Micro gyms are the new fine dining restaurants. I love the Netflix series “Chef’s table” for the reason that each story follows a similar arc (Joseph Campbell fans out there will get it as well..). The featured chef’s grew up in and absorbed their community. Next – they left it to learn a trade, in this case cooking. Whether through a school, going to France, etc. and through an apprenticeship – they left to learn. The third phase is the return to their community and finding uncommon success through their ability to combine technical acumen with a community imperative of authentic experience (food that locals respect and non-locals wait a year for a table). World class comes from the intersection of ability, authenticity and passion.
Fitness is becoming the new food culture. In our hierarchy of needs, the ability to move and stay alive is just after food (hence the purpose of that food). As our lives shift away from hunting and gathering – we have to cultivate ways to stay active and healthy. Cue – join a gym, running/fitness group or hire a trainer. Prior to the rise and proliferation of CrossFit and it’s style of class (60 minutes of training in a group setting that pushed high intensity and varied movements), if you wanted to be active – you joined a big box gym (rows of treadmills, free weights and lots of things attached to cables) or you did sports, primarily endurance events (running 5ks, marathons, triathlons).
In the late 90s, Greg Glassman got kicked out of a big box gym for running classes using a combination of gymnastics, weightlifting and cardio activities. Training itself became a sport, CrossFit was born and the industry shifted. With the cultural acceptance of higher intensity training saw the rise of spinning, boxing, even yoga started to incorporate “power” movements and structures. Not to mention lots of “micro” gyms utilizing combinations of weightlifting, cardio and classes.
To bring it back to the food example. 20 years ago, if you wanted Italian food, you went to Olive Garden. Now you can go get farm-to-table, organic produced wheat pastas, hormone free chicken and sauces with tomatoes from a farm whose picture is on the menu. Olive Garden is out of business. Fitness is heading the same way. The ones who thrive, will embrace this shift as those Chef’s have, creating an experience and connection to something bigger than just a plate of pasta, but a feeling (and it better taste really, really good).
For fitness this means, if your Coaches are parroting a workout, substituting knowledge for volume and hoping nobody gets injured – your days are numbered. This is the same as the restaurant whose staff reads you the special and gets you your food just before it’s cold – you’re not coming back.
This also means that no single program, methodology or approach is for everyone. It’s about finding the unique aspect of what you do and doing it better than anyone else in the world. It’s about asking that question of yourself as a Coach every day. If that happens, the community grows, people get what they want, the reviews and Michelin stars of the fitness world happen. If it doesn’t you’ve preyed on someone’s desire to trust their self-improvement to your skills as a “coach” and our industry is unfortunately rife with this. We choose the methods that we do because we believe in their impact, efficacy and efficiency. It’s also how we ourselves train – it doesn’t mean we don’t value other approaches, it means this is our piece of the world. The smaller the menu, the better the food. I’ve been asked why we don’t offer yoga classes. The answer is because we can’t do it well enough. It’s not our subject area and if you want to do yoga – you should absolutely seek out the best in yoga instruction. If we offer it, it will be because we believe it’s done in pursuit of the highest expression of that movement and for the greatest benefit of our members.
We obsess over barbell starting positions the way chef’s do for olive oils. We plan out workouts like the courses in a fine dining meal, each element building on another. We aren’t the only gym in the city or certain world who does this nor are we perfect every time, but the question we ask every day is how could we be better so that you can be better. What would it take to build the strongest community possible and the fittest, happiest members? That doesn’t mean you’ll be comfortable, it does mean you’ll get better and we will too – that’s our promise.