Originally Posted: 02/04/09
One of the funniest things in this industry is to go to a major tradeshow and see some company proudly flaunting their newest line of fixed equipment, which is really another redo of 1969 Nautilus. We need a lot of things in this industry, but we don't need another startup company basing their entire investment on a line of equipment that was out of date 20 years prior to the show.
There have been breakthroughs in equipment. Functional equipment, such as Human Sport by Star Trac, FreeMotion, and Kinesis by Technogym, are progressions on the evolutionary scale representing thought at the next level, and you will see many more club owners convert completely to a functional culture during the next five years. Costs go down for the owner and the member actually gets results leading to morepeople staying longer and paying longer. It's progress but not the total solution.
Perhaps the questions I get asked the most often by reporters, or club owners bored out of their minds, is what is going to be the next big thing in this industry? In my opinion, the next big breakthrough won't be equipment driven. The next big breakthrough that will drive us from 41 million members (IHRSA numbers) currently in clubs in this country to 80 million and beyond will be the development of a nutrition component that individualizes the process for our members and can be sold and serviced at the club level.
We have gone about as far as we can on the fitness trail. Pioneers are still out there and people like Gray Cook, Bill Parisi, Mike Boyle, Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove, Anthony Diluglio, and some of the other great minds in our industry, will continue to take us to a higher level of results-driven fitness that is possible to deliver on a broad scale in commercial fitness settings.
But even this steadily increasing knowledge is just a step along the evolutionary trail. In our world, more efficient ways to train people is much like the first functional machines. These machines took us further along, but you can still turn around and see where we came from last week. It's a step, not a leap.
Nutritional knowledge that isn't controversial, that can be individualized and that can be scaled to the typical club will be the key that drives revenue in the fitness industry during the next decade. Nutritional support is where we have failed the consumer and this lack of support and guidance is the block to long-term sustainable growth in the fitness business. Provide a solution the millions of fat people tired of their bodies and the client will find us instead of us begging for more members.
In other words, we may get from 41 million members to 45 million members in the next few years by just maintaining our current percentage as the population continues to expand in this country. But if we want to get big numbers, and the even bigger revenues, by doubling our current penetration rate in our national population, we must finally bring to market a way to drive weight loss consistently for the average person.
Fitness sucks. It is hard, no fun, repetitious, boring, endless, frustrating, time consuming, mind numbing, ego driven (in the mind of someone who doesn't yet do fitness but who is contemplating it) and why should I even do fitness when all I want to really do is lose 15 pounds and finally get laid this weekend.
Weight loss sells, and yet we don't sell it in commercial clubs in any scale at all. Over 60% of the population is overweight and obese, yet we still don't sell weight management in the clubs. Many of our club owners are overweight, not because they don't work out, but because they are confused as the consumer on what constitutes efficient nutrition.
The biggest pioneer in nutrition in this industry, and one who should be remembered as one of the four or five most influential people in the history of the fitness industry, Neal Spruce, was right 20 years ago when he first introduced a basic metabolic typing diet into mainstream fitness, but we still only practice nutrition at a very basic level in our industry and in very few clubs as a national percentage.
Most of us believe that the equation for getting in shape is about 15% of what you do and about 85% of what you eat. We have reached 41 million members by selling a solution for the smallest percentage of the equation. Just think what is possible if we finally sold the entire package.
There is a first generation of new super heroes practicing nutrition at the club level. Guys like Robert Yang, Dr. Mark Smith and John Berardi are years ahead of what the typical club offers. Paul Chek was years ahead of his time in the application of nutrition at the fitness consumer level. And Neal Spruce is still creating new tools through his new company to provide a solution. It's coming, and we will get there, but there will never be 80 million fitness members until we can make big asses smaller and get paid well for the process.