Predictions for 2024

I predict that 2024 will see both extremes of fortunes within the fitness industry, with some gyms doing very well and others struggling to keep the lights on. The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to come out on top. However, the reality is that failure to embrace change will be the downfall of many.

When looking at the evolution of small group personal training, we must look at the macro level. As a sector, our adaptation tends to be relatively slow, often in response to new generations taking the helm. Thus, perhaps unsurprisingly, some of my predictions for 2024 stem from seeds sown a year or more previously.

Now, more than ever, it is essential that I be specific about the subject of my predictions – that of independent small-group personal training (SGPT) gyms. Previously, it was sufficient to say SGPT, but approaches vary now that more of the larger “big box” gyms are targeting the SGPT market.

A combination of the factors below will likely see a wealth of new SGPT gyms opening up in 2024. Many of these will embrace most, if not all, of my predictions.

1. Wellness and wellbeing vs fitness

I often find myself wondering whether independent gym owners in the SGPT space ever do the weekly shop and have a look around at their fellow shoppers. Let’s use Waitrose as an example. Many people in that store should be within the target audience for a premium SGPT facility. However, few are striving to be Insta-ready HYROX competitors.

I anticipate a separation within the independent SGPT sector.  Some may see wellness as a little “woke” and firmly embrace the “Athlete 2.0” model, where almost everything is centred around strength and pursuing the ‘perfect body’. Many of these gyms will have been established by former athletes, and their goal is for their members to be a reflection of their former selves or what they might have been. There will be a big focus on “accountability” (see below), and member support will typically be a weekly “u good?” WhatsApp message.

This is fine. There will always be a demand for this type of facility – particularly for young men in their twenties. While their lights will dim (see “a new messiah” below), these facilities will continue to turn enough revenue until the protagonist, after whom they are often named, chooses to move on to something new.

The gyms that genuinely understand and embrace the concepts of wellness and well-being are increasingly emerging in the form of new facilities. Delivering far more than physical training services, these gyms champion body positivity, inclusivity, and a positive mindset.

I have heard repeated references to gym-goers becoming “smarter”. I believe this doesn't seem right. I think it is more that gyms are starting to see a broader demographic of the public showing interest in their offerings but expecting higher and broader service levels than might have previously been the norm.

As 2024 progresses, I expect to see a doubling-down within the “athletic” circles whilst other new facilities open up - offering a more progressive approach suited to a broader demographic.

2. A smaller box

Many of the “big boxes” have a significant problem… their costs are wildly heading out of control. Energy prices remain painfully high, whilst the amount they can charge remains limited.

Let’s consider a few prominent examples.  The average UK “big box” gym has a 25m swimming pool. Assuming this is 10m wide with an average depth of 1.5m, this equates to 375,000 litres of water that needs to be heated and circulated – let alone all of the air space above and around it. Much of the time, the pool may have only a tiny handful of people in it.

Similarly, take a doubles tennis court at 260m2 in size. A significant space dedicated to a maximum of four people at any one time. A singles squash court is approximately 63m2 for just two people.

Next, factor in business rates and maintenance costs.  All in all, these models yield a very uncommercial cost-per-head.

Conversely, as these large commercial businesses glance across the street, they see small group personal training facilities with a much more attractive cost-per-head. Not only can these types of facilities charge larger fees, but they typically have much lower running costs and a more efficient use of space. This was something that they cottoned on to a while back, bringing about the rise of the “box within a box”. Whilst this model has had a couple of false starts, most large chains are now figuring out how to make it work.

I predict that there will be a rise in the number of the larger chains opening much smaller, boutique facilities focussed on small group personal training – and that they may start to ditch some of their “low yield real estate”.

Whilst many of the better-known small group personal training facilities are brand-obsessed, they stand little to no chance of competing with the big brands when comparing similar operations.

Where differentiation will come is in service. Those independent facilities that genuinely provide a superior, personalised service will remain stand-out against tough commercial competition. Customer loyalty is money in the bank, and many will wish they had focussed more on retention than just pushing people through the machine.

3. Consistency

I frequently find myself reading lead generation emails from gyms that sound fantastic. They are warm, engaging and supportive. They talk about helping you through your wellness journey. Then come the testimonials from people standing before a group of members being beasted and a giant neon sign in the background saying “where the weak get beat”. Hmm…

Similarly, Coach Boris and Manager Dave might feel the need to prefix their names with titles to support their need for respect, but respect is earned.

If you are going to provide a cohesive well-being service, it needs to be genuine. All aspects of the business and personnel need to be in alignment. Going half-arsed or with an approach that focuses on you more than your members won’t work out in the long run. If your website talks more about you than what you do for your members, it is perhaps time for a rewrite.

4. Retention

I talk endlessly about how I believe a successful gym business is built upon member retention, not the constant throughput of new blood. Whilst I am sceptical, 2024 might finally be the year that sees more significant emphasis on providing a better and more rounded member offering.

I see a greater realisation by gym owners that they need to deliver more than the occasional recipe book and that a holistic approach to health is what much of the future gym-going public is seeking. Supporting and checking in with members is finally becoming more than a box-ticking exercise; it is becoming ingrained into the mindset of the coaches.

5. Fifty Shades and “Generation Active”

Almost every prediction I have read this year mentions “Gen Z/Generation Active” as a target sweet spot for the fitness market. Mentors are obsessed with them, and many service providers focus heavily on this demographic.

Born in the mid-90s to early 2010s, Gen Z is tech-savvy and socially conscious and prefers experiences to material possessions. They demand a cohesive digital experience, social connections, professionalism, and value for money.

Despite a highly diverse population, many gyms still focus on the 25-35 year olds. With the Gen Z age range presently being 12-27, chances are we’ll see an even more narrowed target demographic in some areas – likely 18-27.

But let’s step back. Whilst the demands of Gen Z might be more explicit, what they ask is no more than any gym-goer should be provided as standard.

Many gyms pat themselves on the back for having an “over 50s” offering, but we sometimes forget the “personal” element of small group personal training. I predict that, whilst the masses spear-hunt Gen Z, the more savvy business operator will seek to deliver services to the remaining 80% of the population.

Moreover, Gen Z is not typically suffering from issues that a strong wellness offering would assist. I predict that those who start to offer solutions/support for mobility, post-cancer care, menopause, pregnancy, etc., will be those who begin to gain traction rapidly and have a more sustainable model.

6. Accountability and a new language

The language we use with our members is often the same language we use professionally. For example, we talk about accountability and benchmarking. These are scary words and counterproductive as part of a well-being offering.

Some constructive conversations are going on within the larger fitness organisations regarding the correct use of language in the modern fitness industry. However, the small independents are mainly unaware and external to these discussions.

I anticipate a new language will be developed and rolled out from the “big box” commercial gyms and within the public leisure space. These terms and the approach will likely be more attractive to a larger audience. The independent small group personal training market may need to play catch up in some of these areas.

7. Respect your team

I have heard several respected industry professionals state that you should not hire any trainer/coach with aspirations of one day having their own facility. This is something usually said by little men inside larger, muscly frames. Similarly, they often support the “your staff should feel honoured that they get to work for you” mantra. I find this viewpoint remarkable.

I am fortunate enough to have had some truly remarkable people on my teams over the years. Many were more intelligent and more versatile than me. However, when they were with me, we all benefited, and I ensured they were appropriately rewarded for their contribution. They were part of a team with mutual respect, and by participating, they could make a meaningful contribution.  Then, when they felt ready, they moved on to the next stage of their journey with my support and pride in their growth. Many have gone on to be highly successful in their own right.

Your team are your interface with your customers. Treat them with the care and respect you expect them to treat your clients. Most importantly, pay them appropriately and, where you can, share the rewards.

Failing to do this is where some, particularly in the “big boxes”, are struggling. They brought in good people for their “box in a box” SGPT product but did not suitably reward or empower them. Consequently, many are getting fed up and leaving to set up their own gyms.

Similarly, some independents are losing good personnel because the “you should be honoured to work here” and “plenty of others who would happily take your place” approaches have worn thin. Rather than treating them right and helping them move on positively about your time together, they leave with a vengeance and set up in competition.

You are only as good as your team. 2024 is the year to start treating them right.

8. Technology

In the first gold rush, the “old-timers“ worked with primitive tools and reaped a tonne of gold. Now, as gold is more scarce and there is greater competition, a technological advantage is imperative. The same applies to the world of small-group personal training.

It is no longer commercially viable to say, “I’m not very good with technology”, or to ignore systems that help you provide a better service. Similarly, cobbling multiple systems together and expecting your members to navigate the hell space you have created for them is incredibly foolish.

I am seeing more and more gyms realising that their multi-system approach or attempting to have their own member system velcroed onto the back of a WordPress site is not the way to go. We all do our best by focusing on our skill areas and sourcing third-party expertise where needed.

The SGPT population initially embraced wearable tech, but it was often not used correctly or as part of a well-thought delivery. Consequently, many missed the incredible benefits that products like Myzone could have brought them, and they gave up to save a few quid.

The “big boxes” are now embracing wearable technology, and many are doing it correctly. The SGPT world needs to revisit this and get on board because many foolishly squandered a precious weapon in their arsenal. 2024 is likely to be the year that wearable tech becomes a staple of a gym membership.

Similarly, I predict that 2024 will see a mindset change towards things like body fat scales. If you believe they bring your facility and members benefits, which they do, provide them as part of your every service – not a bolt-on, a chargeable extra, or something available only to “premium memberships”.

9. More independents hitting the skids

As little as three years ago, Thomas Plummer would talk about the need for a facility to hold several months of cash in the bank. The reality today is that most have empty cupboards at the end of every month, and it is only a matter of days or a few lost memberships from going under.

I predict that many will stay unchanged and struggle for longer. Some will embrace the emerging trends and pull themselves through to stability. Sadly, some good people will see their gyms fail, either because of factors outside their control (rising rents, rates, etc.) and/or because they haven’t responded fast enough to shore up their businesses.

10. Equipment

The average small group personal training gym does not need top-tier equipment. Beautiful and as fantastic as it is, buying athlete-level equipment is often more for vanity and peer approval than something that benefits your members.

Many gym owners are told they must refit their gyms to improve their revenue. This is utter cobblers, and I question the motives of those who champion this.

Yes, you need to have decent, professional equipment for your members. But be realistic. Most gym-goers won’t know one kettlebell manufacturer from another, and a barbell with a laser-etched logo makes no difference to their lives.

I maintain that the most successful gyms that will continue to succeed are those with a reputation for service excellence – not having some nice neon signs.

11. Undoing the shackles

In 2024, there is a wealth of competition amongst small group personal training gyms. The average gym-goer has a choice of multiple facilities within their area.

Excessive cancellation policies for memberships are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and should be dropped altogether. You want your members to stay with you because they want to, not because they must. If you show me a gym with a cancellation policy of more than one month, the chances are that they are struggling and highly fearful of their members leaving.

I anticipate that there might be a re-emergence of the block-buy model for sessions – where, instead of memberships, gym-goers can buy session credits in blocks and use them as they wish. Where I have seen this employed recently, this has resulted in increased member attendance and revenues. Many people are choosing to attend more sessions per week than their prior memberships might have restricted them to. Consequently, many of the gyms that have offered this model are seeing greater revenues. They retain their members because they provide excellent service, not because they make it hard for their members to leave.

12. Valuing your proposition

In recent years, many small group personal training gyms have opened their spaces for “open gym” sessions. More often than not, this has devalued their entire offering.

A premium SGPT facility should be akin to a welcoming private members club. The facilities should be available only to “club members” and not as part of a “free for all” cash-grabbing exercise.

13. Life beyond onboarding

New gym members tend to get a great experience and a lot of love during the onboarding/trial process.  It is once they start paying regularly that the product offering diminishes.

Gyms offering a rounded wellness product understand that member nurturing is a whole lifetime process, not just for the first six weeks. To deliver this practically, products such as Quoox and services such as Gym Mastery are priceless.

14. Small group independents at Elevate ‘24

I expect a greater turnout of the independent, small group personal training sector at Elevate ’24 on 12-13 June.

Quoox will be hosting the Gym Mastery Theatre and we have an exciting line-up of presentations and panel discussions scheduled for the event. More information will be coming in due course, but those who want free early bird tickets can book here: Register for Elevate ‘24

15. “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

I anticipate that those gyms and people we hold up as beacons may start to shift. Crowns may slip, and a new top table may emerge.

Change often comes through new blood and from outside the sector. Our industry is ripe for a changing of the guard, and I anticipate that those we will soon be looking up to may not even be on our radar.

I expect one or two “Emperor’s new clothes” revelations over the coming year.

16. More mentors

As some more entrenched gym owners find the market increasingly tricky, I predict many will quit their gyms, and we will see a further influx of gym mentors.

When I say this, I always inadvertently manage to offend people.  Many mentors are great and add value to a business. Some, less so.

In my experience, many gym owners who feel they need a mentor just need a supportive peer group or someone to talk to.

Gym owners and coaches are some of the hardest-working people I have ever met. They do not need to work harder or need “accountability”. What they need is support, systems, and tools that aid them towards their business goals.

Very often, gyms can experience a substantial improvement to their business through small changes and a collaborative approach – without the need for going into debt with a complete re-fit and expensive, ongoing mentorship.


The opportunity for commercial success in the small group personal training market is perhaps greater than ever. A more significant percentage of the population is now predisposed towards the benefits of a well-being regime.

The rewards could be considerable for those who can deliver a cohesive, holistic wellness product supported by excellent customer service and technologies that benefit the member. There will always be a place for the gym focused on amateur and semi-professional athletes, but this is a minority of the market.

Embracing and providing a health solution for a broader public  demographic is the way for 2024. This is what the large commercial chains will focus on, but small independents can still steal the win if they champion service excellence.
Written by Chris Windram
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