Club Insider


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Thomas PlummerThomas Plummer

Your cell phone is less than two years old. Your new flat screen is, at best, a few years old. Your fitness wearable represents technology that didn't even exist just a few years back. My old box computer is in the back of the closet, dead and gone, replaced by laptops and pads. My news comes from scrolling on my phone to see the latest from all sources. And, who is left on the planet who schedules his life around a television when there are a dozen apps that let you choose what you want to watch and when?

Yet, the fitness facility you just built, and expect the public to buy, hasn't changed its basic concept since 1985. The check-in desk is staffed by the lowest bidder; the sales offices that scream the set from Mad Men; a sea of fixed-plane circuit equipment; strength equipment that could have been featured in a 1990 Muscle and Fitness; cardio lined up so close you can smell the guy next to you; and the aerobics room, still a must-have in most mainstream gyms, but now with that old, been there, done that aroma.

Our definition of what a fitness facility should be in the mainstream world hasn't changed in over three decades, or put a different way, George Bush the first was President, and Don't Worry, Be Happy was ripping up the charts. Even after all those years, we still believe:

  • More of everything is better. Build it big, stuff it so you can't move, try to offer every program trick you have ever learned, and sell, baby, sell those memberships.
  • Even though that seated chest press was invented in 1967, just change the paint and bend the steel a little differently, and we are still good to go. The tech never changes; we just repackage it every year. What year were you born? Is your tech older than you?
  • Any help anyone might get is sold separately, meaning less than 6% of all members get any real help. We lament when people quit, but we created DIY gyms.
  • Volume is the business plan. Price is everything. Deals are a must.
  • We are in the fitness business, even though any real outside business person realizes these gyms, which represent most of the mainstream fitness market, have little to do with fitness and are all about selling memberships, losing people because they fail and then selling more memberships. We offer fitness theater, not fitness that changes enough people to matter.
  • Keep the price low so we can attract the largest number of clients possible, even though we now have 30 competitors in the same market doing the same thing.

What if this definition of a fitness facility is wrong? What if we have simply continued to replicate the past while ignoring the obvious future in front of us? What if this is a failing business model, with no future, and no chance to innovate?

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