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When was the Decade You Stopped Evolving??
Originally Posted 01/25/10

I met a guy at a party whose year was 1986. That was the year that he still believes was the most important year of his life, and he still clings to that era like stink on a fat bowler. He refuses to listen to any music recorded later than 1986 (Journey, Huey Lewis and Survivor still rock his world), lives as a low-tech contrarian and is in essence frozen in the past.

This would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that I have to deal with this every single workshop we offer. Most owners are frozen somewhere in the past and just refuse to evolve no matter what is happening in today's market. For example, look at the industry through the recent years:

60's: Some of these guys are still around and in the business. These were the years of the first hard pressure sales, nasty sales tactics and offensive marketing. Whether we like it or not, this is part of our past and these guys and their business practices are why the industry has such a low image with the public, because so many next generation people in the industry emulated these early guys. These guys are characterized by the question, "What do you mean lead boxes don't work? Why I did 221 sales one month (November, 1966) out of lead boxes,

70's: Arnold says it all. This decade is why every Monday in America is national bench press and arm day in most clubs thanks to, "Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder. This is also the decade that still dictates training philosophy in the clubs and why we fail the clients so often. Mrs. Johnson, that sweet little member who wants to lose 25 pounds, finds herself with a trainer who weighs about 260 and wonders why she is on a four-day split routine doing bench presses with tiny, pink dumb bells. This decade and all its madness took us away from full body functional workouts to isolation and routines that about 2% of the gym populations can do or really needs.

Owners who worked in clubs in these days, as young employees, are now the ones building their club just like a Gold's Gym from the early days. These guys are characterized by the statement, "You just can't build a club without Hammer equipment and you have to have dumb bells that go up to 200 pounds or you will lose members.

80's: There were actually two groups that emerged from this decade, and both are still around and as bizarre as ever. The first group is still rampant in the clubs and still has hot debates online. This is the HIT group, or high intensity-training fan club of the glory days of Nautilus. Do one set, do it to your max, follow the circuit for 12 pieces of equipment and go home. Give it up people, no one wants to do that anymore and it has proven to fail. You may not even know you are one of these guys, but if you put your new members on a circuit and give them a workout card with the pieces of equipment, seat adjustments and a place for weight and reps, congratulations, you are frozen in time and it was a butt ugly year to choose.

This is why members quit you fools. You can't sign up a member and never help him again, and you can't in good business, or good conscious, advocate something we know will fail for the client, therefore, he will leave us. You only make money if someone stays longer and pays longer and the days of chasing endless replacements for lost members are so long gone. This guy is characterized by the statement, "If you can't get it done in one set, then you didn't do the one set hard enough. And yes, I do have a shrine in my office to Ellington Darden, so what?

The other group from this decade is also still haunting us. The 80's were the glory years for aerobics (not to be confused with the advent of modern group exercise), and any group person who was working in a club during the later part of that decade, or into the first few years of the 90's, still believes that you have to change your class every week, that the instructor is the star, and that a microphone hanging off the side of the head is status. These ancient divas destroy group programs, because they just can't stop being the star and can't let go of the programs. This diva is known by the statement, "Workout music hasn't been the same since Donna Summer retired, but they can also be heard saying, "I think I still look good for a forty five year old woman without a single muscle in my body from all this cardio.

90's: This was the era of the first super Gold's and World's Gyms. These big boxes were quite something in the day and each one grew bigger as the owners all tried to out do each other. Fields of equipment stuffed tightly in one big room, cardio inches apart and free weights that would make a bodybuilder wish he could still get an erection. The clubs were all about whoever had the most equipment would win and it was bodybuilding heaven and circuit city all rolled into one.

Even the national chains jumped in and you still find the chains building clubs that are way to big to deliver service, but egos demand that the product has to be built big and expensive, even though the member simply doesn't care anymore and there is too much competition to make the big pigs profitable. Anyone who was working in this era still says, "You just can't build a smaller club. It has to be 40,000 square feet or you can't compete. Besides, a smaller club would restrict your income. This is, by the way, the same guy who is now competing against a 6,000 square foot hybrid-training club that is generating over $100,000 a month and kicking his over-leveraged ass.

2000: This was the decade of the reinvention of the low price/value club, the advent of the small town 5000 square foot model and the end of the 1500 circuit model. More happened in this decade than in the past 60 years in fitness, and some of it was even good. The low priced guys weeded out the marginal mainstream players, which was good for everyone else. The functional guys brought in a new era of fitness that is based upon individual results for the client and the end of equipment as service. The dysfunction of the economy validated whether the big chains really had a viable business plan, or were just coasting along with the endless supply of cheap capital stemming from desperate investors looking for an easy score. The economy won and proved that many of the guys with more than 20 clubs never had a frickin' clue about what is really happening in the industry and they paid the price.

Everyone had a comment from this decade. The 1500 square foot circuit people cried because no one could believe that losing twenty pounds did not make you a successful business owner. The big guys blamed the economy, but the reality is that no matter how big your club is, or how much equipment you have, you still have to get results for your members and deliver customer service; something few if any of the bigger organizations can accomplish.

The next step: Build clubs with one purpose: you have to get your clients results so they will stay longer and pay longer. This will be the decade where we finally realize that there is not an endless supply of new members, because there is simply too much competition. The look of clubs will change. The size of clubs will change. What is in clubs will change. The equipment companies will change their offerings or perish. Fixed equipment will become a small part of your offering. More will change in the next few years than in the last 30. Are you ready, or are you still stuck in the past listening to Metallica and wondering if your hair is big enough?

What I just read: Mike Boyle, the Boston bad boy of banging metal and functional guru to the rest of us mere workout mortals, just released a long over due new book, "Advances in Functional Training. Mike's new release is a combination of some of his best writing over the years infused with some of his current thoughts on training. This is a must have for any owner's bookshelf and should be mandatory reading for all head trainers. You can get this book from Perform Better now. Mike will also be on the road at this year's Perform Better Summits, which every owner and head trainer should attend. Many of you owners are out of date and need new ideas for training in your club. Don't be frozen: go get some new info and see Mike.


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