Whether you like it or not, CrossFit is the hottest brand on the fittest scene right now and probably will be for a good while yet.

Before we get into an argument about programming, specialisation and whether you should do 100 clean and jerks in any less than 5 separate workouts, take a breath because there are some very valuable lessons to be learned.

At first, it might seem utterly bonkers to suggest very similar lessons also come from taking more than a passing glance at the rise of Scientology.

Don’t panic…I haven’t lost the plot.

If you can park your own beliefs for five seconds and see what it indicates about human nature, you might uncover some golden nuggets that will help you grow your own group fitness business.

Scientology is currently in the Top 3 most controversial ‘religions’ on Earth.

I say ‘religions’ but realistically, Scientology is a cult that managed to convince the US government it was a religion in order to get its members some tax breaks.

Well done them.

Let’s be honest, they achieved at least one thing we all aspire to!

On further inspection, having recently watched the Netflix documentary on Scientology, I realised there are a lot of lessons you can learn as a group fitness business owner.

Here’s a brief overview of Scientology:

  • L.Ron Hubbard creates a system of self-discovery
  • L.Ron Hubbard writes a book detailing his system and giving people access to his secrets to an awesome life of personal growth
  • L.Ron Hubbard develops a ladder of courses with more and more levels of self-discovery, constantly extending the journey
  • Scientology buys up land across the world to extend the reach of the movement
  • L.Ron Hubbard and now his team of ‘Auditors’ do a good job of showing you how utterly useless your life is and that unless you have a full understanding of the cosmos, you would be stupid not to complete more levels of the system, which obviously requires heavier financial investment
  • L.Ron Hubbard dies and leadership passes to David Miscavige who fully utilises celebrity endorsement in Tom Cruise and John Travolta to gain more credibility and popularity.
  • The movement cleverly cultivates a ‘them against us’ culture to make bonds within the organisation stronger and separate everyone in it from the rest of the world

Here’s a brief overview of CrossFit:

  • Greg Glassman creates system of physical development
  • Greg Glassman launches a website detailing the WOD (Workout Of the Day) along with articles on how to improve at these WOD’s and how to build awesome physical capacities. And callouses.
  • Greg Glassman develops a ladder of courses with more and more levels of physical development, constantly extending the journey and making you feel further and further from ‘the top’
  • CrossFit gives course attendees the opportunity to open up Boxes across the world to extend the reach of the movement
  • Greg Glassman and his team of ‘Affiliates’ show you just how utterly mediocre you are and how far you can take your physical journey with more and more skills to learn alongside the dawn of the Open, Regionals and CrossFit games. 
  • Greg Gassman partners with Reebok who extend celebrity endorsement to gain more credibility and popularity along with sales of Reebok Nano’s and other accessories that are simply a must if you are to have any hope of making the Games.
  • The movement cleverly cultivates a ‘them against us’ culture to make bonds within the organisation stronger and separate everyone in it from the rest of the world

I don’t have particularly strong feelings about either of the above!

I’ve never had any dealings whatsoever with scientology and have had both positive and negative experiences with CrossFit affiliates.

I like a lot of what CrossFit does and there are some great lessons if you want to build a group fitness business that excites people, gives them a never-ending journey to self-improvement and of course, generates a good profit for you!

However, both models prove that human nature and curiosity about yourself are the same across the board and when you understand it, you can get people to follow you whilst bring some meaning to their life.

Hopefully you’ll choose to do this in a positive way without manipulating people.

Ultimately, they are two sides of the same coin, but either way, here’s some things you should use in your group fitness business.

1) Develop a system on which your training is based.

How are the workouts structured?

What components are always present?

How does one month build into the next?

What are your nutrition principles?

How is improvements tested?

Can you concisely describe how you do things in a poster on the wall?

2) Give people access to this system in clear format.

It might be a 12 week group fitness program coached in person.

It might be a complete documented system/book.

It might be an online portal.

Either way it must be clear what you believe in, what they should do day-to-day and how to implement it.

3) Develop your system into a series of levels that promise further development.

Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced classes.

A belt/badge/t-shirt system like the journey to a martial arts black belt.

Coaching weekends that will help people get closer to bodyweight based lifting targets such as a double bodyweight squat.

Challenge or testing days.

These are all examples of unraveling a journey in front of people which over time gives them tunnel vision for getting as far down the path as possible and encourages them to shut out everything else.

It has become customary in the fitness industry to sell a pre-determined goal.

This clearly can work but typically, these people fall off a cliff once they achieve their goal.

How can you get them to their initial goal but keep moving the goalposts?

Nothing gets people’s attention for a long time than the promise of more and more self-improvement.

4) Make it possible for people to become part of the growth of your movement.

Maybe you want to franchise your group fitness business.

Maybe you want to develop members into instructors to teach sessions or even courses (whilst you develop more advanced ones which you teach).

Everyone loves to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Give them the chance to buy into the success of the organisation beyond their own results.

Hell you could even do like Scientology and just ask people to donate large sums of money!

5) Use Ambassadors to build your credibility and reputation.

If you are in a position to afford celebrity endorsement or you currently train someone with similar reach then utilise it fully!

If not, is there someone in your local area that you could train for free in exchange for endorsement?

This may be a well-known sportsmen who needs strength and conditioning coaching or it may simply be someone who will do your services justice and who talks to a lot of people day-to-day, such as a hairdresser.

You can even create show-piece clients who act as Ambassadors for your services and whose stories you offer as content to local magazines and websites. 

6) Stand up for what you believe in.

Too many trainers in our industry have a strong passion for a certain way of doing things but get put off when someone argues with them.

Use these moments to bring your tribe closer together!

If someone is knocking you openly on Facebook because of how you do things, share it and ask your followers what they think.

You will most likely suddenly find an army standing behind you, strengthening the bonds within your organisation and doing exactly the opposite of what the haters wanted!

On numerous occasions my fitness camps have been described as a cult.

Nothing could make me happier.

It meant lots of people were involved, people were listening to the message and they were spreading it to others whenever they could.

It meant we were building something that was so good people felt a need to bash it to make themselves feel justified at not having the courage to do it.

You don’t have to go to the questionable lengths of scientology and you most likely won’t replicate what CrossFit has achieved.

However, you can build a rock-solid business built on a never-ending journey which people can travel down as far as their commitment allows.

Create it, communicate it and then cultivate more and more levels and options to excite people and keep them interested and striving for better!

Find out how I implemented the most powerful group fitness programming and marketing methods on the 2 x 1/2 day online Group Fitness Accelerator course.

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September (including post-event recording)