It goes without saying that the most recent and dramatic change in the Health & Fitness sector in the past couple of years is the entry and saturation of the low-cost, low-service, 24-hour model gym model from which Jetts and Anytime Fitness are the most recognised.
For an experienced trainer like myself that has numerous certifications and 15+ years of training experience, for the most part these 24-hour gyms are very suitable, as I do not need any instruction and my only requirement is facilities. Thus I am able to access these facilities any day of the year (like boxing day, and yes I train on boxing day) at a substantially low-cost.
Whilst I know a few people that have my training experience, they tend to be of a similar pedigree (trainer and/or compete) and thus do not reflect the typical members of these low cost gyms. In fact nor do they (in my experience) reflect the trainers in these low-cost gyms.
The typical member is looking to get in shape, doesn’t have a lot of experience, knowledge, nor do they have a lot of know-how. So these members are most disadvantaged by the low-cost, low-service model and let me explain why:
1. The staff/trainers spend little time on the floor:
One of the key ways for members to learn and be corrected traditionally was through trainers and through staff interaction on the gym floor, though in every low-cost gym I have trained at, the trainers spend more time in the PT office on Facebook then they do out training themselves and interacting with and assisting members. Literally the only time I have observed them on the floor is when they have a PT session. I always found this odd, as being on the floor not only benefits members and adds to the culture but is also an excellent way for trainers to get exposure to potential clients!
2. The trainers have a poor knowledge base:
With the onslaught of 3 month PT courses, the industry is awash with poorly trained PTs that lack any education past their initial certification. You only need to question a trainers understanding of anatomy and you will start to see serious deficits in most modern trainer’s understanding. I recently observed a trainer that had his teenage client doing Farmer’s Walks, which is a pretty poor return on investment for a skinny little kid if you ask me. This poor knowledge base is further reflected in poor client advice, poor client training and ultimately poor client results. This should be a serious concern for most members as their personal knowledge is where they lack and where they stand to gain the most.
3. There seems to be a general lack of mentoring:
I have also observed a poor level of mentoring. Even with existing training experience, when a trainer is first certified they are still very “green” and require a lot of mentoring in all areas. In fact no matter the currently skill level, all trainers require ongoing mentoring through out their careers, if they want to progress and develop professionally. Oddly enough, I have not observed this once in the few low-cost gyms that I have (frequently) attended.
4. Managers and staff do not train themselves:
What does it say about a gym, if the staff do not train? It has been stated that a business is a reflection of the owner and the staff, so if they don’t train themselves, how can they connect with their members, understand their needs and what does this say about the business as a whole?
5. The business is run like a vending machine:
In the low-cost gym in which I train, in spite of my frequent requests over the past year, they are unable to spend another $200 on another barbell. This means that if a member wants to deadlift then they have to remove a bar from the squat rack or squat cage, which means other members have to sit around idol and wait. When I got rather vocal about this (after waiting 20 minutes for the bar to be returned to the squat rack so I could squat), the manager replied “But we have just bought the vending machine”. I immediately thought: what are we a gym or a snack company? Secondly the vending machine enables them to profit further from members, when a barbell is seen as just another expense. Furthermore a vending machine is how these gyms are run, no money in, nothing out. If you are new to exercise and require nurturing, is this really the environment you want to be in?
6. There is no gym culture:
This ties into all the other points: Low quality trainers, non-training staff, no staff presence on the floor, a business run like a vending machine, then it goes without saying that there is zero, sometimes even a negative and hostile culture in these low-cost gyms. As a recent example, I asked a trainer if he and his client were using the bench, from which he replied “yes”, I then went onto observe that he was not using it for anything other then to rest the barbell on for his client, which left me puzzled as to why he was incapable of just passing the 15kg barbell to his client?! If you need a spot or want to workout in a busy exercise environment where people need to share equipment, which we all do in a shared gym space, then a lack of culture will get you no where.
7. Members don’t respect the space, equipment or other members:
Again this ties into all the other all points, where there is a lack on all regards people will do what they want, which in my experience results in frequently disgusting and/or broken bathroom facilities, equipment that is misplaced or equipment that is rarely unloaded or returned. Sure I can remove 8 plates-a-side off the Leg Press, but how about an elderly female?!
If you are thinking about joining a gym don’t have existing knowledge base and experience, I would strongly argue that the low-cost model is not for you.
In the end it is up to you, but as the saying goes “You get what you pay for”.