Community and choice are a perfect fit these days

What can we learn from high-end fitness?

Question: what can the two major trends in the upper echelons of the health and fitness world tell us about shifts in consumerism in general?

Answer: they reflect our increasing desire for more choice, and a better sense of community – two things we’re prepared to spend time and money on.

A report of extremes

In late 2016 a major report by ukactive (www.ukactive.com) highlighted a dichotomy in the fitness industry, particularly in London where we’ve seen a huge insurgence of ‘no frills’ low cost, 24-hour gyms such as Pure Gym and The Gym, alongside a major increase in the prominence of boutique fitness providers. which operate a ‘high end’ pay-as-you-go model in fitness classes of all different kinds. Among those more renowned brands are Barry’s Bootcamp (strength and interval training), Heartcore (Pilates), Psycle (spinning) and various other exclusive fitness hubs. In the nutrition and wellbeing world such brands include Plenish Cleanse and Fresh Fitness Food.

Plenish fuel

It seems that, when it comes to where, how and for how long we’ll exercise, as consumers of fitness and wellbeing products our priorities no longer simply revolve around price or even convenience / location but also (if not more) around socialising and variety. Not only do we want to pay just for classes we attend (the monthly membership model is virtually obsolete in the boutique fitness world), but we also look to our chosen place of workout-worship to offer us a whole lot more than sweat.

“I see the boutique fitness world as centring more and more on the development of community and offering a full lifestyle rather than just a place to workout,” says Boom Cycle founder, Hilary Rowland (www.boomcycle.co.uk). She adds: “our newest studios are to be much bigger, with more communal space for people to meet friends, chill and have a coffee.”

It’s not just physical community either. We’re increasingly wishing to take our ‘workout worlds’ with us when we travel (or just enjoy them at home), suggests Dawn Tuckwell, who specialises in health and wellness PR (www.actionpr.co.uk): “The biggest thing we see is people wanting fitness on demand,” she says. “More apps are being developed to assist with this, for example, providing fitness equivalents of Uber and Air BnB”

The ways in which boutique fitness businesses elicit loyalty also reflects both our more 24/7, nomadic ways as well as our demand for a more holistic view of wellbeing as brands connect with followers via social media and blogs. Regular visitors of luxury fitness chains will often receive added extras too, such as networking opportunities and hosted events.

Rob Tynan is founder of the exclusive, futuristic fitness centre in Central London, Ultimate BodyTec, where visitors don an electric suit to stimulate muscle contractions whilst they workout (www.ultimatebodytec.com). He says: “We do things like produce Christmas presents for all members, sponsored events, we’re affiliated with charities… we have the opportunity to utilise our space in a really interesting way and create face to face alliances. We know everybody who walks into our place – what they do for a living, what’s going on in their lives. It’s a close knit community. We have a profile on every client – we know if their wife just got a new car, all that stuff which takes it to the next level!”

Next level indeed. Community, choice, and plenty of cold-pressed juice. The future of fitness is clearly both friendly and flexible.