- Are gyms dying or will they soon be the go-to option again?
- WSJ suggested hybrids are the future – a year after Pat’s book, btw
- Pat has been offering a hybrid experience since 2004
- Some gyms ARE dying, because of…
- 1 – They were already circling the drain and couldn’t handle new struggles
- 2 – The new restrictions and lockdowns caused insurmountable financial difficulties
- Economic downturns and unforeseen obstacles thin the herd
- Some businesses hit their ceilings then are finished
- Gyms, as a whole, are not dying
- Some are surprisingly having their best year ever
- They are changing, but they are alive
- Hybrid is not the future, it is the present
- Convenience is the core of a successful business
- Remember that clients feeling better > gym aesthetics
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Hey, Pat Rigsby here and in this episode. I want to address a big question I’m hearing a lot. Are gyms dying? We’ve got a lot to cover here, and I think you’re going to be interested in what I have to share. So let’s get to it.
Welcome to The Fitness Business School podcast – the show for fitness business owners who want to grow their income, increase their impact and improve their lifestyle. Be sure to listen til the end of this episode, because we have a brand new special offer exclusive for listeners. So stay tuned.
I’ve mentioned this a few times on the podcast, but you know, some of the coolest stuff, the, that I get to experience having the business that I have and interacting with so many people in our industry. I mean, just talking to probably dozens of trainers and coaches and fitness business owners each and every day, I’m on the phone on zooms, on, you know, through conversations on social media or via email is that I get so many different perspectives. I get to hear what people think. I get to hear what people are doing and really see different takes on things all over, not just the United States or north America, but all over the world. And just in the past couple of days, I’ve had two interactions via email where they really took completely opposite stances.
One person had suggested to me that they believe that that gyms are dying. The, the fitness industry is, you know, in the middle of this massive shift where gyms are going to be no more sooner rather than later. And then the, the opposite take. I had somebody suggest that they felt that even hybrid fitness businesses were just a flash in the pan, a very temporary thing, and that everything would shift back to being you know, offline and their evidence was that, you know, as soon as people had restrictions lifted you know, they were running back to whatever kind of offline venues that they, they enjoyed in the past restaurants, concerts, sporting events, that sort of stuff. And as with many conversations that, that you’ll hear there, there’s a hint of truth, but then there’s probably letting the pendulum swing too far. So, so I actually found it interesting, not, not too long ago. It’s probably, you know, as we record this episode, it’s probably been within the past month, the wall street journal did a feature article suggesting that the future of fitness was hybrid gyms, which I had to kind of laugh about a little bit considering I had released a book on that topic almost a year prior and had been discussing the idea of a hybrid training business for about a decade. And, and actually my first training business dating back to 2004 had a hybrid element to it, had an online training component to it as early as the last quarter of 2004.
So, you know, this idea that hybrid is some new thing that, Hey, everything’s changed. Well, it’s not. And I would be yeah, I think I’d probably be doing you a disservice if I didn’t give you my take as to whether or not gyms were dying or what the future of our industry looks like and anything that I’m going to tell you in this episode, I believe strongly to be a fact, I believe that this is where things are going. So I’m not going to give you just kind of some idea of, Hey, hypothetically, it could be this, or it could be that you know, everything that I’m telling you, I’ve got plenty of evidence to substantiate it. Then I’m happy to dig into people want more in, in later episodes, but the truth is some gyms are dying, but in most cases, it boils down to one of two reasons. The gyms that are dying were already either on life support and you know, and this just kind of accelerated their demise. They, you know, they might have been okay under a less competitive or less challenging environment, but when met with some adversity, it just accelerated the fact that they weren’t doing well and they were trending in the wrong direction. You know that direction that probably was going to happen regardless because the market is becoming increasingly increasingly competitive and businesses that are systematic and structured and market effectively are moving into virtually every community.
So, you know, this was just an accelerant or the other reason that some businesses failed or gyms died is that perhaps they were in a situation where the restrictions really throttled their ability to do some things, and maybe they didn’t have a landlord that was willing to work with them. And so they just, you know, I mean, if you were in a position where your landlord wouldn’t give you any relief and your community was one that had restrictions that cut your monthly income or your monthly revenue really significantly then you know, you, you were dealt a bad hand. So those are the two reasons gyms had have died, but have the vast majority of good gyms stayed afloat, have they succeeded well? Sure. And will that continue to be the case? Well, of course, I, I think that anytime we’ve seen some sort of adverse shift in the market dating back to like 2008, 2009, when we had the, you know, pretty significant economic downturn there, we saw a bunch of businesses not just in our industry, but businesses in general go under, we’ve seen that again now through the pandemic. And it’s, it’s a bit of a quote unquote, thinning of the herd, right? Like there, the, the businesses that were weaker or we’re kind of set up with challenging obstacles, working against them, like maybe a difficult landlord. Well, those businesses, a lot of times didn’t make it. And I think that’s just just a natural consequence of doing something that’s really challenging. You know, this is not something that, that I think is uncommon, right? Like I, I come from a, a background of being a college baseball coach and it, every level, there are people being told in competitive athletics that, okay, you’ve hit the end of line. You’ve hit your ceiling. I had to cut any number of people that were probably pretty successful are pretty effective high school baseball players, but when they wanted to come play in college, they, you know, they, they just, weren’t gonna make it and succeed in our program. Every professional athlete eventually hits that point to where they go and they may have been the best player in whatever environment they’d been in their entire life.
But at some point there there’s the end of the line. So, you know, I don’t think it’s uncommon to, to see that in any challenging and competitive landscape that, that some, some people or some businesses don’t make it. But does that mean gyms as a whole are dying, not even close, not even close. I think that we’ve had any number of clients have not only successful solid years, but in many cases their best year ever, which seems almost impossible to think about at first glance, but, but it’s true. And you know, I think that basically what it’s going to look like though is changing. What you need to do to be successful is changing. If you’re going to be an independent fitness business owner, which is the majority of the people that I work with, independent fitness business owners, not franchisees of the big franchises that are kind of sweeping across the, the industry landscape, but you know, those, those one, two, maybe three location operations where the, the owner is still very intimately involved in everything that’s going on. They’re not just an investor or anything like that. Well, for those businesses, I would tell you that number one hybrid is the, not only the future, but it’s the present. Now, what you probably you know, if you’re somebody who thinks that hybrid has been a temporary thing, or just a stop gap or a band-aid during the pandemic, you’ve been a hybrid business for a while. And almost every case you’ve had a private Facebook group for your clients to stay connected between sessions, you’ve used text messaging or some sort of a online messaging platform to stay connected. Clients have been able to register online through whatever software you’ve been using. You’ve, you’ve used technology to further the experience to stay better connected to, to make the, the relationship with a stronger one between you and your client. And that’s a hybrid business.
A hybrid business is just a mix of using online and offline to best serve your clients and to best operate your business. And that’s been happening for quite some time. For most of us, the difference that most people are kind of hanging their hat on, is, are my services delivered through zoom or some other video streaming platform, or am I delivering my service in person? And I think that’s kind of a case by case basis, right? I think that the, the healthy, successful gym of the present and the future probably has a really strong foundation in the facility has an in-person service because people thrive on human connection. They thrive on community. They thrive on getting that. They see that inherent accountability that comes with saying, you need to be somewhere at a certain time at a certain place. So that’s going to continue. But I also think that that we’ve recognized, and this has been magnified with things like door dash, even as restaurants have become more and more available to, to go in and sit down and eat. Doordash still has thrived. Uber Eats is thriving. Those businesses where convenience is at the core of what they do, they’ve continued to be successful. How many people have kept their Peloton membership? Well, going back to the gym because they liked the ability to do some things at home, to do things when it’s convenient, when maybe they don’t want to get out of bed in the middle of winter and slog their way through the snow, into a facility in the dark. Well, you know, having the ability to, to kind of meet people where they are and serve them no matter what. So this isn’t just, Hey, I’m serving you three hours a week. I’m serving you all the time. We are your coach. We provide you the accountability.
We provide you the support, the connection to keep you on track and to help you reach your goals. We’re here all the time to help you solve your problems. So whether or not you are doing nearly as much Zoom training or whatever else, I think it’s kind of a case by case basis, because that’s not necessarily what a hybrid gym is or hybrid businesses. Can that be a big part of what you do? Sure. But frankly, I think delivering your live sessions in person and having some on demand workouts that people can do if they had a dentist appointment, or if they’re out of town checks that box perfectly. Now, the other thing about the future of you know, where I think gyms are going is if you want to be a successful independent operator, you’re going to have to do two things that a lot of people just don’t do. You know, I talk all the time about being client centric. I I’ve done many episodes on that. So go back and check out some of those.
But the two things I want to focus on in the moment are providing accountability because people have more access and frankly, more free, or really inexpensive access to workout instruction. They can get on YouTube and get full workouts. They can buy inexpensive memberships for streaming or on demand workouts. They can hop on whoever their satellite TV provider is and see no shortage of on demand workouts they can do at any given time. But accountability is the difference maker between having access to workouts and actually performing them consistently. And people need that sort of accountability to, to stay on track, to build habits, to, to, to not just punt and move, you know, move to the next day and say, I’ll do it tomorrow. If people want to get great results, usually accountability is that big difference maker. And then the second piece of this is being a more complete solution. Now that involves accountability, but it also involves a number of other things. Being a workout instructor is not going to be enough to thrive in the future. Okay. We’ve had people running, hosting workouts in the fitness industry for ages. I mean, you can go back and look at the, the old kind of group Richard Simmons, etc, you know, sweating with the oldies type workouts. You can see all of these workouts at any health club that I ever went in. When I first was going into the industry, had a big group exercise presence. There was somebody in there hosting a workout, come and go, as you please it’s about the instructor. And then all of a sudden people pulled that segment of the business out and transplanted it to a warehouse or a park and charged about five times as much to serve the, the client base or the, the member base they had.
Well, that’s not going to be enough, right? There are businesses popping up everywhere that, that, that are some sort of glamorized workout instructor where it’s about the program, it’s about the tools or the technology. Well, the truth is people need that accountability. They need also nutrition support. They need you know, social support because so much of what people have recognized is that if body compositions the goal, you know, that sort of improvement, then you know, you’re not going to out-train a bad diet. This is something that, you know, but now the market knows people understand it, right? So you’re going to have to integrate nutrition into what you’re doing. You’re probably going to have to, to address things that, that maybe we didn’t spend enough time on in the past, just holistic wellness. I mean, you know, are we able to help people manage their stress? Are we able to serve people in a more complete way? So they feel better. It’s not just about a statics. Now that may seem a little bit foreign to the way that fitness has been marketed. But if you want to stand out and thrive in the future, that is likely a big piece of the puzzle.
The nutrition piece, I think, is virtually non-negotiable some of the other stuff I think that you can piggyback what people have learned and what people have been kind of conditioned to understand over the past 18 or so months. And, and know that you know what exercise is good for us in totality. It’s not just about getting stronger or losing weight. It’s about being a healthier, happier person. So are gyms dying? No. Are you going to have to evolve your approach a little bit? For sure. But if you, if you’re a student of the history of our industry at all, you’ll know that our approach has evolved continually over time. The industry is different than it was five years ago. It’s different than it was 10 years ago. It’s certainly different than it was 20 or 30 years ago. And it’s going to continue changing and it’s probably going to change it. I faster rate as we go forward. So if you want to be one of the gyms that not only stay alive, but actually thrive, then you need to evolve. This episode, shared a few tips and we’ve got plenty more. So go back and review some of our previous episodes and you’re going to be poised to succeed.
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