The client, the coach, and the business: If you’re in the fitness industry, the hope is that all three can be successful.
For this to happen, the client needs a solution to his/her problem—to get and stay fit and healthy. The coach needs job fulfillment and an opportunity to make a professional wage so he can have a long-term career in fitness. And the business needs clients and coaches to stick around in order to be profitable.
None of this is possible if your gym is run by part-time group fitness instructors who are getting paid $20 an hour to run a class. This is only possible if coaches become professional fitness coaches.
This is the first article in a six-part series, we’re going to look at the economics, the incentives and job fulfillment of a group fitness instructor versus a professional coach. We will also review the client and business perspective—what happens to these key pillars of the business model when coaches have the opportunity to become professionals?
#3: Job Fulfillment
#4: Incentivizing Your Coaches to Care
#5: Group Fitness Instructor or Professional Coach
You were 23 years old. You loved fitness and wanted to help others get fit, and suddenly you landed the best job in the world: $25 an hour to coach group fitness classes.
But here you are five years later, bored out of your mind coaching the same workout five times a day as you cheerlead people through burpees and wall balls. Not only that, you’re starting to realize there’s a ceiling on your earnings and that you’ll probably never be able to make a professional wage as a group fitness instructor.
Even at $30 per class, you’ll need to coach 45 on-floor hours a week to earn $70,000 a year before taxes, and that’s if you don’t take a single week off. And if you have ever coached, you realize quite quickly that 45 on-floor hours a week is a boatload amount of coaching that will drain your energy like a sinking ship.
More realistically though, here’s what’s typical of the group fitness instructor. You work 50 weeks of the year as you take a couple weeks off a year. You average around 30 on-floor coaching hours (6 hours a day, 5 days a week) at $25 to $30 an hour. At $30 a class, you make just $45,000 a year before taxes. Certainly nowhere near a professional wage.
Though you still love coaching, you realize this life isn’t sustainable, let alone enjoyable, in the long-term.
And it’s the reason why coaches like Kayla Smith left the group fitness instructor model to open an OPEX Gym— OPEX Morgantown in West Virginia.
“I was so over babysitting adults,” Smith said. “In the group training model, it doesn’t matter if you have 30 people in the class, the coach makes the same amount.” And you have to work a ton of exhausting on-floor hours to make a good living, she added. On the other hand, when you look at the OPEX model and “you do the math and compare it to being on an hourly rate per class system, it becomes clear which system is better,” she explained.
Let’s say you work your way up to building a book of 50 of your own individual programming clients, and you earn an average of 45 percent of the revenue your clients pay each month for individual program design.
On top of this, instead of working 45 on-floor hours a week, you are now coaching likely less than 20 hours on the floor a week, and for those 20 hours/week you’ll get paid an additional hourly wage for your time as well.
Speaking with 16 different OPEX Gym owners and OPEX CCP Coaches, most say they average two to three on-floor coaching hours per day, so around 12-18 hours on the floor per week.
Glen Oliver, for example, the owner of OPEX Gatwick in the UK, said he coaches just three on-floor hours a week.
Meanwhile, Smith, who just opened her OPEX Gym in 2019 is working 24 hours a week on the floor, but this number will be significantly reduced when she hires another coach, she explained.
And Jesse O’Brien, the owner of Central Athlete, a former OPEX gym in Austin, Texas, works just six on-floor hours per week.
The rest of their day is spent programming for their clients, communicating on the TrueCoach app, admin work or business development, if you’re an owner.
This also means you can also take off on vacation—and work on vacation without your wage being affected—like Jim and Julie Migliaccio, the owners of OPEX Gold Coast in Norwalk, Connecticut. The couple heads to Florida
for weeks at a time to escape the cold winters, and continue to serve their clients while enjoying the Florida sun.
The Migliaccio’s coaches are also able to escape and take a vacation, they explained. Abi Hammond is one of them. Before working at OPEX Gold Coast, she was working at two different gyms, making less money and “could never take a vacation,” she said. Today, Hammond has 38 of her own individual program design clients, each of whom pays $335 US a month.
“It’s totally manageable and I’m actually making money doing it…I can take off on vacation now, too. When I’m out of town, my clients don’t even know because communication is so easy over the TrueCoach (app),” Hammond said.
Though convincing people to pay $300-plus a month might sound a lot if you’re coming from a group class business model, OPEX Gyms all over the world are easily providing enough value to their clients to charge these types of rates.
As pointed out already, OPEX Gold Coast clients pay $335 US a month (and the Migliaccios expect this rate to be at $450 in five years).
At OPEX Gatwick, clients pay 190 British pounds ($250 US). Oliver intends to increase this to 250 pounds ($330 US) within two years, he said.
Meanwhile, O’Brien charges $369 US a month and Firass El Fateh, the owner of OPEX Abbotsford in British Columbia charges his clients $325 CA.
Finally, Sean McCullagh, the owner OPEX Baltimore, charges an average of
$299 US per month.
The result: Both the gym owner and the coach have the ability to have a professional career—something Fateh, Hammond, McCullagh, the Migliaccios, O’Brien, Oliver, and Smith agree just wasn’t possible for a group fitness instructor.
“It feels like (I have) a career now, a professional career,” McCullagh said.
He added: “There are upward possibilities in terms of income. In the (group class model where coaches get paid by the hour), only the owner really has upward mobility. But in this system coaches can also be full-time professional coaches.
The OPEX model is the light at the end of the group fitness instructor tunnel. Take the first step to creating a sustainable and professional career with the free Professional Coaching Blueprint. This course introduces coaches to the OPEX System of Coaching, a personalized fitness methodology. Sign up for the free course today and join the community of OPEX Coaches.