Training Grounds Builds Gym Tailored to Trainers

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Personal trainers normally have two options when it comes to their practice: get hired by a gym and settle for a split percentage that’s normally in favor of the gym, or save up the money to open their own facility.

Training Grounds presents a third option.

Founder Eddie Zhang designed his space at 6791 Dublin Center Dr. in Dublin specifically for trainers.

He became familiar with the plight of the trainer when he started his own fitness journey in late 2010. He joined a gym, but admittedly didn’t know what he was doing and wasn’t getting results. In came trainer Brandon Oshodin who righted wrongs and helped Zhang see results. Zhang also learned what a trainer typically faces when working with a gym. Some clients were shelling out $50 to $70 for a 30-minute training session with the trainer netting as little as $8.

“I had the gym, got no results, I had Brandon, I got results, so Brandon was providing all the value but the money wasn’t reflective of it,” Zhang says.

Oshodin cut ties with the gym to start his own venture and Zhang followed. As he learned more about what trainers faced – 60-40 splits in favor of the gym, long-term leases – Zhang began to ask why there wasn’t a gym structure meant to actually help trainers grow and build their own businesses.

Zhang was about to put the MBA he was working towards (with a focus on entrepreneurship) into action. He was ready to take the leap and if it meant failing, he was young enough to bounce back. (Thus far, no bouncing required.)

Feedback would play an important role in shaping the final model for Training Grounds.

Zhang’s original concept was to open a gym, but just make it extremely affordable for trainers. That’s when two of his professors told him, “You can’t just be cheaper than everyone else – that’s not a winning strategy, that’s not sustainable,” Zhang says. “You actually have to offer some sort of value or something that really differentiates you from everyone else.” 

Next, Zhang started to reaching out to as many trainers as he could, “I started asking them, ‘What do you want to see in a gym?’ ‘What’s a trainers’ gym to you?'”” 

Many said they wish they had their own gym, but didn’t want to deal with the overhead, commitment and risk.

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Training Grounds eliminates those barriers. Trainers have a space that feels like their own facility, but without all of the back-end work.

Training Grounds sections its space into six pods each stocked with an identical set of equipment including dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, a half rack, TRX system and more. 

We really focused all of equipment on stuff that trainers use,” Zhang says. 

While there are a few shared pieces of equipment, providing six separate sets of the basics eliminates another problem trainers typically face – fighting crowded gyms for equipment with the clock ticking.

To take advantage of Training Grounds setup, a trainer must meet three qualifications – proof of some sort of certification that relates to what they are doing, CPR certification and proof of their own professional liability insurance.

Trainers then use an online reservation system to request pods by the hour. Trainers pay a tiered per-hour fee that becomes cheaper the more hours they buy. One to 45 hours runs $20/hour, 45-90 hours costs $17.50/hour and 90 plus hours clocks in at $15/hour. The hours don’t expire either.

“It encourages them to purchase a large bulk up front,” Zhang says. 

Some trainers come to Training Grounds for just a few hours a week, others come in 30. The structure puts how often they want to see clients and what they want to charge in the trainer’s control. Training Grounds also allows its trainers to offer small group training with up to four clients at a time at no extra charge.

For larger groups, there’s a rentable by-the-hour group fitness room adjacent to the gym.

Opened in September 2015, over the first year Zhang has seen things shift from him having to cold call trainers to see if they want to check out the space, to trainers reaching out to him.

With about 16 trainers in its lineup currently, Training Grounds isn’t quite at capacity but headed in that direction. However, Zhang already has a plan in the works and is setting money aside to add a seventh pod.

A second location may not be far behind, either. Zhang has no doubts that Training Grounds is a scalable, franchise-worthy concept.

There really is no other gym like this out there right now, and I don’t believe that this issue, where trainers only have two options, I don’t believe this is just a Columbus issue, I believe this is just a personal training issue across the industry,” he says. 

First, another successful location in Columbus (possibly next summer) then on to a wider net. Training Grounds already has validation that others are interested, too. A trip to the Arnold last March and trainers were already asking when the concept was coming to their city.

I don’t think we had a single trainer tell us that this issue didn’t apply to them were we were,” Zhang says. 

As Training Grounds continues to build its roster of trainers, Zhang also plans to shift their marketing efforts more from attracting trainers, to seeking clients who are interested in personal training and matching them with the best fit.

For more information, visit traininggroundsgym.com

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