I’ve just got a couple for emails from fellow CrossFitter’s and figured it was time for a little update to the ole’ Garage Gym post I made back in July 2009.  Wow, one year ago.  That is definitely weird.

Here are some of the questions I was just asked:

  1. How do I deal with not having enough equipment/money?
  2. What about having noobs (see “new people”) show up along with experienced members?
  3. How do I deal with random numbers of people showing up or not having enough space to train a large class?
  4. How do I explain the cost that most people think is way too high?
  5. What are the equipment must haves for a Garage Gym?
  6. Do you increase your fees after expanding into a larger space?
  7. What about boot camp specials in parks?

These are in no specific order so I’m going to answer them in my own order.

Me after a WOD in the Ole’ Garage Gym

Let’s start with money and what you charge people.

First understand your competitors.  Pricing your service is not difficult.  What is around you offering a similar service?  In most cases you have Globogyms and personal trainers.  From there you can get the Boot Camps stuff sprinkled in as well.  Globo’s charge anywhere from $25 a month to $200 (yes, $200 would be an Equinox type place.  Or a Day Spa as I like to call em).  Personal training can start at $45 an hour and then up top $200/hour.  Boot camps are like $25-$50 an hour I believe.  I don’t know them too well.

So lets break that down.  Globo’s charge you in hopes you don’t come and workout.  They offer no coaching/training and lame machines you don’t know how to use.  But they will have a sweet sauna you can sit in, maybe.  Personal training, assuming you go 3-4x’s a week add up to anywhere from $500-$700 on the cheap side a month.  I know guys who spend near $1,000 a month on personal training.

Lets say you charge $200 a month as your cost.  Assuming a member comes 3-4x’s a week and their cost is $16.66 to $12.50 a session for group personal training.  Charge less and the cost can get as low as $6-$7 bucks an hour.  This is less than most people’s latte’s.

Don’t undervalue your service.

So price is not really the issue, communicating your value is the issue.  When you quote price to people, ask them how often they plan on coming and tell them your hourly rate is $6.  Quote your price backwards sometimes and see what happens; just a thought for you.  The main reason your friends and loved ones may think your price is high is because in their mind you are NOT an expert.  They might not question a “certified personal trainer” charging $75/hour but you are you, so…  Funny how assumed expertise affects people’s perception of value, right?  Understand your value and what you are providing.

Let’s move on to expanding.

As you expand in either equipment purchases or space remember that your “tribe” your members are along for the ride, so let them be a part of it.  If you need to buy new equipment ask the members what they would like and offer suggestions that could happen if you had X or Y.  If they think that would be awesome and want you to go for it, raise their dues slightly to cover the cost or recoup the expense.  They will understand.  These people are not simple consumers of your product; they are part of something bigger than themselves and will have no issue contributing to the tribe’s growth.  This goes the same with expanding into a bigger space.  If you feel insecure about bumping the pricing on them, tell them they are grandfathered in for 6 months or a year before they will be bumped.  It’s really a no-brainer but it’s semi-awkward so start talking to them early.  Ask them how they feel about moving, getting new space, equipment, etc… Create the buzz and watch what happens.  Don’t just spring it on them.

Now let’s talk logistics.

This is my favorite topic simply because it’s the creative space I love to play in.

Tons of things can happen while running your gym.  1 person shows up, 20 shows up the next day, 5 new people show up unannounced who have never CrossFitted before, you don’t have enough equipment, it rains, something breaks pre or mid-WOD, etc… The list goes on and on.

You have to be creative and flexible.  If you can’t think on the spot, have a list of workouts you can audible into.  Limited equipment uses?  Create WOD’s like Fight Gone Bad, where you can cycle through the equipment you have in stations or start workouts in heats with the fast people first.  The ideas are only limited by the though work you want to put into it to be prepared.  Make sure you know how to scale absolutely every WOD you program so if new people just show up you can handle it.

Of course the other way to handle all this is to force people to sign up for classes and come at specific times.  I’ve tried this and guess what, even when I posted on my website and told ALL my members to NOT bring new people unannounced and to NOT just show up, people still did.  It was unbelievable.  So just be ready.

We graduated to an On Boarding program now and run things differently, but still people show unannounced.

Finally, here is a little advice for marketing your gym.

1) Walk/Jog a 5-10 mile radius of your box and introduce yourself to each and every business

a. Every business is a potential client: think employee discount program, lunch/learns, etc…

b. I know one CrossFit that has a deal going with a real estate company’s members

2) Make sure every athletic store near you has your cards at the cash register

a. Think Dick’s, Sport Chalet, Nick Women, Lululemon, Champs, etc….

b. Make rounds one a week or so to restock

3) Wear your CrossFit shirt every day. Be a walking billboard.

a. No Joke

4) Map out every school / police station / fire station / military

a. Talk to every Athletic Director / Coach / Chief / Captain

b. Offer free seminars / lunch learns

c. Offer free months for new recruits / freshman / etc…

d. Make friend with these people the best you can

Meet people and let your passion and conviction for what you do shine into their lives.

If you have members, befriend them on facebook, give them shoutouts on your webpage, make them stars and legends of your program.

They are your product. If they are not experiencing gains and transformation you are dead in the water.

That’s a start anyway. You have to be vigorous and uncompromising in your preaching and spreading the light about CrossFit. There really is no other way.

Buying Internet space, fancy fliers, great stickers and tshirts. That crap doesn’t work. Passion and a connection and deep love for human beings creates success.

Also, I went ahead and reposted by original post below.  It covers some basics like “Is a garage gym legal” and incorporating versus a sole prop, etc… ENJOY


Posted 7/23/2009


I have gotten several messages asking me about how my partner and I did what we have done. I decided if this helps anyone, it would be worth it for me. I’ve taken a ton from CrossFit, which gives so freely, so I am compelled to give back.

My Partner Steve and I started a garage gym at my home over 1 year ago. We started following CrossFit at that time and got deep into this world. I blew out a wall in my garage and opened up all 700 square feet of it. We ripped out the carpet and flooring and put down rubber and we started bringing in new equipment one item at a time.

We got certified in San Diego in July 2007, and affiliated soon after. We published a janky website through iWeb and we were off and running.

1 year from getting certified we now operate a 5,000 square foot facility, with 2 bathrooms, 2 showers, 2 small offices, and kick *** stuff. It’s been a long road, but well worth it. We are hiring trainers and expanding rapidly. We updated our web presence and got lucky with one of our key members being a web designer, photographer, and videographer as well who helps us with our web presence. All in all, we are just getting ready to bust out in a HUGE way.

Below are some basics to help you on your way if this is something you plan to do.

1) Save money. Start now. Things get broken; you need more equipment, etc…But don’t buy it until you need it. Out grow your stuff, don’t over spend and try to grow into it. It will turn into a cash suck. If two or more clients ask or inquire about something, go buy that. For example, after countless people complained about us having no water. I bought a $100 water cooler from Costco. Refilled it with tap water when it got empty and people loved it. And open a business account where you bank and DO NOT mix personal and business stuff. Understand what you are making and what you are spending.

2) More than likely, the city you live in will NOT let you legally run a garage gym. You must confirm this is true or not before starting. Know what you are getting into. If it is illegal you have a choice, don’t start a garage gym or break the law. I’m not going to advise you either way.

3) Don’t annoy your neighbors (especially if operating under the legal radar). Scout out a suitable parking place away from your street, preferably at a public park. Have your members jog to your gym from there or ride bikes.

4) Start your schedule at normal, non-annoying times in the afternoon if you can. Don’t start a 6am class and begin dropping heavy deadlifts. This will **** off your neighbors who will complain to the city, who will then try to shut you down.

5) Be open and honest with your neighbors. Let them know you have a gym where some of your friends come workout. Invite them over. It’s up to you whether or not you charge them, but if it’s illegal to run a business I would avoid it. Let them know how important health and fitness is to you and if it does get annoying to them, encourage them to come tell you to shut up. Give them your cell phone and have it near you during the workouts. Do whatever you can to appease and work with your community, not against it.

6) It is not illegal to have a group of people over to your home to workout in your gym. The only thing that is illegal there is if you are breaking noise ordinances with loud music or loud weight dropping noises.

Here is a personal example again.

We outgrew our 6:30pm class (which was the first class we opened) and started a 6pm and 7pm class. We made our members part very far away. Most rode their bikes. After 2-3 months we ****ed off one neighbor so much, I could not longer appease and apologize to him. It might have been when I had one of our guys flip a 300# tire I found in a gully, up and down the alley behind all our houses.  Anyway, he called the city. They called me and told me it was not allowed for me to run a gym. I said I did not know about that and pleaded ignorance. I told him I would stop immediately. And we did. I took the costs off the website and made it 100% free for the next 3 months as Steve and I searched vehemently for a new box.

How did we make it work with no revenue?

We made a gym fund and asked for monthly donations. Every single one of our members supported us. And we grew like wildfire

Now to be honest, I thought I was doing what I could to get around the legal issues. It turns out if this had been escalated to a judge to get me to stop and I tried to hide behind the idea that I was not charging dues, but rather accepting donations, I would probably have lost.

It never came to that, we found the right box, negotiated a killer lease, and the rest is history. We started an S-Corp, got legal counsel, established a relationship with Mindbody and Constant Contact, we are continually revising and improving our business and marketing plan. We are relentless. If you can pursue CrossFit as a business with the intensity that you pursue CrossFit as a workout, nothing can stop you.

Now I know I glanced over a lot here. My partner and I both had others jobs when we started so we could pay the bills. We worked 12-14 hour days. I still work my other job and have no plan to stop. Steve runs our location full time. We have a killer compensation structure and partnership and compliment each others strengths and weaknesses.

I figured this info would be a good way for people to start thinking strategically of how to start. If you want any info, send me a message or reply here. I’m happy to answer anything you would like to know.

If you are local to me and want to get together, I enjoy beer.

See you in the gym.