Goodlife Rapes the Fitness Industry

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1.

‘He who has suffered you to impose on him, knows you.’

– William Blake,

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

It is time to dump the bucket.

I worked in a couple of Goodlife gyms – and frequented another – from 2011 until 2014. The experience has  given me insight into the way their company works, highlighting the grotesque deficiencies that affect anyone who ends up within the walls of one of their gyms – both staff and patrons alike.

I terminated my contract with them a few months ago before deciding to travel around Europe. It wasn’t their fault entirely; I have a lot of things on my mind. As far as work is concerned, however, they really choked the life out of it.

After I gave notice, I was cheerfully told I had to fork over $2,400 to ‘pay out’ the remainder of my contact. On reflection, however, that was one biscuit of faeces I refused to choke down.

Encouraged by my Samoan lawyer, I penned a missive detailing my experience of Goodlife and telling them, in no uncertain terms, to back off or we’d be going to war.

Then, I thought about it a little more.

Ordinarily, I post shorter, pithier entries to ensure they are more digestible and garner the greatest number of hits over time. Rather, I’m going to lay out the sum of my experiences here in one screed to hopefully provide a useful guide for anyone who has the misfortune or displeasure of dealing with them and needs to take that egregious confederacy of amoral, money-grubbing, bloodsucking reptiles to task.

As one document, it’s also easier to copy; after all, you never know how long it’ll stay up. But, as Jim Morrison said, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen, man, but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.”

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Ardent Leisure board meeting, as drawn by Ralph Steadman.

 2.

‘The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbet watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant watch the fruits.’

– William Blake,

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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The documentary The Corporation is a must-watch for anyone living on the planet at this point in history. In a comprehensive way, the film defines the manner in which we are ruled by this most aggressive, amoral entity.

You have to watch it to get the full scope of its ideas, but it sets out its contention in a very intelligent manner. The film says that if you want to know the character of something, you do so by observing its actions. By a psychologist’s definition, a corporation is a sociopathic entity dedicated to power and profit.

It breaks down like this. Once upon a time, doing business was about products, services and relationships. That is still true of small businesses, such as personal trainers. A trainer maintains his or her clientele by providing a superior product and service.

A big business, on the other hand, is run by accountants. The arithmetic that guides their decision-making is simple; they reduce the cost of running as much as possible to increase profits. I believe this has manifested in the three clubs I have frequented – Armadale, Prahran and Glen Iris – as a relentless driving down of standards in every respect.

It has been said to me that the people making the decisions about the clubs are out of touch because they don’t train in the gyms. That’s bullshit – the people making the decisions do not give a fuck.

Your health, your fitness and your business – if you’re a trainer – are irrelevant to them getting their flat, flabby asses into the seat of the latest Mercedes-Benz. That’s the real bedrock beneath their bottom line.

3. Bad for Patrons

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The fact is, kiddies, Goodlife do not give a flying fuck about you, or your health, or your fitness, or your safety. Here’s the proof:

  • Ads for fast-food (Domino’s Pizza and Streets Ice Creams) conspicuously displayed at reception
  • Chronic disrepair of equipment. Gym floors are littered with broken and dysfunctional machines. All the Hammer Strength machines at Prahran are without safety pins. The machines have big, bright warning labels above the pin holes

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    Warning label on Hammer Strength machine. Observe last line. All three machines are missing the safety pins.

  • Machine missing pin

    Machine missing pin

  • Pin inserted by my good self for purpose of demonstration. Without the pin, the seat will not stay up and the user will fall - in a sitting position - directly onto the floor while the load is aloft.

    Pin inserted by my good self for purpose of demonstration. Without the pin, the seat is unsupported and the user will fall – in a sitting position – directly onto the floor while the load is aloft.

  • I have seen – and photographed – numerous puddles of water standing on the floors
Armadale, cardio pit on ground floor at 6am. Entire roof leaks after rain. Note puddles of water on both treadmills and polished wooden floor behind them.

Armadale, cardio pit on ground floor at 6am. Entire roof leaks after rain. Note puddles of water on both treadmills and polished wooden floor behind them (author’s shoe to right).

Second treadmill. Water is present on or behind approximately thirty per-cent of them.

Second treadmill. Water is present on or behind approximately thirty per-cent of them.

One of numerous standing punching bags leaking water onto rubber floor at Glen Iris. No mop available to clean up spill. Out of twenty such bags, six or seven leak in this way. After the class, the bags are moved away and spills are left behind.

One of numerous standing punching bags leaking water onto rubber floor at Glen Iris. No mop available to clean up spill. Out of twenty such bags, six or seven leak in this way. After the class, the bags are moved and the spills are left behind.

  • The gyms themselves are messier than a brothel in a war-zone
  • Hiring of incapable and fundamentally disinterested staff, many of who have never exercised before. Most of the trainers are breathtakingly ignorant. And it’s not their fault! It’s easier to sign on as a trainer than it is to get a job at McDonald’s or Coles. That’s no exaggeration – all you have to do is pay your rent
  • Many staff are overweight, inexperienced and unskilled (especially at the Armadale club). Basic etiquette in relation to observing other people’s space while performing fundamentally dangerous activities – which includes almost everything outside a pilates studio – defies belief
  • Most of the trainers cannot properly perform, let alone instruct, a deadlift or squat, two of the most basic and essential lifts performed in a gym. They do not understand the importance of using proper equipment, both as a result of poor education and almost no experience – and unlike when I was closely mentored by the trainers who ran studios I worked in – there is no mentoring or education
  • A flagrant disregard for safety, which manifests in the absence of culture, leadership or protocol
  • No floor staff. The only people on the floor are the trainers, who are with clients. There is no one watching to ensure people are exercising safely, using equipment properly, or cleaning up equipment or spills. Goodlife got rid of them at the beginning of 2014.

I have taken many more photographs, but present only a choice selection for your delectation – messy gyms and broken equipment are not especially interesting as anything more than evidence.

Further, posting footage of really bad trainers conducting really dangerous activities with really bad form and is both unfair and embarrassing. My favorite, however, is of one female trainer with two women facing each other; while one performs burpees, the other swings a kettlebell in front of her, some feet from her head.

Goodlife may well spin out some garbage about difficulty with maintenance, old buildings, etcetera. I am here to tell you, however, that when they purchased the Armadale gym, they immediately gave reception a facelift and bolted televisions to every vertical surface in order to bombard the constituents with advertising.

Reception is always clean and tidy to create the impression of a quality facility. Once a knowledagble person steps onto the gym floor, however, the roaches come samba-ing out from the cracks.

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4. Bad For Trainers – Scapegoating

The true nadir of my experience at Goodlife Armadale was when I was physically attacked by a member who had been identified by other members as unstable and aggressive. He had already assaulted a receptionist some months prior, but the club had failed to act and expel him.

I sought advice prior from both the fitness director and the club manager on how to handle this clown as I had to work near him on a regular basis. I followed their instructions and he punched me.

Afterwards, the despicable slug masquerading as a club manager tried to make me legally responsible by issuing me with a warning. I was outraged and refused to accept it.

“I followed your instructions, I got punched, and I sorted the problem out. You should be thanking me,” I said. When that warning didn’t stick, the club manager enlisted one of her scumbag superiors to send another, fed through one of the nebulous wormholes of the contract.

I consulted my Samoan lawyer; I had been assaulted at work. It seemed an open-and-shut case to me! And this is where things got really sticky. If you’re a trainer, you’re not an employee, you’re a contractor. You have no government protections relating to Workcover or Worksafe.

Can of worms? It’s the manhole cover on a seething pit of snakes.

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Eventually, I caused an enormous public scene, believing they would fire me (on the cunning advice of my excellent Samoan lawyer). Evidently, someone with a brain a long way up the food chain used it and the warning was retracted, presumably before I told anyone.

I immediately made a statement to the police following the assault; not because I was worried about the idiot that punched me, but because I was far more concerned about what Goodlife might try, both at the expense of me and my livelihood.

I then moved to the Glen Iris gym, unable to bear the extraordinary carnival of imbecility that was Armadale any longer.

5. Bad for Trainers – Ruthless Exploitation

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While Glen Iris is clean, well-equipped and the standard of trainers also relatively high, it is nearly impossible to earn a decent living. Since Goodlife purchased the Armadale gym in 2011, they have progressively phased out customer leads to personal trainers.

Goodlife now sell ‘Kickstart’ packs. The company charges $70 for three half-hour sessions, for which the trainer receives nothing and no guarantee of ongoing business. Kickstart packs are a two-pronged assfuck; they are designed to eliminate floor staff, both in terms of assistance to members and maintenance of the gym floor.

They also effectively compel personal trainers to work for free, sometimes at six o’clock in the morning, for no remuneration. Not only is that immoral, it is pushing the boundaries of illegal. Apparently, Goodlife get around this because trainers don’t ‘have’ to do Kickstarts; however, trainers don’t receive customer leads otherwise.

In 2011, when I originally signed with Goodlife, my rental payments included gym staff to clean up the gym and I also received customer leads. In 2015, my duties as a trainer came to include cleaning up after members – which can’t always be done, given my obligations to clients. Further, trainers no longer receive leads and are expected to work for free.

Trainers make exorbitant rental payments to service a system that effectively works against them; new trainers are constantly signed on, adding to the strain on a stagnant membership pool.

You will notice, if you have strayed into one of these shit-holes, that the vast majority of said trainers are very young. They have no experience or expectation and Goodlife can bully and exploit them freely.

I once again spoke to the Samoan lawyer – let’s face it; every ratbag raconteur needs one – who said that the Goodlife contract is ‘grossly exploitative and characterized by misrepresentation verging on fraud’. Further, he said that I had

‘grounds for making a counter claim which would dwarf the suggested $2,400 required to pay out the duration of my ninety days and should Goodlife attempt to institute proceedings against me, I should launch a claim of that nature, with all the attendant publicity’.

He also said I needed to ‘harden up’. I hope this blog post satisfies him.

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6.

“Always be prepared to speak your mind and a base man will avoid you.”

– William Blake,

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

My conclusion is that Goodlife gyms are the free-market at work. The bullshit they try on with ‘customers’ and ‘contractors’ alike is because they’ll push things as far as they can until they’re told to pull up. Once chastened, they will retract their rancid claws, but only so they can recommence gouging tomorrow.

Having worked as a bouncer and a building site laborer for seven years while at University, I have a fair idea of what health and safety requires. If a site inspector were to walk through a Goodlife gym, his hard-hat would instantly vaporize from the intensity of horror and disbelief at the way such a facility is run.

The other stand-out of Goodlife operations is inducing trainers to work for free – while Goodlife charge customers for the service and then pocket the lot. Working for free in this day and age? Sure, some tradespeople do it, like hairdressers, but they are up-skilled as part of that process.

It has reached my pointy little ears, down here in the caverns of insurrection, that my severance letter has reached the CEO of Ardent Leisure, whose grubby little hands are on the wheel of the pirate ship. Rumor has it that she was going to respond to me immediately, but was advised to hold off.

I’ll fucking bet she was. The reason is because the lawyers have probably told her to wait and see what I was going to do. Who knows? Maybe I’d shut up and fuck off.

…so much for that.

One of the good things about Goodlife is that they are creating their own counter-culture. Crossfit isn’t for me, but they are dedicated to real training and the best boxes are unctuous about good technique and proper etiquette.

Places like Olympia Gym in South Melbourne, Doherty’s Gyms and the Performance Training Center in Frankston are becoming increasingly popular and hopefully, there is a middle-ground forming where your average person can go and train with quality equipment and proper instruction.

The last IronEdge catalogue I edited contained an excellent essay by Markos Markopoulos, owner-operator of the Frankston Performance Centre, about commercial gyms and the flagrant piracy in which they engage. He concluded it by saying, ‘You [Goodlife and Fitness First] will be found out.’

I believe he was right.

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About Me

I have worked as a personal trainer for approximately fourteen years and I love my job. The first ten of those years were spent in personal training studios. In that environment, I was mentored closely by skillful trainers who had a vested interest in developing me.

Significant levels of skill and ability were necessary, given that the vast majority of my clientele would be professional people who had significant skills and qualifications of their own. In order to earn their business, I had to first earn their trust and respect.

In the time I have been a trainer, I have also been a professional fighter. I won the Victorian Super-heavyweight kickboxing title and was then drafted to Golden Glory, one of the strongest kickboxing teams in Europe.

Upon my return to Australia, I supplemented my income as a trainer with work as a freelance writer.

I am now one of the most widely read fightsports journalists in Australia.

I also worked for IronEdge for a number of years, writing instructional manuals, as well as website and catalogue copy. They employed me as a kettlebell instructor, teaching their kettlebell accreditation course.

I am currently ronin.

Send all summons, letters of condolence, castigation and infatuation to:

jarrod@themeparkatitsdarkest.com

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6 Responses to “Goodlife Rapes the Fitness Industry”

  1. This is all true.

    I worked for Goodlife also, and they were without a shadow of a doubt, the worst, greediest company I have had to displeasure of dealing with. Their gyms are basically a rotating door of staff – employ young trainers and receptions, milk them for all they are worth until they eventually leave, and then replace them. In my time there, I stopped learning the names of most of the staff because they changed too frequently.

    Getting a job as a trainer really is easier than getting a job at Mcdonalds….just fork over the rent and no one cares what your skills are, or that there are far too many trainers on at any given club for the numbers of members (in other words, there is no way they can all make a living).

    The part about the reception areas getting facelifts while the actual equipment was in disrepair also rings true to me. I remember one particular club getting a makeover, however it was all cosmetic stuff….the place was made to LOOK good, but half the equipment didn’t work. At first I remember thinking that they didn’t know what they were doing, but then I realised, they know exactly what they are doing – make the club LOOk awesome, get people to sign contracts and by the time they realise that the services are appalling, they are already locked in.

    The pay was also bottom dollar Literally employ people for the lowest you can possibly pay them, hence why many of their new trainers and instructors and underskilled. Goodlife pay rates are currently the lowest in the fitness industry.

    The kickstarter packs for personal trainers are, in my opinion, basically slavery. PT packs are sold to pretty much everyone who joins rather than having gym floor staff show them how to use equipment, Trainers are then expected to work for free and do these 3 sessions while the gym pockets the money, as an “opportunity” to try and get a client. Unfortunately however, most of these members don’t actually want a personal trainer, they just want to be shown how to operate basic equipment. How it legal is beyond me.

    I would leave the fitness industry entirely before I would ever work for Goodlife again.

  2. Lucinda Anderson Says:

    It took Goodlife Armadale 1 yr to get a box for the chin up bar and i got so sick of their excuses and the gym floor is so messy and the cost cutting they employed to not hire anyone to clean the mess is an indication of the business model they employ… get new trainers in who know nothing about training people properly and i personally saw one trainer get his client to do a box squat and the weight was heavy and the technique was bad and the client fell over… and more and more trainers are hired… it is a bad gym but what do you do, you whinge and they ignore you

  3. Everything that you have said is completely true. I was a pt and worked as an acgm/sales manager at one of the gyms mentioned… an let’s just say they broke me as a human being. I lost count how many times I broke down. The company is a complete monster and the upper management are down right vicious money hungry animals. I was so broken from this job that I have since left the country to start life and a career again in another country. I have not stepped into the fitness industry again.
    During my time all the staff rotated including the general manager … I was one of the few staff that lasted so long… an still to this day I should have resigned a lot sooner. Two of the general managers had breakdowns whilst I was there, I was abused by most of the management because sales targets weren’t met.
    It was an experience that still to this day I wish I never had.
    I will never go back to the fitness industry in clubs again.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Poor, sad Goodlife, with their overweight management and clueless sub manager lackies.

    Everything written above is so true – and becoming apparent to more and more people – that really no argument exists that they are operating a huge, ugly, dirty scam.

    One of two things (or maybe both, who knows?) will happen:

    1) the government will institute a regulatory body to oversee all elements of the fitness industry from “training” institutions to “health” clubs like FilthLife; this process was started in 2009 but did not take hold, probably because of a change of government; but the reasons why this was needed were only burgeoning back then – the baby monster has truly become adult now.

    2) someone will seriously injure themselves – or worse – at one of these gyms and the groundswell of negative backlash will act as an antidote to people joining gyms for fitness / health / well being (It will also likely have a negative effect on those of us working elsewhere in the industry who do know what they are doing and actually do give a shit).

    Bravo for the article Jarrod, and even though I must keep my true identity secret as all superheroes must, I admire you – fancy you a bit too, actually – and wish you all the best in your crusade against the vermin we refer to as “Goodlife”.

  5. I’ve been a member at Goodlife Chelsea Heights and Karingal and you could see the scumbag management style at work.
    Had a membership that allowed me to train at all clubs but one sales clown said I couldn’t unless I paid extra. Thankfully I’d known the staff and some PTs for years and didn’t get hassled anymore but the stories I was hearing from the inside confirmed my suspicions. Horrid management making the gyms worse by the day…and losing good staff and PTs all the time.

    Thank $&@” for Nitro Gym!

  6. Matthew Scanlon Says:

    They are cunts I got kicked out of Good life Waverley Park over a joke with female PT they are a little click there

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