Why You Should Build an Online Fitness Subscription (And How to Do It)

April 19, 2021

Subscriptions aren’t a new business model—even in the fitness industry. For decades, people have been paying monthly subscriptions to attend gyms or clubs. 

Yet, most fitness professionals haven’t realized the value of subscription business models. 

It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of selling your time for money through live classes, on-demand content, and one-to-one training. 

But subscriptions can help to build more sustainable and profitable fitness businesses. And the opportunity is going to keep growing with Global Market Insights noting that online fitness programs will grow by 30% through 2026.

Today, we’ll give you everything you need to get going and build a fitness subscription business of your own. 

The rise of the subscription economy 

This subscription economy is a way of describing the shift many businesses and creators and making towards recurring subscription business models. 

According to a report by subscription management platform provider Zuora, the subscription economy has grown nearly six times (more than 435%) over the last nine years. The report also found that subscription businesses have consistently grown 5-8x faster than traditional businesses. 

But subscriptions aren’t just for big companies like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon. Individual creators are making thousands of dollars (even millions in some cases) on platforms like Patreon, Substack, Buy Me a Coffee, Memberful, and OnlyFans.

And the opportunity to build a subscription business in the fitness industry is huge.

Look no further than Martin Berkhan, who has built a base of nearly 700 subscribers on Patreon, all paying a monthly subscription fee to access his content. 

“Membership models are a win-win both for the client and the coach,” says trainer Nicole Bunyan, who offers a monthly subscription to a Daily Squash Athlete training program. “It is often a lower price for the client, but a larger overall payout to the coach, assuming the client stays for a while.” 

This approach also helps the client to keep making progress and improving month after month. “Training isn’t something which a client learns once and is then ‘done,’” says Bunyan, who believes the ongoing relationship from a monthly subscription is key to generating results. 

But what makes about a subscription business model so alluring for fitness entrepreneurs? Let’s find out… 

Monthly Recurring Revenue: The heartbeat of the subscription economy 

Monthly recurring revenue is the #1 metric subscription businesses focus on. 

Your Monthly recurring revenue (commonly abbreviated as MRR) tells you how much you’re making each month based on your subscriber numbers and average revenue per subscriber. 

The MRR calculation is pretty simple. All you need to do is multiply the number of subscribers you have by the average amount they pay you per month. 

So, if you have 150 subscribers that all pay $10/month, your MRR would be $1,500. 

Why MRR matters to fitness professionals

Running a business is hard. Especially when your income resets to zero each month and you have to grind all over again to keep clients on board and make new sales. 

However, if you focus on building a subscription business and scaling MRR, you can build a much more sustainable business with unlimited growth potential. 

Here are three key benefits from focusing on generating recurring subscription revenue: 

1. It helps with budgeting and forecasting

As any fitness professional will tell you, sales aren’t always predictable. There can be seasonal fluctuations and, sometimes, situations out of your control that can massively influence your revenue (for example, gym closures). 

With a subscription business, you’re better prepared to weather any storms and quieter months. The more customers you have on a subscription model, the more you can rely on a set amount of revenue coming in every month.

For instance, say your business is split evenly between online subscriptions and in-person training. If your MRR from your online subscribers is $2,000, you’ll always have that income, regardless of how many new in-person clients you might get each month. 

“Having recurring monthly revenue is certainly an upside to running a membership-based business. Traditionally, in-person training and coaching is only paid by the hour, which is less predictable,” says Bunyan.  

2. It lowers the barrier to entry 

Subscription-based business models make it easier to convert leads into customers.

One-to-one personal training can be expensive (hundreds of dollars per hour in some cases), whereas monthly subscriptions are priced much lower (often between $10–$50/month), so it’s much easier for customers to assess the value offered by a service—and a much easier decision to take the plunge and purchase. 

Booking a set of personal training sessions for $500 is a big decision for most people. But trying out a $10/month subscription isn’t going to weigh too heavily on most people’s minds. 

3. Stronger customer relationships (and higher lifetime value) 

One of the biggest bonuses of a subscription business is the relationships you get to build with your customers. 

When someone subscribes to your service, they’re likely going to come back on a daily or weekly basis to engage with your content. This can help to build strong customer relationships and increase loyalty. This consistent interaction and engagement can help to make your business a part of their regular workout routines.

Further down the road, the trust you build up with each subscriber can also help to increase revenue through upsells and other products you might launch. 

How to build a subscription business 

One key shift you need to make to build a successful subscription business is to move away from selling your time directly for money. Instead, you need to be thinking about how you can build once, sell multiple times. 

Let’s break it down: 

If you do two hours of one-to-one coaching at $70/hour, you can make $140 for that time. But once those hours are over, you have to spend more time coaching to make more money. 

But if you were to take those two sessions and create on-demand video lessons of the workouts as part of a digital subscription, you could make more money from those sessions by selling subscriptions time and time again. 

Proof positive, Gabriella Guevara is a rhythm cycling instructor who has seen her business grow since launching a subscription offering

“Making the decision to create exclusive content for paid subscribers on an app has been the best business decision I have ever made,” says Guevara. “I am able to reach an unlimited audience and the possibilities are infinite as far as growth, more so than my physical business could ever.”

So, how can you get started with subscriptions? There are three steps. 

1. Understand your customers

The first step to launching a successful subscription business is understanding your customers’ needs and wants. 

Ask yourself who your audience is and what they’re looking for: 

  • Are they busy office workers?
  • Are they training for specific events?
  • Do they want nutrition advice or just workouts?
  • Are they a certain demographic?
  • Do they all live in a local area?
  • What types of workouts do they enjoy?

Try to learn as much as you can about the individuals that make up your audience to ensure you can build a subscription that meets their needs. 

To start with, you can simply speak with an existing client or someone who takes an online class with you, asking some of the questions above and getting to know more about them and their fitness goals. 

As you speak to more people, you can begin to shape products that will appeal to your audience and help them to achieve their goals. 

For example, one of the key selling points of Gabriella Guevara’s subscription is that people can access studio-like cycling classes in their own living room. This likely appeals to people who are busy and want to work out at home but also don’t want to miss out on the fun of the in-class experience. 

2. Set up the pool infrastructure 

This is where most people get a little stuck—and it’s a big part of why we’re building Core. 

Setting up a subscription business can be quite hard and confusing, but platforms like Patreon, Podia, and Core make it much easier. 

With Core, you can build a premium content library that acts as the base of your subscription offering. So, if you’re a trainer who specializes in kettlebell workouts, you can create an on-demand library of kettlebell workouts and exercises.

You can also add tags like difficulty, length, and equipment needed to each workout to help your subscribers to land on the perfect workout whenever they need one, and you can also create collections to group together workouts and create training playlists for subscribers. On top of that, we offer live events so you can schedule events and classes to keep your community engaged. 

Before Core, you might have had to piece this all together using a range of tools to manage payments, workout videos, email management, and subscriber engagement. But now, it’s all in one place, and you can even keep track of your revenue and top-performing content within the platform.

3. Create subscriptions that scale

With your audience needs clearly defined and the infrastructure in place to help you launch and manage your subscription business all set, now is the time to build out your subscription offering. 

When it comes to creating product for a subscription, there are two things you want to keep in mind: 

  • Affordability. As we covered earlier, subscriptions can feel super affordable compared to one-to-one personal training. This is because you know the customer will (hopefully) continue paying for months on end and also because you don’t need to directly sell your time for money to serve each subscriber. Try to build out an offering that feels like an incredible deal to your subscribers. 
  • Ongoing needs. For a subscription to work, it needs to provide value for customers on an ongoing basis. For example, libraries or workout videos and meal plans can continually provide value. Whereas a one-month “couch to 5k” running plan isn’t going to be needed once the customer has benefited from the initial value. 

The 3 ways to grow subscription revenue

There are hundreds of tactics you can use to grow your business, but almost everything you do will be aiming to impact one of these three ways to scale your subscription revenue. 

1. More customers

The clearest way to grow your subscription business is to generate more customers. This often relies solely on marketing and ensuring that your subscription is reaching as many potential customers as possible. 

One of the best ways to get more people interested in your subscription plan is to offer something for free. You could use a free trial, promo codes for discounts, or offer a free workout video or product in exchange for joining your mailing list. 

For example, Joe Wicks’ Body Coach app offers a seven-day free trial for new users with unlimited access to the app. Following the trial, there are three subscription options to choose from: Annual, Quarterly, and Monthly.

For more ideas on growing your business, check out our guide to Digital Marketing for Fitness Entrepreneurs

2. Higher revenue per subscriber

In software, a key metric businesses look at is the average revenue per user (ARPU), and with a subscription business, one of the best ways to grow is to increase the average revenue you make per subscriber. 

You can do this by offering tiered subscription plans with more content and benefits for people on more expensive plans. Demonstrating this, Dr. Rhonda Patrick offers a subscription plan for her Found My Fitness community. Subscriptions start at just $15/month, but anyone who pays the top level of $250/month gets access to an exclusive Google Hangout each month. 

You can also boost revenue per subscriber by offering additional upsells and one-off products. 

[Check out guide on Every Way Fitness Professionals Can Make Money for some ideas on how you could boost revenue.]

3. Reducing churn

Churn measures the percentage of customers who stop paying for your subscription each month. For example, if you had 100 subscribers in April and then 90 at the end of May, your churn rate would be 10%. 

So long as your growth rate is bigger than your churn rate, your business will continue to grow. But if churn overtakes new subscriber growth, then you’ll see your income start to shrink. 

To combat churn, you should ensure you are constantly keeping your subscribers updated with new content and building closer relationships with each member of your audience. The stronger your relationship with each customer and the better their overall experience, the less likely they are to churn. 

5 examples of fitness subscription businesses

1. Chalk Performance Training 

About: Daily programming and training plans from the team at Chalk Performance Training. 

Cost: Free trial with monthly ($19) and yearly pricing ($190).

Website: gymryan.com

2. Courtney Black App

About: Health and fitness subscription phone app to help you reach your goals with personal trainer Courtney Black.

Cost: £15.99/month, £39.99 for three months, £64.99 for six months, £119.99 for a year.

Website: courtneyblack.co.uk 

3. The Cadence Club

About: A convenient way to have access to studio-like classes in your own living room.

Cost: $1 for first month, $14.99/month thereafter. 

Website: thecadenceclub.com

4. Flin’s Fitness

About: A library of at-home workouts and classes.

Cost: £9/month
Website: flinsfitness.podia.com


About: Access to training programs, courses, and communities based on the HYBRID training methodology. 

Cost: $39.99/monthly, $216./six months, $390/year months
Website: hybridperformancemethod.com

Are you ready to get started?

So, there you have it—everything you need to get off the ground and launch a fitness subscription to help grow your business and drive that all-important monthly recurring revenue. 

Growing a successful subscription business can take time, and you likely won’t make it big overnight. But if you want to scale your business and start making money without directly selling your time, it’s a business model you should definitely explore. 

Get started and build your fitness subscription business with Core today.