Adding Personal Fitness Training To A Group Class Program – A Case Study

We had a typical CrossFit business. We had group classes with a focus on general fitness, an Olympic Lifting specialty class, a kid’s program, the usual array of classes for the typical CrossFit gym. Since we had a huge emphasis on endurance sports, we also had a CompuTrainer MultiRider Training Center for cycling and a loosely organized group of triathletes and runners.

Our staff was also what one could describe as typical.  Most came from the ranks of class participants and each had, minimally, CrossFit Level 1 credentials, and most have several specialty credentials, too. One was a professional with a degree in physical education.

Our program was rich and of great value to our members. We were profitable on day one. We had outstanding Google reviews and ranked #1 or #2 on the Google search engines without paid advertising. We worked very hard to keep this reputation. We never offered Groupon or any other discounted variations to our pricing schedule.

Besides the above, the main differentiator for the business was the average age of the members – 42.

We were constantly looking for ways to serve our members better while, at the same time, enriching our program and our business model.

The typical staff meeting, where we were brainstorming how to serve people better, would inevitably turn into a discussion about adding personal training. The need for the program was evident, but we kept hitting stumbling blocks. I had decades of experience with individual training. My PT business had grown to the point where I served a very select group of people who paid me a premium for my services. Between the two businesses, I did not have time to take on more clients, and my hourly rate put me out of the market for clients who were already paying a monthly membership fee. I was not available for this new initiative.

There were also stumbling blocks for our staff team. Regardless of the obvious need from the members, and the thorough training of the staff through CrossFit training and an in-house program, there were serious reservations from the staff. They admittedly had no idea how to train someone one-on-one.  The discussion and directions from me (with 30 years of experience as a personal trainer) offered little reassurance.

After several meetings I decided to take a different direction. (The names of the staff below have been changed to fictitious names, but the events are as it happened.)

In a staff meeting, we identified a member, Susan, who needed help with her deadlift. She was a good student, but something about the deadlift had her blocking her own efforts. I went to Susan and asked if she would be interested in extra help if we could provide it. She asked what I had in mind and I recommended four private sessions with coach John. I quoted a rate of $40 per half-hour session. She jumped at the offer and offered to pay immediately.

Then I went back to John to see if he would be interested in helping Susan and making more money at the same time. His immediate response was yes, but suddenly his face clouded over and he remarked that he had no idea what to do – or how to start. I explained he needed to teach Susan how to do a proper deadlift by analyzing her movement and prescribing specific exercises to correct the imbalances holding her back. He would also need to assign homework and monitor her progress during each of the 30-minute sessions over the course the four weeks. His eyes lit up as he eagerly agreed.

I remember him saying that this would be just like what he does in class, but on a more specific basis, focused on only one person. He was right – that’s what it really is.

The relationship between John and Susan was great. She learned what to do to correct her movement. She did the corrective exercises. She met with John regularly and accepted the new cues he offered as she rapidly progressed. She mastered the technique of a safe, effective deadlift that no longer troubled her and held her back.

Susan felt great about her progress. She told everybody how much John had helped her. Other people began to express interest in some specialty training. John felt good about being able to focus on Susan and guide her to real measurable results.

John learned what personal training was all about and he began promoting his services to other members. Soon, he was training more people on an individual basis. He came back to staff meetings and reported on his success.

With each new client, his confidence grew and, soon, we had added a personal training component to our program – at a price that made sense to people and provided them with a great service.

Now we were in a strong position to market and advertise the program. We experienced great benefits from providing this program, including strong enthusiastic testimonials. Based on John’s excited attitude, other staff were more comfortable with trying on this new role.

A new offering in our business was launched. We were serving our staff and members better than ever before. We did this without a business plan, a marketing effort, expensive advertising or sending staff for additional training. It was a grassroots, bootstrapped initiative.

This is how new programs should be offered.