CrossFit affiliate owners are changing the game for personal trainers, says Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, Washington, DC. Instead of club owners paying personal trainers an hourly rate or a percentage of what members pay for a session, personal trainers now are becoming owners of CrossFit gyms.

Being a CrossFit affiliate owner (the term the company uses for its licensees) is different from being a franchisee of other fitness brands. CrossFit’s affiliates are not told what equipment to buy, how to design their club or what uniforms trainers must wear.

Affiliates pay a $3,000 annual licensing fee, and their trainers must successfully complete CrossFit’s $1,000 level one course to get certified. The company offers additional specialty certifications in gymnastics, Olympic lifting, endurance and mobility. Each of these certifications costs between $300 and $1,000, says Steve Paul, owner of CrossFit Denver, which opened in April 2009 and has 200 members.

CrossFit receives 30 to 50 applications each week from potential affiliates, 70 percent of which become affiliates within two years, Glassman says.

Most affiliates charge between $150 to $200 per month for a single membership, Glassman says. Membership numbers vary widely from one gym to the next, but most CrossFit gyms average between 100 and 150 members, Glassman estimates.

Within a few years of opening, a single CrossFit gym owner could make a low six-figure income, Paul says.

The main initial expense is equipment, including squat racks, benches, sleds, Kettlebells, medicine balls, Olympic rings and weightlifting bars.

“Equipment for a CrossFit gym is a huge expense,” Paul says. “Most gyms invest $50,000 or more in equipment during their first couple of years, so it’s fairly lean times until you can get that equipment paid off and get some members in the door.”