I’ve watched the micro gym sector of the fitness industry grow considerably since I was introduced to it over 10 years ago. The emergence of CrossFit created the most impactful opportunity for a personal trainer looking to start their own business. The status quo at the time was franchising a globo gym, in which the capital requirements alone alienated the average trainer from pursuing.
Now here we are, on the cusp of 2017 and the market growth of the micro gym is undeniable. Early pioneers have provided proof that any fitness trainer with the right DNA can build their own business and experience the independent financial success that has been lacking in the fitness industry (for the majority of practitioners) for decades.
However, even the fitness industry is not impervious to the laws of evolution: the current micro gym market is undergoing a transition and a line in the sand is slowly being drawn.
As a gym owner and business coach, I see the writing on the wall everyday in which the transformation of yesterday’s micro gym is giving into a more sophisticated version. What follows are the four evolutions I see happening to the microgym sector.
Evolution #1 - Improved Aesthetics
In the early days, gym owners were less concerned with the cosmetics of their facility and more invested in spreading the good word about CrossFit. Our fitness methodology was not a household name yet, so the underground culture played well to a facility that was raw, industrial and edgy.
Air conditioning, locker rooms, showers, front desk & reception areas, juice bars, etc. You would not find these items in the majority of affiliates back in the day. However, we are an evolving model and as the market becomes more saturated, gym owners are working hard to differentiate themselves by investing in these very same items.
Interior design, color schemes and intelligent branding are common place amongst the top gyms. Their owners have realized that as CrossFit moves away from the underground, Fight Club-esque culture and into a mainstream fitness scene, you have to step up your appearance game.
Evolution #2 - Better Programming and Fitness Knowledge
As our training methodology is becoming adopted by more and more individuals, subject matter experts of all genres are available to upgrade your understanding of human performance. There are probably 5 different seminars or certifications being held in your state this very weekend on a variety of topics.
Add in the opportunity available via the internet and there is no reason why any coach today should be undereducated in any aspect of fitness. Organizations like OPEX, Training Think Tank, Precision Nutrition and BirthFit to name a few, are radically raising the bar as to what should be expected of the professional trainer.
Anyone who started coaching CrossFit from the early days will tell you that they have upgraded their programming prescription significantly. My favorite t-shirt came from the original Rogue Fitness in 2006, which read on the back “Well That Was Stupid!”. That’s how we looked at programming back then - workouts were an opportunity for us to throw as much shit on the whiteboard and crush ourselves for no other reason than “man, this shit looks hard…let’s do it!”
Now coaches have access to information to better understand energy systems training, scaling models and how to work with specialized populations. Private training and foundational programs are common place to help onboard new clientele and the quality of coaching for those willing to invest is certainly on the rise.
Evolution #3 - Diversity of Services Offered
Though constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity is still the cornerstone of what’s offered at most affiliates, we are seeing more gym offer a variety in their services.
Whereas it was the primarily offering in the beginning, the current status quo is to provide your customers an opportunity to specialize in other areas of fitness as well - endurance, gymnastics, weightlifting, mobility, strongman, parkour, yoga, etc.
By creating a more robust menu, gym owners are able to appeal to a broader market and cast a larger net. The realization that “anyone can do CrossFit, but it’s not for everyone” is important if you plan to stay in business for the long haul.
Additional service such an personal program design, nutritional coaching, physical therapy and lifestyle consulting are being adopted by the gyms that want to evolve their offering beyond just AMRAPS and Hero WODs.
Evolution #4 - Supply vs Demand
Any gym owner who is complaining because they believe the market is maxed out and the demand for fitness has leveled off is full of shit. The demand is still there, but what you’re supplying does not match with what the market wants.
CrossFit, SoulCycle, Spartan Race, Orange Theory Fitness, Clymb, America Ninja Warrior, Barre, Camp Gladiator, etc....these brands are all proof that fitness is still in HIGH demand. It's just the type of fitness you offer needs to match the market you're in and the market you're after.
Those who are overly romantic about being a “CrossFit or Die” service offering can still experience great success in business, but you must realize that your section of the pie is smaller than what your appetite for success probably is. In my opinion, finding lasting financial success as a gym owner requires you to re-adopt the concept that offering a program that is “broad, general and inclusive” is the best path to prosperity.