Why Gym Culture Is So Important
You’ve heard me mention it before, but it bears repeating: what I feel separates a good gym from a great gym is the notion of CULTURE.
There are a thousand and one gyms out there who hire the best trainers/coaches, have access to every piece of training equipment you could ever ask for, offer competitive rates, and spice things up with various amenities such as juice bars, WiFi, cafe, group exercise classes, yoga, pool, massage therapy, and maybe even access to steam rooms.
Although, if I were you, I’d steer clear of them. Trust me.
Yet, many often fail or have a less than stellar retention rate because they lack any semblance or culture or community.
Places like Cressey Sports Performance, Mark Fisher Fitness (in NYC), IFAST (in Indianapolis), Tuff Girl Fitness (in New Haven, CT), Movement Minneapolis (in Minneapolis), Results Fitness (in Newhall, CA), and yes I’ll even toss CrossFit into the mix here, are a speck of dust in comparison to some of the monstrosities that take up a city block.
None offer fancy amenities, may or may not even offer a place to shower, and are often set at a much higher price point compared to their big-box gym counterparts.
Yet, they thrive and have the most loyal members you could ask for. As Simon Sinek noted in his outstanding book Start With Why:
“There’s a big difference between repeat business and loyalty. Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you.”
Why the Loyalty?
Because every single gym above, in their own unique way, has placed a premium on building a culture where people want to train, want to spend their time, and more importantly feel empowered and encouraged by the staff and other members.
Training around like-minded people has a palpable effect on not only performance but overall experience too.
Take what happened last Saturday at CSP.
To give a little backstory: I’ve long championed the mentality that women should focus more on performance based goals in the weight room rather than things like scale weight or emulating a celebrity look or listening to anything the mainstream media has to say on the topic of women and fitness.
Most of it is unrealistic, toxic, and sets back women’s fitness 20 years.
I 100% feel strength training is the key to pretty much anything, even for more aesthetic based goals.
What’s more, using the popular analogy, strength training is a glass. Most people’s glass (men included) is far too small and they have little room to “express” any other qualities such as sprinting, jumping, hitting a golf ball 250 yds, deadlifting a tank, farmer carrying bags of groceries from the store to your apartment, fighting crime, or doing anything remotely athletic.
Strength training makes your glass bigger so that you can put more “stuff” into it. It allows you the freedom to not pull a hamstring just thinking about chasing after a taxi.
It allows for stuff like this to happen:
This is a video I took this past Saturday of four random women who train at CSP (admittedly, the first one, Nancy, is a current intern), the youngest of which is 15.
For the hell of it I challenged one of them to see if she could do a one-arm chin-up, and before I knew it several was lining up to try.
How baller is that?
None of them walked in on day one and said, “you know what Tony? I’d like to be able to perform a one-arm chin-up.”
But because we’ve built a culture where people (men AND women) love to lift heavy things and get after it, and because all four embraced the importance of hard work and bought into our way of doing things, it has allowed them to do stuff like this.
Because, why not?