Cheap fitness never lasts

The history of the gym goes all the way back to ancient Rome if you wanted to be pedantic. The ancient Olympic sports of running, discus, javelin and wrestling were practised at the 'gymnos' (which is actually Latin for nude, and is actually how the training was performed!) and were an important social institution.

By the middle of the 19th century, the gym as a commercial venture also began to emerge. Vaudeville-strongman-turned-fitness-entrepreneur Hippolyte Triat, is credited with being the first to open commercial gyms, in Brussels, and Paris in the early 1800s. We have a cool image of Ropers Gym in Philadelphia from 1831. You might even recognise some of the exercises!

Looks a bit familiar!

Looks a bit familiar!


From YMCA community centres, to the Golds Gym heyday with Arnold Schwarzenegger, gyms have continued to grow in popularity.

But it wasn't till the 1970's thatArthur Jones' company Nautilus almost single handedly changed the face of commercial gyms from large open areas that utilised a lot of bodyweight movement and free weights, to corporate style operations crammed with machines that required almost no knowledge (and thus no coaching expertise) to use them.

They also didn't create very much fitness.....

And thus we're starting to see many of the massive commercial gym chains starting to shut down too. Many Golds locations in the US and Fitness First in Australia are closing, big USA chain Bally went into bankruptcy in 2007.

The micro-gym style business is not immune though.  Plenty of CrossFit affiliates and similar micro-gym operations have been closing in recent years.  We were the 540th CrossFit affiliate in the world in 2008, and now in 2019, we are 193rd on the list......

What' s been interesting to observe about these unsuccessful micro-gyms however, is that generally, despite having so much more agility and potential as a smaller operation, it was squandered because the owners foolishly tried to run it the same as the big conglomerates.  

If you are seeing;

  • one month free

  • half price

  • 21 days for $21

  • six week challenge

  • join now and pay nothing until....

..and similar language, you might be in a facility that is thinking more about growth over retention, service and quality.
And just like so many of the gyms that have come before them, they'll discover why repeating the mistakes of others is..........well, a mistake...

With an average membership of 100 clients, any kind of deal or discount has a huge impact on the bottom line of a micro-gym. And that impact trickles down to the staff, the owner, and affects facility improvements and maintenance. Eventually, the rise in expenses and demands on time, outstrip revenue and passion, and then that's the end of it.

After nearly 20 years in the industry, we're more determined than ever to continue to foster a place that allows client, staff and owner alike to thrive. We know that this can only ever be sustained on the back of great relationships, professional coaching, strong culture and realistic pricing.

TRAINING JUNE 3

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Darren Ellis