Building a fitness brand; how Dan Roberts made his dream work
For many group exercise instructors, coming up with a brand-new fitness concept is a very real opportunity. There are a plethora of fitness organisations in the market today, all offering the growing group exercise market exciting opportunities to shake up their workouts. All of these started as an idea and, with hard work and determination, those ideas are now shaping group exercise.
Meet Dan Roberts, founder of Methodology X ™ with a long career in the industry. If you’ve ever taken a stroll through the Hollywood Hills, chances are you’ll have heard Dan’s name on the lips of models and celebrities. As a personal trainer to the stars, Dan spotted an opportunity to help even more women reach their fitness goals. We caught up with Dan to hear all about it.
Where did a career in fitness start for you?
My coaching career began in 1993. I’ve since done over 20,000 hours of 1-2-1 coaching in a variety of fields including athletics, tennis, Pilates, yoga, life coaching, Muay Thai, lacrosse, parkour, Olympic lifting, strength & conditioning coaching and personal training.
After nearly a decade as a strength & conditioning coach working in the UK, Australia and the USA helping elite pro athletes perform to their peak, I found myself living in Rio de Janerio. Quite by accident I ended up training a bunch of Brazil’s top fashion and swimwear models. This was a new, yet undeniably fun challenge to me at the time. I saw first-hand how elite athletic coaching principles could be tweaked to help models get very accurate body-composition changes, reduced thigh and waist measurements, and significantly improved posture and core strength.
After Rio, I had a year-long stint of being a pro kick boxer living in Asia (long story!) and travelling the world training a couple of royal families (another long story!), then I moved back to London and immersed myself in the personal training of full-time fashion models and Hollywood-based actresses preparing for movies.
Where did the idea of Methodology X™ come from?
My time working with private clients, talent agents and model agencies exposed me to hundreds of amazing people who were wonderfully open about their relationship with food, their body and exercise. So I could be of more use to my clients, I began to study the psychology behind body image, stress, self-esteem and also eating disorders. I now know how exercise can really help! If we teach a class, or do a PT session, we fitness trainers have a golden opportunity to help our clients in more ways than you realise!
The way I see it, the most elegant and complete fitness solution to living as a woman in this superficial world is one where you stress less about your looks as your conscious mind is focused on athletic performance, skill acquisition and becoming more physically capable, and the types of exercises you do to become ‘athletic’ have a very calculated side-benefit of precisely tone and sculpting. This is the philosophy behind Methodology X™; building great bodies, great athletes and teaching a more grounded relationship between exercise/body and the self.
The first Methodology X product grew from my relationship with Britain’s leading fashion modelling agency. In 2011, they asked me to create an ethical, results led body sculpting guide for their models to prep for fashion weeks and swimwear shoots. This was back in 2012. This 20-page guide was popular amongst the girls, so I decided to make an eBook. This eBook grew from word of mouth within the global fashion industry, so a few years later after numerous tweaks and improvements I stopped the eBook and have what we have today, a comprehensive Methodology X online membership site.
So the idea started as an eBook and online workouts, not a class?
That’s right, it was the success of the online workout that led to me to create the class. I knew what I wanted (to have Methodology X™ classes all over the world!) but as a small company I knew my limitations. I’m not Les Mills or Zumba, so for classes to be successful, the class would have to be amazing and have honest word of mouth recommendations. Therefore, my first job was to make the classes amazing! Just clever writing can’t do this; you have to start small and test, refine, test and refine!
Was the pick-up of Methodology X™ immediate?
Because my company [the Dan Roberts Group] and Methodology X™ get a lot of regular press attention – we are very lucky – several gyms wanted to have Methodology X™ classes. We awarded BLOK – a gym in east London – with a 12-month exclusive contract. They set-up daily classes taught by over 20 of their trainers. This was amazing; I could try out different variations of classes, and also refine how I taught the class exercises to instructors. I learned so much and now I’m proud to say the classes are tried and tested and have amazing feedback (and even won an award from Tatler magazine!).
And then, naturally, you wanted to grow and get more instructors onboard.
That’s exactly it. The Methodology X™ instructor course is very detailed, full of videos and content. For a class to be good, it needs to keep its promises and we promise a lot with Methodology X™; precise toning, empowering, mindfulness, athletic development etc. Class goers can only achieve this if the instructor is well trained in the system and enthusiastic. This was very much in the front of my mind when I developed the course. Empower trainers to help empower the public.
What advice would you give to people who want to grow their own product?
There are several ways of growing a new class; link to gym or chain of gyms or grow by selling direct to instructors. There are pro and cons of both, but I want Methodology X™ taught everywhere over the next 5-10 years, so I’m going for the slow and steady (and a non-exclusivity) approach! This is why a few months ago I made the course online and went through endorsement process with EMD UK.
As EMD UK are the national governing body for group exercise they understand that world far better than anyone else, so I found it really interesting to meet with them to discuss my plans and approach and they gave (and continue to give) a lot of useful, practical advice. So, if I were you, I would work as closely as I can with them when launching your own brand too.
What’s next for you and Methodology X™?
The plan is for Methodology X to be a global brand with classes available all over the world. The online Methodology workout has had sales in over 44 countries now, so I know there is demand for it. As we only just launched the Instructor course, my focus now is to make sure the trainers that enrol are looked after and become successful teaching it. I think once we have 200 instructors regularly leading Methodology X classes then we can go on to stage two (which I’ll love to tell you about when I’m there). In addition, I’m currently in talks regarding a Methodology X book deal, so I may take some time out and write that that next year. Methodology X is my vehicle to helping women feel body confident, so my team and I are working hard to make sure it grows and is very empowering. On that note, we recently revamped our Instagram @methodology_x – so please do give us follow to keep up to date!