More on the ‘Idea of Fitness’

Posted by Kayla Castro
Feb 12 2015


“One way to see it is to look at the two gym brands commonly cited as the fastest-growing in America: CrossFit and Planet Fitness. Both are expanding like crazy. CrossFit has gone from having 13 affiliate gyms in 2005 to 10,000 today. And Planet Fitness has more than tripled in size over the past five years.” –”The Rise of the $6000-a-year (or $120-a-year) gym”, New York Mag

Some of you may have seen the recent New York Magazine article comparing the growth of low cost and high cost gyms. What this article does a moderately good job of doing (while relying on sticker shock as well) is to further dismantle the idea that you can get fit with a low cost option.

This is obviously self-serving, but I’m writing on a CrossFit blog as the owner of a CrossFit gym, so yup, I’m biased.

What I tell a lot of my fellow CrossFit gym owner, interested investors and people that will let me hear myself talk is that there are really only two options in the fitness market: products/services that make you fit and products/services that make you think you’ll be fit. I usually just start with a list and ask them: “What do you buy if you want to get fit” and they give me a list like:

-Globo gym membership
-Personal Training
-Fitness DVDs
-Yoga/Spin/Pilates Class

Then I ask them “do you know anybody that’s gotten fit from buying these?” The answer is almost universally NO!!!!

This is analyzed better in a recent NPR’s Planet Money podcast “Why We Sign Up For Gym Memberships But Never Go To The Gym“. This story explicitly and accurately explains the globo gym model:

1) “Gyms have built their business model around us not showing up.” You are our advertising. When you come into work after a 30 day Paleo Challenge or after 2-3 months of CrossFit and you look like you’re wearing your older brother’s hand me down clothes, people ask “what are you doing?!?!?!” and that’s how we get clients. The only way for you to get those results and for us to get more clients if for you to show up.

2) “So gyms try to attract people who won’t come.” We don’t really have a “sales pitch”. The only thing I’ll tell somebody about CrossFit is “I hear it’s good”, that’s my hard sell. We get them in for a free class, we punish them, and if they like it they come back. They know exactly what they’re getting into.

3) “Our brains want to be locked into annual contracts with gyms.” We resisted doing contracts for a very long time, but since most of our members were hanging out for 1+ years, we finally decided to reward them, but still have a month-to-month option, which I encourage most folks to take.

4) “Just when we try to get out, they feed us, massage us and ply us with alcohol.” While we (I) do try to ply you with alcohol at every opportunity, this is more for me to be able to charge the business for my drinking requirements than getting you to stick around (more tequila for me if you leave!!!).

5) “Without slackers like us, gyms would be a lot more expensive.” At our prices and with our flexibility in contracts, there are very few people who are subsidizing the rest. But the whole reason we are “more expensive” than gyms is because we don’t have 10 people paying for a membership for every one person that shows up.

Which brings me back to my opening questions. The reason you’re seeing a rise in CrossFit gyms globally is because most folks are selling you “the idea of fitness” and we’re selling actual fitness.*

*Not the first time I’ve tackled these topics (The Idea of Fitness).

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 150107]

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