The Manhattanization of the Independent Personal Training Industry

Aug 13, 2017 Eric Toussaint 6 Comments

There has been a change taking place within the industry and it has come to my hometown or should I say the hometown of my business JETT Training llc. For as many years as I can remember I have run JETT Training within the walls of Fitness First in Bethesda, MD while paying a fair and actually quite modest “trainer fee”.

This pass month – June 2017 with very short notice Fitness First was forced to close. Seeing the change in the winds I always kept my foot in the door at a gym a few miles north of Bethesda, Team Eckenrode Gym and Fitness. This is currently my new venue and I am very happy with the owner and the management.

Now to my point, as the rapacious development efforts in Bethesda are coming to fruition, Fitness First was squeezed out. When development of this type takes place the only types of gyms that can afford the new high rent are corporate gyms. Corporate gyms as rule do not allow independent trainers.

So where do the independent trainers go to practice their trade. I am extremely fortunate to have found a home at Team Eckenrode http://teameckenrode.com, however there are those of my colleagues that are still undecided, and others that have decided to become trainers at corporate gyms. I really don’t recommend the corporate gym option for several reasons. Your clients will no longer be yours, they will belong to the corporate gym and if you leave you can’t take them with you as there will be a non-compete and a proximity clause. You will also be working twice as much for half the pay (best case scenario if you are lucky).

That being said independent trainers as in most big cities are forced to exist in the nooks and crannies of the industry. Small boutiques studios, friends and or colleagues that own Yoga and Pilates studios, martial arts studios etc. There is no formula here and most of these relationships/studios are hard to find and tend not to be as well equipped as actual gyms. But if there is a will there is a way, and there are many a trainer that have had great success with this approach. The other option is to do strictly in-home training, which works quite well but many training hours are lost in transit.

On the client side of this equation, it can be a tough transition if the new venue of choice doesn’t offer all the amenities that they were used to in a gym. There may be no classes, no childcare, no towels etc. There can also be geographical challenges, I personally stand to lose five to six clients as a result of my change of venues. However this phenomenon is nothing new and many clients are already used to not having everything under one roof and are already taking an a la carte approach to their fitness needs or as I call it the “Manhattanization” effect on the fitness industry. What does Manhatanization mean, well to the gym industry it is what happens in all the larger cities, as mentioned earlier the independents exist in the nooks and crannies and clients have their fitness needs met in an a la carte fashion.

I think at the end of the day, independent trainers need to always be on the look out for places to train their clients because nothing is forever and your base of operations could change at anytime. If possible try to find a gym that is independent friendly and tell every trainer you know to join ASAP, there is strength in numbers. That is the situation I am in now and if the owner decides to close up shop the 50-60 independent trainers have a strong chance of rallying together to finance a new gym/base operations. Don’t wait until you have no options, always have a back up plan and talk with your colleagues about how you would handle a forced change of venue.

I will also add in this bit of advice always treat everyone in this manner – “I may work for you one day, and you may work for me one day”. You never know what the future holds and the more friends you have in the industry the more options you will have.

Good luck and God bless to all you independent trainers out there!!

Author: Eric Toussaint

Eric Toussaint is the founder and owner of JETT Training, a Washington, DC area personal training company. With over 15 years of personal training experience, he has a wealth of knowledge in the field of health and fitness and is an expert in High Intensity Training (HIT) with extensive knowledge of sprint, speed, and agility training, as well as plyometrics, stretching post-rehab and Pre-Post Natal Training.

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Eric Toussaint
Eric Toussaint

Eric Toussaint is the founder and owner of JETT Training, a Washington, DC area personal training company. With over 15 years of personal training experience, he has a wealth of knowledge in the field of health and fitness and is an expert in High Intensity Training (HIT) with extensive knowledge of sprint, speed, and agility training, as well as plyometrics, stretching post-rehab and Pre-Post Natal Training.


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