5 Lessons Learned as the Gym Owners Wife

A message from the owner’s wife…MariahKrafftIndianapolisIndianaWeddingPortraitandProductPhotographer-38

It is no secret that owning your own CrossFit gym is a dream come true for many passionate athletes and coaches out there! For the past six years I have gone from being a timid, beginner athlete, to a coach, and now to being an affiliate owner’s wife. Just as any new challenge forces you to grow, the transformation over the past six years has been on steroids (am I allowed to use that word in a CrossFit blog, lol), for both my husband and I.

Now, for those of you out there saying “oh Becky, you are an owner, not just the owner’s wife,” that is kind of you. Thank you, however in the context of this post I will consider myself a side-kick to the main act. Seeing how I have a full-time job outside the gym that pulls me away often, and my contribution is merely nights and weekends, I will shape up my reflections here as an observer of the person in the trenches, my husband.

5 Lessons Learned: 

Multiple times now people have asked me in passing “what is it like to own a gym?” Usually I give a quick response, however no two sentence response does it justice. Below are the lessons I have learned getting a sneak peak behind the curtain of owning a gym.

  1. Showing you care, even when others don’t

    • A few weeks ago, I had a member (Zack), walk up to me and say “You and Tristan are the happiest people I know!” Zack doesn’t know it, but that meant so much to hear. As the owner AND for coaches of gyms, your job is to make that hour the BEST hour in each person’s day. Kicking off the class you’re focused on getting everyone engaged, asking how their day was, how are they feeling, and following up on how their vacation or last trip went. As the person on duty, you are pouring out encouragement, coaching and praise to your class members. It is a privilege to be the light in their day. However, what most people don’t realize is you are the one that never gets asked those questions. Nine times out of ten, no one will ask how you are feeling. No one will praise you for waking up at 4:30 a.m. and still being there at 6:30 p.m. It takes a strong, caring person to be constantly pouring and investing into others when they may not get that in return.
  2. Leaders aren’t always liked

    • As I mentioned above, my husband and I are just like anyone else. We started as new athletes to a gym, advanced to committed CrossFitters, and today have shifted into the role of coaching and ownership. There is an interesting transition as you go from a peer to others, to the owner. In this new role of “ownership” also comes being the leader of the gym. Making tough decisions with integrity, based on the broader community’s needs. One quote that has stood out to me as it relates to this lesson is: “I don’t know the secret to success, but I know the secret to failure and that is trying to please everyone.” Being a leader is hard. You don’t get to be “just friends” with everyone anymore.  You have to make tough decisions at times and know that it is impossible to please 100% of the population. Sometimes are harder than others, but at the end of the day all you can do is make your decision with integrity and your customers in mind to meet the most important need at that time.
  3. Know your “non-negotiables”

    • This might be the hardest of all the lessons learned being an owner! Your work never ends. People never stop texting you, Facebook messaging you, you needing to order more Kill Cliff, schedule that meeting with your staff…the list goes on and on. Your working hours are not 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with weekends off. No, you work every day of the week, early mornings, late nights, and the spaces in between for programming and catching up on operational items. It is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to create a non-negotiables list for your personal health. That could be turning your phone on “do not disturb” starting at 9 p.m., or carving out Saturday afternoons and evenings for time with your family. This list of non-negotiables can also include what you know you will say “no” to as it relates to your business. That could be knowing that you will say no to the request for 24 hours access to the gym, someone being there without a certified coach present, or saying no to pushing a product you don’t fully believe in. For owners, and ANY HUMAN with a demanding job, make a list. What are your  non-negotiables for your work and for yourself.
  4. The only thing that is predictable, is the unpredictable

    • If you worked with numbers and spreadsheets, you would probably get pretty good at knowing what your results will be at the end of the day. When you work in an environment influenced heavily by people, the only thing you can predict is things will not go as planned. You can have the perfect workout written, and then five people who didn’t sign up jump into class and you are out of rowers. That competition you have been planning for five months with all your logistics in line ready to go, can be shaken up in an instance when a teams drops out the day of and messes up your heats, or your DJ is sick and can’t make it to the event.  The point is, you must be prepared for “putting out the fires” and adapting on the fly. This is extremely stressful at first, especially when you work so hard to prepare things perfectly. The benefit of this practice however is being ready for any curve-ball life may throw your way. The more you get used to your perfect plan having to change, the more you can take on those many un-knowns of life.
  5. People AMAZE you

    • The most rewarding part of being an owner, is getting to see people do amazing things. When you are coaching someone on how to become a healthier person and reach their goals, you get a glimpse at a side of them that the outside world usually never sees. People open up, are vulnerable and share with you their struggles, hardships, and desires. You then have that pressure of knowing they have asked YOU to help them on that journey to self-improvement. Despite the weight this brings emotionally, it always brings the highest reward. Watching someone gain 10 lbs of muscle in a matter of five weeks, or someone lose 20 lbs of fat after two months of dedicated, healthy eating, is an indescribable joy. People in the right place, at the right time, with the right support can do absolutely amazing feats.

Whew. Well there it is, the summary of the top lessons learned as the gym owner’s wife. The goal with sharing these reflections is two part: 1 – To give others a better picture of what it is like to walk in the shoes of a gym owner. – To share some key lessons many of us can apply to our own lives. While these lessons are in the context of owning a gym, I find they are transferrable skills or principles that many of us can benefit from implementing. So in summary….Key take-away’s: 

  1. There is power in caring deeply for others.
  2. Being a leader is hard, so do it with integrity and the broader group’s best interest in mind.
  3. Know your non-negotiables for your personal and work life. 
  4. Go in predicting that something unpredictable will arise, and be ready. 
  5. People are capable of amazing things when surrounded with the right support group. 


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