I recently made a decision to pause most of the group classes I was training and it’s been a bittersweet choice. I had been agonizing and stressing over it for weeks as to whether I should continue with them, and if I did, how was I going to promote to get more signed up? Where would I have it?
And in the end, I felt burned out.
Just a little history first.
Almost two years ago, when I had neighbors suggest I should give classes (as they wanted to sign up!), I was definitely intrigued.
The idea of giving classes for me was exciting because I love the idea of building a community. I am someone who loathes working out solo and typically works out in groups. I wanted to create that experience for others through my own secret sauce and method of programming and training.
Obviously, from a business perspective, it appealed to me as there is a lot of income potential in it.
Over a year and a half of training classes, I found the right formula to make it work for my business and clients. Boot Camps for some reason marketed better that promoting them as “Group Fitness Classses”, and because of whatever associations are out there with those words, it gained more traction (even though they are the exact same thing).
It worked well for me because I ran them from set start to finish dates, and I offered various packages that allowed for clients to pick the ones that worked best for their schedules and budgets.
It also alleviated something I struggled with a lot when I ran them as classes: cancellations.
I never enjoyed that aspect of being an entrepreneur where I had to frequently make judgment calls as to what constitutes a valid reason to cancel last minute. And at what point do I have to set a boundary and stick to it? I do not enjoy being an enforcer but at the end of the day, I have a business to run. I could not sustain classes if there were only 1 or 2 people who attended.
Boot Camps alleviated that. Clients all knew going into it they had a set time frame to get those classes in, and if they wanted to cancel at the last minute for a hangnail, it didn’t matter to me! I made the same regardless. So it was a win-win.
What was not a win though was retaining clients and having them re-enroll. I have run 3 boot camps and out of the 20 or so who have signed up across those 3, only 3 have been able to enroll in all of them.
That is not encouraging for a small business owner.
The Summer Boot Camp had about 12 people and the Fall Boot Camp had about 10. I had enough that I was quite satisfied with what I was earning.
When the holidays hit, it really was game over for me unfortunately. I ran a Winter Break Boot Camp that I knew would only get a few enrolled but my hope was that come January, once normal life resumed, I would get some people back (and some newcomers too).
That did not happen and it just started wearing on me.
I do want to say this though… The one thing that I never questioned was the quality of my classes. I have gotten great feedback where everyone has felt challenged, there was variety and they felt I was paying adequate attention to their form.
So I know it’s not about what I am offering in terms of quality.
But I do not have the quantity. I have realized that I am first and foremost a Personal Trainer who HAPPENS to give a FEW classes. I am not a full-time group trainer. That means that I always am going to have a limited schedule.
That obviously is going to limit my pool of possible clients.
Nor is it something I want to change. I am mostly focused on gaining Personal Training clients so to offer more classes in hopes I get more people puts me back to where I was when I started. It means reserving slots for classes that could have been taken by private clients. And if I end up back to only having 1 or 2 people show up? It just doesn’t make business sense.
I also have found that I relied a lot on the 20 or so people who have been part of boot camp at some point to possibly re-enroll. I found myself reaching out a lot without necessarily even getting a response back.
Apologies that I am totally going to digress for a minute, but it is something that I feel strongly about. As a small business owner, I will always appreciate someone telling me that they are not interested over someone just not responding. It’s hard to fully express the stress and struggles of starting a business, solo no less, and how a response, even if it’s a no, goes a long way more than no response at all. It is a courtesy that really helps with planning and making decisions.
Back in my corporate days. I would have to chase people down CONSTANTLY with, “Hey I haven’t gotten an update and we are coming up on a deadline. Where are you with your deliverables?” I felt like I was doing that with my boot camp. “Hey just a reminder. You expressed interest and enrollment ends tomorrow.”
It made me feel icky. I do not want to have to chase anyone to keep something going. Also, because I did want my classes to be on the smaller side, even 1 person could really influence whether it would happen or not. And that’s not really fair of me to put on someone else.
So, in the end, there were too many moving pieces and dependencies to keep classes going that I realized that I just did not want to force it.
There was another big factor that contributed to my decision.
Since I started training my private clients at the beginning of the new year at a different gym https://www.elsegundoathleticclub.com/, I knew my attention and focus needed to be there. For the right opportunities, I am more than accepting of not running my entire business at the gym (for example, I train a corporate class weekly and I train a few clients at their house), but if I am going to take on a client or class outside of the gym, it needs to make financial sense.
And again, holding slots for classes with low attendance definitely no longer makes sense for my business. It takes me away with little to no gain from being present and visible at the gym where there is more exposure and potential for new business.
OH But I should mention, There Is One Still Standing
I am still planning to have weekly StrongBoard Balance Class! Those have gotten fairly consistent attendance and I am excited to keep them going. Plus, I am one of the few trainers in Los Angeles who have StrongBoards and can train using them. It’s cool to be a bit of a novelty and specialist! I can see that side of my business growing too.
Read more on that here: https://mailchi.mp/449349fc5263/the-last-one-standing
The Emotional Side of The Decision
I want to add that while ultimately my decision was business- based, there was the emotional side of it that weighed on me too. Being a trainer gives me such a unique privilege to really be in an intimate role of sorts. Our bodies and our health are so personal and I will never take for granted when anyone trusts me with theirs.
It has been so rewarding for me to work with clients in group classes as I got to know them very well and what motivates them and where they need an extra push. I have helped them reach goals and milestones they did not even think possible.
They also have gotten really comfortable with me and the thought that I would have to relinquish that role was very difficult for me.
It is not because there are not other qualified trainers or instructors to help them stay fit and active. It is more that I feel like I am abandoning them, which I know I am not and they all understand my decision. Still, it is hard to invest over a year into others and have to walk away from it.
And while I will still see a few of them for StrongBoard classes on Saturdays, I know they will have to figure out their new fitness plans to make up for the other days where they would have trained with me.
Well That is a Wrap
That is the scoop that I wanted to share as I have gotten many questions about it over the last week. I am a big believer in trusting my gut and knowing when to stay and when to walk away. And like I said earlier, I do 100% believe in the value of what I offer in classes and that gives me hope that one day, there will be the right opportunity to offer them again.