else to keep pushing your business flywheel so you can ascend to building your personal flywheel. I’ll write about that in the next article in this series.


Other Articles in This Series

Building Your Personal Flywheel
Removing Speed Bumps
The Flywheel Turns on Trust

Fat People on Mars

Fat People on Mars

In a recent series of articles, I talked about playing the “infinite game,” how to avoid the trap of “competition” and the mindset necessary for success.

My mission is to make 1,000,000 fitness entrepreneurs wealthy. Because the world needs more fitness coaches.


Evolution to Enlightenment


Until the last 100 years, humanity has concerned itself with playing an infinite game. We won merely by surviving. First, we survived long enough to replicate ourselves. Then we survived long enough to overlap generations: We invented grandkids.

Now we’re surviving beyond the age of manual utility and enjoying decades as observers. We have ease. We have medical care. And hell, we should: Our ancestors worked hard to give us this gift.

We can do all these things because, as a species, we’re wealthy. Capitalism has created the opportunity to coast through our last years. We no longer work ourselves to death; we work ourselves to pension. The poorest person in Western society today is wealthier than the kings of Europe were 200 years ago: We have medicines and food and access to water. We have sanitation. We avoid most diseases and cure almost all the others. We have time for leisure and coins in our pockets.

We have time to wonder, “What’s it all for?” and we have time to Netflix and chill.

But … .

We have not survived millions of years of evolution to sit on the couch and watch Oprah.

We have suffered through famine. We have struggled through wars and squeaked our way through plagues. Our bodies are adapted to survive through conservation of resources.

We now have more than we need. But our surplus is killing us: Our greatest health problems come from abundance. The bounty of victory is clogging our arteries, our brains and our planet. We have so much that we’re choking on it. Our bodies are fattening, our brains are slowing, and our environment is filling with our garbage. We have no universal “just cause” left, so we’re depressed. We’ve survived eons of need just to realize that surplus might destroy us in the end.

We might, someday, escape our collective pollution by rocketing off to Mars. Or we might banish our garbage from our beloved planet by launching it to the moon. Slowly, inch by inch, we’re conquering space.

But we’re losing the fight to conquer ourselves.


“If You’re so Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?”


The real goal of humanity isn’t survival. That was just a short-term goal. The real goal is happiness.

The ultimate goal of the neocortex—the most evolved part of the brain, the part that separates us from every other species—is to make itself happy.

Call it “enlightenment” or call it “heaven” or call it anything you want: When things are going well, we secrete “reward” chemicals that please the brain. Dopamine and serotonin are the trophies we get when we do things right. Triggering these chemicals is the brain’s ultimate goal. Our bodies follow our brains around, and we are constantly led toward the pursuit of happiness.

We’re just not sure where that is, exactly.

We know how to prevent unhappiness, mostly. We know which boxes must be ticked first: air and water, food, security, habitat, a sense of belonging. We can’t be happy without those.

Abraham Maslow described the path to self-actualization in his Hierarchy of Needs. His little pyramid looks a lot like the tip of the evolutionary spear.

The founders of the United States said their goal was “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—in that order.

So let’s get on with it.


Halfway to Happiness Is Health


A healthy person wants a thousand things. But a sick person only wants one thing: to be well.

Elsewhere, I wrote that to solve any problem you have to split it in half, and then split it in half again, and so on, until you identify one specific action to take right then.

Later, I wrote that Greg Glassman’s “Sickness-Wellness-Fitness Continuum” was brilliant but incomplete: that the continuum should include death on its left side. Today, I’ll add that it should include “happiness” on its right side. Fitness isn’t the ultimate goal; it’s a step in the journey.

Now, plenty of people are happy without being fit. But everyone who studies happiness—from neuroscientists to Buddhists—agree that some measure of fitness is necessary for an enduring state of happiness. Yoga was created to prepare people to meditate longer. A therapist’s first prescription for depression is usually “go for a walk.” And most medical practitioners understand that exercise works as well as antidepressants in many cases.

But depression is still the leading cause of disability worldwide. The World Health Organization says so.

Who is leading the pursuit of happiness?

I say it’s the people leading the pursuit of fitness. Because fitness and happiness are interdependent, fitness professionals are best positioned to lead our species forward.

So we need more of us.

My first training business wasn’t Catalyst; it was a 1:1 strength-and-conditioning practice called Focus. I made two T-shirts and about a dozen homemade cards with “FOCUS Strength and Conditioning” on the front and “The Continued Evolution of the Species” on the back. That was 1998. But I still believe it—that evolution isn’t over. That the human race has evolved toward happiness. Or self-actualization or nirvana or enlightenment or heaven. That we have the tools—and most of the knowledge—to get there.

But we’re waiting to be led out of the wasteland.

If we produce 1 million fitness entrepreneurs, I believe one or two will figure it out.

Some of my friends are already working on it:

Colm O’Reilly—listen to his podcast here.

Craig Hysell—sign up for his daily blog here.

Bonnie Skinner—read what she has to say about depression here.

Mark Divine—simple, directive daily exercises here.

If you want to be happier, we can help.
Click here to talk to a Two-Brain mentor for free.

We All Can Win

We All Can Win

In the first article in this series, I wrote about Playing the Infinite Game. Here’s how the philosophy applies to your business.

Gym ownership is not a zero-sum game. To get a new client, I don’t have to take one of yours.

In fact, it’s a positive-sum game. As more gyms open, the cost of opening a gym goes down. Equipment is cheaper now than it’s ever been. And best of all: The expensive lessons learned by tens of thousands of gym owners are available in our Incubator. You can pay a little and dodge hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs.

Microgym owners can make a great living from 150 clients. That’s it: 150 great people paying the right rate and staying long enough to stabilize the business.

You don’t need to fight me for clients. I don’t need to fight you for coaches.


Fear Vs. Facts


New fitness Founders think they have to compete for a few simple reasons:

  • We’re mostly first-time entrepreneurs.
  • We’re scared.
  • We don’t have a buffer (we need to make money now).
  • We think the market is limited.

This was me, in 2005.

I opened Catalyst with 30 clients. But that wasn’t enough, and I thought I had to take clients from other local trainers to succeed. I remember saying to my partner, “I’m going to bankrupt everyone else!”

But I didn’t. Many of the microgyms that were around in 2005 are still around today. They kept some clients and got new clients. Some of theirs came to me, and some of mine went to them. If they were good at business, they’re still operating.

The key to a good gym isn’t getting clients. It’s keeping clients. And in a small city, even when the major employers go bankrupt, there are more than enough clients—if you build your business the right way.

In the next articles in this series, I’ll write about why this is true. I’ll explain how you can avoid having “competition,” describe the mindset necessary for success, show why you want a Two-Brain gym next door, and detail how we’re going to make 1 million fitness entrepreneurs wealthy.


Other Articles in This Series

Playing the Infinite Game
Never Have Competition Again
The Mindset Necessary for Success
Why You Want More Two-Brain Gyms in Your City
1,000,000 Fitness Entrepreneurs: The Two-Brain Plan