What Do Gyms Really Need?

A vintage photograph of men exercising in the Exeter Gymnasium

You own a coaching business, not a gym.

The evolutionary timeline of microgyms looks like this:

Evolutionary TImeline
(Click on image to enlarge.)

The COVID pandemic was a forcing function: It shortened the natural evolutionary process of the microgym.


Accelerated Adaptation


Between 2003 and 2019, coaching businesses transformed from “studios” to “gyms” as their owners scaled their services by moving toward group training.

Unfortunately, the industry—led by CrossFit-style training and the “affiliate model”—swung heavily toward large group classes with generalized, “one-size-fits-all” programming. This led to large spaces, lots of equipment, high turnover, commoditization and downward price pressure.

I remember attending a business seminar in 2016, where the speaker told an audience member she needed 342 clients to reach profitability.

“That’s insane,” I thought.

Luckily, I was the next to speak to the group. So I talked about reaching profitability at 50 clients, paying myself well at 100 clients and replacing myself at 150 clients. The keys were:

  • Lower overhead.
  • High-value services.
  • Focused audience.
  • Opportunities for staff to build on my platform.


Those are still the keys. Pre-COVID, many gyms were beginning to shift into smaller spaces with a smaller number of higher-value clients. But COVID sped up the rate of evolution by years:

It forced coaches and owners to operate with no space.

It forced owners to assess which expenses actually gave them an ROI.

It forced owners to pare down their coaching staffs to only the best.

It forced owners to re-evaluate their services, prices and value.

It also provided the perfect excuse to change.


Essentials, Not Extras


If you haven’t read our series Your Gym 2.0, you can skim it to see how some of these changes manifest. (I’ll even talk you through some exercises here.)

Now really is the perfect chance to ask, “What does a gym really need?”

So in this series, I’ll walk you through what the best gyms in the world are doing with their:

  • Space and equipment.
  • Services (classes, PT and more).
  • Staff.


This is a glimpse into the future. While the fast-adopting gyms have already made these moves, it won’t be long before the majority of gyms make the same changes.


Other Media in This Series

“What Do Gyms Really Need?—Space and Equipment”
“What Do Gyms Really Need?—Services and Schedules”
“What Do Gyms Really Need?—Staff”

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