The Effect of a Gym’s Aesthetic

I was talking with a former teammate about bjj gyms, and we touched on the topic of aesthetic in gyms and how it can potentially appeal to different students/audiences.

Just like the intentional actions and unintentional culture that take place at a gym, the aesthetic of a gym does play a (albeit minor) part in attracting students to an academy. While most of us could not literally care less about how a gym looks- just needs some clear space and a mat or two to roll, for someone just starting out it sets a tone for what to expect. Think about your more traditional weightlifting gyms, let’s say a Planet Fitness and say a powerlifting gym. What kind of gym goer is the planet fitness trying to attract- maybe the newbie or the not consistent gym goer. There are plenty of weight machines, dumbbells that don’t exceed a certain weight (I don’t think – not sure, it’s been a while since I’ve been to a Planet Fitness), there’s a row of Smith Machines in case you would like to use a barbell, and of course a whole slew of cardio machines. It’s a place where they are trying to encourage people new to working out, or are just simply inconsistent with their exercise to come and work out in a clean, shiny facility, and maybe join them for a pizza party or two…. You get the idea. There’s also the whole membership model where it’s priced so low because they want people to join and not actually show up, but that’s a whole different discussion for a different time.

A powerlifting gym or barbell club on the other hand has an entirely different look. While the facilities are of course kept clean, there is a certainly a different look to them. There are definitely less treadmills, that’s for sure. I guess you could say the same thing about crossfit gyms? Not sure, I’ve actually never been in one. The gym knows its audience: it’s someone who is serious about training and has even found the particular nuance they want to focus on. Neither of these gyms are wrong in their approach, they are just potentially appealing to different audiences. Neither will turn away someone in that cross section: a newbie to fitness is welcome to join a barbell club, and a hardcore fitness fanatic may join a planet fitness to get a sweat on. What I’m saying is that the people who put these gyms together (I would hope) would understand that those cross overs are not their key demographics.

It’s the same with jiu jitsu: the people who train all the time will literally train in a basement, or hell, even a parking lot if you throw a couple of mats down. You may have a few adventurous newbies who may want to join you, but they will be more of the exception rather than the rule. If you have a facility that reflects a little more of your traditional gym, then you can probably expect newer students to sign up: it’s more of a format they may be accustomed to, and then you can ease them into the weird back parking lot rolling sessions as they become more addicted to the sport.

It’s something I think a lot of academies owners may consider, but not really think about WHY it needs such consideration. We tend to think of our own experiences, needs and wants, rather than those of another person – just generally, it’s a natural default in life. But, if gym owners want to think about how to bring in new students (or if you want to bring in people who already have experience with jiu jitsu, that’s fine too) then you need to think about the kind of gym THEY might want to train in.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share- have a great day everyone!

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