gym owner

Escaping Overwhelm: How Gym Owners Can Avoid Burnout

Being overwhelmed doesn't have to be a normal part of running a fitness business. Here are six tips to help gym owners take control and avoid burnout.

Emily Beers
March 20, 2023
Escaping Overwhelm: How Gym Owners Can Avoid Burnout
Being overwhelmed doesn't have to be a normal part of running a fitness business. Here are six tips to help gym owners take control and avoid burnout.

It’s March Madness at PushPress! We’ve asked our community of gym owners to share their advice and stories. With every story comes a lesson that the owner learned the hard way so that you don’t have to. Today, we’re talking about burnout.

Dave Yandel often thinks about the things he could’ve done differently as a gym owner.

Yandel owned Harbor Park CrossFit (now Blue River CrossFit in Racine, WI) for seven years. At the end, he says he got so burned out that he sold his gym and walked away.

Now, Yandel is the Grow Onboarding Leader for PushPress and has made it his mission to help other fitness business owners avoid his mistakes.

“I want to help other gym owners realize this stuff sooner,” he said. “That’s my goal now: To pass on the mistakes I made to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes.”

Helping gym owners with burnout

Six Tips For Gym Owners To Avoid Burnout:

Yandel said that ultimately, he lost the passion for being a gym owner. He was “just done,” he remembers. So now, he has six tips to help other gym owners avoid reaching that point.

1. Keep Your Clients At Arms Length.

It’s natural for your gym community to feel like a family. And it’s tempting to develop relationships with your members. But unfortunately, this leads to a false sense of loyalty, believing that they’ll be lifetime members. So if they end up leaving, Yandel says it feels like “a personal attack.”

He recalls that each time a client left, it felt like a shot to the gut. And as gym owners, we let us destroy us a bit more each time.

“We get too personal with it,” Yandel said.

His advice is to protect yourself emotionally by keeping clients at an arms length. And as hard as that may be, it’s necessary for your sanity.

“These people are paying you for a service,” said Yandel. “It’s still a business transaction, and understanding that took me a couple years.”

2. Avoid Setting Prices Based On Your Own Budget.

Like many gym owners, Yandel took a couple of factors into account when determining his prices. First, he considered what he thought other people would pay. Second, he thought about what he would pay and settled on a price that seemed appropriate.

So instead of calculating the amount with what the business needed to be viable for the long term, he based gym membership pricing on emotion.

In fact, he and his business partners decided not to pay themselves at all for the first year. He’s since seen a lot of other owners make the same mistake.

“Eventually, you’ll get tired of not paying yourself and not making money,” Yandel says. “Then three years come around, you’re like, ‘I need to start paying myself. This needs to be a business.’”

He advises starting with the amount you need to make a living and backtrack from there. Remove all emotions and assumptions about what people will pay. Then charge accordingly from the start.

“It’s easier to start off that, then raise your prices later,” Yandel said.

3. Refrain From Coaching All The Classes.

At the start, Yandel found himself coaching all the classes, morning and night. He recalls that at one point, he was coaching 40 classes per week. It was too much.

Dave Yandel PushPress Grow Onboarding Leader

He believes that this goes for both gym owners and coaches. So what is the limit?

Yandel says that 15 hours - with an absolute maximum of 20 - is the most any coach can sustain long-term. With more than that, burnout is inevitable.

So he suggests keeping it to 15 hours or less per week for your team to “stay fresh and bring the energy.”

4. Train Your Staff Properly.

Delegation is a huge factor in managing the tasks you can’t - or don’t want to - do. This was another lesson Yandel learned, unfortunately a bit too late.

“It took me five years,” he said. “Finally in the last two years we started training our staff right.”

He added that prior to that, he went five years without a vacation. And at that point, the burnout was winning.

“I was like, ‘I’m done,’” Yandel said. “Once I lost that drive, I didn’t want to do it anymore.”

His advice for gym owners is to prioritize training staff. Clearly outline roles, responsibilities and expectations. Create employee handbooks and other essential gym documents to empower your staff.

“Train your staff right out of the gate,” said Yandel. “And show them what you expect of them. Then delegate and definitely follow up.”

Pro Tip: The PushPress Staff App helps with everything from checking members in to coach communication. Book a demo with our team today to find out more!

5. Don’t Do It Alone.

Since most fitness business owners don’t have prior entrepreneurial experience, hiring a mentor can be a huge benefit. Yandel says it will help you find blind spots or avoid mistakes you might make simply from not knowing any better.

He says he generally sees gym owners wait three or four years to hire mentor. That’s often too late, he says, and recommends asking for help “right out of the gate.”

6. Think Twice About Taking On A Second Location.

At one point in his ownership journey, Yandel’s business was going well. So when an opportunity arose to take on another location, he “dove right in.” In hindsight, he says it looked like a chance to double the profits.

Harbor Park CrossFit community

“A lot of gym owners think that way,” said Yandel. “But it’s really tough to run two locations.”

As it turns out, the second gym piled more than twice as much work on his plate. And this was the point that the slow burnout began.

So Yandel advises, “Do a lot of research first to make sure you can sustain it.”

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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