Boutique Fitness – The New Way to Work Out

What do you think of when you hear ‘boutique fitness’?

Elite? Exclusive? Expensive? Energising? Extravagant? …in many ways the answer is ‘yes’ to all of these, but mostly it seems that it is ‘evolving’, and fast.

Some of Team Rugged attended the UK Active SWEAT Conference in London on 8th March to hear all about the latest and greatest trends in the boutique fitness market. This fitness sector has grown so rapidly, is already massive across the capital, and has become a fashion in its own right… and the trend looks set to continue.

‘Think big; think disruptive. Execute with full passion’ - Masayoshi Son

Whether you’d prefer to work out in a dark room with flashing lights whilst the DJ spins his records, or in a bright and airy studio with more dulcet tones and marble pillars – boutique gyms have it all. One day you could be hanging from the ceiling in a cocoon of fabric as you experience aerial yoga, the next, you could be dripping from all pores as you slump on the ropes of a boxing ring.

Going to the gym is no longer all run, row, cycle. People want something new, exciting and different, they want to feel inspired and be inspired.  

Community Matters

What is it about these studios that have their users getting up at the crack of dawn to sweat it out before work?

It seems that Boutique gyms have a much greater sense of belonging for members compared to more traditional gyms. In London alone, there are now over 600 boutique gym studios all offering something slightly different, better and barmier than the one next door. Many of these gyms work on a pay-by-class basis, allowing users to pick and mix their workouts throughout the week. It’s an expensive way to get your endorphin hit, but one that allows flexibility and functionality for a user base whose lives run at 100mph.

Many gyms focus heavily on classes, with some gyms exclusively offering classes to their members. Groups gather together, are put through their paces and leave smiling and sweating with their fitness friends. Nights out have been swapped with workouts – with the only real difference being the clothes you’re dressed in and the bottle you’re holding.

Branding is Everything

Getting your brand out there, finding your tribe and guiding them through the doors is half the battle. Every boutique gym seems to have their own USP, and this was drilled into the budding boutiques at the conference. ‘Pick your audience, build your brand, then own it’.

You can’t go on social media nowadays without seeing guys and girls in their active wear displaying their meals and muscles, which makes social media marketing for these boutique gyms so easy to tap into. Make your gym and your workouts shout your USP and your users will do the marketing for you.

‘Become a status symbol. Fitness is the new handbag’ – Emma Barry

Girl Power

Unintentionally (we think), the conference was held on International Women’s Day and boutique fitness seems to be well poised and positioned towards attracting women, both young and old. Women empower other women and recently, it has been fitness that has driven this forward. Gone are the days of no women in the weight sections of gyms, they want to try it all. And if new boutique studios have any sense, they’ll create something that appeals to the masses.   

Shane Collins from Kobox (a boutique gym in London that combines nightclub vibes with boxing rings) explained that “70% of our clients are female. Everything we do is aimed at trying to soften boxing and make it accessible to them”.

Females are their forte. Which is rather refreshing.

Build to Last

Some workout trends come in with a bang and drift out like a bubble – Zumba being a good example of this. Will this be the same for boutique gyms up and down the streets of London? It’s probably too early to tell.

Spinning looks set to experience a flat tyre and make way for more HIIT sessions and fast and furious workouts. Whereas yoga appears to be stretching in every direction across the UK. With workouts at opposite ends of the spectrum soaring, gyms need to pick one or the other…or perhaps gamble on a double. If group social exercise and a sense of belonging is the new trend, then classes scattered throughout the day looks set to be a winner.

The likelihood is, as with many trends, that workouts and fitness fads will come and go. Which gives a good reason as to why boutique gyms should have variety. What’s clear is that to succeed, you must be on top of the latest trends and fitness fashions, but most importantly, you must build gym with a sense of community and one that makes every member feel good.

‘People do not buy goods & services. They buy relations, stories & magic’ – Seth Godin

What now?

An interesting question was raised at SWEAT that asked ‘why boutique fitness gyms so geared towards the young professional, rather than the middle-aged worker with a greater disposable income?’ It’s an interesting thought and perhaps we will see a rise in boutique studios that account for exactly this. However, right now, the fashion and the focus is on young, social media savvy millennials who are out to find a tribe and post all about it.

With Millennials now spending more on fitness than education, it’s a market to get your Nikes into.

Steven Ward, CEO of UKActive quite simply said - “The boutique sector has proven itself to be far more than a bubble that might burst, and that the next few years will see its continued growth and diversification across the fitness landscape. Everyone in the fitness industry is watching to see what’s coming next.”

Ultimately, if your health is your wealth, then boutique fitness could be your calling.

by Lucy Manley

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