It wasn’t that long ago that hyper-specialization was all the, well, hype in fitness. Pioneers like Peloton and SoulCycle were the first to perfect the spin-class experience. Barry’s and Orangetheory cornered the market on high-intensity bootcamp workouts. And CrossFit had the world wondering WTH a WOD was (it’s a workout of the day, BTW).
But now that they’ve established themselves—and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers in the process—these powerhouses are starting to expand their offerings to include other services aimed at helping you optimize your well-being, both on and off your mat or machine. Consider it next-level coaching that doesn’t end at the cool down.
“The biggest trend I see in the industry is the shift from being a fitness brand to a lifestyle,” says Melanie Griffith, master instructor and senior director of brand experience at SoulCycle. “It's not enough for us in our 16th year to just be the best space for cardio.” This is especially true since Griffith and every other fitness professional knows that what you do when you’re not working out has just as much of an impact on your performance, as well as your overall health, as what happens during a sweat sesh.
In particular, for 2022, fitness companies are focused on nutrition, recovery, and mindfulness as new lanes in which they’d like to play. “We want to be a whole house with fitness and wellness,” says Lou Lentine, president and CEO of fit-tech brand Echelon, which announced a new partnership with the meal delivery company Eat Fit Go in October. “We want to make the choice to eat healthier affordable and to have it go hand in hand with workouts. In addition, we’ll be offering nutrition content, insights, and access to wellness coaches.”
For 2022, fitness companies are focused on nutrition, recovery, and mindfulness as new lanes in which they’d like to play.
Based on our outreach to massive brands, including Apple Fitness+ (which added guided meditations to its offerings at the end of September), it’s clear that figuring out how to step outside their comfort zones and start taking a more holistic approach to their offerings is top of mind for companies across the market. How they do that, however, will vary from brand to brand.
Some, like Apple, are opting to handle the expansion. That includes iFit, which introduced a new series of workouts, iFit Mind, back in May. Each class fuses movement, meditation, and mindfulness, and they’re being taught not just by trainers, but by neuroscientists, sports psychologists, spiritual teachers, and other mental health professionals.
For other brands, partnerships seem to be the preferred route because they allow fitness pros to team up with experts in other areas of wellness, so that they can continue to provide their communities the same quality of user experience in these new frontiers that they do on the exercise front. Echelon connecting with Eat Fit Go is an example of this, yes. And another is SoulCycle teaming up with Whoop through an integration with Soul’s parent company, Equinox, and its Equinox+ app, which houses its online offerings, as well as those of other boutique brands like Pure Yoga, Rumble Boxing, Solidcore. Now riders can get class recs via the fitness tracker based on their level of recovery. So, for example, if you plan to take a spin class but Whoop’s metrics indicate that your body hasn’t fully bounced back from your last high-intensity workout, you’ll receive an in-app suggestion to opt for a lower-impact workout like yoga—something you may not have felt to do yourself without such feedback.
“I think a big part of our future—and I think it has to be for everybody—will be: What is our wearable technology?” Griffith says. “We’re trying to understand the importance of recovery, of great sleep, of mindfulness. We're still figuring that out, but really understanding ourselves as creatures has to be part of our corporate strategy for right now.”
By far the brand wading furthest into this space is CrossFit, which just announced the launch of CrossFit Precision Care in partnership with the telemedicine provider Wild Health. It’s a new physicians network in which all the doctors and health-care providers are also CrossFit-certified trainers (what?!). The program is currently being beta tested in eight states with plans to expand nationwide next year, according to Julie Foucher, MD, a former CrossFit Games athlete who co-founded the practice. “In 2022 we’ll be expanding as rapidly as we can to meet the demand,” she says.
In terms of new frontiers, data—both the collection and synthesis of it—seems to be the space fitness brands are interested in exploring next, as it’ll allow them to customize protocols (be it training, recovery, or nutrition) based on the unique needs of each individual. And for CrossFit (which also launched its first online nutrition course in late November) that’s by using advanced testing (genomic, blood, DNA) to provide members with data-driven recommendations for how to fine-tune their health and performance, based on their personal goals and lifestyle. “That we're taking this approach is pretty unique,” says Dr. Foucher. “Anyone who’s in the CrossFit community is able to have a primary care physician and a health coach who both do CrossFit themselves and understand their lifestyle.”
And that’s the point of differentiation that potentiates this new directional pivot for fitness brands. Who better to understand—and provide guidance—on the health and wellness needs of a particular exercise community than the people who lead it?
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