Trainer Ted Lavarias is a ninjutsu black belt who’s certified to teach many other sports, including boxing and rock climbing. But when it came to starting his own gym, he focused on one of the fastest-growing regimes in the fitness movement: CrossFit.
Officially speaking, CrossFit is total-body strengthening and conditioning program designed for both beginners and elite athletes. Roughly 4,440 gyms in the United States offer related programs.
The GoPayment Blog recently spoke with Lavarias about the CrossFit movement and why it’s the focus of Sigma CrossFit, the business he started in July in McKinney, Texas.
GoPayment: How did you get into CrossFit?
Lavarias: I first heard about CrossFit when I was living in Japan, back in 2007. I dismissed it as some sort of fitness fad that would quickly fade out of style. A couple of years went by. I was working as a personal trainer, and I went to visit my brother [in Virginia Beach], and he invited me to do a workout at a CrossFit gym. I was a trainer, so I thought I would do pretty well, since I had a good training regime and various certifications. I got my butt kicked and was one of the last people to finish the workout.
At that point, I knew this was a very different kind of fitness in that all the certifications I’d had before didn’t prepare me for anything like it. That was when I noticed there was something very different about this program.
What was different about it?
There was an amazing sense of community at this gym. There were all these people who were passionate about fitness. I’ve never sensed that sort of community inspiration in your typical gym. It has a similar feeling to a team sport, where you finish a game and everyone is giving each other high-fives after finishing and complimenting each other on how they did.
For the uninitiated, how does CrossFit differ from other fitness programs?
Instead of trying to isolate muscle groups and movements in your body in a piecemeal fashion, we train your whole body as one continuous unit, focusing on what we define as “functional movements” that have real-world application value to them. We track your data in a way that is measurable, observable, and repeatable. It’s basically a big science experiment to see how you will perform, and as we continue over multiple experiments we can see that it improves performance.
What inspired you to start your own program?
It got to the point where my clients [from other, more general gyms] were offering me investment money so that I could start my own operation focused on CrossFit. I didn’t even ask for it. They wanted to have their own space for this and were excited about my style of training and teaching. That’s when I decided to jump into the deep end.
What’s your most effective marketing tool?
Word-of-mouth referrals. People see results. We had one lady who had the worst time trying to lose weight before on her own. She has lost about 30 pounds now and is doing real pull-ups. She looks great, she’s losing weight, and people are asking her how she has done it.
How has GoPayment helped with the administrative end of your business?
I use GoPayment for all of my credit-card transactions, especially for the recurring billing that goes on for monthly training packages. The other processing system I considered didn’t allow for recurring billing, so I would have to manually enter all of the transactions.
Now I am using Intuit Merchant Service Center. I just set up the recurring payment, and I get reports when the charges go through. It has saved me a significant amount of time and money, so I could get back to the fun part of the actual training.
What advice would you give to other fitness professionals thinking about starting their own businesses?
Start small and slowly grow your space and equipment as the demand increases. Trying to take out a big loan to invest in a large gym before you have clients is a good way to go bankrupt.
Use automated tools. GoPayment has literally saved me hours in running the business.
Hire other people to do things that you don’t have to do personally is also very helpful. For example, cleaning the gym is something that I don’t have to do myself, even though I could do it.
A lot of Type A personalities want to get in there and do everything, to make sure that they do everything right. That’s a good way to run out of time to sleep, as I’ve had to learn myself.