About a year ago I got into doing triathlons and in March I did a half-Ironman (I was hoping when I finished the race the announcer would yell out “Joshua Steimle…you are half an Ironman!” but they said something else). Apparently I’m not one of the only new triathletes around and the sport is growing by leaps and bounds [insert impressive yet meaningless statistic here].

As I’ve been training for triathlons one of the “pains” I’ve dealt with which I believe could be a viable business opportunity is that normal gyms aren’t set up for triathletes, nor are they set up for anyone seriously interested in any of the individual disciplines (swimming, biking, running). Sure, all gyms have treadmills, most have stationary bikes, and many have pools, but the equipment isn’t made for serious athletes, it’s for lazy, fat people like I used to be who are trying to get in shape by exercising 15 minutes per week. Here’s what is really needed:

Swimming, 100 meter pool. The swim portion of triathlons is done in open water with rare exceptions, and the swim is generally either out or back or a triangle shaped course. Whatever the case, you aren’t swimming laps up and back in a pool which means you don’t have a wall to push off of every 25 meters. Most gyms have 25 meter pools, and since pushing off a wall propels you at least 5 meters, you’re really only swimming for 20 meters of the 25. The other non-realistic factor is that your arms get a break every 25-30 seconds as you turn around, whereas when you do a triathlon your arms are constantly moving for anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes. Therefore, the longer the pool, the more realistic it is compared to open water swimming. So the ideal triathlon training facility would have a 100 meter pool, or at least a 50 meter pool.

Biking, better stationary bikes and classes taught by triathletes. I don’t know the stationary bike market too well, but I’m sure there are stationary bikes that are more like a real road bike or time trial bike than the ones at my gym, so getting some better stationary bikes would be the first step. The second step would be to have spin classes taught by triathletes or expert bikers who can give you tips and instruction that is specific to what you’re training for. And the classes wouldn’t have to be limited to stationary bikes. How about making the triathlon gym a central place for starting outdoor bike rides?

Running, better classes. I’m not sure whether there are better treadmills than my gym has or not. It seems like a fairly straightforward piece of equipment. But being able to take a class from someone who has run marathons and done triathlons would make it much more interesting.

Additional ideas:

Allow people to store all their triathlon equipment at the gym. Bike, swim gear, etc.

Combine the gym with a swim/bike/run equipment store that employs triathletes.

Locate the gym centrally, but also near good outdoor bike and run paths.

Challenges:

I think the biggest question is whether there is a market to support such a thing. I’m pretty sure Niles, Ohio doesn’t have the customer base, but Salt Lake City, Utah just might. Land and building costs would be major, just as building any gym would be, not to mention ongoing maintenance, staff, etc. We’re probably talking about a $3M investment to get this thing off the ground. But given the niche nature of such a business it could be expected to draw people in from a much wider area than a normal gym, and the monthly fees could also be higher than a normal gym. If you’ve got $3M you want to blow on a crazy idea, let me know. If you want to take the idea and run with it feel free to, all I ask for is free membership.