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Luke Carlson: The Bottom Line

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Luke Carlson

Every month, Club Solutions sits down with an industry expert to share in their wealth of knowledge. In the February issue, we sat down with Luke Carlson, the owner of Discover Strength

1. How did you get started in the fitness industry? 

I’ve been passionate about strength training and exercise since as early as I can remember. My first job in fitness was working as a part-time assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Minnesota Vikings where I learned from an incredible mentor, the head strength and conditioning coach Steve Wetzel. 

After working as a strength coach and completing an undergraduate and graduate degree in exercise physiology, I had the opportunity to visit the Gainesville Health and Fitness Center where I got to meet legendary owner Joe Cirulli. Meeting Joe inspired me to read “Good to Great” and pursue creating and leading a fitness business. I launched Discover Strength in 2006.     

2. What’s been a key to your organization’s success? What are you most proud of?

The key to our success is we have alignment around one vision and one strategy. We all share the same answers to six foundational questions and this ensures we row in the same direction.

3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?

Currently, I’m most proud — and more specifically, grateful — that we’ve had no layoffs or furloughs during the COVID-19 closures. 

4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career? And how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I’ve been through is a very difficult separation and buyout of my one and only business partner. Ultimately, I overcame it by adopting the “Stockdale Paradox:” Face the brutal facts while never losing faith that I will get through it. I’ve also borrowed inspiration from Earnest Shackleton, and then I’ve tried to lean into hard things to be at my best when things are at their worst. 

5. What is one lesson you have learned other fitness professionals can learn from?

As a business faces competition, it needs a strategy. Strategy is a misunderstood concept in so many industries — the health club industry included. Our businesses transform when we commit to learning, understanding and developing a strategy. Being a great operator is not enough. We need strategy.

6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know.

I’m passionate about training for and running marathons. New York City, Chicago, Boston and Grandmas Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, are among my favorites. 

To learn more about Luke Carlson and his journey as a fitness industry leader, connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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