Why I bought a Gym. No Pain, No Gain.

Pete Simon
4 min readJul 4, 2020

Because it is my enduring ambition, but who knew how hard it is to keep one running?! Let me explain.

1996, after spending my childhood running, cycling and swimming and knowing I absolutely HAD to join the Army, I got turned away from the recruitment process for having been prescribed an Asthma inhaler, essentially by accident, a couple of years earlier after a swim meet panic.

I was supposed to have been on my way into my childhood dream, not figuring out what to do next. I signed up for hopsitality and catering management at college after searching my soul and realising the only thing outside of school and sports I had any experience with was cooking!
Next, knowing full well I’d be enlisting again as soon as I could, I joined the gym in the local leisure centre to try and fill out the weedy frame I possessed, and had already been told was a concern at the previous medical.
From that day forward I realised my happy place was in the gym. My persistent sauna habit developed immediately. I followed a programme and instantly started to see progress. I loved being in there.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in the Army, joined the Royal Signals and have become a Physical Training Instructor. Lucky enough to have a mentor in my corner, I was allowed to ditch my trade for a while and go work in the gym on camp, once again finding absolute joy at being in an entire converted aircraft hanger filled with everything fitness. Taking troops of tens and squadrons of hundreds for Physical Training and having all the spare time in the world to train was without a doubt one of the happiest periods of my life.

I spent the rest of my military days leading PT alongside my signals trade day job, and when it came time to leave it was one of the elements of Army service I instantly missed the most.

After coaching people here and there whilst doing IT stuff round Africa for a few years, a chance encounter with an ex Navy PT running his own bootcamps gave me the opportunity to get back into helping people with their fitness more regularly, I converted my military PT quals over into a civilian recognised Personal Trainer Level 3 and started to learn what was involved with training civilian sorts that weren’t necessarily paying to get yelled at and roll around in the mud.

Then it happened. I bought a gym.

I bought a gym that ran classes that were absolute sweat fests, people drenched, dying, rolling around breathlessly on the floor in t-shirts proclaiming “No pain, No gain” and loving it! It was great, but I didn’t get the ethos.
However, I tried to carry it on as best I could, but with any small business, it turns out, the majority of the customers buy into the owner and HIS particular product. With fitness classes his personality becomes a LOT of what people come back for.
So I tried to switch, keep the classes as hard as I could, but programme them, and try and lose the “no pain, no gain” reputation the facility had. I lost some members, gained some others, worked hard on the personal training side and it went well.
Then the businessy bits got in the way. National class membership platforms luring my members, marketing fails, doubt, burnout and then . . .

The COVID 19 pandemic!

What you have to try and learn pretty quickly is how to package what people want in fitness and somehow align that with your vision. Then learn how to market it, keep an eye on the numbers, build community, trust others to help you deliver it, the list goes on and its super hard to do it well. Its HARD!

So whats my imparted wisdom here? What I’ve learnt is that actually, as much as I didn’t want it to be the message, there is No Gain, without Pain.

So what? The pandemic had all of us knee jerking to something new, scrabbling to try out different methods to deliver our service and for me, learning a bit more about what my service is. I’ve had to think hard about reopening the facility and the implications of that, how to carry on delivering for loyal clients, going online (finally) and who my “Tribe” actually are.

Many thoughts, Much confusion, WOW.

It’s been really really hard. I’ve been in and out of continuing so many times. Buying the gym as it was and assuming I had to appease all the old guard, many of whom are still with me, kept me from truly taking it down the path I wanted to. I still struggle with pissing people off, losing familiar faces, letting them down, increasing prices. Along with all the “businessy stuff”.
The pandemic has given me the opportunity to revisit why I want to have a gym. I’ve always wanted to help people, and I realised in the Army I loved coaching people and seeing them “get it” and get better. I want to continue doing that, and help other coaches align with me and help more people.

Re opening and transforming the gym is going to be hard, you can’t please everyone and that sucks, but its time for me to take this forward and make it something special.

No Pain, No Gain.



Pete Simon

📍 UK ⛰ #OCR & #Running Coach 🏋🏻‍♂️ @petescoaching Owner 🥦 Nutrition Coach 🤓 cybernerd 📧 mail@petesimon.com for programming