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How to Run a Gym

The fitness sector is booming but day-to-day responsibilities can be daunting. Here are some tips for navigating the pitfalls.

Being passionate about keeping fit is important – but it’s not enough alone to thrive as a gym owner. So, do you have what it takes? 

With the fitness industry booming, there are plenty of people who want to know how to buy a gym. But running a gym or fitness centre on a day-to-day basis can be a lot more difficult than some might first imagine. 

Gym owners have to ‘wear a lot of hats’. “As a business owner starting out, I was the receptionist, cleaner and head trainer, but it didn’t bother me because I’d done all that before,” says Ben Lucas, owner and director of gym franchise Flow Athletic Paddington.

Buying a gym

If you’ve bought a going concern, then you’ll inherit a team who already know how to run the business. Your challenge then is a different one.

Far from micromanaging every aspect of the business  – you should stand back, listen and learn.

One way to win the respect of your new staff is to invite them to provide feedback on the business’s strengths and ideas for improvements.

Only when you’ve familiarised yourself with the business should you make changes – and even then proceed cautiously. Make drastic changes without thinking through the consequences and you could alienate your most loyal customers.

This is why you should also gauge customer sentiment via emails and social media, as well as through conversations and by simply observing activity in the gym.

Health and safety

Accidents are a more common occurrence than in many sectors. Make sure you have appropriate, up to date insurance and that you comply with regulations.

Have the premises inspected regularly for hazards. Every piece of equipment should be cleaned and properly maintained too.

Training and recruitment

Review the qualifications and experience of your existing staff. Are they equipped to perform their roles adequately as well as following any revamp you might be planning?

From this you can establish what training and/or recruitment is required to improve customer service and fulfil your vision. 

Whether it’s an innovative new marketing platform or finding a great app for scheduling or tracking training sessions, technology is also a great tool to supercharge your business.

Ben Lucas of Flow Athletic Paddington offers this advice:

  1. Have a financial plan. “Have enough capital to keep you going,” he says. “You’ll have good months and not so good months – so you need to be prepared.”
  2. Have a business plan. Be thorough and think of everything. Get a professional in to help if you’re not sure. “Find your niche,” advises Ben. “Is it men? Women? The elderly? Find out who will be in your gym and if your answer is ‘everyone’ – your niche is actually no one.”
  3. Have a marketing plan. “It’s such a crowded marketplace,” Ben notes. Know who your target market is, learn how to speak to them and find out through what media you should speak to them. It can be hard to stand out, so make sure you plan well so you’re not wasting time or resources.

Catering to 9-5 workers who might work out before or after their shift, gyms have to be open for long hours. A gym owner’s days in the ‘office’ can, therefore, be long and exhausting.

Lucas emphasises the importance of setting aside proper downtime to avoid burnout. “I take my son to the park and I switch off my phone,” he says.

Eventually, you may decide to pursue a more substantial rest, selling the gym to reap the dividends of your efforts.

Think you have what it takes? Browse our health and fitness clubs for sale

Faye Ferris

About the author

APAC Sales & Marketing Director for, the world’s most popular website for buying and selling businesses globally, which attracts over 1.2 million visitors each month.