Looking After Your Mental Health as a Fitness Entrepreneur

While owning and running a gym can be extremely rewarding, being responsible for the business’s success or failure is a heavy weight to carry alone. And with the impacts of the pandemic over the last year, that has never been more true.

As the world and its industries have been navigating through Covid-19, the majority of fitness entrepreneurs have been pushed to their limit. While gyms and studios were quick to pivot to online workouts to survive, it doesn’t mean that pivot came without its challenges and pressures. Sometimes, it might feel necessary to devote all of your time and energy to your business, but it’s also important that you take a step back and make time to look after yourself. 

Here, we discuss the challenges and pressures many fitness entrepreneurs face, why it’s essential to talk openly about mental health, and how you can build a support system so that you don’t have to face everything alone. Skip ahead to:

  • Why Entrepreneurs Need to Talk About Mental Health
  • The Pressures of Owning a Gym
  • Making Your Mental Health a Priority as an Entrepreneur

Why Entrepreneurs Need to Talk About Mental Health

In a recent Forbes article citing a study from the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs. The article, which we will reference throughout this post, is written by contributor Dan Murray-Serter, an entrepreneur who has struggled with his mental health over the years:

“First it was burnout. Second time was chronic anxiety. Probably worst of all was my insomnia.”

Dan Murray-Serter, Forbes

The article shares figures highlighting that many entrepreneurs struggle with their mental health. But most unfortunately, it reveals many also struggle to speak openly about it. Often, there’s a taboo around the topic for entrepreneurs. It’s a fear of appearing weak and vulnerable in front of others. It’s a pressure to seem like you have everything under control constantly.

But no one constantly has everything under control. And it’s important to embrace two key points here: 

  1. No one is ‘ok’ all of the time. 
  2. No one expects you to be.

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that in the blink of an eye, life as we know it can change drastically – and it’s completely out of our control. While perhaps you’ve never considered sharing your problems openly, you are likely surrounded by people you can talk to and rely on. The pressure of being an entrepreneur is much more likely to lead to burnout if you’re ‘going it alone,’ and it doesn’t have to be this way. Next, we’ll look at some of the common pressures that come with running a fitness business.

The Pressures of Owning a Gym

Every fitness entrepreneur will face pressure throughout their career. But if you struggle alone, these common challenges can impact your mental health, leading to recurring problems with burnout, anxiety, and insomnia, to name a few. When it comes to the pressures of owning a gym, the most important thing to know is that you’re not alone. Here, we’ll look at a few of the common pressures that come with owning a fitness business.

1. Taking on Multiple Roles

As a gym owner, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of taking on multiple roles in the business. While this might be necessary in the early days of opening your gym, it will make more sense to delegate certain aspects to your team rather than taking everything on yourself as you grow the business. 

Being the top salesperson, the head of marketing, the accountant, and managing the additional demands of admin on top of everything else is difficult for one person. Plus, if you’re doing everything yourself, you’ll be stretched pretty thin. You need to take a step back, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and identify what you actually want your role to be in the business. 

2. Financial Pressures

Finances are a part of any business, whether it’s cash flow, monitoring recurring revenues, or predicting where the business will be a few months down the line. Even when everything is ‘in the green,’ it’s essential to stay on top of your finances to keep things that way and continue growing. 

More often than not, financial pressures will build as your business grows, and the more stressful they are to think about, the easier it is to avoid addressing them. This can quickly become a problem if your finances aren’t looking great and will only become more stressful as time goes on, especially if you’re keeping your worries to yourself. 

The sooner you take action, the sooner you’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lay out a process to face financial stress head-on, and gather the support and strategies you need. Perhaps a one-time financial consultant will help you get everything in order, or maybe you need an ongoing financial advisor. 

3. Feeling Isolated

As mentioned in the Forbes article earlier on, many entrepreneurs struggle with their mental health – and many keep it to themselves. It can feel very isolating if you don’t have someone to share your business worries with or with someone who knows the demands of running a gym through experience.

Building a successful gym can be isolating work, particularly when it seems like every second not spent working toward a target is wasted, leaving little time to maintain healthy relationships with family and friends. Plus, when you devote yourself entirely to your gym, it can be difficult to see where you stop and the business starts, and it’s easy to lose sight of your own needs.

Making Your Mental Health a Priority as an Entrepreneur

When the pressures of running a business are overwhelming, going it alone will only hurt your mental health in the long run. Being open with those close to you or seeking external guidance can help put your mind at ease and plan out the actions you will take to face your challenges. 

1. Don’t Put So Much Pressure on Yourself

As a fitness entrepreneur, you’ll be no stranger to feeling pressure. Pressure to get more clients, find new revenue streams, have more ideas, do more, be better – the list goes on when you are growing a business. Ultimately, these are pressures that you’re putting on yourself. 

Sometimes this pressure is good for entrepreneurs; it keeps you ambitious and determined. But sometimes it’s bad, specifically for your mental health. It can stress you out, overwhelm you, and end up holding you back.

The most important thing you must be able to do is take that step back and identify how your pressures are impacting you:

  • Is it manageable, motivating even?
  • Or are you feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to turn? 

If the answer is the latter, it’s time to be open and ask for help where you need it, or actively seek out external support.

2. You Don’t Have to Do Everything Yourself

Hiring a great team with the right people can help relieve responsibilities in some areas of running your gym. As we mentioned in the last section, your first point of call should be identifying what you want to do in the business and the areas that would benefit from someone else’s expertise. Ask yourself:

  • What is my area of expertise?
  • What skills or experience from my background do I excel in?
  • What aspects of my business am I currently running that I wish I didn’t have to do?
  • What aspects of building/running my business am I most passionate about?
  • What areas need more expertise than I can provide?

Perhaps you’re savvy when it comes to marketing, but you fall short on managing the finances. Whatever areas you can identify here will help you pick out the key hires your business needs. Once you make those decisions, it’s a case of taking a step back and trusting the team with the responsibility. You’ve hired them because they likely have more expertise than you in a certain area. If you’re too involved with their role, you’ll end up micromanaging, and you’ll still be taking on the burden of that position. Trust your team to do what you hired them to do, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you feel relieved when you have the time to focus your efforts where you can really make a difference. 

For more tips on achieving freedom in both life and business, check out this episode of The Fitness Funders Podcast. Fitness entrepreneur, business coach, and author Phil Graham joins us to discuss the three mindsets of successful fitness entrepreneurs.

3. Talk About Your Situation 

According to this study by Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to report having a mental health condition. And yet, they still struggle to talk about it.

“As a category – we are exponentially more likely to suffer from mental health problems, and yet, people don’t talk about that enough “

Dan Murray-Serter, Forbes

The truth is, support is all around you; you just need to open up. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member, or find an online support network like Two Brain Business or Gym Launch. Both are companies that offer mentoring to help gyms become successful. Seeking out a space like this will help you meet other like-minded entrepreneurs. Perhaps they’ve been where you are and can offer advice, or maybe they’re going through the same challenges as you. 

4. Make Time for Yourself

Getting enough sleep, spending time with friends and family, eating healthy, exercising on a regular basis, and checking in with yourself are all excellent ways to look after your health. 

How are you feeling lately? Maybe you’ve been feeling down in the dumps, or just don’t feel like yourself. Perhaps you’re feeling a little more tired than normal, but you’re not sure why. You may even be experiencing the more severe physical symptoms of anxiety, like a tight chest or a constant sinking feeling in your stomach. With these examples, your body is signaling a problem to you before your mind is even aware of it. 

You’ll hear and read that the most successful entrepreneurs learn to incorporate some important “me time” into their daily routine, whether it’s a simple meditation to start the day, journaling, or even playing video games. Whatever it might be, it means setting aside time to quiet your mind and check-in with yourself.

In Summary

Owning a gym doesn’t come without its challenges; there will be many successes along the way as well as obstacles that force you to adapt and learn as you go. The most important thing to know is that whatever struggles you may face in business, you don’t have to face them alone.

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