The State of the Fitness Industry 2019

Chris Cooper-Blog

Andrew: 00:02 – Online personal training. Smartwatches. Trendy microgym franchises with the full spa treatment. The fitness industry is changing. Where do you fit in? Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. In this episode, Chris Cooper will help you cut through the noise and understand what’s really happening in the fitness industry. He’ll talk about the data that matters, how to leverage trends to your benefit and what to do to set your business up for success in 2020. Here’s Chris with the state of the fitness industry 2019.

Chris: 00:31 – 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. This week, 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. First, what knowledge can you trust? I’ll talk about that today. Second, how you should position yourself for 2020 and what should your brand be? And I’ll talk about that tomorrow. Third, how can you leverage these new tools in the fitness world? I’ll talk about that on Wednesday.

Chris: 01:24 – Fourth, I’ll talk about the disappearing middle—why breakeven gyms are folding (my interview with economist Allison Schrager, author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel,” on Thursday).

Chris 1:40 – And fifth, I’ll talk about what should your gym evolve to be, on Saturday.

Some of these videos, recordings and 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. 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. Here’s 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. Now, you can download either one of those from our website if you click the link below. Now, what does the data show? The data shows that 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.

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.

Chris: 9:48 – 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.

Chris: 11:15 – 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. .

Chris: 12:15 – 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.

Chris: 13:30 – 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.

Chris: 14:59 – 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. .

Chris 16:37 – 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 in the fitness industry. 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. These are all new opportunities. I think they can do all the right things for all the right people for all the right reasons and still become wealthy.

Andrew: 17:37 – Everyone knows that they need to build their brand. But few do it effectively. Sexy logos don’t make the brand. But storytelling, authority and results do.

Chris: 18:00 – Let’s talk about your brand in 2020. Your brand is more than your logo. Your brand is the way your service meets the world. Your brand determines where you fit on the workout services spectrum. Think of the impression you make as “branding” yourself on your client’s brain. These impressions are usually made in the first interaction and remain unchanged forever. Here are the top lessons on branding from 2019. Simplicity beats art. It’s more important to say “we are a gym” or “we are fitness coaches” than to try and invent a new category. “We are movement specialists” moves you into a category that 99.5 percent of your potential clients don’t understand. Is that like rehab? Are you a doctor of something? Second, make your website clear. StoryBrand is growing in popularity; think of it as a “101-level” course for branding. Third, publish a lot or be lost. If you’re not producing media, you don’t exist. Most of the huge fees you’d pay a franchise go toward media production and marketing. If you’re not paying franchise fees, you have to do those things yourself. Fourth, position yourself as the “meta.” Yes, you have a position on the keto diet. Publish it. Yes, you have a position on deadlifts. Share it. Don’t rely on people to know anything, and don’t allow your message to be dictated by others. Saying “yeah, what she said” doesn’t establish you as an expert. Fifth, present yourself as a solution to a problem rather than as a representative for a method. Sixth, your brand is the sum of the stories you tell (or the stories told about you). If you don’t tell stories about your practice, your coaches and your clients, someone will—and those stories might not be the ones you want told. Seventh: Think of your gym as your private practice. That will level up everything you do. Eighth: Once every year, ask your staff, “What do we have to do to be the best in town?” Now is a good time. Should you be a CrossFit affiliate? I’ve been a fitness coach since 1996. I opened Catalyst Fitness in 2005 and I affiliated with CrossFit in 2008. CrossFit is the most powerful tool I’ve ever seen for making people fit. It’s my method. It’s not my brand. Should it be yours? Probably. Here are the criteria to consider. Become a CrossFit affiliate if: You believe in the mission and method. If you are prepared to seek out a business model on top of the brand (the affiliate model isn’t a business model; it’s a license to use the name), and if you are prepared to be an evangelist for the brand. And if you want to buy some quick brand recognition. You can literally leverage the most popular fitness brand in the world for like 3,000 bucks a year. That’s a joke.

Chris 21:00 – Don’t become a CrossFit affiliate if: You want a clear playbook to follow or to have your media done for you. You don’t want to work 14 hours a day for the first year or so (because you have to do all the stuff that a franchise would do for you). Or if you just want to coach, don’t open a business.

If you’re an affiliate now, should you deaffiliate? Probably not. CrossFit is probably the only recognizable part of your brand. You don’t have a better idea than CrossFit. If your clients describe you as “a CrossFit gym” to their friends, then you’d be crazy to take that away from them. And if you can’t describe your service without using the word “CrossFit” (even if you say “it’s like CrossFit, but …”) then you owe Greg Glassman some money. Should you buy a franchise? Maybe. Here are the criteria to consider. First, here’s when you should buy a franchise.

Chris: 21:50 – If you love fitness, but you don’t want to have to figure out the business part. If you want the security of done-for-me marketing equipment, choice layout, staff uniforms, pricing and playbooks, sometimes those are included in a franchise fee. Also, if your vision is a five-to-10-year business, because you won’t have the flexibility to pivot, but you might not want that anyway. And if you don’t want to have to think about workouts or how to pay your coaches, then yeah, buy a franchise. Don’t buy a franchise if you want to control every little detail of your business and be responsible for its execution. Don’t buy a franchise if you want to do it all yourself and don’t buy a franchise if you want the cognitive challenge of figuring it out like I did. Don’t buy a franchise if you have a better option to professionalize and scale like the Incubator; it’s seriously better than a franchise.

Chris: 22:38 – We even work with franchisees to give them the tools that they’re not getting from the people that they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to. So to sum it up, your brand is the sum of the stories you tell. No one else is telling these stories for you. At least they’re not telling positive ones. More than ever, you have to publish content. People will judge you by your actions more than by your words. Therefore, your brand is really determined by your leadership. Finally, consistency is more important than everything else. Special favors and discounts might feel like you’re doing people favors. But they actually erode your brand by making you less trustworthy. Do all the right things for all the right reasons, for all the right people and tell us about it.

Andrew: 23:24 – To get fit, all you need is a few weights and a little space. But to run a business you’ll need a few more tools. Here’s Chris on what you need and how you can leverage opportunities that first looked like obstacles.

Chris: 23:34 – Last Monday, I bought a treadmill for my house. 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 recommendation was worth a 3000-dollar purchase to me. On Tuesday, I received a shipping notification from the treadmill company. On Wednesday I got this little email showing me how to unbox the treadmill, how to set it up, and how to start out walking on it. 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. Now, I used to sell treadmills for a living and we’re talking 20 years ago. I know that most treadmills turn into clothes racks within a month and garage-sale items within a year.

Chris: 24:17 – 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 and they’re calling that coaching, but we can turn it around on them. So first, the tools you need. When I found online scheduling software in 2005 it was this 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, a year into gym ownership, we found MindBody, which tied payments to bookings. Hallelujah, no more awkward “you owe me money” talks with clients. We were horrible at that. But since then, software tools in the fitness industry have morphed into these slow scoreboards with appointment tracking and payments kind of tacked on as an afterthought.

Chris: 25:18 – There are a few good ones bucking the trend. You can read our booking, billing gym software report by clicking the link below. But what do gym owners really need to run a business? I think it’s a CRM 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 your gym and have them track their progress. A better camera and microphone, a nutrition program for everyone you coach and 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 option 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 that you automate, and new tools give you the opportunity to extend that care into new markets. So here’s how to see these as opportunities instead of as competition.

Chris: 26:39 – First, the tools you don’t need. A lot of gym owners sign up for things they don’t need and they wind up failing to use them. Then when they do an expense audit, they add up what they’ve spent and they regret spending the money on it. Here’s what you shouldn’t spend your money on in 2020. First, marketing agencies who will do it for you. Every marketing agency is incentivized to increase ad spend. There are a lot like mutual-fund salesman. As the market gets worse, they tell you to spend more. That has a ratchet effect that costs you more and more for less and less results, and without skin in the game, marketing agencies really never have to get creative with their own money. You’re better learn to do it yourself, then teach a staff person how to do it and continually track and improve your funnel instead.

Chris: 27:26 – Second, don’t spend your money on coaching courses that teach something beyond the scope of fitness. Partner with local healthcare professionals instead of trying to rehab your clients yourself, and you can read “Scope of Practice” in the link below. Third, don’t spend money on equipment or education that you can’t tie directly to more revenue. Too many box owners are overeducated and poor. Plan to upgrade your coaching education in 2021 and your business education in 2020. Third, the new opportunities; here we go: Online spin classes. Zwift, remote trainers. These aren’t your competition. They’re a breeding ground for your next clients. Every time a spin-bike company sells a monthly coaching subscription, they’re doing you a favor. They’re teaching their 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 are the next step.

Chris: 28:21 – Now, I’ve screwed this up. When I brought CrossFit to our city, I thought I was competing with P90X. Do you remember P90X? There’s this bunch of DVDs that people followed for eight weeks and because of a couple of firefighters told me “I don’t need to do CrossFit, I can do P90X at home,” I thought I was in this life or death battle with the DVDs. 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’ve called them a weeks later because everyone got bored with P90X. They would have been ready for CrossFit. I could’ve said, you’ve taken step one. Now here’s step two. 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 I’ll join a gym. But if you tell them that’s dumb, like I did, they’ll just stay in their basement forever.

Chris: 29:12 – If you pit yourself against the treadmill company, you’re also pitting yourself against its user. Here’s another story. I used to publicly denounce laparoscopic surgery. That’s where they tie off part of your belly to help you lose weight. I thought our government was crazy to subsidize the easy way out. I thought people were wasting their time having their stomach 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 in a group, one of them touched me on the arm to interrupt me. Chris, she said kindly, I’ve had the surgery. I was shocked. You, Kathy? I don’t believe it! Now, Kathy was one of our most hardcore CrossFitters at the time. She followed every blog, watched every video, was in every Facebook group. She’d usually be the one to fill me in on the CrossFit Games gossip, but she had had the stomach reduction surgery and she changed my viewpoint with what she said:

Chris: 30:09 – “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? Here’s how to leverage these new tools. Think about online coaching the way you think about a library, like here is all the information you’ll ever need organized in one place. But nobody learns how to do open heart surgery at the library. Nobody quit smoking after reading a book about it and no one reads the same book every day for the rest of their life. Eventually they need a teacher and then they need a coach. If I wanted to attract local cyclists to my gym, and I do because cyclists are awesome and I am one of them, I would start by posting my own rides on Strava. In my Strava profile,

Chris: 31:11 – I’d post a link to a local group ride. I’d create a ride if there weren’t any already listed. And at that group ride I’d mention how much my climbing speed has improved since adding front squats. Then I’d say, hey, you guys keep asking me about front squats. Tell you what, let’s just start the ride from my gym next week, 15 minutes earlier, and I’ll show you what I mean. Then I book one-on-one appointments with each person who showed up to learn about front squats. See, people seek out groups of others like themselves. The key to marketing is finding the others. The key to sales is showing the others how you can help them. I just searched for Peloton on Facebook and found dozens of open groups and forums. Here were a few categories and I’ve posted a screenshot below this. What if I told you that the next 20 clients for your gym were waiting in those Peloton Facebook groups?

Chris: 32:03 – Would you dive in and grab them like they were gold coins on the bottom of the swimming pool? I would. So 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. You can win both ways. Then write love letters to the people in these groups. Talk to them on video, record a podcast, whatever you want to do. Get your stories out there. 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, HIIT training, becomes normalized in their brain and then it’s easier to introduce something that’s just a little bit harder for them.

Chris: 32:58 – Instead of taking them from a zero to a nine on the things-I’m-willing-to-do-to-lose-weight scale, we can allow Orangetheory to take them from zero to six maybe, and then accept the baton from there. Microgyms who open next to globo gyms are very smart. People can try to exercise on their own and then add coaching when the results stop coming. 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 and that’s really what a mentor is for.

Andrew: 33:31 – In the fitness industry, gyms sell coaching or access. Every gym falls somewhere on that spectrum. As the industry changes and clients lean toward one end of the spectrum or the other, those in the middle are left fighting for scraps.

Chris: 33:44 – 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 like a monthly membership. On the right side we have coaches selling only coaching, no access without appointment, everything done one-on-one. Now in some cases there’s no equipment at all. Clients have to join a gym somewhere else to do their homework. This is how I actually used to operate. In the middle, we have group fitness classes and that’s where things get murky. Big globo gyms offer group-fitness classes for free with a membership, or you know like this tiny little add-on rate and these are usually equipment minimalist, like spin bikes or yoga mats or pump classes with PVC weights or like Zumba, Coaches are mostly following preset choreography including like playlists and moves, you know, do this, right, right. Then slightly to the right of that are the group-class coaching gyms like Orangetheory or Barry’s Bootcamp.

Chris: 34:42 – Coaches still follow preset choreography, but the equipment is more varied and the atmosphere is more exclusive. They’re more expensive. They can be more intense because the clients accept that intensity when they’re coming in. Now this is where most owner-operator 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 their seat. This is the middle of the fitness industry. Gym owners charging more for group fitness classes and slowly being pushed out because they can’t move to the right toward individualization. Tomorrow I’ll tell you how Two-Brain gyms are shifting toward the right edge of the spectrum to separate themselves from the downward price pressure, low quality control and high competition of being in the middle.

Andrew: 35:33 – To survive in the ever-evolving fitness industry. you’ve got to adapt. Here’s Chris on what you need to do to ensure a healthy business in 2020.

Chris: 35:42 – This week I’ve been writing about the state of the fitness industry. I started by recapping 2019, then I talked about your gym as it is now. Next, I talked about turning threats into opportunities with new tools, and yesterday I shared a podcast with an economist about what will happen if you don’t change. Now let’s talk about what your gym should look like in a year. Consider this your what-I’d-do-if-I-were-starting-today guide, you can read my actual “How to Start a Gym” guide by clicking the link below. Or if you want all of our free tools, which costs me $433,000 to put together in 2019, you can get them for free by clicking the Free Tools link below. So first, start with the prescriptive model. You must focus on selling coaching, not access. Every client should have an individual prescription. That prescription should include the best nutrition plan for them, the best exercise plan for them, and anything else that will improve their health. For some clients, the best exercise plan includes group fitness with broad general and inclusive programming. For other clients, that’s the worst exercise plan. It’s up to you to determine the answer, Coach, and then review the client’s progress every quarter and plot a new course when necessary.

Chris: 36:59 – Next, you have to build diverse and scalable revenue streams. Don’t sell people stuff they don’t want. If you have a nutrition program and an exercise program, charge separately for them. If you have a kids program, don’t roll it in under one monthly rate because not all your clients have kids. And the same goes for your barbell club, your boot camp program and personal training. As your practice grows, lean toward more scalable services. Nutrition coaching doesn’t take much room and no one measures its delivery by the hour, by time spent, which they do with one-hour classes or 30-minute personal-training sessions. Also, look at technology as a way to scale, as I wrote about in Tools earlier this week. Next, you need to educate your audience more in 2020. Publish content every single day. If you’re in the Founder Phase, write about yourself and your journey and your why. If you’re in the Farmer Phase, write about your clients and their journey and their why. In the Tinker Phase, write about your mission and your team and their why. You’re better to block off one hour per day for producing content than to spend one more hour training clients. It’s literally that important. Choose a primary publication platform like video or blog or podcast. Then choose two distribution streams, Facebook or Instagram or your email list, and build your funnel from there. Don’t mistake posting on social media for publishing anything, especially if you’re just like sharing somebody else’s stuff. That’s all just graffiti on the wall.

Chris: 38:37 – Founder, farmer, tinker thief. Every quarter, take the founder, farmer, tinker, thief test to figure out where you are on your journey. Then do the work required to move you into the next phase of entrepreneurship. You can take the test by clicking the link below. Don’t get distracted by ideas that will work for somebody that’s way behind you or way in front of you. Keep your eyes on the end goal: functional retirement, and then building a wealth platform. Have an objective party review your progress and determine your next steps. We call this mentorship. You can’t just do it yourself. Count your bright spots. Just keep going. Save some lives. There are thousands of ways to open a gym business. There are only a few ways to keep a gym business going. Jumping off a cliff and trying to build your wings on the way down is reckless. Build the gym you want to own on your terms with our help. If you’re not doing these things now, that’s OK. Most gym owners aren’t. But you have to pivot or you’ll be left behind. Book a call with our mentoring team by clicking the link below.

Andrew: 39:38 – Thank you for listening Two-Brain radio. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a rating or review, and if you’d like to find out how a mentor can help your business set up for success in 2020, book a free call today at

Thanks for listening!

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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.