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50 Best Workplaces of the Year 2021

Justin Ashley, Fitness Playground CEO and Co-Founder: “Our goal is to build the best gyms, not the most gyms. Our award winning design changes what you expect from a gym environment and experience.”

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In simple terms, exercise and physical activities are integral for everyone. Kids, teens, and adults of all ages must be physically active. This is mainly due to the fact that physical activity promotes good health, and you must remain healthy throughout every stage of your life, irrespective of body types or BMIs. We must first understand the benefits and follow necessary routines to main good health and overall quality of life. Exercise or physical activity can reduce the risk of developing several diseases like cardiovascular disease, type2 diabetes, and cancer.

Globally, there are various fitness firms delivering excellent services, but Fitness Playground stands out from the rest. The main motto of Fitness Playground is to change what you expect from a gym. The company is powered by its people. The staff & the members alike are one of the main reasons Fitness Playground is one of Australia’s fastest-growing gym chains.

In conversation with Justin Ashley, CEO and Co-Founder of Fitness Playground

Q. What motivated you to start Fitness Playground?

I started coaching kids, then started selling memberships for multinational brand Fitness First before climbing the ranks to regional management there, at the age of 24. Since then, I have been focused on improving the industry that I love with various businesses over the last 13 years. I am driven by the need to create a better way of doing things. Whatever way we look at things, what the fitness industry is doing right now is not working – there are so many gyms, yet a huge portion of Western populations are obese. I know there’s a better way, an approach that can consistently create success for our people – for both our members and our staff. That’s the mission I am on with Fitness Playground. We are here to change the gym environment and experience to create success for our members and staff. Our mission is to “Inspire Change” at all levels: for members, staff, and the industry as a whole.

Explain your services in brief.

Fitness Playground offers:

  • Personal Training and Group Fitness Training (some educated via our very own Fitness Playground Academy educational arm);
  • State-of-the-art gym equipment;
  • 400+ classic and unique group classes per week, across our 4 facilities;
  • We also have a “Wellness Playground”, a facility that provides fitness experiences aimed at nurturing both mind and body;
  • We have Virtual Playground, an online workout platform for when people can’t make it to the gym;
  • Each club is designed with a unique layout to provide an inspiring training environment for our clients. This means that no two facilities are the same – each location has a slightly different demographic to cater to. Members have access to all clubs (multi-club access);
  • This also means that we will likely never make a franchise Fitness Playground; for us it’s not about building the most gyms, but building the best gyms;
  • Staffs receive continuous learning and development, to enhance their experience so they deliver exceptional experiences for members;

Through all the above, our members receive a fun and motivating experience with endless opportunities to achieve their goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Q. Great coaches are also great learners. Are you one of them?

I have been lucky enough to achieve my goals very young in life – now; my mission is to help my team achieve theirs! My 13 years of experience in the fitness industry has allowed me to share vast knowledge when it comes to training my team. Because of the team of “Great Humans” that we’ve built, I learn new insights from them every day and couldn’t be prouder to class them as my mentors. I read many inspiring books to help feed and expand my knowledge for all things success – everything from financial topics to mental health and understanding how people work.

Q. There are other reputed players in the market, how are you a better service provider?

We exchange Intimidation for Engagement & Education; Boredom for Experience & Fun; Isolation for Interaction & Community. We don't believe that the gym should only be a place for the already fit to get fitter. We believe the environment and experience should allow every Australian to feel comfort, a sense of belonging and be a source of inspiration. Also, my role in the company is to help our Great Humans achieve their goals. I know that if each of them achieves their goals, so will the members they service, and then eventually so will the business.

Q. How do you make an individual develop a new habit that solidifies the change?

We set almost all of our new members with 2 x PT sessions when they first sign up, to set them up for success by designing a training program suited to their goals and biology. We also provide them with an educational training guide and a “Playbook” journal to set their goals and track their progress. This helps to successfully onboard new members and set them up for good habits and success.  

Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?

We have just launched our 2021 ‘Up Your Game’ 6-week challenge to help get our members back into their health and fitness routines post-lockdown. We’ll also be launching a series of webinars, podcasts, and end-of-year member challenges. These services will be made available to all of our members as well as the general public, along with resources to support their mental and physical health and wellness. Educational resources cover topics including nutrition, strength training, eating habits, and goal-setting, as well as myth-busting, what it’s like to be a coach, professional industry insights, and more.

Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?

There’s always something in the pipeline, and the newest project has been in the making for two years and will be our greatest achievement by far. Without giving away too much detail, we’re expanding, and setting a new standard for the Fitness Industry.

“We put our people over profits and it has resulted in more satisfied employees who deliver great experiences for our members.”