One of my Instagram followers asked me this question the other day:
“Hey Russ I’ve just moved to a new area and I’m looking for the best place to train. Should I choose a big franchise or find a local gym?”
I’ve worked in both, and in 99% of situations I recommend the latter.
Today I’m going to explain why.
Have You Ever Seen ‘Dodgeball’?
Go watch it.
This comedy movie focuses on two rival gyms; Glogo Gym vs Average Joe’s.
Globo Gym is choc-full of orange motherf**kers, always focused on the bottom line, and generally treats its members like dirt. On the other side of the road, Average Joe’s gym embraces its own weirdness, and the oddball members make the foundation of the business iteself.
In the real world, we’d all prefer going to Average Joe’s.
And here’s where things get weird…
When we think about joining a small local gym, we inadvertently link it to Globo Gym (“I can’t go there, it’s full of meatheads”), and we opt for the safety of the big chain gym where everything looks the same.
This. Is. Wrong.
In reality your small local gym is Average Joe’s.
Here’s a true story from a client of mine:
“I was a member of <popular 24/7 gym> for 2 years and I hated it. Not a single person ever spoke to me (staff nor members) and the last time I went there some ladies laughed at me for not knowing how to use a new machine. I was mortified.
One day they closed for refurbishment so I plucked up the courage to try the serious-looking ‘bodybuilding gym’ up the road, and I’ve never looked back!
I was expecting to find a bunch of judgmental pro bodybuilders in this small gym, but instead it had a really supportive community who became my friends. The gym owner actually knows my name, and I like knowing that my membership supports a family, plus if I’m ever struggling to complete a workout people just yell encouragement, it’s the best!”
Just another day in Powerhouse!
Better Equipment & Better Personal Trainers?
The first time I visited a small gym I didn’t appreciate it.
I wish I could go back and give myself a slap for doing that.
The equipment which I thought looked “old” and “weird” was actually top class stuff, but I didn’t know! There were Nautilus machines from the 70s which moved like an absolute dream, yet I was more impressed by the modern equipment up the road so I went there.
What a dumb**s.
All these years later, I can confirm that you’ll find much better (and much sturdier) equipment in smaller gyms and there are two reasons for this.
The first is because they cannot afford to constantly replace kit, so they tend to buy things which last (e.g. my current gym still has most of the same kit it had when I first arrived here in 2013!), and the second reason is because they need to be more niche in order to survive.
(You’ll see vastly superior strength training equipment in a dedicated strength training facility, versus a franchise gym, and the same goes for bodybuilding equipment, and so on.)
Perhaps the same could be said for the coaches, too.
I’m not saying you can’t find a great PT in a mainstream gym (because you can, I used to be one!), but corporate gyms essentially have a revolving door of personal trainers who are fresh off their courses.
The best of these trainers will go on to hone their crafts and build their client bases – and then move to their own facility (small local gyms)!