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The Netflix Of Gyms? Why Anytime Fitness Thinks The Future Of Gyms Is Online

For a guy whos built a fitness empire on gyms, Anytime Fitness[1] Anytime Fitness[2] CEO Chuck Runyon is surprisingly focused on getting his customers online.

Its about merging digital with the brick and mortar store, says Runyon, who co-founded Anytime Fitness[3] in 2002. The [gym] chain that can bridge the gap between a physical location and life, theyll win.

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With more than 2,200 clubs including locations in all 50 states and 15 countries Anytime Fitness has already laid claim to a huge chunk of the convenience niche among major chains. A big contributor to the chains growth has been their franchise license, which includes a flat-rate monthly fee of $499 regardless of a locations size or membership. 

The companys focus, however, is shifting from pure geographic expansion toward building a strong online presence  and getting customers to follow. To that end, the company has built an entire platform (called Anytime Health[4]) for clients to track their progress and connect with other members. Ideally, the Anytime Health[5] platform is more than a series of tools to download new workouts and track food, though it has those in droves: Its an ecosystem of gym-goers and franchise operators to share their progress and exchange feedback on the Anytime Fitness experience. Runyon is hoping the site can engage clients beyond their weekly sweat sessions, something few fitness brands have been able to accomplish.

We have a five year plan to really get outside our clubs, its one of our two main goals including expansion. If half of our members are using [Anytime Health], well be ecstatic about it.

But Runyon and his corporate office have a long road ahead of them to convert clients, many of whom are already using countless other tracking platforms and devices[6] like the Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up. Only 18 percent of Anytime Fitness members currently log on to Anytime Health. While Runyon says his company plans to make the platform compatible with popular tracking devices, theyre reluctant to partner with existing software companies, many of which have user bases in the tens of millions.

If were one of many other partners [with another site], were just a client, says Runyon. Its our ability to imprint a consistent culture on our clients lives thats important, and we have to create that ourselves.

That culture has pushed Anytime Fitness to strive for a seamless experience both online and at their gyms. All locations are open 24/7, and automated services and support from regional offices have slashed overhead and salary costs for franchisees. With keycard access and panic button security systems, most locations dont require a staff member present at all times. Its not the intimate experience of a mom-and-pop shop or a haven for serious weighlifters, but at a growth rate of 300 locations a year, its clear their particular brand of convenience sells.

Of course, Runyons isnt the only fitness brand working to change the perception of gyms from a physical space many dread to a holistic brand users embrace. Competitors like LA Fitness are now offering online support and coaching for members. And CrossFit[7] has famously bucked the franchise model to immense success with over 7,000 affiliates worldwide and a noted  and sometimes cult-like  impact on lives outside the gym.

But while CrossFits affiliate program leaves significant freedom for gym owners to forge their own, unique environments, Runyon is committed to keeping the Anytime Fitness experience uniform across locations. CrossFit also has the added advantage of being a budding sport[8] in addition to a fitness methodology, which gives followers added incentive to follow along online.

I like CrossFit, I think its going to do tremendously well, but its still a niche offering, says Runyon. Back when Anytime Fitness was founded, our model was more like theirs, there was more flexibility for franchise owners to do different things. But it didnt work for us, the uniformity just wasnt enough.

In Runyons mind, theres never been a better time to be a fitness consumer, and hes enthusiastic about the sheer volume of choices customers have in picking their gyms, tracking platforms, and support systems. For a brand thats already carved out a significant chunk of the fitness pie, Anytime Fitness next challenge is convincing people to get it all in one place.

Have something to say? Sound off below, tweet the author @d_tao[9], and get health and fitness tips at Greatist[10].

References

  1. ^ Anytime Fitness (www.forbes.com)
  2. ^ Anytime Fitness (www.forbes.com)
  3. ^ Anytime Fitness (anytimefitness.com)
  4. ^ Health (www.forbes.com)
  5. ^ Anytime Health (anytimehealth.com)
  6. ^ countless other tracking platforms and devices (www.forbes.com)
  7. ^ CrossFit (crossfit.com)
  8. ^ budding sport (www.forbes.com)
  9. ^ @d_tao (twitter.com)
  10. ^ health and fitness tips at Greatist (greatist.com)

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