A well-known fact about owning and managing a gym is that surviving in that field can be difficult. Sure, the number of people trying to get into shape might be at an all-time high. But the obstacles to starting a gym, and the difficulty in keeping it afloat for months and years, can be many. Plenty of gym owners with solid business plans and respectable clientele and personal trainer staff often encounter more problems than anticipated, making their gym runs short and shutting out regular Joes and Janes that just want to show up and train hard. Starting and running any business can be a risk, and many in the fitness field know that founding and operating a standard commercial gym, or just a down n’ dirty niche training center, can be risky. And they take those risks!
One recent problem seen by many that offer facilities catering to the CrossFit and Functional Strength is the non-renewal of leases. The owner of the facility will lease out the property for a year, as usual. When the gym owner (and renter, in this case), decides to renew the lease and the negotiation process begins, the gym owner will suddenly discover an uncooperative rental manager/owner, and a huge uphill climb ahead. Sign at terrible rates, or be forced to move to a new facility, are often the only options presented.
Granted, the US real estate market is recovering and drastically improving as of mid-2015, and prices are beginning to climb as a result. Since the gyms are seeing increased membership as a result of this, a small increase in facility rates is understandable and predictable. However, some property managers are excluding CrossFit and Functional Strength training facilities from renewal – at any price. Baffled business owners cannot understand why.
There is often a stigma faced by those who work out. Non-trainers may resent them because, frankly, they often look and feel better than their untrained counterparts. This level of jealousy rarely emerges, but can appear at times. However, the reasons given by many property managers as to the reason they have been rejecting so many applicants for facility renewal in 2014 and 2015 are often quite different. It is the style of training that is turning off rental neighbors, and property owners as well.
From the point of view of the trainer, flipping tires, dragging sleds, and climbing the walls using various pieces of equipment provides a huge boost to training quality and in turn, results seen from trainees. This kind of functional strength delivers great results to the body, but can result in some serious wear and tear on walls, floors, ceilings and most importantly, parking lots. Many owners don’t consider this, don’t write it into the lease, and don’t prepare property owners/manager for this. When they visit the facility in full-operation as a training facility, they are often shocked by the condition of the place, and upset very quickly at the tire flipping, sledding, and weight dragging they observe on their property. And while they don’t always convey their displeasure to the gym owner, they make their voice heard when renewal time arises, and they are often closed to any offer, no matter how high.
As a gym owner, you can protect yourself in several ways. If you want to open a CrossFit facility and you foresee the use of outdoors strength training, then you should be aware there may be backlash. If you can purchase your own building, that option is ideal. If you must lease, then you should try to get an airtight longer-term lease which allows for the style of training and any building modifications you wish to include. Have an attorney look over the paperwork, and make sure the style of training you want to offer will be permitted. Clear it with the neighboring businesses, working out the details. They don’t want giant tires hitting their parked vehicles. Be considerate of their needs while protecting your own investment. People love CrossFit training and the results they see from outdoors parking-lot style training are terrific. You will want to secure long-term ability to offer it, so you’re not a “one and done” business owner searching for a new lease, just as you’ve gotten everything going.
As a trainer at such a facility, you should work to ensure you are courteous of others outside of your training circle at all time. Create distance between the activities you set up, and the property of others, including parked cars and business entrances of adjacent businesses. Mindsets of “They can’t tell us we can’t train here” can become “Why are they making us move?” a few months down the road. Work to be professional and friendly to all affected by the training you are setting up. At the same time, you should continually network and expand your own personal set of relationships. Should the forces working against the renewal of the gym you work at halt their operations, you should be in the best possible position to take your clients to a nearby facility, keeping their results going and your income uninterrupted at the same time.
As someone who works out at a gym, who absolutely loves training in a down n’ dirty manner – you can make a difference too! Invite your friends to train with you, growing the success of a facility as much as possible. The stronger financial position of the gym, the greater likelihood the place will be there for years to come, giving you a place to hit the iron daily. Educate those around you as to the terrific results seen through functional strength training. Take good care of the facilities, and above all, don’t be one of those boneheads destroying pavement throwing pavement because you wish to show off your intensity. Train safe, and appreciate the facilities!