Why Real Gyms Don’t Look Like “Gyms”

Dec 28, 2021

 by Ryan Webb

I opened The Grove Fitness in 2017 with a very tiny space and $7,000 to buy equipment.


One of my partners had $7,000 left on a line of credit. He said, “It’s all yours.” I felt like I won the lottery.


Now, $7k isn’t much to start a gym. Most gyms cost at least 150 times that much (that’s $1.5 MILLION). But the small budget was actually an advantage: Instead of focusing on the chrome and mirrors that attract newbies to gyms, I was forced to buy ONLY what worked.


I knew I wouldn’t have a marketing budget. I would have to depend on my clients spreading the word about The Grove. And that meant I had to get RESULTS.


So when I made my shopping list, I bought barbells and weights. I bought dumbells, skipping ropes, balls and a bike. I built a few boxes and a squat rack.


On the day the equipment arrived, I thought, “This is all I need.”


And it was. For a few years in that tiny space on Whitelock, we got people VERY fit. No mirrors, no chrome, no machines. We made a lot of noise.


These days, I can afford to buy more equipment. But what I buy is more of the SAME equipment: bikes, barbells, pull-up bars and yokes. You still won’t see pec decks or cable crossovers or leg extension machines. Instead, you’ll see people doing squats and push-ups and pull-ups. Because that’s what actually works.


Very fit people know that a large variety of equipment is a red herring. Most gyms sell comfort: padded machines, oiled stacks, polished chrome. But truly fit people—or people who NEED to lose weight, perform, or are desperate to fix their bad backs—avoid that stuff. People with skin in the game know they don’t need more choice; they need more work.


Almost everyone who comes to The Grove has been to other gyms. And almost to a person, they say, “I just didn’t get anywhere.” They looked for the cheapest option. Or the largest. Or the one with the most machines. But eventually, when they decided they needed results, they went looking for a coach.


And coaches don’t use that stuff. Professional, career coaches, whose livelihood depends on getting results, use barbells. Boxes. Squats and push-ups and food plans. Forced to choose what works, professionals choose the basics.


Many new clients who book a No-Sweat Intro tell me, “This just looks like a lot of open space.” It’s true: You need space when you’re going to move a lot. And if you want to get fit, you’re going to move a lot. Fitness requires no chair, no padding, no seat belt.


Everything you need. Nothing you don’t.


No wasted space. No wasted time. No wasted effort.


In hindsight, I’m very happy we had such little space. I became very good at using every inch of the gym, people doing squats, burpees, and running down the street. They’re far more fit than they were back then. My coaching has improved tenfold. My equipment hasn’t changed at all.


Inspiration provided by Chris Cooper at Catalystgym.com.