Who’s Actually Joining Gyms: What the Data Says


Mike (00:01):

Who’s buying gym memberships these days? Soldiers and hardcore athletes, soccer parents, someone else? The answer is critical for gym owners and Chris Cooper has it. Welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio.

Chris (00:14):

So joining me today is Nathan Holiday and, Nathan, welcome back to Two-Brain Radio, man.

Nathan (00:19):

Thanks man. Appreciate you for sure.

Chris (00:22):

Yeah. So before we got on, Nathan and I were talking about like, there’s always eight different topics we wanna talk about. And so we have a hard time reigning it in, but over one of our last conversations, we were talking about avatars and people coming into the gym. And I think everybody listening to this podcast intrinsically knows that we’re not seeing like CrossFit Games athletes coming into the gym, but Nathan actually has some data on that. And so today we’re gonna answer the question who actually is coming into the gym. How do we know that? And what does that mean for our programming, for our service delivery and even for our pricing?

Nathan (01:00):

Yeah. So a little bit of background, you know, the map. So if anybody is listening familiar with the Level Method, you know that big map we have, it’s all the colorful thing for levels. Now we had our first edition of the map up to about 2019, and then we revamped all of the map data for 2.0 based on the data that we had then. So we kind of spread out the levels and made it a little bit easier. So what I’m gonna be referencing now comes from last month and it’s from the new data that we have. And I don’t wanna dive so much into the numbers and the details, but by seeing like the actual numbers, you can see where people fall. And we had about, about 13, 12, 12 and a half thousand data points of people that have complete overall levels.

Nathan (01:50):

They’re completely up to date. They’re active in the system. They’re not old, they’re not like old members and out of those numbers, for yellow and orange, 68% of people were in yellow and orange. So it’s a vast majority. And again, it’s kind of difficult unless you’re familiar with the level method to understand what yellow and orange is, but yellow and orange is like, you don’t really have a strict pull-up yet. You’re a beginner. You’re like very much in the early stages. And you’re kind of working up and building your skill sets, but almost 70% of people that are coming through your doors are in this zone. Now to kind of compare it to where are the high levels, the upper levels. So from brown to red, now brown is someone that is, you know, we classically consider brown as RX.

Nathan (02:39):

Now, there are still some things that you don’t do as a brown athlete, you know, up to black and then red, you would do more like, you know, stringing muscle-ups and these sorts of things, but between brown and red, 6%. So this is, you know, a tiny fraction of people. And when you look at red, it’s like 0.3% or something. I have the numbers here, hold on, lemme look it up. 0.2% for red. And then for black is 1.6%. So 2%. And again, I don’t want to go diving into these numbers, but you can just get just, you know, you can tell from a high level where these numbers fall, and the single highest level, like, so out of all the levels, there’s one level that is obviously the highest like that has the highest percentage of people in it. And that’s yellow twp.

Nathan (03:27):

And yellow two is about 12% of people. Now, you know, in yellow, you have 37% in yellow, only. So in just yellow. And if anybody’s familiar with the level method, you know, yellow is a beginner, like this is a beginner, this is someone that’s coming in. They don’t really have a background. They’re not gonna move well and you have to control their journey. And by seeing these levels, I can see someone’s strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes people come in, they’re really strong, but that they lack a lot of other things, or it might be flipped, their aerobic, or ventilation or their breathing stuff is really good, but then they’re lacking in other things. So it averages out, but yeah, 6% brown to red and 70% yellow to orange.

Chris (04:13):

So 68% of the people coming in are what the level method would qualify as beginners. Like what are paint us a little bit of a picture here? Like what can they do and what can they not do yet?

Nathan (04:25):

So let me pull up the map so I can just give you real numbers here. So for upper body pull as an example, you have at orange three. So at the highest orange, orange three, a male is doing one strict pull-up and a female is doing one strict chin-up. OK. So that is that’s orange three. At yellow three. You’re looking at things like, a chin over bar hold for men. So five seconds chin over bar hold, and then scap pull-ups on a tempo for females. So again, beginners, we look at deadlift, another one. So for yellow three for men, it’s like 155 for eight reps, right? So you can kinda get an idea. On rings. So rings is a category, at yellow three, you’re doing for men a 15 second ring support hold or a five second support hold. But like, again, when we look at yellow two as the highest, that’s the one that has the most, the males are gonna be front squatting 95 for eight and 65 for eight for females. So you can just get an idea right away. Like this person is beginner, right? They’re not gonna be doing RX weights. They’re not even gonna be close to RX weights and you’re gonna have to scale ’em down. And the level method just helps everybody scale down to an appropriate level for them.

Chris (05:52):

So this is two thirds of the people coming into your gym, and we’re gonna define like what kind of gyms use level method here in a moment, but it’s mostly the people listening to this podcast. So if you’re listening, this applies to you. You’re saying like the high end they’re doing like a 155 dead left, or like one pull-up or they could do a 15 second like ring support. What about the low end? Like can they do anything?

Nathan (06:18):

So like yellow one, if you look at yellow one, there, it’s just entry level. So for upper body pull, they’re doing a five second for men, a five second dead hang hold.

Nathan (06:29):

Hanging. And then for females at yellow, just straight yellow, it’s eight ring rows. And it’s, you know, if you do ring rows, you can make ’em harder or easier. But the idea for this level is just to get success, you know, so you can adjust it as needed. But yeah, you’re looking at, let’s see, let’s find one, like a row, the rowing assessment, it’s only a six minute continuous. So again, it’s just like, just try to kind of checking the box, making sure someone’s getting success as they go up, for squat endurance, it’s 15 air squats to a 16 inch box in one set. So again, kind of vague in what the parameters of how you, if it’s meeting the requirements or the standards, but we’re doing that on purpose. So there’s a little bit of leeway, a little bit of buffer for somebody,

Chris (07:21):

But in general, like what a gym owner should take from this is the person that’s coming in, can probably do a range here of between 15 squats to a 16 inch box, right? Like above knee height for most people without stopping, they can row for six minutes at a minimal pace without stopping. And at best they can probably do about a 155 deadlift, a 15 second ring support, you know? Right. Like that’s two thirds of new clients coming into your gym.

Nathan (07:55):

It’s the vast majority. And this is like over and over. Like, you have the people that have a background in fitness and they come in, but again, as we’re going more and more, that percentage is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. And it’s becoming more normal people that are like, Hey, I’m here and I wanna do some stuff. And they’re a little nervous about being thrown in. And then when you go through the assessments, you’re like, oh, I could do 15 air squats to a 16 inch box. It’s like, no problem, you know? And so they can see. OK. Yeah. But it’s just truly beginners.

Chris (08:25):

  1. Really interesting to see. Now I know that you’ve just started tracking data on this stuff because, you know, when level method was set up, it was a fitness program, but it has a lot of like, you know, interesting data that can help a business too. And that’s why we’re talking about this. Do you think, like even without a data set, do you think that this has changed over the last five to 10 years?

Nathan (08:50):

I don’t think so. Cause I mean, we ran in the beginning, so map 1.0 was harder. So it was like way more people were clumped into white and yellow, like way back into white and yellow. And when I had my gym, like 2016, when we really started pushing this out and like testing everything, the vast majority of people were still in the yellow, but it was so much clump that we realized we needed to spread it out. And that’s really why we did that. So if you, if we have, like heat maps right on where people will get bottlenecked and in that 1,0 there were just so many people bottlenecked in these different places. And that was the reason why we kind of bumped it out. It was it’s counterintuitive. You know, I come from a background of like, oh, I’m a, you know, athlete. And like thinking to myself, oh, most people are gonna be able to do these things, but it’s just not the case. You know, most people, we have to give them a range and we have to get them success on these things.

Chris (09:49):

Very interesting. OK. Well, let’s talk about the business implications here. So obviously, maybe we’ll start with onboarding and we’ll work our way backward to marketing if that’s OK. When you’re onboarding new clients and you’re building your onboarding program, then, knowing that at least two thirds of the people coming into your gym are barely able to do a box squat to a box or at best might be able to do, you know, a front squat with a bit of weight on it. How should you set up your onboarding process so that most of the people are served by it.

Nathan (10:22):

So we provide a template essentially of three to five sessions and this really adjusts, people can make changes however they want. But the whole idea is the very first step of anybody’s journey is to assess where they are. Because without the assessment, I can’t have handles, I don’t know what someone’s strengths and weaknesses are. I might be able to get like insight when I see them do one workout, but that’s only a tiny snapshot. It’s like a tiny little microcosm of their fitness. They might be really good at what I’m seeing. And I’m like, oh yeah, that person’s pretty, any coach’s experience is they see someone like, oh, that guy’s probably pretty fit. And then something else comes up and they can’t do it at all. Right. So what we need to do first is to assess them, to get a good well-rounded picture of where they are.

Nathan (11:11):

And so that’s really what the onboarding is for us is we’re introducing them to fitness and we’re showing them like, look, there’s a structure here and there’s a method and we can kind of walk you through this at the end of this, we’ll have your levels. But I have to just say that it’s not like, we’re not testing this person. We’re not like we’re gonna max you out. We’re just getting you on. Right. Just getting you on where like just to get an idea. So that, cuz there’s 10 years in front of you, you know, or 15 or 20 years, if you have a client for the long term, it’s not like we gotta maximize today only, we’re thinking, OK, where what’s the starting point and where are we coming? Where are we going? So we have three and five sessions to kind of get everybody up to speed, teach philosophy.

Nathan (11:59):

And this is pretty standard. I think most people are doing some sort of onboarding like that with the goal to ramp them into class. And that’s the same thing for us. We’re looking to provide a structure, show them that there’s a difference like, oh, OK. I can see where I am. I know what’s going on. I’m not gonna be surprised. And when I go into class, I know I’m gonna be doing a workout that’s to my level. Right. It’s like, even though there’s six levels. I know, OK. I’m gonna be doing yellow. So I don’t have to be worried about all these higher things where normal in a classic environment, the coach has to individually scale the person. And it can be for some people that they don’t necessarily like that attention up front. Like if I’m a beginner, I don’t wanna be pinpointed. And like all eyes on me as I’m getting scaled. Right. It’s like, I just kinda wanna, OK. I’m doing yellow. Cool. You know, it lowers the pressure a little bit.

Chris (12:57):

All right, man. That’s good. So, backing up one step, let’s talk about recruiting new clients. Now this data does it lend itself to building avatars? And the reason I ask is that one of the most effective things that we teach in ramp up is to clearly to identify three avatars of who your ideal clients are and then market to them. Instead of just taking a shotgun approach to advertising to everyone. Can we build an avatar outta this data that you’re sharing with us?

Nathan (13:28):

The avatar is like a beginner. Now you can have an avatar based on goal, right? Like based on what somebody wants. And that’s really like, I wanna lose weight? Do I wanna gain strength? Do I wanna do these things? So what we generally recommend like a no sweat intro right. Or something where somebody’s coming in. But we couple that with what we call a basic success plan. So in the initial touchpoint, whether that’s, I mean, even a zoom. So if someone doesn’t, if they don’t wanna come in for a no sweat intro, we could do a zoom like success plan, and it’s just building out a game plan for them. Now we’ve we call them pathways to power. This is a Tony Robbins thing. Like he calls pathways of power. And this is an avatar.

Nathan (14:16):

The pathway to power is an avatar. And it’s a formula. It more importantly than just defining the avatar. It’s a formula for the avatar. Now what you’re gonna find when you do a lot of success plans over time is there’s like three or four things that people want, like always. And that’s where we can kind of clump them into what we’re gonna recommend to them. Right? So that’s where the formula comes in. So the avatar is important, but it’s really like as I come in, I wanna lose weight. I wanna get prepared for something. I want to get healthy. And by knowing what somebody wants and then almost more importantly, knowing why they want it. So what’s the underlying purpose, I can, as a coach, I can connect a lot of my communication to that thing. When I see them in the gym and we have a whole system for the way that we do that. So coaches can actually see all clients’ success plans and kind of know like, OK, this person has kids and they wanna be a good role model for their kids. And that’s their primary why, even though they wanna lose 20 pounds. And so in class, you’d have to have a relationship. You wouldn’t just go up up to someone randomly be like, you wanna get fit for your kids. Like you better work harder or whatever, but it’s like, you kind of have an idea of why someone’s there, you know?

Chris (15:30):

All right. So, Nathan and I set up this interview February 14th, like, six weeks ago. And that’s just how busy he is because level method is booming and for good reason. But while we were waiting to set this up, two clients walked into catalyst and said, we’re here to do level method. Now this had never happened. And you know, for, I think at least three years now, right, Nathan, I’ve been saying that level method is like one of the best things that you can do for retention for your gym, but it’s never been an acquisition program until now. Catalyst has been, kind of shut down for two years. So this might have happened before. I’ve got level method on my sign and most people don’t have that yet. But Nathan, what I’d love to hear from you is like, you know, these new people who are attracted to level method, they definitely fall right in that yellow category. They’re perfect avatar for me. But CrossFit home office is saying something completely different. And you know, they did this affiliate round table or whatever they call it. And they said that our marketing for affiliates is going to be to promote the Games more and that the bigger the Games get, the more clients CrossFitters are going to attract. Does that align with the data that you’re seeing or what’s just like your knee jerk reaction to that?

Nathan (16:46):

Like, I think that the kind of people that are gonna see the Games and then be like, Ooh, I gotta find a CrossFit is not the average person. It’s not like the normal person in the yellow to orange range. I mean, maybe not so much in the higher oranges, cuz they’re kind of maybe have a little bit of a background, but the yellows, the yellow athletes, they’re gonna see that. And they’re not gonna think I wanna do all that. Some of them might, there might be some percentage, but most are gonna be intimidated by that. Right. And so for us, we’re thinking, OK, how do we give the beginner a Growth ToolKit and attract those sorts of people? Cause I mean, if you look at percentage wise, how many more people are there that are a little intimidated, they don’t really know what they’re doing.

Nathan (17:29):

They’re looking for structure and they’re looking for safety. They’ve heard all the stuff. This is just more of the same in my mind from CrossFit in terms of like the Games was a big, it worked in the beginning to kind of get at all of the word out. Right. But then what ended up happening is it slowly morphed and the perception for the regular person was that it’s extreme or that it’s crazy or that there’s like, so there, you know, people doing all these muscle ups and they’re lifting all this weight and people immediately think to themselves, I mean, I would say the majority of people think I can’t do that or I can never do that now that’s, you know, you might think, well, that person shouldn’t be doing fitness, but it’s the opposite. You want that person to do fitness and then slowly over time to morph their thinking to see that it’s actually possible if you go based on progressions.

Nathan (18:17):

So if I’m just jumping right to the, the highest level stuff, it feels impossible. But when I plug into a system and I see where I am and I can look down the line and I’d be like, OK, all those people that I’m seeing on TV are in the red zone. And so it’s gonna take me a good amount of time to ramp up and that’s just kind of, it just helps people get a better understanding of reality right. Of the reality of it. So I don’t think that that’s, I don’t think it’s gonna work. I think it will bring a certain amount of people, but it’s also are gonna attract a client that, I mean, it’s hard to say, but it’s like, that might wanna be trying to do those things too early, then they’re gonna hurt themselves. And then they’re gonna get, there’s gonna be one more person in the group of people that have got into it, hurt themselves, come out. And then now they’re saying, oh yeah, don’t do classic. Cuz I was into it. And then I got all excited and then I hurt myself and now I’m doing something else. And so it’s just, you just continuing on that same trend.

Chris (19:18):

Yeah. I’ll be honest. Like that’s, that’s not my ideal client anymore either. so let let’s talk about this then. So this was, it was a surprise to me that people saw level method on my it’s an giant billboard and, they, they came in and they’re like, I wanna do level method. Is there a plan within level method to market, to people, you know, under that brand?

Nathan (19:44):

Yeah. We’re actually doing that now. So, you know, marketing togym owners, the cycle time for that. And I’ll just kind of go one of the business cuz it’s, I mean, it’s a talking about business. Yeah. But it’s generally about someone interacts with level method and before they schedule their call with us, it’s usually three to four weeks. Right. So they find out and they’re like, oh yeah, that sounds interesting. And then from the point that they do their call to the point that they sign up is another six weeks about on average. So because, and why is that? Because the, the cycle time of discussing it and thinking about it and having all these discussions with the coaches and all that sort of stuff, it just is, it’s a lot of, you gotta do a lot of things. So the amount that we can grow is just kind of slowed down by how much, and by this point, by how much we can get it out there.

Nathan (20:30):

And I think by this point, most gym owners have heard of level method. They kind of know about it, but, and we’ve not saturated the market, but we’ve just been kind of putting out advertising over and over. But now we’re kind of pivoting and going towards, talking to the regular member, the gym member, the fitness enthusiast, and we did a lead magnet. So we have a programming lead magnet. And the, I mean, the big reason why we’re making this shift is cuz we have this programming lead magnet. We are pumping it out to gym owners. It’s for gyms. It’s like for gym owners. And we used to, I wouldn’t send it to anybody but gym owners I’m like, no we can’t. And then so we opened it up and now we get, we’ve been getting so many leads, but about, you know, two thirds of them are coaches and individual people and personal trainers. And they’re like, we get questions from people that are moving. They looking for the level method.

Chris (21:23):

How does a gym owner market that they’re using level method? Because up until now, for most gyms and me included, it’s kind of been like the behind the scenes, secret delivery system, you know, maybe not like an operating system for a gym, but like the method delivery system. And we use it. It’s effective. It’s great for retention, client excitement, testimonials, but we’ve never been able to really use it to attract new people. And I think, you know, as more and more people are thinking like how do I attract more people they’re looking and saying, can I use level method as a marketing tool?

Nathan (22:00):

That’s why we’re doing advertising. Right. So that we can put it to the individuals and they can go to, and they can look and go to a gym that’s doing level method. And that’s the thing I was thinking. They either talk to their gym owner or they go to the gym. They find a gym in their area. That’s on the directory that we have. So it’s building leads essentially. That’s the one of the side things that we’re really focused on.

Chris (22:27):

That’s great. And is that like an upcoming project? Are you guys already starting that for level method gyms.

Nathan (22:32):

It’s this quarter. So we just finished our quarter planning and we have, like marketing to coaches to help them understand the value. Cuz when I created level method, it was really for that, it was as a coach, I wanted to, you know, help my clients. but then also the individual, we get many requests for people that aren’t necessarily at a gym or whatever they want, to do level method. We don’t have an individual level method yet, but that’s in the works, but it’s more of like an ascension ladder, right? It’s more of like if I’m a client, I there’s some simplified level thing that I can get a prediction of my levels and then ascend up to a gym environment, right. To kinda like now I want to either get a coach or I wanna find a gym to get the the full effect.

Chris (23:20):

See, and in my mind I think that would work better than doing like an online OnRamp. And in fact, there’s a jujitsu gym in the UK and I can’t remember their name right now, but the first steps into their program are all done online. You know, we’re going to teach you a little bit about the history of Brazilian jujitsu and we’re gonna get you to do an air squat and a plank and some other stuff, some stretching, and then you’ll book your first appointment one-on-one et cetera. So yeah,

Nathan (23:49):

Go ahead. The hybrid, that hybrid idea that’s really like to me, the future of fitness is some sort of hybrid where you have structure. So the client can come into classes, but if I’m a coach, I can easily give my client if they’re they’re traveling or they have a home gym. This is so, I mean, considering the pandemic and people have like home gyms now they’re all the functional fitness at 24 hour fitness or whatever. So it’s very easy to provide a workout for somebody, but only if you have this structure of like a level structure. So I have someone that comes into my gym. They do a couple work workouts per week and then they go off, they do their own, but they still need leveled workouts directed to them, like focused on them. And that’s, to me, when you look at the future is gonna be some sort of mixture in order to have a true hybrid model, you have to have this assessment in place. So you have to kind of know where people are, and be able to then, give them something offline that’s gonna be in line with what they’re doing or what their goals are.

Chris (24:53):

All right, man. That’s great. I think we’re gonna wrap up there because I’ve already seen about five different roads we can go down, but we’ll do that another time. so the really interesting part that drew me to this conversation was we can prove with data who is coming into your gym right now. And then we can use that knowledge to build avatars that will help us, not just with our programming, not just with our onboarding, but also our client acquisition process, no matter what that marketing looks like. And that person is, you know, they’re moving, they’re interested in fitness, but they are not very fit yet. And I think that also creates a lot of opportunities for Ascension and retention too. So Nathan man, thank you as always for coming on, sharing your data so freely with everybody and yeah, just kind of helping the gym community at large.

Nathan (25:46):

Thanks man. Appreciate it.

Chris (25:48):

Yeah. You bet.

Mike (25:51):

Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. Hit subscribe right now so you don’t miss an episode. Now, Chris is back with a final message.

Chris (25:58):

Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. If you aren’t in the Gym Owners United group on Facebook, this is my personal invitation to join. It’s the only public Facebook group that I participate in. And I’m there all the time with tips, tactics, and free resources. I’d love to network with you and help you grow your business. Join Gym Owners United on Facebook.

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