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Can Competitive Athletes Build Successful Gym Businesses?

You know the scenario: An athletic gym owner spends a lot of time training for fitness competitions. So what happens to the business? Does it lumber along and eventually crumble because the owner's attention is elsewhere? Or can some owners divide their focus and achieve competition goals while building thriving businesses? Can Competitive Athletes Build Successful Gym Businesses?

Chris Cooper: (00:00)
Can you grow your gym while being a competitive athlete? I’m Chris Cooper. This is Run a Profitable Gym and today we’re gonna tackle this question because it’s a big one. For several years, especially among CrossFit affiliates, this idea that being a better competitor, qualifying for the CrossFit games or whatever your sport is, will actually help you grow your gym. Now, very few people still believe that’s true, but the question remains, can you compete at a very high level in sport while actively growing your gym too? We’re gonna break this topic down. We’re gonna talk to people who are much better athletes than I am who are successfully growing their gyms, and we’re gonna get their opinion.

Chris Cooper: (00:40)
So we’re gonna do this in four different parts. First, we’re gonna talk about fields of play, the concepts that you can bring your best competitive self to only one place at a time. Second, we’re gonna talk about how CEOs are like mental athletes. And third, we’re gonna talk to two people who are actually doing it and probably have a different opinion than me, Taryn Dubreuil and Travis Mayer, both of whom have done very high level CrossFit competition and grown their gym. If you wanna talk about this more, please head to GymOwnersUnited.com. That’s our free Facebook group where we talk about topics like this candidly and privately in a caring community of about 7,000 gym owners worldwide. I’m in there. Some of the mentors from Two-Brain are in there daily answering questions and just talking about these things that are important to gym owners.

Chris Cooper: (01:27)
So I’m gonna take you back to about 2018 and I was testing a blood testing service called Insight Tracker, which is a great service by the way. And what we were looking at was how many the coaches in my gym and what their blood profiles were, I was very surprised to find that my blood profile came back extremely high for cortisol. It said that I had very high stress and I couldn’t figure it out because to relieve stress, I was working out in my gym and I had all the benefits of those workouts plus my community. I was working on a book that I loved called “Founder Farmer, Tinker, Thief”, and all of my businesses were growing. I really shouldn’t have had any stress in my life, but it was true. I was stressed out all the time. And so I actually took that blood sample to my MD and he said, Chris, this is really profound.

Chris Cooper: (02:12)
Your body does not know the difference between mental stress and physical stress. The last thing that you need is very high intensity workouts when you’re going through this period of very high mental stress as you’re growing your businesses. And so I took his advice and I took a little break, left the gym, I told myself I’d be back at the end of the summer. I got on my bike and just started training as a cyclist again, as I had done a decade ago. And at first I took it really easy and my stress level went down and then I really started to enjoy cycling again. And it actually took me a couple years to come back to high intensity training at my gym. I found more explanation on this later on when I was being mentored by Todd Hermann, the author of the Alter Ego Effect.

Chris Cooper: (02:53)
Todd taught me about his fields of play concept, which is that you can only show up at your best to one field of play at a time. Now, that might mean you can only show up and grow one business at a time, even if you own multiple businesses. It might mean that you can only show up to compete at one sport at a time. It might mean that you can show up to compete at a sport or you can grow your business or you can grow your singing career, whatever that is. But you can only compete effectively on one field of play at a time. The flip side of that coin is that every successful entrepreneur that I know long-term has some kind of fitness regimen that they take really seriously. It allows ’em to focus better, it reduces their stress when they do it right and they credit their fitness regime with helping them achieve higher levels as a CEO.

Chris Cooper: (03:40)
The key differentiator here is competition. Does competition actually make you better? Can you compete at business while you’re competing at sport? And that’s the question that we’re out to discover today or unwrap a little bit more. I’d love to hear from you, are you able to compete while growing your gym? Does one have to stay at a certain level while the other is growing? Is it like owning two businesses, where you can manage one while you grow the other as the CEO? Or does the skill of competing actually make you better and lift all boats at once? That’s what we’re gonna talk about today with my guest Taryn Dubreuil and Travis Mayer. My first guest on this topic is Taryn Dubreuil. Taryn is the owner of CrossFit Function. She’s been a competitor in many sports for a long time. She’s also growing multiple businesses exponentially fast. Welcome Taryn.

Taryn Dubreuil: (04:25)
What’s up? Happy to be here.

Chris Cooper: (04:26)
We’re gonna find out, Taryn, quickly just tell us. What sports have you done? What sports are you doing? What are you growing in your life right now?

Taryn Dubreuil: (04:36)
So I started out, basketball is my nature, but after having to give that up in college, that’s when I found CrossFit. So kind of built my CrossFit career. I was a regional athlete for eight years, I believe. So a long time I spent doing that while I was trying to build my gym. I did the whole retiring thing, so a little bit about that. I missed the Games by one point and got pretty close a couple of years but was just never able to punch it. So, what basically was a full-time job training just for that. After that I focused on my basketball referee career, which took me to the highest levels that I could get to nationally and even into some international stuff. So that is still something that’s ongoing. And currently at the time I’m also training to do some Ironmans. This year I’m doing two of them, so that’s pretty exciting. Quite different from what I’m used to.

Chris Cooper: (05:31)
So several athletic fields of play, but also you’ve got some businesses that are growing right now. Tell us what you’re doing in business.

Taryn Dubreuil: (05:39)
So the gym is ongoing. It’s been open for 13 years. Super successful, does what I need it to do. I have full-time staff, I have a GM, I’ve got eight part-time staff, so a really big team that are also being supplied successful incomes for them. And then I’m also building a private mentoring business too for companies outside of the fitness industry, ’cause obviously I’m a mentor for Two-Brain, called Perfect Day business mentorship. So that is also growing like a weed and I am excited about that too.

Chris Cooper: (06:09)
Earlier I said that I can only compete on one field of play at a time. Do you agree with that or is it possible to bring your full attention and a game on multiple fields of play at a time?

Taryn Dubreuil: (06:20)
I think you can, and I think you can because I have and still am. And I mean I’m a little bit biased by that, but you have to have your ducks in a row. And what I mean by that is there’s a few key elements and they pertain to business as well as in the sport that you’re training for, whatever it might be. So if you can nail down some of those habitual things and those routine things, for someone like myself, I am able to partition my focus and my attention when I am doing that single thing at that time of the day or whatever it might be. Okay. So for me that might look like making sure that time management is something that I’ve got nailed down. That from this window to this window, all of my attention and focus is on this thing that I’m doing. And then from this time to this time, here’s the next thing that we’re focusing on. And so just being able to switch your hats like that, for me, was very useful in how I can do multiple things at once.

Chris Cooper: (07:20)
Did you learn that from sport or did you learn that from business?

Taryn Dubreuil: (07:23)
I think I learned that from sport because I had great coaches growing up who invested a lot of time in me. And also, I was really smart in school, so being able to hand projects in on time and get good grades and do all that stuff, you had to learn how to partition your time appropriately. And because I was pouring so much time and effort into basketball, it was every other hour that I wasn’t doing homework or studying or whatever it might be, it was basketball, I was practicing outside of the team’s practice just ’cause I wanted to be great at it. So time management is huge as far as I’m concerned.

Chris Cooper: (07:59)
Do you find that there’s any sense of overwhelm or fatigue created by competing on two fields of play or three at once?

Taryn Dubreuil: (08:07)
I think that’s where the rest of what your lifestyle looks like becomes important. Because at the end of the day it’s like, how many decisions do you have to make right out of all of these different things that you’re doing? So if you can systemize a lot of it, so for instance, from a sport perspective, get a coach and I mean get a business mentor for all that’s concerned at the same time too, right? So that you don’t have to be hemming and hawing about what you should be doing. It’s there, it’s written for you, just go out and execute it. From sport, meal prep so that you don’t have to think about your food. That’s one less decision there. If you have kids, get a babysitter. Whatever you can pay people to take it off your plate, go and do that because that’s the path of least resistance, right? So decision fatigue is probably one of the things that makes it overwhelming if you have all these variables that you have to constantly make a plan about.

Chris Cooper: (08:59)
So decision fatigue is one thing. What about just stress, overwhelm?

Taryn Dubreuil: (09:04)
Yeah, I mean, so that comes back to time management in my opinion because, and this is something I learned along the way too, is what happens in between when you switch hats, right? So let’s say you go out and you’re hitting a really hard workout or a training session and it’s two hours long and it just absolutely wipes you and now you’ve got a two hour business window slotted. So what you do in between that is restorative to help turn your focus for when it does come time to pull your business owner hat on. So one of the things that I learned early in my CrossFit career was, if I was gonna spend six hours a day training, a three hour block in the morning and a three hour block in the afternoon, I had to go and walk the dogs in between whatever was my next task, which was usually sitting down on my desk and starting to work through admin stuff or whatever it might be, or coaching, whatever that might be, related to the gym. So that hour that I would just disappear into the bush with the dog. That was restorative for me and a time to separate myself from that. And then you look at it from a habitual and routine thing, obviously if you’re eating well and you’re sleeping well that’s just gonna contribute to a better recovery in terms of physical stress and mental stress too, for what that’s worth.

Chris Cooper: (10:18)
How much do you train a day right now and how much do you time do you spend focused on actually growing your business? And then maybe we can talk about, what does recovery look like for you?

Taryn Dubreuil: (10:27)
So I have an hour and a half window from 4:00 AM to 5:30, pretty much every day of the week, where that is my business work. That’s all creative stuff where I need my brain the most, like content production or whatever it might be there. Then I go into my workout from there. So I might spend an hour and a half, at most two hours, just depends what I’m doing. Whether it’s triathlon stuff or I’m working out in the gym, that’s my two hour block for that. I go, I walk the dog and I come back in and that’s where I do my eat the frog tasl. So you sit down at your desk and you’re doing all the email replies, all that. And that’s the general plan when I have a lot of stuff in my calendar because I’m doing triathlon right now, that’s where my longer workouts will come in where, we’re two hours, eventually as I get closer they’ll be longer.

Chris Cooper: (11:20)
So, one thing that probably helps there is that you have a triathlon coach that’s mostly focused on intensity instead of duration, right?

Taryn Dubreuil: (11:27)
Yeah, exactly, yeah. It’s like I only have this hour window, what is the most that I can or how can I accomplish as much as I can to get what I need out of that hour? So, it might be something super high intensity, he might just be like, Hey, back off, let’s just do this slow today. You know, so at the end of the day I just have a coach who tells me what to do, which is the key detail.

Chris Cooper: (11:50)
Do you ever find that there’s some overlap between, when your business is more stressful that affects your workouts or vice versa?

Taryn Dubreuil: (11:57)
Yeah, I’m not gonna sit here and say no, but for a lot of the time it was a release for me I would say, and that compartmentalizing is a strength of mine , whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But in this case I would say it’s a good thing because I would be able to go into my workout and I could put my business worries behind me and just do what I needed to do in my workout and so on and so forth. It still is that way now that I can hop on my bike and head around the highway and it’s like, yes I’m training for something, but at the same time it’s rejuvenating ’cause nobody can phone me while I’m out on my bike. I’m not gonna pick up my phone, I’m not gonna answer emails, you know what I mean? . So.

Chris Cooper: (12:42)
Okay. Well ironically, I asked you this question right after we had had a bike ride on Zwift last week and you said no, training for sport actually makes me a better CEO. So what are some of the traits that you developed through sport and athletic training for competition that are now more helpful to you as you’re growing these businesses?

Taryn Dubreuil: (13:01)
The biggest one I would say was learning how to adapt. I remember showing up for this competition and the first workout was a 5K run and I had this straight pace I was gonna follow and it was all dependent on my watch. And I left my watch at the hotel that morning, got up to the workout and was like, oh my god, what am I gonna do? And obviously you have to make a plan on the fly like that. So headed out there, ran my best 5K I’ve ever ran and didn’t have my watch to rely on. So that was a big adaptation lesson for me. And I often go back to that moment when I get into stressful stuff that’s happening in the business. Like, this might be a problem right now, but how can I change my course of action to make this actually a good thing?

Taryn Dubreuil: (13:43)
What lessons can I learn out of this? So adaptation was so evident in all of my career as an athlete and all the things that I’ve done and that would be the number one thing that I would take away and apply to my business. Now, aside from that, honestly like I said, time management was huge. ‘Cause if you don’t have that, you’re not gonna succeed in either of those things even on their own, nevermind side by side. And I think just one more thing on the adaption was just the ability to filter out distractions. Like, this is what I’m doing, I need to have my brain completely on this. This is the only time that I have to do this. And then you get into business mode and it’s the exact same thing, like, everything else needs to shut off for a minute because I have this one task, I need to execute on this, do it really well and move on to whatever is next in front of me. Following the programming on your workout is exactly the same way. Like, I’m only gonna think about these back squats right now, even though I have this killer of a chipper later on that scares the crap out of me. Doesn’t matter. It’s about these back squats right now.

Chris Cooper: (14:40)
Would you describe yourself as having always been a competitive person?

Taryn Dubreuil: (14:45)
Yes. It’s like that is my middle name.

Chris Cooper: (14:47)
A competitive person. I’ve heard you refer to other middle names that start with F when you’re describing yourself too. So Taryn, last question now. Through Two-Brain you’ve worked with a number of gym owners worldwide and some of these people are competitive and there’s a tendency in our industry to blame failure at running your gym with, “Well I’m focused on being a competitor right now”. Is that a red herring? Like, are they failing at their gym for another reason or is it really because they’re trying to get to the games?

Taryn Dubreuil: (15:19)
I would challenge them. Well, I mean if I were their mentor I would look at some of their other work-ethic related things in other areas of their lives because if they’re shortcoming on this, they’re probably shortcoming on some other things too. Because at the base of everything are habits and if you don’t have those habits in line, how can you be successful at this stuff? Right?

Chris Cooper: (15:42)
Yep. So Taryn says that not only is being a competitive athlete, not the thing that’s limiting your gym growth, but it should be instilling habits that will help you grow your gym between competitions. Is that fair?

Taryn Dubreuil: (15:54)
And the best part of that is that that can be learned. It’s not an excuse that this is just how I am and this is how I’m gonna do things or this is why this isn’t working. Like no, you just don’t possess that skillset yet and that’s okay, that can be learned, but you need somebody to teach you and hold you accountable to actually follow through on that. So that’s why I think you can be successful. They just maybe don’t possess the skillset right now.

Chris Cooper: (16:17)
Taryn, do you know any very high level athletes who don’t have a coach? No. Do you know any very high performing business owners who don’t have a coach? No. All right. So one more thing before we sign off though, Taryn, we brought up this case study where a gym owner had hired somebody who is an aspiring CrossFit Games athlete to run their gym and the gym didn’t grow and after a year, the excuse from both the manager and the owner was, well he’s too focused on making the Games, he can’t grow the gym. How do you see this from an employer’s perspective or should we hire people who are solely focused on competition?

Taryn Dubreuil: (16:52)
So when my mentees bring up stuff like this to me where they say that so-and-so is causing the reason for why this employee is not performing, ’cause that’s essentially what this is. Regardless if it’s sport or something else. The thing that I always say back to them is, have you controlled all of the variables that you can? And once we explore all of that, and I’ll come back to that, but once we explore all of that, you have to understand that employees don’t think the same way that owners do. And so there’s that variable that comes into this as well, right? So what I mean by that is, first, did that owner give that GM absolutely clear simplified KPIs for what they were supposed to do? Did they have clear expectations on what they were supposed to do and did they have clear deadlines on what was supposed to do on what they were supposed to do, right?

Taryn Dubreuil: (17:46)
Like, those are the variables that they control. But a lot of the times when we first hire GMs, we’re just so excited to have somebody in place that’s gonna do all this work and grow the business and we’re like, hey, here’s all this stuff, go and do it. And there’s no clear direction, there’s no expectations, there’s no accountability, there’s no follow up. And then the automatic result is, well they’re just not doing their job right? But it always comes back to the owner first before you look at the employee underperforming. Okay. Which then brings me to my second point is that we hire these people- even if they’re coaches too, because I have the same conversation about coaches- is that we expect our employees to think like us. But if they thought like us, they would own their own gyms too. They would be entrepreneurs in something else, but they don’t, they’re employees. They want their nine to five, they want this clear list of this is what you need to do X, Y, Z and have it done by Friday at 9:00 AM and give ’em back to me or whatever, right? And if you don’t provide them with that, there’s too much arbitrary stuff in the middle. There’s just too much gray. So it’s pretty tough to expect them to excel if you don’t lay the line.

Chris Cooper: (18:56)
Mm-hmm.

Taryn Dubreuil: (18:56)
Ok, that would be my first question back to this case study is, how actually was everything presented to it? So if that person was training for the Games for six hours a day or whatever it might be, did you set expectations that for three hours before they started training, here’s what they had to accomplish and then by the end of the week here was their checklist for their weekly things and their monthly things and so on and so forth. You can control that progress. Yes, to a small extent it’s a time thing. But most of the time, nine times out of ten it’s a clarity, expectations, accountability, follow up thing. I got on a soapbox there, I’m sorry.

Chris Cooper: (19:35)
No, that’s good because I actually think that applies to owners too. Yes. And I’m gonna use a CrossFit example, even though this works, I’ve seen this in cycling, I’ve seen this in hockey, I’ve seen this in baseball, football where you’ve got a successful athlete, maybe they’ve won the CrossFit games in the past, they go to open a gym and the gym tanks. Is that still a clarity and expectations issue?

Taryn Dubreuil: (20:01)
Yeah, I mean, I know I never made the Games but I look at myself when I first started. Everything was so about that and I didn’t even think about what was going on in the gym. The gym just solely existed ’cause it gave me a place that looked like Regionals that I could train at, right? And I maybe would put a quarter amount of the effort in just to make sure that the bills could get paid even though they weren’t getting paid. But then the difference was having somebody there to be like, Hey Taryn, do this and have you done this and you’re gonna do this by Friday and whatever else, right? So I think having a mentor, having a coach, whatever it might be, having that person who is gonna follow up and hold you accountable to get that stuff done, again takes all the decision fatigue out of it. Takes all the variables, the less variables there can be, the greater the success will be in both. And that’s across everything, not just this.

Chris Cooper: (20:57)
So the more fields of play you’re active on, the less time you have to waste, but you still have time to spend to compete. Okay, thanks so much Taryn. So Taryn is competing on multiple fields of play at once and she says that competing on the triathlon field is actually making her more competitive and better on the business side. And there’s an interesting crossover there. My next guest is Travis Mayer. And Travis is not gonna be a stranger to you if you’re following the CrossFit Games. He’s been in the Games eight times. He’s also a box owner, the owner of CrossFit UNTD or United down in Alpharetta, Georgia. He’s been training for a decade with Max Al Hague who was one of the first guests on this podcast. Just an interesting link. And I wanna talk to him specifically about growing a CrossFit gym and being a competitor at the same time. And whether that’s a synonymous relationship, whether that’s serendipitous like one grows the other or whether one competes with the other. Travis, welcome to Two-Brain Radio.

Travis Mayer: (21:57)
Thanks for having me on. I’m excited to chat.

Chris Cooper: (22:00)
Yeah, I mean so you’re an affiliate owner, you’re a competitive CrossFit Games athlete. How long you been doing both?

Travis Mayer: (22:06)
So I opened my affiliate in 2013 so this May we’re coming up on 10 years. Thank you. Yeah, and then I’ve been competing I guess, my first year actually at the Games was 2013 as well. So they both actually happened about at the exact same time. I started CrossFit in October 2010 and then, yeah, just missed out my first year cause that was the first year they had the Open. Ended up taking 61st when they had 60. And I mean I was only a few months into Crossfit, so I couldn’t be that upset. And then the next year ended up fracturing my L5 and then the following year, my first full year healthy ,made it to the Games in 2013. And then yeah, at the same time I actually opened my affiliate, but prior to that I ran two other gyms for people that kind of up-fronted the cost and money.

Travis Mayer: (23:03)
So I was, at that time, I guess 20 when I first ran two gyms and for me it was kind of a, I wanted to be in the fitness industry and understand and run a gym. And for me it was kind of a fun place to train and I got to hang out and be in a gym all day. And it also helped chase my goal of being a competitive athlete and doing that as a full-time career. And then after I did one, I left, someone else wanted me to open another one, I did another one and then I was like, I’d like to do my own. And just things you take and learn from both and kind of I think helped very early on of like things I didn’t like, things I wanted to improve upon communication, kind of all those little things that you don’t really think about, kind of set me up for when it was my time to go off on my own that it was all successful from that standpoint.

Chris Cooper: (23:57)
So you had a bit of an On-ramp to owning a business and you must have had some kind of On-ramp to CrossFit too. Like, you must have been fit coming in, if you were that close to qualifying in your first years.

Travis Mayer: (24:07)
Yeah, I’ve been very lucky that when I get set on something, I get very addicted to it to a degree. So for me, trying to be a professional athlete in some way, shape or form. And when I was a kid it was always, if I’m gonna do something I’m gonna do it 120% and that’s gonna be all my focus and time. And that’s kind of, I mean even when I met my wife I was like, look, CrossFit’s my baby. This is what I’m doing, this is what I’m pursuing. So when we first started dating she’s like, who is this weirdo? Just wants to work out all the time. But then fast forward, it ended up working out. That’s great. But yeah, that’s just kind of how I’ve been from the beginning. So having, I think that kind of On-ramp process of running two other gyms, seeing the ins and outs of things I didn’t like, things that I thought could be improved and then being able to step into it from a full-time owner perspective, it kind of allowed me to not mess up as much and kind of already start off on a better foot and then it kind of carried over to the same thing as CrossFit. My full-time job I guess, in 2013, was still running a gym.

Travis Mayer: (25:13)
But I never really looked at ’em always as that. I looked at it as, look, this is where I get to train. I get to coach people and help them ’cause I really enjoy doing that. This is something fun. When I’m done competing, I’ll spend more of my time focusing on growing the gym more and more and more. But it’s kind of both happened at the same time where I’ve had a pretty good staff and team that have been with me and some of my coaches have been with me for eight or nine years. And so it’s like people have followed me, and I feel like that kind of speaks volumes for what we’ve done and cultivated and created here. And I think that’s what has allowed people to stay, allowed the business to keep growing. And then I just keep learning. And especially now doing the mentorship program, it’s been a huge improvement and step up from what we’ve done previously. But it’s kind of cool to be in this situation now and you know, how can I grow a gym and then still be a professional athlete? And then now kind of talk about the balance of both and how it’s all actually worked.

Chris Cooper: (26:14)
Yeah, and that’s what I wanna get into because to be frank, for most athletes it doesn’t work. I’m sure you can name a dozen CrossFit Games athletes who own gyms that aren’t really successful. Would you agree with that?

Travis Mayer: (26:29)
Oh yeah, a hundred percent. And I mean, I think it varies and one usually takes the back burner to some degree. And I would say for the most of my career, the gym aspect has taken the back burner. If I’m being completely honest, like, the lifespan of a professional athlete, especially in CrossFit is limited, right? I’m not necessarily gonna be in the sport till I’m 50. Like, I’m not gonna be a Master’s and keep going when it’s time to be done, it’ll be I’m out. So that’s always been the main goal of, hey, I’m trying to compete. I’m trying to be the best I can for X amount of years until I’m stepping back down. But during that I’ve always had a good balance of understanding when it’s time to go into the gym and train, I train and when it’s time to be the gym owner and coach and mentor for the coaches, I put that cap on and that’s what I’m trying to work on.

Travis Mayer: (27:25)
And so I think being able to separate yourself from those different hats, and then when I go home I have four kids so I need to make sure that my time in being a dad is focused on dad time and then when my time in the gym is for the gym and then when my time is for training, it’s for training. So for me, I’ve been good at separating and balancing all of those kind of areas, but then when I’m doing those things, the time and dedication for each of those is a hundred percent. So if someone’s trying to ask me questions about the gym, I’m like, look, this is my two and a half hours I need to train. I’m not trying to be mean, but this is my time that I have to focus on this.

Travis Mayer: (28:03)
And I have a GM, I have CSM now and so I’ve always kind of had the GM for a while because I knew I needed someone else to help from the beginning stage. Because for me I’d rather pay them, allow them to take on more of the behind the scenes aspects. And I still am able to train, but I still oversee every single thing that happens and goes on. So I kind of did that very early on in my career, which I think has also allowed that balance of, hey look, you need to plan this event, I need you to handle this on the bookkeeping side, membership contact, setting up intros, I’ll coach. And then I’m also still training, but kind of having the overlook of all of it has kind of, I think also taken some of that burden off from the athlete side. So I think it’s just being able to put things in perspective for me of how it actually worked and separating each segment of my life of home life, gym life, competitive life and being able to step away at certain times and focus those areas on that.

Chris Cooper: (29:12)
That’s something that Taryn mentioned earlier in the podcast. So how do you do that, Travis? I’ll give you an example. Like, I was just training on the bike for the last hour and a half and three texts came in and I answered all of them.

Chris Cooper: (29:27)
Right. It’s very hard to maintain any kind of intensity when you’re doing that. How do you partition home, training, gym?

Travis Mayer: (29:33)
Yeah, I mean a lot of practice, right. I’ve been competing now for, this would’ve been my ninth year going for the Games or I guess technically 10th or 11th year. I’ve missed twice. But it’s been about 11 years of building up to this point of trial and error. But usually when I go into a training session, phone’s off to the side and I just don’t pay attention to it. Like for me personally, it’s the only thing. I’ll write the workout down on a whiteboard, go over do my training session then. Unless it’s like an emergency like I gotta pick my kid up from school, they’re sick or something, then yeah, I of course go handle that. But the majority of time I just leave it alone and try not to check my email, try not to check anything.

Travis Mayer: (30:18)
Even if it comes in, you just let it be. Yes, I might miss out on say an hour of a response time or something else, but for me that’s not my time right then to do that. And I’m just okay with being like, all right, well I’ll respond in an hour and because this is my time and if I keep stepping away and answering this email, then that email leads to another email and then now that three minutes rest I had in between my set has now turned into 15 and now it’s like ok, well I need to rewarm up, I need to get back into my positions. And I think it’s just being able to keep those things distant and separate from each other and know if you’re trying to work out, put your time and energy in the training. Set that clock if it’s like, Hey I need 90 minutes.

Travis Mayer: (30:59)
Okay, well this is 90 minutes. I put do not disturb on and I’m gonna train, not be distracted by it. Focus on the training because I think a lot of it also changes your mood, your mind. Like, if someone sends you an angry email, they’re upset about something, they wanna cancel their membership, anything, it could make you upset, then you get frustrated, then your training starts to go downhill for that day and then you’re mad you didn’t get the training in that you wanted. So it’s being able to be like, no, this time is for me. I’m gonna take the 90 minutes to work out. Then after that, okay, now I’ll go answer these emails. And then sometimes you’re even more cool-headed about it and respond in a more timely manner and not feel rushed. And for me that’s kind of been how I separate. And then even if I’m at home and training and my kids come in and ask me something, then it’s like, okay, well I’ll answer right quick.

Travis Mayer: (31:48)
But then they know dad’s doing his job and that’s what he has gotta also work out on. But I think it’s also not being too hard on yourself about the whole situation. Like, life throws things at you. And I think that’s also what having kids has taught me a lot about, is that you gotta just kind of roll with the punches of like, I’m mid-session, the daycare school calls like, Hey, your kid’s sick. All right, well that session’s done. That’s okay. Yeah, my family is more important to me than my training and anything else that’s taking place. So being able to just accept I’ll get to that training session or I’m just gonna move on and be okay with it. And I think letting it kind of go and not stress and worry about it makes it 10 times easier to deal with and just be like, all right, well I’ll pick up tomorrow. Or you know what, maybe I’ll just go do a 30 minute run this afternoon, get some still conditioning in when my wife gets home, or I have a full setup at my house too.

Travis Mayer: (32:40)
So it allows me to do those things which some people don’t have access to. But being able to just, I think separate your time and plan it out. And I’m very structured with how I do everything. So that’s probably part of another reason on how it’s all worked out from the time I wake up to go to bed, I kind of have a structure and plan of, from these hours to this hour I can train. From here is the gym, from here is coaching, so on and so forth.

Chris Cooper: (33:08)
That’s super interesting. Man, can you share that with us before we get into the other stuff?

Travis Mayer: (33:12)
Yeah, so usually kids are up at 5 30, 6 o’clock, get them ready for school. So the two younger ones go to, actually our daycare flooded recently. So then now it’s even more driving cause, it’s a long story about the daycare situation. But the other two of the youngest ones go with my wife to a daycare kind of on her direction to her work. And then I get the other two ready, take one to elementary school, take the other one to a different daycare and then from that situation go to the gym. Usually from eight o’clock to around 10:30 I do a training session. Then from 11 to probably 12:30 I’m doing gym admin stuff or working on the gym in some way, shape or form. 12:30, start another session. Usually that’s done around two.

Travis Mayer: (34:08)
Then depending on the day, I’ll do another training session after that or I go pick up my kids at around 2:30, go home, spend time with them. Once my wife gets home, then I’ll do another training session, then sit down, do some computer admin work, have dinner, then hang out with the kids the rest of the night. And that’s kind of the, I guess quick overview of how it works. And it varies day to day with certain times. Cause I coach some nights and that changes the structure, but that’s kind of the main flow of my day and how it all goes.

Chris Cooper: (34:46)
But the point is that you have a plan. So obviously, many times in the past it’s even been said if you wanna have a a successful CrossFit affiliate, you need to be competitive. And then, that was 2010 and I think everybody’s past that now. And people realize that you are the exception, not the rule, but where do you see this going wrong for other people who are trying to do both, actually be competitive in CrossFit and an affiliate? What mistakes are they making?

Travis Mayer: (35:16)
Oh man, I think there’s a lot, right? You spread yourself too thin. I mean, I think you need other people and a good team and staff to assist and help. And I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve had a very good staff and system in place and support structure of how classes, like, I have a morning coach and they’re amazing. And so they handle the morning classes. And I used to do all that when I first started, don’t get me wrong. When I first started, I coached every class. I didn’t golf and was still training, but I made things the priority. I didn’t go out on the weekends, I didn’t go out and hang out with all my friends when they wanted to go party or something. I had a goal, an aspiration to be a competitive athlete and that’s what I put my focus on and that’s what I did early on when I was 19.

Travis Mayer: (36:06)
I remember even in elementary school, I wanted to race motocross professionally. And so I’d wake up at 5:00 AM before school and I would train and ride a bike or go run or do some conditioning aspect, go to school, we’d have weight training, go home and hopefully could ride or do something else. But I’ve always been just driven internally no matter what I was shooting for, I had some goal then. I was gonna go after it and do whatever it took. And so for me that’s, even from people that own affiliates now, I think a lot of times people think they don’t have time but they have time and they’re just not operating it and doing it in a smart format or flow of how it kind of works best and ideal for them. And then they get stressed out about it, then they get frustrated, then that takes the back burner to some degree and then you’re more frustrated that you didn’t spend more time doing this.

Travis Mayer: (36:55)
Where if I told you you had an hour to train and that’s all you can do and don’t let any distractions creep in, spend your hour doing that. And then if I want four hours of trying to grow the gym, okay, those four hours need to be directly at growing the gym. I don’t need to go out and eat, I don’t need to go out on the weekends. And it’s like, what’s important to you? Right? If it’s just specifically look, I’m kind of a borderline quarterfinal, semi-final athlete. Okay, well let’s be honest. Okay, what’s the timeline of that gonna actually be? Okay, well if I’m doing two sessions a day and then there’s still plenty of time in the day to make those things work. And if it’s like, okay well you have kids and other things, I think there’s a lot of time in the day if you do it correctly in the most optimal way for you.

Travis Mayer: (37:41)
And I think the important thing is for each person to try different strategies, try different plans. My method is not gonna be what works for you and your method’s not gonna be what works for me. And I think it’s being able to have a good understanding of yourself, what motivates you, what drives you, and then that will allow you to be successful in kind of multiple areas. And for me that’s like when it’s that gym time, that time is solely spent on how are we growing the gym right now? And I mean I can have a pretty good conversation in an hour with my GM of, what are five plans we’re coming up in an hour? And then get those things set because that time is specifically dedicated to sit down and talk with her. How can we make this grow?

Travis Mayer: (38:24)
Okay perfect. What do our numbers look like? What are these metrics? And I think it’s just being able to be dedicated and focused on those times of what you’re trying to accomplish. I don’t think there’s necessarily a right and wrong for someone that’s trying to be a competitive athlete and grow the gym. I do think it is very challenging. It is very hard, but with proper time management and a proper drive and if that’s what you wanna accomplish, it’s definitely possible. I mean I’ve done it for 10 years. Even my coach when I had my first kid was like, mm, your athletic career’s probably gonna be over . For me, I like proving people wrong and I’m still with my coach for 11 years now. So I mean, love the guy, he’s like a brother but he’s like, that’s one thing you’ve definitely proved me wrong.

Travis Mayer: (39:09)
It’s like, even now that you have four kids, you own a gym and you’re still a competitive athlete, how you did it, I don’t know. The fact that I’m still doing it, he doesn’t know. But it’s just something in me that drives and motivates me and it’s possible to do. It’s just, you gotta put your things in a timeline, you gotta understand what you’re trying to improve upon. And I take a lot of those stressors out. But I have a coach, he handles all the programming, I don’t have to worry about it. I have a nutritionist, what do I need to eat? K, here are my blocks. Okay, I have my GM. Hey, these are the things we need to work on. These are the things we need to grow the gym. You take these, okay. This coach, you need to handle these classes and then I’ll coach X amount of classes and then there we go. And then it’s just being able to sit down, look at it, put it on a piece of paper, whatever it is, and figure out what’s most important. Focus your time on that to grow it.

Chris Cooper: (39:57)
So I think what’s really key there is it doesn’t matter what the plan is, but you have to have a plan. And the other thing,

Travis Mayer: (40:03)
Important to have a plan.

Chris Cooper: (40:05)
. Yeah, but many don’t, and that’s part of the problem. The other thing that I took out of that is that you’ve got a general manager. So when you are focused on training for the next hour and a half and the gym phone rings, you don’t answer it, but it still gets answered. Am I wrong there?

Travis Mayer: (40:22)
I mean, I would say yes and no. So even if the phone’s not answered, then there’s some email or there’s some way someone’s connecting and gonna follow back up with him. Yeah. And I mean, there’s definitely been plenty of times we’ve definitely missed out on leads and I think a lot of this has actually been, now going through the whole mentorship program now in the Growth phase of it all, it brought a lot of light of things that we didn’t do well. From the first steps of when someone comes in, we’ve always had an On-ramp program, so we’ve always kind of done a lot of areas good, but then there’s a lot of areas on the back end that we didn’t do well or what things can we try to improve upon. And I think it’s the same thing, having a plan. That structure even when I’m talking with my mentor of like, hey, these are the things we’re trying to shoot for, this is what I want you to accomplish. And for me, it’s easy to do that because if I have a plan and if I have an idea, I can go accomplish that right away and I know what I’m checking off the list. Hey, the goal this March for us was to get 15 people and right now I think we’re at 11 of potentially the 15 and then we have three other people coming in for On-ramps over today and tomorrow.

Chris Cooper: (41:40)
Oh no pressure man.

Travis Mayer: (41:41)
And so it’s like, no, but even if I don’t hit it, I’m okay with that, but I have a target. I’m shooting for something. The amount of times I’ve failed in training or the amount of times I’ve failed in business, it happens all the time. And you have to be okay with understanding that it’s gonna happen. But you just keep going, keep ticking away, trying what worked, what didn’t work, what can we try next? And I think being aware of those situations makes a massive difference to keep growing and elevating. From a business owner and even as an athlete, those things go together. If I can understand how to handle those things and put my time spent the right way, then it’s gonna leaps and bounds over and over. So yeah, it’s interesting. .

Chris Cooper: (42:30)
So here’s a question from another affiliate that I’m hoping you can answer for them. So they hired a general manager, this gym’s out in Virginia. They hired a general manager who has done well at Regionals before, wants to make the Games. Their challenge right now is that this person’s training about six hours a day and it’s clear that the gym comes way down the line in his list of priorities. And so the gym is actually failing a little bit and they’re finding some problems where the class starts late because this person’s workout went five minutes over or you know, they answer the door and he is not wearing a shirt because he is mid workout or whatever. How do they address that and is it worth even trying to fix the GM or should they look for somebody more business-minded to run the business?

Travis Mayer: (43:14)
Yeah, I think one first would be just having a conversation with them and letting them know that you’re seeing the slack and not the time spent the way you want. Cause I think sometimes people, I mean even in the book that you’ve written and stuff, just people don’t see it the way you see it, right? They don’t see it the way like I see it because I’m the athlete, but I’m also the owner. So I have an understanding that if their GM was the owner, he would see it differently. It’s a different perspective when you’re the owner. And I think that’s kind of allowed me to be able to do both and separate because no, I know when class starts. I’m done 10 minutes at least early. I’m cooled down, I’m in a new shirt, I’m ready to coach, I already ate, I’m ready to go.

Travis Mayer: (43:56)
But I think for a lot of people they sometimes just aren’t aware. So one, I would say just have a conversation with ’em and let ’em know, look, these are the things we’re seeing happen. One, start training earlier because if you’re running over five minutes like that or you stop your set early and you pick it up when you’re done and make a third session of the accessory things you didn’t get to do. Or if you’re in a Metcon and you’re not gonna finish in time, you don’t do the metcon, just stop 20 minutes before if that’s the Metcon that you’re gonna do and then finish it later when you actually have time. And if there’s downtime in the gym, or however they actually operate, I’m not sure. But that would be kind of step one of having that addressed. Because I think a lot of people just don’t always understand that and he might just be like, oh well they’ve let me skate by doing this the whole time and never said anything , so I’ll keep doing it, right?

Travis Mayer: (44:46)
Yeah, he doesn’t know or she, so from that standpoint, discuss with him and just have a conversation. Two, if he doesn’t start to make any changes or adjustments, then be like, look, these are now your new roles. We want you to handle X, Y, Z. If you’re not taking on these tasks and aren’t comfortable doing that, then we’re gonna have to reach out to someone else and get a different GM. But if this is gonna be important to you and this is what you wanna do and train, then I would say fix it and make it work or we’re gonna have to let you go. And I think one that would fire him up to get better at doing those things or two, he’s like, well I just don’t wanna do that and I’m comfortable being done and I’ll just keep training and try to be a professional athlete.

Travis Mayer: (45:33)
But even if you make the Games, fantastic. You gotta be very well-rounded to be up high and get paid and have sponsors and obligations of things that create this, right? There’s a very select few of us at the top that have, I get paid to do this as a professional athlete and I know people that have made the Games that don’t get paid to do this. That’s great, you’ve made it one time. Sometimes you get some short-term deals or it’s not very much, but it’s definitely not an income to live off of, right? It could just be like, hey, I have a few thousand dollars a month here. But you still need a job to pay for those things. And then you have the other side where it’s like, okay, you’ve been doing this a long time, you have full-time sponsorship obligations, you have to make posts, you have to support these, you need to go do this photo shoot.

Travis Mayer: (46:25)
Then you’re getting paid a full salary. And there’s a difference there of, okay, if he’s not at that level and able to do that or she, then you’re gonna need a job. So you better make sure that for you to pursue this career of what you’re trying to accomplish, you need to get your ducks in a row of how you want to get to that point. And if that is, I need to be in the gym training six hours a day, great. But I also need to be able to make sure that I’m a priority for the gym and improving the gym’s overall experience and feel and community and then those things. So I think it will start to just naturally happen on their own. But they have to become aware of it and get a good understanding of what the owner’s wanting. And if they’ve talked to ’em over and over and nothing’s changed, then I would say you just gotta cut ties and move on from that standpoint.

Chris Cooper: (47:19)
Okay man. Thank you. So last question. Do you find in any way that sport makes you better at business or business makes you better at sport? Is it a crossover?

Travis Mayer: (47:29)
I would say yes, probably in a lot of different areas. Not necessarily maybe that compound too much on top of each other, but I think it just allows me that communication with people, experiences connecting with members on a different level, talking about my own personal experiences with being a high level athlete, having injuries, how I’ve dealt with it, the importance of movement, quality and all these kind of things of, look. It took me three years of two and a half to three hours a day of just movement to get my squat the way I wanted so I could snatch X, Y, Z. Wow. And it’s not gonna take overnight like, oh, why is my squat still like this? I’m like, okay, well how much time are you actually spending on it? What are the positions you’re trying to work on?

Travis Mayer: (48:17)
What are these other things? And I’m like, okay, well now you need to be doing all these other things to start to improve that. And just from an athlete side, I start to understand that. And then it’s easier for me to communicate with someone that is trying to be competitive, or someone that’s just your everyday person that just wants to work out for health and wellness. But a lot of the things I’ve learned as an athlete, I can carry over and teach and share to them as well. And then when failure happens, okay, look, you know how many times I’ve failed snatching, how many times I’ve failed squatting? It happens, you’re gonna fail. That’s the whole point. You’re finding your limits, you’re testing yourself. So I think there’s definitely a lot of crossover.

Travis Mayer: (48:56)
And then I think it also makes me very determined in a lot of ways of, when I reach out for something and try to pursue it and chase after it, now that I’m doing that on the business side, more run from the mentorship program, it’s just allowed me to push even more as an affiliate owner. Trying to get more creative, coming up with some new cool ideas and just really trying to pursue the gym side of it. And then people in the gym are now noticing it. But a lot of that mentality and focus from being a professional athlete has carried over because you’re like, I want to be the best. I want to improve this. I want you guys to have the best experience. I want you to have an understanding of why we’re doing these things, how the progression’s working. And so I think it definitely kind of correlates. Maybe not the same as what other people think, but for me that’s kind of how I view it between both levels.

Chris Cooper: (49:46)
That’s great, man. Well, hey, thanks for putting us into your very planned out schedule, Travis. Really appreciate it, man.

Travis Mayer: (49:53)
No problem. Thanks for having me.

Chris Cooper: (49:54)
Oh yeah. We’ll have you back again, man. Thanks and good luck this year.

Travis Mayer: (49:57)
Thank you. Appreciate it.

Chris Cooper: (49:58)
So Travis and Taryn gave us some really interesting insights. And the keys were that number one, you have to have a plan. You have to have a plan to train, you have to have a plan to grow your business. Number two is that you have to have a coach in each one. The coach tells ’em exactly what to do, exactly what to eat, and the coach on their business side tells ’em exactly what they’re focusing on right now. Third, both of ’em have very strong support networks. So Travis has four kids and a wife at home. That’s amazing. But he also has a nutritionist and he also has staff at his gym helping him out. Taryn also has an amazing staff and a general manager running her gym. So while these people have grown as athletes and they’ve also grown in business, they’ve surrounded themselves with all of the pieces that they need to support that lifestyle.

Chris Cooper: (50:47)
If you don’t have those pieces, I still believe that two fields of play will conflict with each other. However, both of those athletes are high level for a reason. One of those reasons is focus. They have a focus that I just don’t, and that’s what’s making them successful on both fronts. They can block everything else out and just focus on what they’re doing at the time, the skill we all can learn. And if that helps you, then that’s fantastic. I’m Chris Cooper. This is Run a Profitable Gym. If you wanna chat about this episode or share your experience in competition and growing your business, just go to GymOwnersUnited.com. We’d love to have you in that group. There’s about 7,000 gym owners in there. It’s all positive, it’s all upbeat. Nobody’s attacking anybody. And we talk about subjects just like this. We’ll see you there.

Thanks for listening!

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