In my basic exercise physiology courses back in the day, I learned something you already know: You can survive months without walking a mile (today's society proves that), but you can't survive longer than a few weeks without food or a few days without sleep.

If food and sleep are so important to someone's survival, shouldn't the fitness industry, an industry that wants to help people rediscover their youthful energy and age gracefully, talk about it more? Shouldn't we make nutrition and sleep a priority above and beyond a simple infograph on the wall or some protein shake in the fridge?

I recently attended a fitness conference with an expo hall bigger than an aircraft carrier. It took me almost an hour to explore the wilderness of the latest and greatest toys. I didn't see one sleep booth. I saw a handful of nutrition booths, but they were pushing bars, powders and shakes, not healthy eating.

By the looks of this exhibit hall, one would think that the only things that help people live fit are ropes, bars, trampolines, bikes, treadmills, heart rate monitors, club apps, upbeat playlists, beautiful locker rooms and polished floors.

If your clients walk into your facility like zombies because they sleep only five to six hours a night, you are doing more harm than good if you don't help them address the situation. When you challenge your clients to get 10,000 steps yet neglect to measure the number of hours they slept, you are doing more harm than good. When you run weight-loss contests and only reward pounds lost due to what might have been short-term sheer will to win the competition, you are doing more harm than good.

If you feel that all you need is a great software program to increase your community involvement with your facility, you fail to see the bigger picture that you are not truly building a unique facility in the first place. When the conversation focuses only on how to close the deal better in the sales tour because your only differentiators are your toys and pricing, you are doing more harm than good.

Three Simple Steps

If you are to help the people in your communities live healthier lives, you have to change your approach. Here are three steps to help you do so:

  1. Bring in sleep doctors to educate staff and members about the long-term harm caused by lack of sleep combined with extreme exercise.
  2. Connect with farmers in your area to share with your members about what real food means to them. It will completely change their shopping habits.
  3. Run sleep and food-only challenges. Take the exercise part off the table in your competitions. Show members what they can accomplish simply by eating better and sleeping longer.

In the short run, none of this will add a dime to your bottom line. In the long run, though, it could add millions to your bottom line and completely redefine the communities you serve.

Agree or disagree? If you feel your facility is a rock star in the food and sleep area, tell me about it. I would love to hear your insights.


Brent Gallagher, MSS, CSCS, ACSM, is co-owner of Avenu Fitness, a 4,500-square-foot personal training studio in Houston. He has built a brand measuring the quality of life one can live, not just measuring biceps and waistlines. Gallagher invests time coaching high-performing leaders and challenging fitness business operators to come to blows with the status quo by redefining what’s possible for the communities they serve. Avenu Fitness offers 30-minute training programs and a teaching kitchen for nutrition health.