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The Fitness Industry Landscape and How It Impacts Your Health and Body

Fitness trends are always fun to talk about…like is the bosu ball dead and is HIIT still hot? But, these are easy, high-level topics to explore. Today, I’d like to take you deeper. I’m using my inside knowledge of the industry to explain how the overall landscape impacts you, the fitness enthusiast. These are not trends, they are industry truths, and they have stronger implications for your health and body than the latest craze or funky piece of exercise equipment.

Fitness Landscape 3

Market Competition is High but Barrier to Entry is Low

Opening up a fitness business isn’t the most complicated thing in the world. Personal trainers and “fitpreneurs” open their own studios all the time. In urban hubs it may even feel like new gyms pop up every season…and just as quickly shut down. Startup costs for a gym or studio space don’t have to be astronomical, especially for exercise formats like yoga and dance which don’t require costly equipment. This makes it easy to enter the fitness industry market.

Although, just because it’s easy to play the game, doesn’t mean it’s easy to win it. Most studios and gyms have to make a solid return on investment within the first two to three years to stay fiscally fit. Marketing dollars must be spent wisely and word-of-mouth reputation counts a lot towards success in this industry. A lot of fitness professionals turned small-business owners lack marketing and IT support, and spread themselves too thin trying to learn new skills to grow their businesses. In short, if a gym isn’t growing, it’s probably going…down the drain, that is.

What does this mean to YOU, the consumer?

If you’re in love with a gym or studio, invite friends to work out with guest passes and/or invest in a special training promotion from time to time. Even the most impressive establishments can go belly-up in this competitive industry. Success almost entirely rides on how well an establishment is supported by the community it serves (and vice versa). Unfortunately, the less financial flexibility a gym has, the longer it will take to refurbish worn out equipment and the less likely it is to offer fun membership perks and add-ons which can enhance your experience and encourage you to attend more regularly. And regular attendance is key to your fitness goals’ success! 

Industry Concentration is Low

As much as the household names of Anytime Fitness, Gold’s Gym, Planet Fitness, Equinox and CrossFit are top-of-the-mind in the fitness community, these companies don’t entirely run the show. The top 50 fitness companies have less than 30% market share. This means that there are a LOT of individually operated businesses or “one-offs” and small chains. It’s hard to project what direction the industry is headed, but it’s interesting to know that right now even the top dogs are battling to get ahead.

What does this mean to YOU, the gym member? 

There are going to be more fitness establishments with less brand recognition than there are well-known chains to choose from. This means that you need to do your due diligence and research them wisely. Your fitness decisions should be made based on convenience, cost, time, enjoyment, motivation, efficiency, community and/or professionalism and knowledge of instructors/trainers. I know, that’s a LOT of information to process. 

Your body and health will benefit most when the majority of the aforementioned factors are satisfactory or excellent in your eyes. You won’t reach your goals very quickly if you hate the workout program you’ve committed to. You will quickly lose out on a fitness community if you invest in a gym outside of your budget and quit it within six months. You won’t be intrinsically motivated to participate in group classes if you lack respect for the instructors who are teaching them. You get the idea. Do your homework on both the well-known chains and lesser-known “mom and pop” studios so that you find one that will harmonize with all (or at least most) of your needs. That’s the first step to ensuring you stick to your fitness aspirations.

Fitness Landscape 4

Boutique Studios Rival Big-Box Gyms

Over the last five years, the fitness industry landscape has undergone a major overhaul. Big-box gyms with all-inclusive monthly memberships were rivaled for the first time by boutique fitness studios specializing in exercise-specific formats. Boutique studios opened doors for fitness fans eager to participate in everything from barre class to pole-dancing and Zumba to trampoline workouts! The studio offerings grew more diverse and expansive by the season (or so it seemed).

Studios offer fitness enthusiasts low-commitment participation. In other words, people can usually pay for a single class pass (instead of a monthly membership) or a discounted bundle of classes, without any other fees or obligations. This is highly desirable to the growing crop of millennials who seek diversity in their workout regimens. This trend has given rise to ClassPass and has forced big-box operators to carefully consider investments in technology and marketing campaigns to remain competitive. Small studios, with their lower overhead costs and pay-as-you-use plans, have certainly stirred the pot.

What does this mean to YOU, the exerciser?

For starters, you definitely have a LOT of options these days when it comes to fitness. No longer are you relegated to the treadmill. With so many choices, some individuals enter “decision paralysis.” They have a hard time deciding which environment and type of exercise is best for their fitness goals. While it’s definitely worth checking out a couple of studios and comparing pros/cons and overall costs to their big-box competitors, it’s also a good idea to make a firm commitment. Choose carefully and wisely, but at the end of the day, choose!!!

In order to see results from your sweat, you need to be in a consistent routine. Oftentimes, a consistent routine is best established when you have a “home base” or at least a written plan of how you will juggle time split between the private yoga studio down the block and the 24/7 all-access gym at your office. Don’t be dismayed by the options at your disposal – be empowered by them! Give any routine at least three months of solid effort to see if it works or if you need to scrap it and capitalize on some more free trials at other gyms (always fun).

Fitness Landscape 2

Loose Industry Regulations

Some industries are tightly regulated…the fitness industry is not one of them. While this affords professionals and businesses some degree of flexibility, it carries implications for quality assurances. For example, CrossFit, a gym with over 10,000 affiliates that boast unique high-intensity workouts, is a licensed operation, not a franchise. What this means is that at one location you may have outstanding fitness professionals who know how to design excellent exercise programs and who are capable of coaching proper form for Olympic lifts (frequently used by CrossFits) and at another location you may have inexperienced or underqualified professionals. There are many governing bodies, doctors and exercise physiologists who are concerned by these discrepancies in professionalism and, in Washington, DC, these concerns have spawned discussions to enact regulatory measures on fitness operations. But, it’s not just a “CrossFit problem,” it’s the whole industry…

A lot of boutique brands train their professionals in-house, harvesting new instructors from their most loyal members. By training and converting devoted members and exercise participants into the leaders of the workouts, the fitness businesses are keeping pace with one of the most challenging aspects of operations; staffing. Unfortunately, this means that the instructor coaching you through a superset may only have a month’s worth of training under his or her belt, and the level of sophistication of that training is questionable too. As a professional who has held eight different widely recognized certifications in the industry, I can tell you firsthand that it’s too easy to get certified….way too easy. I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s true.

What does this mean to you, the gym rat?

I’m not sure that widespread regulations are the perfect answer to tighten up who operates in the fitness industry. I believe there are a lot of professionals out there who share this sentiment too. So, in the near term, it’s likely going to be left up to individual business owners to properly vet and monitor their instructors and trainers. While some will do a good job of this, others won’t. This puts the responsibility on you.

Gym rats and group exercise participants have every right to demand excellent instruction. If you don’t feel like you’re getting a safe and high-quality experience in your exercise setting, let a manager hear your complaint or concern. Don’t be afraid to speak to the instructor about their choices during or after class too. They will probably be happy to explain things and educate you! If they flounder in the face of a tough question, they probably aren’t very experienced or qualified and it becomes your responsibility to decide whether or not you can live with that. Personally, the second that I can tell an instructor is underqualified, I’m out the door. My hard-earned cash can go into someone else’s hands!

Fitness Landscape 1

Personal Trainers Lack Stability 

Personal trainers are rarely salaried employees. The vast majority of these professionals are compensated by the hour, based on commission. While some experienced professionals can pull six-figures in less than 30 hours of work a week, most professionals have challenges keeping a steady income. For example, a trainer can project that he is going to train 25 hours one week. Let’s say he only has a couple of years’ experience and is compensated $30/hour for his clients (his gym is skimming a lot more off the top from what the client pays). Based on these figures, he seeks to earn $750 for the week. This equates to a salary of $39,000 for the year, not including bonuses or performance incentives. Let’s pretend that he puts in a full 40-hour work week (not very commonplace in the industry). At full-time, he seeks to earn $1,200/week or $62,400.

To put it simply, the vast majority of trainers struggle to maintain schedules of 20+ hours of clients a week…and what happens when two or three clients who train twice a week each go on vacation? What about the fact that training under 30 hours a week leaves these professionals without time-off and health benefits? As you can see, while trainers are often envied for their “cool” jobs, they lack a lot of stability. For this reason, the turnover of professionals at any given establishment is pretty darn high.

What does this mean to YOU, the client?

To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot you can do except express a little bit on empathy and understanding. If you’re a paying client, try to show respect for your trainer’s time just as they show respect for yours. If you’re leaving town for a few weeks, give them as much advance notice as possible so that they can try to fill your training time slot with another person.

Moreover, as someone who pays for personal training, you have to decide whether or not you’re comfortable placing your investment into the hands of a newbie. As mentioned, the turnover of trainers is outstanding (in a crazy, not-so-wonderful way). Ask yourself if you want to give a worthy, aspiring professional a leg up or if you feel more comfortable with a professional who has been working in the industry for at least a few years. The choice is yours. Ultimately, if you find someone you jive with and respect, the decision should be seamless, in spite of how long they’ve been a fitness pro. For the record, I will always appreciate the people who were willing to take a chance on me when I entered the industry. 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Mindfulness; It’s Not Just for Celebrities

I’m pleased to introduce you to Sarah Pike, our contributor for today’s guest post! Sarah and I share a lot of the same passions – women’s health, writing, health technology, volunteering, and working with children. Please enjoy the wisdom she has to offer. We’re SO happy to welcome her to WellnessWinz! 

mindfulness  only takes a moment

One thing you won’t find in a typical list of healthy “do’s,” is the use of mindfulness/meditation practices.

Before you roll your eyes at another “out-there” quack extoling the virtues of meditation, know that I too was once one of those eye-rollers. It’s hard to understand the benefits of something as intangible and difficult to measure as mindfulness. But after hearing Oprah, Deepak Chopra, and Arianna Huffington preach about the difference it made in their lives, I started to pay attention.

After all, if such successful people are advocates of this practice, then maybe there’s something to it. These days everyone from Katy Perry to Kobe Bryant sing the praises of meditation and mindfulness practices. But I wasn’t one to simply take a celebrity’s word for it. Neuroscientists have proven that there are real, positive effects to engaging in meditation.

Beyond a sense of calm and general well-being, a group of neuroscientists from Harvard were able to measure improvement in learning, memory, emotion regulation, and sense of self. They found that regular mindfulness practices can actually change your brain and increase overall well-being and even improve quality of life.

practicing mindfulness

Meditation for Beginners

Testing the waters of meditation can be intimidating. I had images of sitting cross-legged for hours, chanting strange words while Eastern music played in the background. But mindfulness doesn’t require uncomfortable positions or unfamiliar words.

The main goal is to practice focusing on one thing at a time. Usually the easiest way to start is to pay attention to your breath. You can follow Huffington’s advice and start with just a few minutes, and then work up to longer durations as it feels more comfortable. If your mind tends to race with non-stop thoughts, you can use that to your advantage in meditation as well.

Instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your thoughts. When you catch your mind wandering, instead of getting caught up in each thought, simply let them go. Over time, this practice will help improve concentration and your ability to be present in the current moment.

10 apps for mindfulness

The Top 10 Apps to Improve Mindfulness

The good news is that you don’t have to jump into meditation all by yourself. If the thought of counting your breaths or figuring out how to let your random thoughts go is intimidating, try an app to help you get into a mindfulness routine. And, contrary to what you might think, using technology to help you meditate isn’t contradictory. In fact, it’s been found that there’s a correlation between connectivity and happiness.

Here are my 10 favorite apps to help jump-start your meditative life and get you on the road to feeling more holistic, healthy, and happy.

  1. Emojiary

If you’re not quite ready to sit quietly and breathe, this app can help you get into the general mindset of meditation, which is increased awareness of how you’re feeling at any point in time. This app checks in with you throughout the day and asks you how you’re feeling. All you have to do is pause, consider, and answer with the appropriate emoji—a great way to get your mindfulness practice started.

  1. Stop, Breathe & Think

This is the perfect app for beginners. The whole idea is to teach you how to meditate with customized programs that help you identify how you’re feeling before you start. It also tracks your progress over time and helps you easily expand and extend your mindfulness practices as your comfort with the process grows.

  1. Centered

Another great resource for beginners, Centered helps you manage stress and increase mindfulness with daily reminders and meditation timers. It even syncs with Apple Health to help you track all of your healthful activities in one, convenient place.

  1. Lotus Bud Mindfulness Bell

If you’re ready to expand your meditation practices, this app is a great tool. In order to bring mindfulness to all of your daily activities, the Lotus Bud Mindfulness Bell sends you reminders in the form of bell tones throughout the day. When you hear the bell, you are reminded to breathe, pause, and take in the current moment.

  1. Calm

For those whose meditation level is intermediate, Calm offers a variety of guided meditations lasting anywhere from two minutes to half an hour. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, this app can also offer help to get you that restful night you’ve been craving.

  1. The Now

This app offers another great way to bring mindfulness into all of your daily practices. The goal is to help you live in the present moment. Using push notifications as cues, this app helps you remember to take in your environment, focus on what is currently happening, and look at people and situations with compassion and empathy.

  1. Athlete Minder

If you’re looking for a way to track the health of your mind, body, and spirit, this app might be your new best friend. Athlete Minder helps you keep track of your exercise habits and state of mind before, during, and after workouts. What you learn will let you make the right tweaks and changes to your routine to maximize the benefits.

  1. The Mindfulness Diet

Exercise isn’t the only aspect of your health routine that can benefit from mindfulness. This tool helps you add focus and awareness to your eating habits. And, thanks to helpful reminders, you will be encouraged to slow down and truly savor each bite.

  1. Guroo

For mindfulness pros, this app sends you random reminders to catch you off-guard and give you the chance to re-set your perspective throughout the day. Whether you need to knock their socks off in a presentation or be calm during a parent-teacher conference, this training app will help you fine-tune your mindfulness to make sure you’re at your best in every situation.

  1. Meditation Experience

This 21-day experience is designed for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner or have been meditating for years, this interactive program designed by Oprah and Deepak Chopra will quickly move you to a more tranquil state of mind.

With so many easy-to-use resources at your fingertips, now is the time to add meditation to your daily health regimen. Give one of these apps a try and see the difference a few minutes of mindfulness can make!

Thank you again, Sarah! I can’t wait to try a few of these out and I’m sure readers feel the same! Good luck being mindful, ladies! ~Maggie

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Contributor Bio:

Sarah Pike is a Community Outreach Coordinator for BusinessBee and a college writing instructor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she’s probably binge-watching RomComs on Netflix or planning her next vacation. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

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