By Tommy Allen
I could probably write an entire book on the topic of communication and how crucial it has been in all areas of my life, but today I want to speak directly to you, my community, and the future of District H and the decisions that are being made.
This has been on my mind for a long time and started even before I took over the gym. While most of you may associate a gym as a business of fitness, we are really in the business of relationships. Now that may sound a little weird, but think about it. Most of us enjoy coming to the gym because of the people we get to interact with. It is really the same for us as coaches and owners. Our job is to help you reach your goals, but we are primarily trying to understand you as a person as that is the single most important factor when it comes to long term behavior change and performance.
I have written before on the topic of coaching and how the goal of being a coach is to make an impact on lives. Whether that means health, performance, physique, whatever…we want to be a part of your journey. We are natural people pleasers that want you to succeed.
Back in 2015 & 2016 when I was coaching A LOT, I realized that my ability to leave the type of impact that I truly wanted to as a professional coach was limited in the group class model. Let’s face it, when you have 15+ people in a class and we are working on squatting mechanics, timing of the second pull in the snatch, or creating a sustainable pace in our Metcons, there is very little that I can truly do for each individual. You almost go into a triage mode of, “who is the most likely to hurt themselves” or “give somebody one thing to work on today.”
Multiply this experience by hundreds or even thousands of hours of coaching and you end up feeling burned out. You constantly ask yourself, “am I actually changing these people’s lives or am I a glorified cheerleader?” I have seen very talented coaches and strength and conditioning professionals leave this industry because they are underpaid and overworked in an atmosphere where they don’t get to leave the impact they want.
From the business owner side, only running group classes all day everyday is also not a sustainable model for the long term. Over the last 5 years, “MetCons” have become a complete commodity in our industry. It may be called “Orange Theory” or “F45” or “Barry’s Bootcamp” or “Sweat 1000,” but we are all doing something very similar from a exercise physiology standpoint. For those who aren’t aware about how commodities work, think of COSTCO or WalMart. It essentially becomes a race to the bottom in terms of pricing. There may be a DJ or a juice bar or red lights, but we are all doing constantly varied, functional movements, at a high intensity. Sound familiar?
From the staff side of things, I end up having to pay my coaches very little to work 20+ classes a week and lead them to burnout. Think about it! The average take-home pay for a group fitness coach is between $20-$30 per class. These individuals would need to coach 20+ classes a week just to make enough money to afford a basic standard of living. Also, when you are coaching, you are “ON.” There is no downtime or scrolling through your Instagram feed.
The alternative is that I have a lot of part-time coaches that aren’t bought into the coaching profession and that trickles down to the experience for my members. There isn’t enough consistency to build the types of relationships that are necessary for members to buy into the program and achieve long term results.
My staff isn’t making that much money, the business isn’t making that much money, and most importantly, my members are experiencing constant turnover of uninterested coaches that have already checked out.
It doesn’t serve the needs of any parties involved, which brings me to present day.
You may have noticed over the last few months that some of our more tenured coaches have slowly been downsizing the amount of group classes they are doing. Are they leaving? Absolutely not!
What we have tried to do with the business is create more opportunities for them to create a sustainable career path, provide them with benefits, deliver high value services to our members, and ultimately allow them to have self-actualization in terms of impacting lives. Whether that is through nutrition or mindset coaching, personal training, or remote coaching, they are able to share their talents, have more autonomy of their schedule, and actually have a comfortable standard of living.
That is why I decided to coach. That is why I jumped at the opportunity to lead District H. Trust me, if it was all about dollars and cents, I would have pulled the plug even before COVID.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we are going to just bring in random people to fill the void. We are actively interviewing, observing, mentoring, and coaching our new coaches. Our members always deserve to be coached by the very best and by professionals who truly want to help. We want those who truly want to hone their craft.
But also understand that these coaches also want to grow, learn, and continue to evolve as professionals. These are incredibly driven individuals who are passionate about what they do. If after 2-3 years my staff is still mainly coaching group classes, then I have done a poor job as a business owner in creating opportunity for them.
This isn’t meant to devalue group classes. Group classes are amazing at creating a fun and scalable experience for members to get healthy. I would argue from an efficiency standpoint, group class allows us to reach a lot of people in our community and get them on the right track. It will always be a huge part of District H.
So…as you start to see changes at District H in terms of classes, staff, etc., just understand that it is an effort to continue to provide excellent opportunities for our staff, an excellent experience for our members, and self-actualization for Dustin and I as business owners. This is what will ultimately lead to long term success for District H and our community.
It is a “win” for everybody.