My Virgin Experience

July 30, 2015

I’ve been doing some market research in recent weeks, training in other gyms to see how they compare to W10.  It’s been interesting.

Here’s ten things that I’ve learned or been reminded of.


Things they do better than us:


  1. The big-box gyms are much more slick commercially than we are.


From the modern looking reception area, to the dedicated sales office, to the slick new joiner packs, they do the whole corporate thing far better than us in the independent gyms.  To be perfectly frank, it feels a bit more grown up.  We can piss and moan about this all we like, but we need to learn from it and adopt some if it.  Especially if we want to charge premium rates.


  1. They talk to the masses better than we do.


Like it or not, most fitness consumers will feel more at home in a high street gym than they will in a functional training gym, performance facility, or CrossFit box.  It’s what fitness has looked like for years, so it makes sense that this is the case.  Our challenge in the independent gym space is to try and bridge the gap and make the move across less daunting.


  1. Style is as important as substance.


When we started out, our USP was that we looked different, had quirky kit, and we trained people in a way the was new / hardcore / novel.  None of that is different now, everyone’s doing it (albeit, some better than others).  We can kick and scream all we like, but appearance matters.  The high street gyms look better than most independent gyms.  They’re cleaner and more fresh looking.  This makes a big difference.


  1. Systems make businesses


Most independent gyms are in disarray away from the gym floor.  The fact of the matter is that we don’t really get it business-wise and many independents won’t last the course as a result.


Things they don’t do quite so well:


  1. The culture in big-box gyms is terrible


Not entirely surprising given the retention rate of 30% and an average visit of less than one per week, but the lack of atmosphere – or at times worse, an awkward one – is tangible.  Dickheads in the weights area staring each other out and hogging equipment.  Women tucked away on the cross-trainer.  The cagey interaction amongst trainers.  And the clear sense of half the people not wanting to be there, makes it all an odd place to be.


  1. The standard of training is diabolical


Whether it’s people doing stuff they plucked out of Men’s Fitness (nothing wrong with the content, Joel) or trainers giving clients inappropriate exercises – presumably in a bid to stand out and attract more clients – the overall training standard is pretty sad.  I think the percentage of people having personal training is about 10% in big-box gyms, and it shows.  Most people don’t really know what they’re doing and form and execution is at best poor and at worst, dangerous.


  1. Pissed off and unmotivated staff are the worst thing for a gym


You can see it written all over some peoples faces – especially a lot of the gym instructors – when people aren’t having fun a work.  I’m sure my team have got a few choice words to say about me and how demanding I can be (which I’m certainly not sorry for), but overall we have a very happy bunch of people working at W10, all of whom add to the culture of the place.  It’s easy to forget that sometimes when I’m ranting about housekeeping.


  1. It does’t really work if you don’t have a common ethos


One of the biggest problems with personal training in big-box gyms is that there are too many trainers doing too many different things, giving out different messages.  You’ve got Dave telling everyone it’s all about getting strong in the big exercises, Bob asserting that if it not unstable its not functional and Chris telling everyone that cardio is king.  It’s confusing for the members.  It doesn’t work.  There has to be a common approach.


  1. Trainers shouldn’t use i-pads or i-phones on the gym floor


It just looks really bad.  Simple as that.  If you need to count intervals, get a GymBoss.  If you need something to help you count reps, I’m not really sure what to tell you.


  1. We’re delivering a good package at W10


We’re not perfect and we’re still working it out, but overall we’re delivering a bloody good experience.  I’m sure some of our members will have the odd thing that they can highlight and grumble about, but we’ve got enough style to make us commercially credible, coupled with the substance to make the member training journey and experience head and shoulders above most of (pretty much all of) what else is going on.