Down the Rabbit Hole We Go

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Confessions of the CEO, Fitness
Tags: , , ,

It starts innocently enough – a question (hey Sandy, how does innovation relate to your profession), and then a crisis (hey Sandy – you got to move your fitness club…er…now) and an irony (hey Sandy – your business is one of two finalists for the Best New Business in Victoria).  POSTSCRIPT – we won Best New Business Award.

Welcome to the rabbit hole.

Please hold my hand as I take you through the tunnel and shine a light on the values of our society and how those are reflected in the story of “Victoria’s Best New Businesses” search for a home.

If you’ve read my recent posts then you’ve seen my supposition that intense physical movement is not considered a basic need and my conviction that it is.  I suggest that without it we cannot build a healthy society and that we are corrupting our ability to innovate relative to a sustainable future.  I’m also suggesting that we as a culture are asleep to this most basic truth and then we run around pouring money on problems like obesity, Type II diabetes, depression and the whack of preventable issues that can result from lack of movement and a poor diet.

Meanwhile – the fitness/diet industry continues to innovate quick fix solutions designed to make you look sexy in 4 minutes/day and throws money at magazines, TV and popular media to convince the public of the miracles behind their products.  And the people – they lop it up in 3 equal monthly payments of $49.  If I sound cynical, well… read on.

But amidst this superficiality, there are hidden magical locations where people are hard at work providing proven methods of keeping the body working like a well-oiled machine.  Why are these location hidden you ask?  Well, because we need about 2000 sq ft to do our work – about the same square footage as a convenience store, Starbucks and McDonald’s.  We are hidden because our profit margin is substantially lower than theirs and we could simply never afford a high profile location.

Why are our margins so low?  Is it because fitness trainers make lousy business people?  Maybe.  But maybe it’s because Starbucks makes more sales in an hour than we do during our busiest week.  And we are competing for real estate.  I don’t blame Starbucks though – god knows they’ve helped me get through the day enough times.  I just wish that endorphins were as addictive as caffeine.

Fact: the public doesn’t value fitness as much as they do coffee.  If you want to know what the public values – take a stroll through the busiest retail sections of any city and see for yourself.

I accept my position as subsidizing the health of the community and I do so because I want to live in a world where people are fit and am lucky enough to have a supportive husband who believes in my vision and brings home a paycheck.  I like fit people and the world needs more of them.  I have been extremely grateful that I have in been in a position to use my privilege, knowledge and motivation to do work that I feel great about.

But I’ve been running into one road block after another trying to find a new location and lately I’ve been wondering if it’s all worth it.

So why can’t “Victoria’s Best New Businesses” find a place to do business?

1.  My square footage budget is low low low.  See the previous paragraph about coffee vs. endorphins.

2.  Building owners don’t have faith in the business.  Fitness facilities come and go like pop songs.

3.  Downtown aside, the zoning in the city requires 1 parking spot for every 150 sq ft – which means I need 15 stalls.  Know any?

4.  Most realtors laugh when I call.  After they regale me with stories of trying to find space for other fitness facilities – they politely wish me luck.

Every independent studio I know subsidizes the well being of our community.   The fact that I’m surviving is a small miracle and I’m presently celebrating that fact and our award with a glass of wine.

But I still haven’t answered the question.

Is it worth it?

Well, I’ll tell you my opinion if you tell you me yours.

In health,


  1. jessica says:

    You are the active agent of change, Sandy And a most important one at that. I keep crossing my fingers because I hope a space will be made where this can happen

  2. Deb says:

    A wise woman once told me – breathe through the pain. Sandy this is a growing pain. Breathe, relax and focus. It will happen.
    Interesting when something happens to make us open our eyes to what society considers important – just take a look at the headlines on all the magazine at the checkouts. Out of all the amazing stories out in the world, they choose to hear about the Kardisians or teen moms.
    It would be great to see Hit to Fit in the old dealership/automotive repair shop across from Denny’s. Right in front, with all those windows. I know that space wouldn’t work for a variety of reason, but wow, the exposure sure would be good. Have all the bag in the windows, clients happily working the bags while drivers frustrated from their work and drive sit in traffic 🙂 Would create interest.

  3. hitgirl says:

    Thanks you guys – I hope you know I don’t give up that easy!

    However, this is a small indication of how systemic the issues around health and fitness are in our society. My eyes are opening – I hope yours are too.

    • Barry says:

      Wish I could be there to help in this particularly annoying time. I’ll be up there once I’m done the courses, see what I can do to help out, but right now the best I can offer from a long distance is thanks.

      Thanks from everyone who you’re saving the lives of. I’m not exaggerating either: from a similar background I know that people need to be given a fun, powerful life change in a way they can accept, and you’re doing more than anyone I know to step up people to a place where they can not only survive longer, but improve their life quality forever.

      Thanks from the people on this blog, to whom your words are inspiring. Day in and day out we look forward to your heart being shared with us, and keeping us hopeful. Sometimes it’s very easy to forget that we’re not alone, and that someone out there honestly and deeply cares about our health and our happiness. Your actions prove that you do.

      And thank you from me. Hey, it’s all I’ve got. For now. 😉

  4. hitgirl says:

    Barry – thanks so much for encouraging words – they mean a lot. To reiterate – I’m not giving up! I’m only just getting started! There’s work to be done here people.

  5. Holly Danks says:

    Ironic that just before I read your “Rabbit Hole” post, I read an article on facebook from Time magazine saying that an Ontario scientist found that mice that ran 3 times a week on a wheel lived longer than mice that were sedentary. Besides that, the mice that didn’t move developed a whole host of aging problems, from hair that grayed and fell out to muscle shrinkage and loss of brain volume.
    Seems pretty simple to me. But I admit that even though this science seems intuitive, for years I didn’t eat right or move when I knew I should. I was lazy, society is lazy, we want that quick fix. I was lucky to find someone as caring and knowledgable as Eleni Kehagiaras of HitToFit Portland to help me get on the right track, figuratively and literally.

    If mainstream media and popular social/entertainment sites and outlets spent half has much space, time and resources on helping us live better, healthier lives as they do lionizing the worst in society, fitness centers such as yours would be as crowded as Starbucks. Even without the magic endorphin elixir.

    I hope you find the space — and clientele — you need to keep up your quest to help us live longer, healthier lives. Maybe if you let newspapers and TV stations up there know the stakes and what is happening to one of their “Best New Businesses” someone would step forward with a place for your innovative workout facility. Can’t hurt to try.

    Good luck,
    Portland, OR

  6. Thanks for this post. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.
    To answer your question- is it worth it? The answer is definitely yes, if it’s meaningful to you. (Chris Guillebeau told me that.)

  7. hitgirl says:

    Chris is a smart guy – hard to argue with that Yukari. And yes indeed – this is meaningful to me. 🙂

    Holly – you rock. Appreciate your perspective and clarity a great deal. S

  8. Barry says:

    I have this strange thought, that perhaps aging isn’t as cut-out as we think it may be. People think that the decrease in vigorous exercise seen in older people is caused by aging. I have this wonder if perhaps that aging effects are caused instead by the lack of vigorous exercise, a complete reverse of the current thoughts.

  9. […] couple of years ago I wrote a piece called Down the Rabitt Hole which gives a snapshot of the fitness industry.  Those who know me well know I nearly vomited when […]

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