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Change Always Comes Faster to Those Who Fight it the Hardest
Originally Posted 02/15/09

If you are seeking change, it always seems to come too slow. If you are fighting change, it seems to come at you at the speed of a hangover after too much cheap tequila. You wake up, open your eyes, and then roll onto the floor crying in agony as the burst of pain, accompanied by starbursts of crazy colors, shoots through your forehead just behind your eyes. The hangover is coming, and coming fast, and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it but whimper like a beaten dog.

There was a photographer named Galen Rowell, who died a few years ago in an airplane crash returning from a workshop he had just given that broke exciting ground with his work. He captured landscapes, people, cityscapes and just about anything else he chose at a level of intensity that few people ever accomplished before or since.

He was a film guy who clung to that medium. One of his quotes, paraphrased here, stated that yes, digital photography was coming but it would still be years before it affected any of the work that a serious photographer was doing. He knew digital was there, knew it was coming, yet thought it wouldn't affect the market for years into the future. He was a brilliant film guy and just didn't believe that anything could replace that delivery system quickly.

About two years after he said that, he became a master of the digital camera and photography itself changed forever. Now it is almost impossible to find a lab, or even a store, that still sells film or a film camera. Change happened, and when it came no one had any idea how fast it could hit.

The fitness industry is now poised upon that same ledge. Change is coming, and it is happening faster than many people want it to come. The resisters fight to the last breath but change still comes anyway once a critical mass is achieved, and we have arrived at the specific point in time.

Another example is the publishing world. The big publishers can fight as hard as they want, and perhaps slow down the change slightly, but the consumer wants downloadable books, offered at a reasonable price, and they will get what they want. You can fight, and eventually be left out of the victory spoils, or you can adapt and make money with the world as it is becoming.

In our industry, the death of the single joint fixed plane equipment circuit is upon us and there is nothing anyone can do to stop the transition. Yes, we will still be buying a line of fixed equipment for most mainstream commercial clubs in the coming years, but that purchase will be a lot less than it was just a few years ago and the new emphasis will be upon functional cable equipment, functional toys and a whole lot more cardio.

Weirdly, this change is being driven by unlikely sources. Watch the Biggest Loser, get excited and then go to a local club and try to find any of the equipment or type of training they use on the show. You can't yet in most clubs, but the early adapters will fulfill the need while the rest fight back that the old way is still the best way.

I was talking to Robert Creech, a talented owner, who along with his brother David, run a chain of clubs that are setting new standards in their part of the country (northern Mississippi). Robert was on vacation and visited a local national franchise club that was about 70,000 square feet and said he had a hard time getting a workout. He went from room-to-room looking for functional equipment, such as kettle bells, but the club just didn't have any functional equipment at all. It did have acres of fixed equipment and you could do leg extensions with four different types of equipment, but you couldn't do a simple workout using the equipment most training clubs have been using for several years. The sad thing was that this club was only a few years old.

Fight all you want, and claim that the old guys (the owners in the 90's) had it right, but those members doing chest and triceps on Mondays will be extinct in the next couple of years. The club above was beautiful, big and a great museum to 1995, but it is overbuilt and a waste in today' market.

The consumer wants to train differently. He or she reads the latest books, such as Rachel Cosgrove's recent training book, they read Men's Health, they watch the big loser shows, go to boot camps in the parks and they see the infomercials, such as P90X and Insanity, and simply want something different. The consumer is driving this change, just as they did with digital cameras, the music world and publishing. The consumer always gets what he wants because he is the one writing the checks. Fight all you want, but you can't fight this trend away from going around in circles doing circuit training.

You adapt, or you die. Change is coming in how we train people, and how we even design clubs, and it is coming so much faster than the existing mainstream clubs, and equipment companies, want it happen.
Your future will be big cardio, lots of functional driven equipment and toys and a lot open space where the members and trainers can move in groups. Your training revenue will far exceed your membership revenue if you grasp offering multiple levels of pricing and training. You can compete against any big box club by simply designing your place to get results. You will need more and creative trainers. You will need a lot of open space.

You will not need seas of equipment cramming every usable space. You will not need weight loaded fixed equipment unless you are still catering to the last 12 wannabe bodybuilders on the planet. You will need lifting platforms, but not for the power guys. It will be Mrs. Johnson out there doing those cleans and presses with her personal coach. You will need sleds, 50' ropes, suspension training and most everything that mainstream guys think about buying and then ruin by sticking it all in one small room because by all that is holy you will use those 80 pieces of circuit equipment since someone accidently got in shape in 2002 using that stuff.

The client is bored and wants new stuff and the last thing he will pay for in the future is a bored trainer setting him up on a 12 piece circuit that feels like a short, boring trip on the road to hell.

Watch for the next blogs. I will start to discuss things you can do now to implement some of these changes.


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