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Why We Don’t Sell Access

Today is August 12th. By now, over 70% of the people who joined a gym in January will have stopped showing up.

It’s not their fault. Everyone wants to feel better, look better and live longer. We join gyms, start diets, buy stretch mats and running shoes and giant water bottles with the best intentions. We even take the hardest step–the first one–and walk into a place that makes us really uncomfortable. Then we commit money to the cause…

…and six months later, we’ve given up. Why?

Early on in my career as a personal trainer, I realized that the key to fitness isn’t a new program, or even the best program. The key is consistency: just showing up most days of the week. If you just show up often enough, put out a bit of effort for about an hour and don’t sabotage yourself between visits, you’ll get more fit. We all understand this–but it’s still not easy to be consistent.

10 years later, I know there are really only a few things that make a difference to your long-term consistency (and, ultimately, your fitness):

  1. You have to find an exercise you like;
  2. You have to have an appointment to exercise (not just the desire);
  3. You have to be accountable to someone else (like a coach or training buddy).

Think about the fittest person you know. I’m willing to bet:

  1. They love their workout, whether it’s running or pickup hockey or CrossFit;
  2. They do it at the same time, all the time;
  3. They have a list of friends who they only know because of their chosen workouts.

These people aren’t more social than anyone else. They’re not exercise fanatics. They don’t have more time in their day. They’re not more disciplined, don’t have more willpower–there’s nothing that makes them “born to be fit”. It’s the other way around:

  1. They tried a few things until they found something they like;
  2. They work out because they’ve scheduled their workout in their day, not because they have more ‘free time’ than anyone else;
  3. They have a coach or a group or a buddy who makes sure they show up on time.

The reason most gyms are vacant by this time? They don’t provide these things. Instead, they sell access to equipment.

Sure, they have lots of treadmills. Yes, their mirrors and stack machines are nice and clean. They have a ton of variety. They’re probably very inexpensive. But long-term, those things fail to keep most people engaged. These gyms are great–for self-driven people who have a lot of time to kill, don’t need anyone to hold them accountable, and love working out for its own sake. These are the 10% of people who just need access to some equipment, and they’ll take care of everything themselves.

But the rest of us–over 90%–need to find an activity we like, that we can do on a schedule, with someone who makes sure we show up.

Think about a friend or relative who’s joined an access gym in the last year.

They were probably really excited when they started. They loved the special deal or free gym bag or shaker bottle. (I love that stuff too.)

After a week, they were really happy with their choice. They were proud of themselves and probably invited you along.

But a few months later, they started to taper off. They didn’t talk about their workouts the way they used to. They appeared a little bored…or simply losing motivation.

A year after joining, were they still going to the gym?

I hope so. But as I said earlier, 70% stop showing up within six months, and nearly 90% aren’t using their membership at the one-year mark.

I’m one of those people who need to like my workout. But that’s not enough: I need an appointment. And when the appointment feels easy to cancel, I need a buddy or coach to text me: “You coming to 430 group today?”

That’s what’s kept me on track for over 18 years. And after 10 years of coaching fitness, I know that’s what will make a real difference in your life.

Access is freedom. It feels like great value. But coaching gets results.

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