Where I Went Wrong With Group Fitness

By Shawn McQueen, Mentor for the Two-Brain Group Coaching Course

I know exactly what most people are thinking…


More must equal better right? In the past what this looked like for us was members coming twice in one day (to a group fitness class) and then to a PowerHour class (mostly machine, bodyweight, dumbbell class) in the same day. It meant being open 7 days a week, and people working out 6-7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. Even doing “extra work” during between hours (open gym) whenever and however they wanted. We often get asked:

  • “When are you bringing back PowerHour!?”
  • “Are you thinking of bringing a Sunday class back?”
  • Do I need a separate membership if I want open gym time on top of coming to class or 1:1 training? 

Why did people like all of that? Take the emotion out of it for a moment and see it for what it really is…

The easy route. 

It’s easy to work out more. Maybe things felt better at times, your overall capacity, maybe even your body at times. I totally understand. Then why change it? Here are many of the ways that I screwed up with our Group Fitness classes:


Remember when your mom or dad made an unpopular decision in your life and you were upset by it initially but then some time later you realized they had your best interest at heart and were actually right? What I realized is we were building a culture of people who banked on more fitness = better. At any expense. Their bodies were constantly banged up, had tweaks, or nagging injuries that just wouldn’t recover, but they pushed through anyway. It put the importance on the amount of fitness versus the quality of it and MORE IMPORTANTLY what we do outside the gym [ie: sleep, stress management and our nutrition.] PowerHOUR classes became so big that the ratio of coach:member was at times 1:25 or even 1:30 or more. This of course brought down the level of quality interactions, coaching, refinement, and even ability to be effective by seeing and connecting with everyone. People became addicted to this more = better mentality. And that was my fault. 


Being open 7 days in a row put people into the FOMO mindset, they didn’t want their friends getting ahead of them in their fitness. This ultimately turned people into working out 6 or 7 days in a row with no rest days. Which is a very slippery slope of over training, under recovering, increasing the chances significantly of tweaks or injuries and draining the central nervous system. People would develop this codependency on their exercise regimen. When their bodies never got the opportunity to heal or recover and things only got worse, guess who’s fault it was? In the end, it would be “CrossFit’s fault I got hurt.”


Back in 2012 to 2016 like many, I wanted to compete in CrossFit. I would train multiple hours per day. I was following a competitive program and not even doing my own gym’s programming. This competitive mindset bled into how I programmed for them, the culture, and mindset I had back in the day. I sadly even brought that competitive mindset into classes in those early years. There is nothing wrong with being competitive and wanting to help push others but it often becomes unhealthy, leading to a loss of identity and self-worth. The culture gets wrapped around “winning” or “beating” someone else or others versus constant improvement and a healthy environment. The CrossFit Games are very cool. I love the CrossFit Games. I’m a big fan of the sport itself. But 99.9% of the general population isn’t seeking to become a Games athlete and when we create cultures that exist solely on competition, we miss out on helping the people who really need our coaching and expertise. 

“RX” or BUST:

I remember starting out with CrossFit that it was a badge of honor to be able to do workouts “as prescribed,” or “RX.” It was an extremely difficult thing that most couldn’t do and so to be able to do these workouts as RX felt good, despite adding unnecessary length of time, lack of intensity, and poor mechanics. Many of us fall into that trap of creating a culture and emphasizing some form of importance of “what’s RX” for our own members. Maybe because CrossFit itself puts out this a distinction of “men’s weights” and “women’s weights.” It’s very black or white. When in reality what we’re doing is creating a divide, a culture that will likely over reach their own capacity to say they RX’d it and puts importance in the completely WRONG place. All of this leads people to get diminished results, tweaks, injuries and major feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. Fitness is no longer for betterment of our health, enjoying the experience or the camaraderie with others. It’s “but did you do it RX’d?” Nothing worse than congratulating a member on a great effort within the workout only to hear, “yeah but I scaled it…” 


People would practice skills before or after class and I would just jump right in and help because I care. I wanted to help them succeed. Or members after class mentioning something wasn’t feeling great (shoulder, back) etc and coaching them for free in open gym. I thought I was being kind, helpful. The truth was I was afraid to ask and uncomfortable to suggest what they really needed: personal training. I knew how to help.  I had the drive to help. And because of my fear three unfortunate things happened:

  1. They didn’t get any better (because they only did this thing once!)
  2. I lost out on really creating the change that they needed.
  3. I also lost out on revenue I could have made for helping solve their problems. 


Across my 10 years of Coaching it wasn’t until the last few years where It became very clear what we (at my gym) specialize in. Before that, I thought I wanted to coach everyone. That I could help everyone. At any expense of my own self. I ran myself down ragged. Oftentimes getting burnt out. Overworked and underpaid but I was making a difference, right? Until I realized something. As I continued to level myself up as a Coach, and become a true professional in this field, some of those folks weren’t leveling up with me. It was a fool’s errand to try. How could that not see how much I cared, how much I poured into this? How could they say those things about me, treat me this way after all I’ve done for them? Ever felt that way? One was leveling up while one wanted to stay completely comfortable where they were at. Our values changed. 


When I first started coaching back in 2012 I had no vision of where this could or would go. A new business owner saw a passionate kid he could build his gym off of. And for YEARS I coached purely out of the love of helping and serving others, on a below poverty income. I moved back in with my mom after living 5 years on my own and serving our country which felt like a major step back. I moved in with all the coaches from the gym at the time (a married couple, my best friend and his girlfriend….); those were wild times. All I cared about was helping others and impacting their lives. But it wasn’t sustainable for the long haul. So I had a decision to make: either continue to add massive value to myself and make what I was doing more valuable to build a career or find something else. 

In our next post, we’ll cover how I fixed my Group Fitness Classes and built a sustainable career for myself and m team.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kyle Higgins

    I love the part about you leveling up but the members/staff not being interested in leveling up with you. This was my experience after joining Two-Brain.

    1. Josh Martin

      Thanks for commenting Kyle. What action did you take when you realized that?

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