Should You Outsource Your Gym’s Programming?

A gym owner scratches his head and tries to make a tough decision.

A gym’s group programming used to be sacred to its owner.

“Only I can create the perfect blend of thrusters, pull-ups and deadlifts for my clients.”

I’ve said things like that over the years, or at least thought them, but I realize now that I was making the decision based on emotion. Pride of authorship definitely played a part.

It used to be very hard to give up responsibility for what was long viewed as a signature part of gym and affiliate ownership. But it became easier as more high-quality outside options popped up and experienced owners started to realize that they could get a better return on their time if they worked on other aspects of the business.

That said, a great gym owner can have very good reasons for doing the programming personally or keeping it in house. To me, the best ones are:

  • The owner’s programming gets measurably better results for clients.
  • The owner absolutely loves programming.
  • The gym has equipment/space/philosophical considerations that can’t be accommodated in an outsider’s programming.

Josh Martin of The Refined Art of Coaching listed 11 reasons he’s never outsourced coaching here.

So what are gym owners doing in 2024?

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

A recent Morning Chalk Up article referenced data from a “quick poll of CrossFit affiliate and functional fitness gyms.” Here it is:

  • 49 percent of the 305 surveyed gym owners do their own programming.
  • 37 percent pay another company for programming.
  • 12 percent use CrossFit Affiliate Programming.
  • 2 percent hand programming off to a coach.
  • Overall: 49 percent of owners program and 51 percent do not.

I ran a similar poll in our private group for upper-level gym owners who track metrics, including the return they get on their time and expenses. I got 204 responses:

  • 42 percent pay another company for programming.
  • 32 percent of the gym owners do their own programming.
  • 18 percent pay a coach to program.
  • 8 percent use CrossFit Affiliate Programming.
  • Overall: 32 percent of owners program and 68 percent do not.

How to Decide

So what’s the best way to decide how to handle group programming at your gym?

Let’s be CEOs:

  • Write down a list of all the jobs you do in a week.
  • Assign an hourly value to each role. (Example: Coach: $25 an hour.)
  • Do a time valuation and determine how much time you spend in each role each week. Multiply hours in each role by its hourly value. (Example: Cleaner—5 hours x $15 per hour = $75 replacement value.)
  • Find the role with the lowest replacement value, hire a person to fill the role and reinvest your time in higher-value roles.

At some point in this exercise—we call it “the Value Ladder”—you will run into programming. In some cases, you will realize that you spend a lot of time in this role but could offload it at a very reasonable price, whether you pay a staff member or an outside company.

At that point, ask yourself two questions:

  • 1. Does my programming produce measurably better results for clients?
  • 2. Am I so passionate about programming that I get out of bed and can’t wait to do it?

If both answers are “yes,” consider keeping the job—but make sure you actually have data for No. 1.

I answered “yes” for years, but when I finally handed programming off to a great coach, clients got equal or better results. My ego was bruised but my business was better, and I had more free time.

I also held onto programming too long to avoid more important tasks that intimidated me. It was easier to program Fran than fix my marketing funnels, but the funnel fixing was true CEO work that would have improved my bottom line significantly.

If both answers are “no,” decide whether to offload the role to a staff member or outsource the work to CompTrain, Mayhem, NCFIT or any other provider. Delegating programming can be part of career creation in your business (we have tools to help gym owners create careers for staff members). Or you can just pay a fee that’s usually very reasonable to receive programming from a provider.

Once you’ve offloaded the task, use the free hours to generate the revenue you need to pay for the programming—and more.

The key: Take emotion and ego out of the equation.

It’s fine to offload programming or retain the role yourself. Either choice is valid. But it’s no longer OK to make the decision based on hunches, suspicions and ego.

Two-Brain mentors help clients make decisions on data all the time. To find out more about the business systems used by the world’s top gym owners, book a call.


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.