How To Open A Gym: The Ultimate Checklist

By Bernhard Mehl
July 02, 2020

If you’re wondering how to open a gym in the US, we’ve got great news. You’re getting ready to tap into a very lucrative market. The US has the single largest market for gyms and fitness studios worldwide.

This begs the question - is opening a gym profitable? In short, it all depends on how it’s set up, marketed, and managed. Like any other venture, a well-run, well-attended gym is a great investment. However, this also means that the gym has to be set up in the correct way right from the start. 

Here are simple, step-by-step guidelines to follow when opening in a gym in the post-COVID space: 

A Concise Guide To Opening A Gym In 2020 

1. Get Training And Become Accredited

Before you set out to get training and become accredited, you need to determine your niche in the health and fitness industry. After all, the accreditation you need to open a Pilates studio is a lot different from what you need to open a CrossFit gym. 

Start by deciding which corner of the market you want to serve, and work your way from there. It pays to do some market research beforehand so you'll know if there is a demand for the service you plan on offering. It is also helpful to speak to gym owners who specialize in that type of training to see what their experience has been. 

Once you’re sure what type of gym you want to open, get trained and certified in that area (if you aren’t already). Also, look into accreditation from groups like ACE (the American Council on Exercise). It's not mandatory to have it to open a gym, but it can open a lot of doors, especially in terms of finance. 

2. Find Out About Gym Licenses And Permits

Technically, the only license you need to open a gym is a business license. You’ll need to check on how your state defines the type of gym you want to open and research its permit requirements. It differs from one state to the next.

However, that’s if you’re only planning to open a basic, stock-standard gym that offers a space to sweat and a few classes. This changes when you upgrade your offering. If you're planning on offering childcare, selling food and drink, or offering spa treatments, other permits and licenses come into play. 

3. Become Versed In Post-COVID Best Practices

The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all industries. This includes health and fitness. These days, it’s no longer as simple as deciding to open a gym and putting the wheels in motion to do so. You have to consider everything from contact tracing to sanitization, surface transmission, etc. 

Digital access control is a very efficient way to minimize person-to-person contact upon entry at your gym. There are excellent access control solutions available for fitness and wellness facilities these days. This includes software that streamlines visitor logs, door timers, and scheduling. You can even use it to generate temporary guest passes, mobile and card badges, and more. 

4. Secure Financing For Your Venture

On average, you'll need around $50,000 to open a basic gym. However, it all depends on where you plan to open your gym. If your fitness center will be located in NYC, for instance, you could end up spending the better part of half a million to get it up and running. 

Unless you have a lot of money saved up, the best way to finance a fitness venture is to get a business loan. In order to do so, you will need to put together a thorough business plan. Take a look at the US Small Business Administration website for guidance on tailoring suitable business plans before heading to a bank or lending institution. 

5. Find A Good Location

Once you know what type of financing you qualify for, you can start looking around for suitable premises. Don't do so blindly. Do research on the areas your key demographic frequents and set out to find a location where there is a large concentration of these consumers. 

Next, consider things like transport access, parking, and other conveniences. In order to be successful, your business needs to be accessible to your clientele.


6. Invest In Quality Equipment

A gym is only as good as its equipment. Fitness equipment can be bought or leased. Both options have their benefits. Leasing is less expensive in the short term and allows you to test out new tech before taking the plunge. It also normally includes equipment maintenance. 

Buying, on the other hand, is more expensive in the short term but saves you money in the long run. It also remains your property. 

7. Interview And Hire Staff

Next up, it's time to assemble your team. Depending on the type of operation in mind, you may need a variety of qualified trainers to support you in running the gym. Always be sure to vet each prospective employee thoroughly so you can be sure that their qualifications are legitimate. 

8. Start Marketing

Get the word out about your business. It is best to work with marketing professionals who will be able to help you create a memorable corporate identity. They can also help you to determine which marketing channels will be worth your while to pursue on your budget. 

If you do plan to do your marketing yourself, it’s highly recommended that you look into taking a few online courses to gain some experience. 

9. Open Your Doors!

Once you have all of the above in place, it’s time to open your doors. Best of luck with your new venture - onwards and upwards!

Following these guidelines when you figure out how to open a gym will make the whole process a lot simpler. Use this information as a helpful template to ensure that your fitness business has the best start possible. 

Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi. His philosophy, "security is awesome," is contagious among tech-enabled companies.