Where most people walk into a gym and see what looks to be an organized business firing on all cylinders, I often see complete disorder and chaos. Due to my occupation of consulting for gyms and working in a paramilitary environment, I walk into every gym with a different outlook. I examine the business, the integrity of the trainers, and the overall movement of the gym-members.


I often wonder what is the cause of the chaos I observe. The concept of running a gym is pretty simple: train people, get them results, and have them tell all of their friends. While the root of the business problems - hiring mistakes, poor management, lack of business acumen - are best saved for another article, I have an idea for how you can run your gym better. Adopting the habits of our military or paramilitary that will help your gym business operate more effectively and efficiently.


Here are nine tools inspired by the military that you can implement to improve your gym business and reduce the chaos:


Breaking Muscle Shop

Tool #1: Rankings


gym, gym management, military, first responder, chaos, order, ranking, uniformEvery person will be ranked in order of experience and credentials. This means if you are new to the gym, you will be at the bottom of the totem pole. I’m not saying you are not worthy or are less superior, but when it comes to giving advice I can only assume that you have not earned your ability to lead people, let alone give advice to any other member.


In contrast, the unofficial ranking system of most gyms goes as follows: the jacked guy at the gym must know what he’s talking about, I’m going to see what jacked guy does, and I will eventually look like him. Which makes more sense to you?


Tool #2: Chain of Command


Don’t go right to the chief of the gym with a question or problem if you can approach your lieutenant or captain. This will ensure that the chief is tasked with the more important problems and the other officers are given a fair chance to earn their stripes and directly help their men. Or in the case of a gym, potential coaches and senior students gain experience and share knowledge. So, always respect the chain of command.


Tool #3: Roll Call


Every morning the leader of the shifts holds a meeting outlining the action steps of the day and ensures that everyone is dressed properly. This will be perfect since many people don’t actually have a plan when they go to the gym. Every time you go into your gym, you’ll have a quick meeting setting action steps for the day. You’ll have a better plan and everyone will have a common goal increasing efficiency and results. 


Tool #4: Equipment Inspection


By going over everything you’re about to use, you’ll have a better plan and use it more effectively. Treat your equipment with respect and it will respect you. This will also free up time for everyone working in the gym and reduce chances of injury.


Tool #5: Uniforms


With everyone in the gym wearing similar workout apparel, people will care a lot less about their new dri-fit shirt or lululemon gear. We’ll then focus more on what matters: working out, getting sweaty, and getting results, rather then your cute new gym attire.  


Tool #6: Training


To avoid complacency and to ensure that you are sharp in different situations, you should always be training, learning, and mastering your craft. Each time you go to the gym you’ll either reinforce prior techniques or learn new ones.


Tool #7: Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)


Despite your feelings about Planet Fitness and their rules, at least they have some SOPs in place to maintain order. What if the gym you went to canceled your membership if you didn’t show up a certain amount of times a month? Or they lowered your membership price for each month they didn’t lead you enough to reach your goals? That may sound crazy to you, but the fact that most gyms don’t have any SOP’s in place is crazy to me. To focus purely on increasing membership numbers is a poor job on management’s end and not fair to its members.


Tool #8: AWOL (Absent Without Leave)


Being AWOL means the abandonment of duty without permission. Don’t show up for your training session today? You’re officially declared AWOL.


Tool #9: Assignment


Whether it’s a particular territory or a piece of equipment, once you get assigned to it you will become an expert at it. You’re a powerlifting guy? Great. Bodybuilder? Perfect. Once you master that and become an expert, then keep honing your craft. No one ever became an expert in operating a tank by switching assignments every week. It’s not like the people in the military who operate tanks also fly fighter jets. You shouldn’t do that with your workouts either.


Who doesn’t agree that our military, police, and fire organizations are not only top notch, but are also experts in organizing chaos? Organizing chaos is what we’re really trying to do as fitness professionals, too. We get hundreds or thousands of members together who all have different backgrounds and problems, but they come for a similar goal. The only problem is that in fitness we lack organization. I know that implementing some of these nine strategies will improve things for you.


One last thing: I know you’re wondering if these tools would make for a fun gym environment. You’ll be hitting your goals, but will it be an enjoyable experience? Just look at any of the organizations that inspired these tools. The members of those organizations would take a bullet for the person next to them. Would you take bullet for that dude you always see at the gym curling in the squat rack?


Photo 1 by Official Navy Page from United States of America Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas/U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 2 by S.A. THORNBLOOM [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 3 by Sgt Sarah Fiocco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.