#024: How to Thrive in the Changing Landscape of Fitness

#024: How to Thrive in the Changing Landscape of Fitness

The gym industry is constantly changing and those who have their finger on the pulse are thriving with every evolution.

To help us get an understanding of how gyms can diversify and gain a broader clientele, our guest Ian Berger joins us on Gymwright LIVE to share his expertise. He has an extensive background in the functional fitness space as a 2016 professional athlete, owning and managing gyms for a decade, managing the Grid League’s New York Rhinos, and being the host of the Endure Podcast.

Join us every Friday at 10 a.m. PT on The Network where we’ll be airing live. Be sure to stick around for the live Q&A session at the end of the show so we can answer any questions you have.

This show was recorded live in The Network on Friday, March 26, 2018. 

Table of Contents



Ian Berger

Image Credit: Greatist.com

5:30 The Changing Landscape of Fitness

We’re stoked to have on Ian Berger, an industry OG who’s worked in many different areas of the Functional Fitness realm. He brings a great multidimensional view of the industry that few can offer. From opening his first gym at 18-years-old with his family to now being the head coach at a premier functional fitness facility in NYC and being the GM of the NPGL team the New York Rhinos, Ian sees that the changing landscape of fitness is flowing towards fitness hobbyists wanting more variety.

With the creation of Class Pass, people want different classes, different varieties and he found that just offering functional fitness wasn’t enough any more – especially in NYC. He mentions that a great way to get people in the door is with a high-intensity style training class and then gradually nudge them into functional fitness as people are tentative to try it initially.

Fitness is omni-channel these days with online programs, fitness influencers, brick and mortar gyms . . . its not just about having a storefront and hoping people will show up. it needs to run like a business. you used to be able to get away with having a passion project, but the rules to succeed are much different now.

Now, you should be your members’ HQ for all things fitness. Be their go-to for nutrition, barbell work, wellness – and if you’re not qualified or staffed to do that, cultivate a network of trusted partners so you can be their expert.


Ian Berger

Image Credit: Ice NYC

8:45 The Benefits of Diversifying

The biggest benefit of diversifying is increasing your bottom line. Increasing revenue should be everyone’s goal. It shouldn’t be the REASON you’re in business, but it should be your primary objective because, basically, you need to make money to make more of an impact.

When your gym is profitable, you can pay your career coaches more, you can increase your visibility, you can improve and expand your facility. Without money, you can’t do any of that. It helps open the door for all of the things you want to accomplish.


11:55 How Do You Start?

Look at what you’re currently offering and then look at what exists out there that’s making a big impact on the lives of people who are your ideal member. Then get the pulse from your community. Do they want a nutrition challenge? A barbell class? Endurance class? These are really easy ways to start to diversify.

You might also consider partnering up with another fitness service to do a joint marketing effort offering a discount for both facilities to each set of members. Not enough gym owners reach out to competitors to see how they can collaborate. Awesome things can happen in just a few conversations. Plus, it’s more fun when you get other like-minded business owners to co-create something. This is a great way to add more value to your membership and also support another local business.

Of course, consider what you do well and don’t do well. If you know nothing about nutrition and aren’t willing to commit to learning a ton about it, maybe don’t offer a nutrition challenge. Another option, if you really do want to explore services and offerings outside of your qualifications is to hire a 3rd party to which you’d facilitate the experience.


Ian Berger

Image Credit: Pinterest

15:45 Focus on Your Team

While diversifying your offerings can be a great way to increase memberships and improve member loyalty, the first step in creating a gym that thrives is having the A-team on staff.

Are your coaches and staff meeting the standard that you want your gym to promote? If you can keep your employees happy and dedicated to your mission and vision, you’ll see almost every aspect of your business elevated. Your staff needs to want to grow you community almost as much as you do and not just worry about how much their getting paid. It will be challenging to get the right team in place, but once you do – it’s a game changer.

Another important thing to note is that if you do have A-players on your team but you’re not going above and beyond to make sure they’re feeling fulfilled and are a part of the vision and mission, these are the people that will likely leave and start their own gym close by. And rightfully so. Take care of your good people and they’ll take care of you.


Ian BergerImage Credit: AmrapPhoto.Tumblr.com

21:25 Prioritize Social Currency

Fitness social currency is when someone experiences your gym and they want to share it. It’s the topic of their discussions in-person and online.

People are going to facilities and want to share their fitness experience with friends. They’re having business meetings by going to workout with each other. We’re living in a more fitness conscious state, so you gym should be a place where people are proud to share their experiences. To put it frankly, is your gym Instagramable? Is it a place where people want to take pictures? Do you have geo-tags, SnapChat filters? Is your IG on point? If your social media isn’t strong, people probably aren’t paying attention.

Check out Onnit’s Gym in Austin, TX. They’re a great example of a highly Instagram-able facility.

Make sure your facility is worth your price point. As Greg Glassman says, your bathroom should be pristine. You could have the best programming in the world, but if people don’t want to do burpees off of your floor then it doesn’t matter.

Another important aspect of your facility is your front desk staff. This person should be the most amazing, more generous, awesome person in the world. There are too many gyms where the front desk people look like they’re annoyed that you’ve entered into their space. This person is a prospect’s first in-person contact and this first impression is a good indicator of if this person comes back or not.

Ian Berger

Image Credit: AmrapPhoto.Tumblr.com

27:04 Wearables and Tech

In the realm of a fitness methodology that promotes measurable, observable, and repeatable  – wearables and other types of fitness technology are likely going to be a big hit in the functional fitness world come the near future. It might seem like a novelty right now, but you really should start to look into the things that appeal and apply to you, tap into people’s curiosity, and see if it’s something you’d like to take the lead on.


Ian Berger

Image Credit: ICE NYC

30:19 Monetize the Hours That Aren’t Operational

If you’re like most boxes, you have a space that’s not being used for a solid 6 hours after early morning and before the evening classes. Explore the option of bringing outside fitness instructors and offering other options to existing members to the facility continue to bring in revenue during these typical dead hours.


Ian Berger

 Image Credit: ICE NYC


Brittany W: How do you overcome current members not wanting to pay extra for these things on top of their memberships? 

Answer: Show the value of the new offering and don’t cave into giving it to them for free. If you explain that it’s going to be outside of business hours, that only a select number of people can do it, and make it really hard to get into – you’re creating the demand. Make it exclusive and give it a finite end. If you have a program, resist the urge to give out free advice around that topic. What you’re doing is giving them an out to not take advantage of a better way of learning. If you’re the premium service, then people are going to want to work with you they’ll pay more.

If you give everything away for free or as an all-inclusive with your membership, you’re conditioning your members to expect everything for free.

Brittany W: Is it a good idea for a studio who may want to scale to other locations to add in things during off hours if you won’t do that at your other locations? 

Answer: The closest you can get at standard procedure at all places makes it easier for you. That goes for community too so no matter which location you go to, you want the experience to be the same. You don’t want one location to be the ugly step child. The whole game with multi-location is about replicating the proven system.


About Ian Berger

ian berger crossfit

Ian Berger is currently the Head Coach of ICE NYC. He also serves as general manager of the NPGL team the  New York Rhinos.

As a division 1 collegiate soccer player, fitness has always been part of his life. Ian realized that his passion for fitness outweighed soccer and found the sport in 2009, when he proceeded to open O-side CrossFit with his family.


newsletter for gym owners

Jessica Depatie About the author

Jessica is the marketing maven here at Gymwright. She's a business consultant and holistic marketer for fitness businesses. She specializes in the decision-making psychology of what makes everyday people want to optimize themselves. She dives deep into how people seek out growth in the pursuit of living happier and healthier.

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