Time To Fail, Again – Problem with Commercial Gyms

It is January and the busiest month of the year for all commercial gyms. This month alone counts for 15-20% of the years new memberships. The problem is that 5% of the people who sign up will NEVER set foot back in the place except to cancel. In 6 weeks another 25-35% of them will have stopped coming. In three months another 25-30% will have stopped. By this time next year, only about 15-25% will remain.

I appreciate this time of year for a few reasons. There are a lot of new people in my class, so I have a new opportunity to change peoples lives by helping them find that “oh my God” moment when they have pushed harder than they thought they could and realize that they are still in the fight. My classes are full and there are people waiting at the door to get in; this means that those who do make it in are going to work harder and not leave midway through.

But on a more cynical / realistic level, this time of year marks the start of one of the worst periods for 75-85% of the people who join the gym. It represents the moment in time when they made a mistake and actually believed that they had the ability to change their life and become the healthy person they thought they were.

I’ve seen 1000’s of people join and quit the gym. I’ve sold 100’s of people on the dream that they could look like me, the trainers, the regulars and the sexy people on TV, only to have their dream fall apart a few weeks later when they realize that they are not ready to achieve their goals. I used to feel bad about it so I stopped selling at a commercial gym.

When I’m teaching RPM at GoodLife, I try to be encouraging, upbeat, high energy and honest about what the participant are about to go through. I tell them that it is going to hurt, I let them know that it is going to take a few weeks of sustained effort before the class starts to get easier, I mention that I was once brand new at it and that I found it to be one of the toughest gym experiences I had gone through in spite of the fact that I raced mountain bikes and had been active for most of my life. I try not to sell anyone on the “you can do it” dream and instead try to sell them on the “it’s going to suck until the end of class” reality.

I’ve learned that there are 10-15% of the population that are going to burn 80% of the calories. These are the people who are already working out and will remain working out regardless of everything. These people need coaching on form and that is it. They supply the motivation and will find their way to the gym when the roads are closed due to snow, on Christmas day when everyone else is at home, and when they are in their time of need. Working out for these people is similar to prayer for the faithful – it’s what they do when they need to find peace.

How do you become one of the 10-15% if you are not one of them?

The easiest way is to get a personal trainer (PT). Over the years I’ve gone from considering PTs as jocks who count reps to considering most of them to be jocks who hold the unmotivated to their promises. I’m not certain but I have the feeling that most people show up to their appointments because they have public integrity and don’t want to go back on their word to another person; but it could have something to do with the $0 refund for no-show appointments – the notion of losing $60 for not showing up to an hour appointment may serve as more of a motivator than the fear of dying from an obesity related illness.

There is a lot of talk in the business about personal training and how much commercial gyms profit from it – very often the gym pays the trainer only 25-35% of the hourly cost of the session. This means they get 65-75% PLUS the monthly membership cost. But, when you get down to it, most PTs are getting a fair wage based on what they actually know and they also get to be “Personal Trainers”, which carries some prestige in many gyms.

But it is an undeniable observation that those who train with PTs WILL stick with their workouts for a longer period of time. If you are not one of the 10-15% who treat working out like worship, getting a PT will allow you to behave like one of them and it will help you stay diligent with your workouts.

I have nothing to gain directly from encouraging people to train with a PT because I do not work for a commercial gym – SST uses floor coaches to offer guidance to all of the members who are working out. My suggestion that working out with a PT will increase your likelihood of success is based on years of observing the sales cycle in a commercial gym. If you are not already working out there is a 85% chance that you will fail to become one of the ones who work out UNLESS you get professional help. Get an expert and change your life. Otherwise you may just be helping to buy all the new and shinny equipment I love to workout on.