Full Disclosure: Let me be completely up front with you and tell you that I founded and currently operate an original concept gym, and we have been accepting members since 2005. So, this article MAY seem self serving. However, it does not make it any less TRUE.
There are always trends to follow. Trends occur in fashion, the stock market, political concerns, eating habits, and technology. Trends also occur in fitness. Fitness is my profession. I pay special attention to trends in fitness. Some trends are good, like CrossFit. Some trends are bad, like abandoning all other types of strength training in favor of KettleBell Training. Some trends are gruesome…
In fitness, as in many things, the masses at large seem to be interested in the newest, greatest “thing”. Consequently, there is ALWAYS a newest, greatest thing in fitness made available for people to purchase. The next newest, greatest thing in fitness is made available by slews of clever marketeers, MBAs, and shrewd businessmen, who are concerned with one thing and one thing only… making maximum profit. And so surfaces one of the chief hazards of capitalism – profits CAN be made by providing products and/or services that are actually BAD for the consumer.
- “Caveat emptor”. Latin for, “Let the buyer beware.” Only in housing sales is there an “Implied Warranty of Fitness.” In the United States, concerning all other sales, you have very little, if any, protection.
- “A fool and his money are soon parted”. Well known English idiom.
- “No man ever went broke by overestimating the ignorance of the American public”. A famous quote credited to genius profiteer P.T. Barnum.
Of course, profits CAN and are often are made by providing products and/or services that are GOOD for the consumer. Fresh, local, organically grown produce would be an example. Profits can also be made by providing products and/or services that have no discernable negative, or positive, effect on the consumer. Would Private Mortgage Insurance be a good example? A quick, cursory observation of the world around you will tell you that it is much easier to sell a consumer something that is BAD for them, than it is to sell them something that is GOOD for them. It is a strange phenomenon. Think about cigarettes, alcohol, fast food, and consumer credit cards. These things practically sell themselves! Aren’t they all pretty terrible for you? ABSOLUTELY.
Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. Meaning it is easy to look back at something that has already passed by and accurately see if it was good, bad, or gruesome. Can you think of fitness trends that have come and gone, that now, today, you could easily identify as utterly ridiculous scams? “Wow, how could anyone have ever believed that worked?”. I am sure you can think of a few examples of products and/or services that were sold successively on a mass scale that today you can easily see were bogus and gruesome ways to defraud people out of their money. Do you remember the Thigh Master? How about the Gazelle?
Today, I look around and see another prominent trend in fitness. I call it “$9.99 Fitness”. Back in 2005, I probably would have called it “$19.99 Fitness”. And a few years into the future, I will probably be calling it “$4.99 Fitness”. After that probably, “FREE Fitness”. And that’s when you probably will stop hearing about it, because when something is FREE it is not far behind that it will be viewed as worthless and irrelevant.
“$9.99 Fitness” is the fast food of the fitness industry. It’s cheap. It’s quick. It’s convenient. Everybody’s doing it. It feels good at the moment. And it’s pretty horrible for you. It’s a gruesome trend in fitness. But, I mean, HONESTLY, who wouldn’t enjoy a free piece of pizza or a bagel when they get to the gym? And who doesn’t enjoy sharing the only flat bench with 27 of your closest friends? And, thank God! they don’t have a decent squat rack or power cage because squats are horrible for your back and knees anyway! And definitely DON’T do these! They’re bad for the back, knees, AND shoulders!
Haha. No, but really, another dangerous, and strangely ironic aspect of the $9.99 Fitness model is the conflict between what they are marketing to the public and what they are actually selling. The $9.99 Fitness facility model EMPHASIZES machine based training. They have continued to reduce the space and money in their facilities that is dedicated to free weight training in favor of weight-assisted, lever, and selectorized machines. These sort of machines are DESIGNED ideally FOR high level BODYBUILDING – isolation and development of specific muscle groups for the sake of making muscles BIGGER with practically no significant increases in FUNCTIONAL strength. And, here’s the ironic part… their current marketing is anti-bodybuilder! LOL. So, $9.99 Fitness either does NOT even know what their facilities’ equipment is meant for… OR… they are just telling you whatever they can to get you to sign up after they have filled their gym with cheap equipment that is totally inappropriate for beginners.
Years ago, we did not yet even consider the possibility that fruits and vegetables sprayed with certain pesticides may be causing serious adverse health effects. We just accepted it as normal and necessary. Until we started to understand the problem and the consequences. Similarly, it is currently beyond the grasp of the public at large why exercising primarily on machines is exactly the OPPOSITE of what someone new to the gym should be doing. $9.99 Fitness is a shrine of fitness machines. The machines they have chosen to equip their facilities with are, at best, a very, very, very inefficient use of your time. At worst, these machines are setting you up for a serious injury. Luckily, there are a few positive trends in the fitness industry ARE finally bringing these unfortunate facts to light.
YOU TOO CAN START YOUR OWN “$9.99 FITNESS”
Here’s the formula. Let’s say you want to open your own “$9.99 Fitness” Center. First look for cheap, commercial space. About 30,000 square feet would be great. Let’s say you negotiate a terrific lease with the landlord and get into a gross lease of $7.50 per square foot. You’ll be paying only $18750/month in rent. Which is awesome, of course, because you only need to sign up about 1875 members on recurring payment to make the rent. Let me spare you some of the math details and add that you need about another 240-250 members to cover basic heating and cooling of the facility. And for every full time “fitness expert” you need to hire to work the floor, you will need at least another 220 members to cover their salary. In a 30,000 square foot facility, is 4 “fitness expert”‘s working the floor enough? Sure… So, adding up what we have so far, you only need about 3005 members to cover your bills so far. Oh, but what about insurance? Another 180 members. Great. Well, not great, you’re not even turning a profit yet. What kind of equipment are you going to buy? Or lease? Don’t worry, if you buy the cheap equipment to fill that 30,000 square foot space, you only need about 450 more members to cover that. We are up to 3635 members. And, we are still not turning a profit…
SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:
- So, under these conditions, how crowded do you think this gym is going to get so the GYM OWNERS can make a decent profit?
- Are the GYM OWNERS going to do extensive research on equipment selection and facility layout themselves, hire a qualified strength and conditioning coach to consult with, or give the job to the equipment vendor who offers the lowest quote to fill up that 30,000 square feet with exercise equipment?
- How do the GYM OWNERS know which exercise equipment will provide the most benefit to their customers?
It’s time for me to wrap it up here. I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say about this and this is probably the last time I will spend time and energy on the subject of what I call, “$9.99 Fitness”. If there is one thing I wish to leave you with for today, it’s this – working out is a sacred activity that can potentially yield you immeasurable benefits. Working out in a properly constructed and organized gym environment will set the stage for your personal fitness success. Learn as much as you can about how exercise properly for your goals. I know there are MANY “experts” out there all trying to get your attention and tell you how to exercise, diet, and which supplements to take. And everybody seems to be saying something different! Try to relax, breathe, and choose one source at a time to explore the ideas of. Sometimes you may pick up something useful, sometimes you may not. Just be your own judge and take a little time to figure it out for yourself. Be wary of trends. And, remember, if “EVERYONE” is doing it, it is probably WRONG.