Unique In-Terminal Gym at BWI Solves Problems for Travelers

A man with a backpack and suitcase stands in front of a flight schedule display in an airport terminal.

Gyms must solve problems for clients.

Roam Fitness is solving this problem:

Clients are trapped in a large space full of angry people and unhealthy food. They’re carrying bags and suitcases and have few places to stretch out and relax.

Stress is high: At any moment, their schedules could be completely destroyed, and they might be stranded inside their temporary prison for hours. They definitely don’t want to miss their daily lifting or cardio session.

Yes, Roam Fitness is a gym inside an airport terminal—BWI, or Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

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

Gyms in airports are relatively rare. On July 4, Caroline Tanner of thepointsguy.com stated Roam is the only gym of its kind in a domestic U.S. terminal. The company open its second location, in Philadelphia International, on July 10.

You can find a list of nine airport-associated fitness facilities scattered around the world in this 2019 article.

The most interesting part of Roam is how it’s identified pain points for its avatar:

Obvious Problem: Nowhere to work out in airport.

Solution: 1,200-square-foot gym with cardio and strength-training equipment. People can do any kind of workout they want.

Problem: No workout clothing or shoes.

Solution: Access to lululemon clothing and Brooks shoes is included with access. You can also purchase shoes and clothing—or use your own and have it vacuum sealed so your laptop stays sweat-free.

Problem: Tight schedules for travelers.

Solution: Passes can be purchased in advance. They cost $25 for a day or $35 per month with a 12-month commitment ($420).

Problem: Sweat.

Solution: Showers can be booked ahead of time, with a 15-minute limit. Towel service and various hygiene products are included. Other stuff can be purchased.

Problem: Time pressure.

Solution: An info board shows flight status, including delays.

Problem: Suitcases and bags.

Solution: Lockers.

Business Challenges

Roam Fitness has some interesting obstacles it must overcome.

A few to note:

1. In-terminal businesses have to deal with way more red tape than other enterprises, including a lack of flexibility around hours of operation.

2. Staff will have to go through security to get to work. At best, that affects travel time. At worst, it likely means some people with checkered pasts can’t be hired.

3. Rental clothing and shoes cost money, and few people are going to need the Size 15s. This stuff also requires storage space, as well as laundry and cleaning procedures.

4. Some people just aren’t going to wear used clothing.

5. No one actually wants to go to or spend time in an airport, so the market is limited to people inside the terminal who have a free hour.

6. On-time flights are actually bad for business.

7. Some fitness aficionados just won’t have any interest in working out on a travel day.

But every gym has its challenges, so I’m not suggesting Roam is a bad idea. I’d actually be very curious to get a look at its lease, financials, marketing plan, drop-in rates and recurring client list.

The takeaway for gym owners who don’t run facilities in airports is this: To be great, you have to actively solve problems for your perfect clients.

Roam, unique as it is, provides a great example of how that can be done.

A Common Mistake—and Two Important Questions

I often didn’t try to solve my clients’ problems as a gym owner. Not because I didn’t care but because I wasn’t paying attention.

This error is actually more common than you might think: People who like fitness often think others will want to work out simply because it’s awesome—except some people don’t think it’s awesome at all. They use the gym only as a means to solve certain problems. If the problems didn’t exist, the people wouldn’t be there.

Yet I thought my clients just wanted to squat, deadlift and do Fran—because that’s what I wanted to do. Class times were set according to when I wanted to coach, not when clients wanted to come. We didn’t have showers because I didn’t want to renovate the building. And so on.

Had I actually dug into my clients and asked “what is your greatest daily barrier to working out?” my gym would have looked very different.

And it would have been better.

Had I asked new clients about their problems, I could have offered tailored solutions with more value instead of a one-size-fits-all plan that solved problems for some but not others.

Prospective client: “I’d love to use your gym to lose weight, but I only have an hour for lunch.”

Old me: “Yeah, bummer. Our noon class is an hour, and we don’t have showers.”

Problem-solving gym owner: “Perfect! We’re totally set up to serve busy workers like you, and we have about a dozen people who work in the same building you do. We have 30-minute fat-burning classes that start at 12:15, and we have showers so you can clean up and get back to work. Let’s get you started today!”

So, with Roam in mind, try asking yourself two questions today:

1. What problems are your perfect clients dealing with?

2. How can you provide solutions for them?

Then take action.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.