“Yo Jon, I want you to take an easier day today, you’ve got the 2k row on Saturday and you know what the standard is.”

The words from Rob McDonald aka Bobby Maximus that gave me a less comfortable sleep for a couple of days.

I’d never rowed more than 400m at that point but in the lead up to the Gym Jones Level 2 seminar out in Utah it became abundantly clear that a level of respect was attached to doing a sub 7 minute 2k row (Girls 8.15).

I say respect.

As a minimum. 

Those engaged in solid rowing training will go much faster, but for someone who had spent the previous 9 months Strongman training this was a cause for concern.

The day came and we all took our turn in the hot seat to try to hit the Gym Jones 2k row standard.

See Gym Jones may well be the only gym in the world where you can’t pay to be a member.

Not with money anyway.

You gain your place in the ‘circle’ not by being elite or paying your way in but by working your ass off and showing that you bring value and energy to the community.

The 6 inch advertising logo sticker in the corner of the unassuming, blacked out windows is barely visible on arrival but speaks volumes.

You find them, not the other way around.

I got a 6.55 that day.

I regularly look at this photo because, whilst to most people it’s just a guy doing a workout, it says a lot about building a gym culture.

  1. Most importantly, training with your shirt off is okay. When it’s 40 degrees outside and you’re going for PB’s, do what you need to do! There is little room for sensitivity in Gym Jones and yet in the most caring way possible.
  2. Someone is always there when you need them. This might be to support you during a shitty time or it might be to call you out on your bullshit.
  3. If you count Guernsey as a country, there are four different nationalities in that photo. But in the moment, all that matters is the pace in the middle of the screen. All sorts can be going on outside the four walls of your gym, but being the best you can be on that day is ALL that matters, whoever you are or wherever you’re from. True culture can transcend man-made boundaries. 
  4. Genuine concern on Miffy’s face for me to nail the standard. When you’re up to row, people aren’t walking around the gym, texting, chatting and just waiting their turn. They’re watching, cheering and reminding you to focus on your stroke when you’re hurting.
  5. For 7 minutes I was held accountable for my technique. The belief in Gym Jones is that we KNOW you’re good enough IF you concentrate. With efficiency comes quality. It wasn’t just screaming to keep going like 30 banshees doing a Grit class. Focusing on doing EVERYTHING the best you can is important. It’s too easy to let things slide because you’re tired and thinking about other things.
  6. Black and white photos. It’s just what Gym Jones do. It’s their thing. It’s not important but it really is.

What’s the culture like in your fitness business?

What standards do you have?

Standards of behaviour and ethics, standards of strength, standards of condition.

Do you have any or do you let people do what they want so long as their membership fees go in?

Culture is EVERYTHING you do.

Every action you personally take says a lot about what will be acceptable in your facility and I’ve largely found that where there is a lack of culture in a fitness facility, there is a lack of behavioural standards demanded of themselves by the owner and staff.

Are you punctual for your own appointments?

Do you appropriately or walk around in flip-flops like you’re on holiday?

Do you care for the facility and equipment?

Do you demand fitness standards of yourself?

Do you take uncomfortable actions?

Do you have an alarm you don’t ignore and a morning routine to set up your day?

Do you check your own negativity instead of spreading it?

Do you turn up early to warm up properly?

Do you support others when they’re about to quit or do you make it okay?

Do you demonstrate the nutrition and relaxation strategies you write about?

Do you tidy up after yourself and keep things clean?

Is it a lifestyle or do you too shut the door on the weekend and let everything unravel?

Do your Facebook posts show the behaviours you want others involved with your business to exhibit?

Culture is like air – it is ALWAYS present in some form.

It can be clean or dirty.

If you don’t actively control it, demand standards and enforce those standards, other people will do it for you and it can be very difficult to reverse.

Think of it like a garden. 

If you don’t choose the flowers, plant them, water them and tend to the garden on a daily basis, you can expect weeds to grow and take over.

So take a long hard look at yourself.

Take a look around before, during and after your coaching sessions.

Are you letting people walk in, drop their bags everywhere just to go sit in the corner and complain to everyone about life?

If you’re honest, you’ll see that the behaviours in and around your facility are there because you let them be and have usually grown out of your own personal behaviours.

If you want a great business, design and control the experience down to the last detail.

Hold yourself, your business as a whole and all the people involved to higher standards!