Big box discount fitness clubs are popping up all over North America and their existence is based on a very dark secret inside the fitness industry. A secret only known to industry insiders. An open secret that would definitely rub the public the wrong way, if word got out……and today it’s getting out. These clubs are designed in a way to make sure you pay but don’t attend. The statistics are clear, only 15% – 18% of the population exercise inside fitness clubs on a regular basis. This is indeed a large portion of the population, which has always provided the fitness club industry with adequate profits to maintain the current fitness club model.

Then one day some very profit oriented groups, who care very little about the actual health results of the gym going public, posed a very interesting question………..”how big is the market in regards to people who would pay and never come…..and could we possibly get the price so low, that we could get millions of people literally donating a certain amount per month, and have them never show up to use the equipment?” Of course this idea was hatched in a certain part of the world, where profit generating structures often get placed in front of morality and ethics. Similar to an actuary in the insurance business, a certain group of fitness club hustlers crunched the numbers and sure enough, if you put morality and ethics aside (focusing on profit only), you could definitely operate large discount fitness chains where the entire structure of the operation focuses on signing people up and making sure they never visit the club. Here’s how they do it.

1. First of all these large discount fitness club chains present equipment choices (equipment mixes) that discourage the serious exerciser. Focused exercisers and athletes who are serious about their health and fitness, will always use barbells and larger selections of free weights. These discount fitness chains remove most free weight options from their equipment mix to discourage the serious exerciser from joining…..because serious exercisers come on average 4-6 times per week, which in the end can’t be permitted when the average discount club is designed for 300 people maximum and the goal is 6000-7000 paying members who come very infrequently……..if at all. Inversely when you remove all the most beneficial forms of equipment, the potential results of the in house exerciser decreases, thus removing a portion of motivation from them and thus encouraging the corporate end goal of less visits to the fitness club. Yes, the goal of these discount fitness club chains is you not coming and they put as much effort into this goal as other corporations put into theirs.  These clubs are very clever, hiding their disdain for the regular exerciser by using the catchy phrases “judgement free zone” or “no critics, pretending they’re trying to cater to the exerciser who feels intimidated. These clubs don’t want regular exercisers because they’re regular, it has nothing to do with trying to make a safe nest for the new exerciser or the shy people of the community. That’s just the disguise to draw the new exerciser in because they’re the mostly likely to pay and never go.

2. These discount fitness chains perpetually discourage their exercisers by offering  free junk food giveaways. Free pizza is usually reserved for the first Monday of every month. Free bagels are provided to the members on the first Tuesday of every month and bowls of tootsie rolls are always at the ready, sitting court side on the front desk. These food like things spike insulin in any human (regardless of any other factor) and of course insulin is a documented and proven fat storing hormone. Once insulin is spiked via a slice of pizza or bagel, the body goes into fat conservation and fat storage mode, in a way that can’t be broken by exercise. People with elevated insulin levels (via a large surge of blood sugar from bagels and pizza) can’t burn fat, even if they exercise……..and it gets worse. This blocking of fat burning, courtesy of the hustlers who run the discount fitness club chains, lasts for weeks after one massive insulin spike. This of course isn’t a misunderstanding of the science. It’s a weaponization of the science against the uninformed public. So once your hormones start recovering from last month’s pizza and bagel feeding frenzy, they hit you again……and again. Making sure your insulin is jacked every 30 days. Again, chronic and excessive insulin levels cause fat gain plus inhibit fat burning. Very few people are going to stay motivated getting marginal or non existing results and this translates into less visits for the paying member, as they exercise like a demon in some cases and don’t see enough results to keep them excited about coming back. This is the design of course. Every member doesn’t eat the bagels, pizza or tootsie rolls but enough do and it’s a war of attrition in the eyes of these fitness hustlers. The less people who come, the better……because that’s the business plan. Hold on, like a bad infomercial…….there’s more.  If you happen to come frequently and dare stick your head above the wack-a-mole table of exercise futility, these soulless corporations log your visits (seeing that you come frequently) and reward you with a cup cake. Connect the dots. Sweet fancy Moses, smell the roses. It’s enough to make the most evil business person on the planet blush with envy.

3. If you’re not getting fat enough and staying out of shape with the bagels, cupcakes, tootsie rolls and pizza (to encourage your non attendance) there’s a large array of fat gaining beverages on site, so your insulin can be spiked on another front. Poison based corn syrup flavored and toxic dye colored energy drinks are always at the ready because that’s what a caring fitness club provides for their members right? Drinks that stop fat burning dead in its’ tracks are ready for you at anytime and of course the higher price memberships at these discount fitness clubs entitle the higher dues paying members to HALF PRICE cooler drinks. The member who pays the highest fee gets to gorge themselves on fat gaining beverages (at half price) because getting that member to stop coming is a double win for the fitness club hustler who owns these soulless fitness club chains. It’s layer after layer after layer of corporate policies, all designed to make sure people pay and stop coming. The price is so low that these non attending members will let that membership ride for on average 4-5 years, even though they’re not coming……….and that’s where the profits are found. Your failure is their profit. Your failure is their success. These con artists know going in that most people are dreamers when it comes to staying in shape and instead of trying to change that, they take advantage of it. Morality has left the building.

4. Trainers that aren’t real trainers staff the “free PT” at these discount fitness clubs, who are nothing more than kids (with little to NO fitness certifications) demonstrating the existing equipment, which again is hand picked to keep serious exercisers away from the club. Even the most basic of personal trainers in a fitness club THAT CARES will review medications, injuries, pain syndromes, basic flexibility, mobility differences between both arms and both legs, exercise age, surgeries, chronological age, posture, how long the client wishes to exercise when they’re at the club and how many days per week they wish to exercise etc etc. All that information is used by a qualified trainer to make a customized exercise program that drives the client very quickly toward their health related goals. Advanced trainers provide full diets, organize outside the club lifestyle goals and are powerful motivators.  But not at the big box discount fitness clubs where exercise dreams go to die. Every client is shown the same stuff and the uninformed exerciser thinks……..”this is great, I’ll just eat this pizza, pay a cheap price, have this kid who doesn’t know what he’s talking about show me some equipment and I’ll get in shape in no time. This club has everything I need and I don’t understand why it’s so cheap!” Well, the big secret is that everything in these facilities from the junk food that stops fat burning to the trainers who have no idea what they’re doing……..are all part of a much bigger corporate plan to make sure people pay and don’t come.

This is common knowledge among industry insiders and people like me HATE these clubs with a passion and not because they’re our competition. Far from it. We survive just fine with them hanging around because we cater to the serious exerciser who wants the truth about fitness and not the pizza based lie-ahria shoveled out by the fitness club hustlers who run these failure based profit centers. A moral and ethical person will always dislike an immoral and unethical person, because moral human beings don’t like seeing innocent people getting taken advantage of.  There are moral fitness club owners in every community in North America. Find one and support them. Send these discount fitness club chains back into the abyss from which they came.

PS…………as a side note

I personally own 2 fitness clubs and have helped start several others, either as partner or advisor. What many fitness club customers also don’t know is that people like me kick out the rotten apples all the time, to keep the club safe for our customers and staff. Just last week a man entered the club who I know had been in jail for attempted murder and he was found walking up and down the aisles of my club swearing to himself. (no one else was around). I had to get the police to remove him. This man was extremely dangerous and violent. I have removed known thieves BEFORE THEY STOLE. I have removed violent criminals from the club, the worst of the worst, unbeknownst to my clients and often placing my personal safety in harm’s way. All for my clients, all behind the scenes……..and guess where ALL THESE PEOPLE WORKOUT NOW? They all exercise at one of the discount clubs in town, staffed by kids who can’t do what I do inside my own private business, to protect the clients here. Is everyone who works out at a discount fitness chain a violent offender or criminal? No, of course not (not even close) but the reality is………..the worst of humanity could be sitting right next to you at a discount club and you’re not going to know it. It doesn’t matter how many bad people are in your community, the chances they’ll be at a discount fitness club are higher than them being at a higher priced fitness club, run by a local owner who cares. Pay a little more, get what you want health wise and be safe as well. There’s more going on here than you are told. Listen to an insider. I’ve owned fitness clubs for 25 years and worked in them now for 35.