Foundations Curriculum: Create a Healthier Business through Healthier Athletes


It’s no secret that entering a box for the first time is an intimidating experience. You walk in to barbells slamming on the ground, people swinging from rings and walking on their hands, and the rest of the bunch lying in a puddle of their own sweat, gasping for air. It’s like a zoo – not exactly the most inviting atmosphere to someone who is likely just starting a physical practice.

To a box owner and/or coach, this intimidation factor is a threat to the business model. The fear of being thrown into the fire often scares people away, and many who actually are thrown into the fire end up injured quickly after signing up. In order to optimize your “prospect” to “member” conversion rate, and to maximize retention rates, it is critical to build out a thorough and holistic on-ramp curriculum that effectively bridges the gap from untrained to active athletes. As box owners and coaches, our goal is to maximize new member experience in a way that will reduce psychological reluctances, maximize physical preparedness, and integrate new members into our existing community.

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The first barrier to entry to tackle is the worry that crosses the prospect’s mind immediately when they walk through the door: how the heck am I going to ever be able to do these movements? Prospects want to see that there is a process to get from point A – their current level of fitness – to point Z – what they see when they first walk in the door. If there is no clear process illustrated, the likelihood that they will join the gym is much lower. This means that a program to take them from A to Z must be in place and clearly outlined.

backcountry-crossfit-classThe second barrier is a bit more complex – the task of preparing our new members physically for the demands that will be placed on them in our regular classes. The current best practice in the community is a four-class “on-ramp” or “Foundations” course, but I will make the argument that this is nowhere near sufficient. It is common to prescribe a scalable workout with target weights and movements. Not only do these targets demand a high level of strength and metabolic capacity, but they also require an adequate level of mobility and joint strength. Adding to this, these workouts are a gamified model that carries a high social reward for achieving certain benchmarks, so there are inherent incentives to push the weights and progressions past their physical capability. In other words, people want to get stronger faster than their bodies will adapt. This combination often leads to the development of poor movement patterns as a compensation for lacking physical capacities, and eventual injury.

Unfortunately, longevity of our athletes is a factor that needs to be weighed in to our business models. A healthy athlete is a long-term member and a referral source for new members. An injured member is a lost customer. Thus, we need preparation more than we need intensity, and the best way to create this physical preparation is through a quality Foundations curriculum. Spending more time developing mobility, basic strength, and high quality movement patterns in the beginning of the membership lifecycle will provide massive dividends over the long term for our athletes and our businesses.[clearfix]

woman-with-barbellRather than packing everything into four classes, start playing with the idea of having a Foundations curriculum that is extensive enough to drastically increase the physical preparedness of your new members. Entertain the idea of incorporating multiple specialty Foundations courses into your curriculum – gymnastics strength Foundations, weightlifting Foundations, basic mobility – so that your new members will have a chance to develop the basic capacities that they will need to hit the ground running once they join your regular WOD classes. Your new members will enter the regular classes with more confidence in themselves and your business.

Start thinking about your product as an education instead of a workout, and become a movement educator instead of a workout administrator. Your athletes and your business will thank you for it.


With the help of 400 boxes from around the world, Zen Planner prepared the most detailed financial performance information available for box owners. Get your copy of our 2016 Affiliate Gym Benchmark Report today!

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