About 10 days after hitting a SoulCycle class on a recent day off, Barry’s Bootcamp owner Joey Gonzalez got a phone call. It was a lawyer for the mega-popular cycling brand issuing a message: don’t come back.
“He essentially said we have a policy at SoulCycle where instructors at other group fitness studios are not allowed to take class,” Gonzalez says. “He seemed half embarrassed.” We reached out to SoulCycle’s public relations team for comment on the policy but did not hear back.
Gonzalez took to Facebook with the news, and his post went viral. (At time of this writing, it had 158 comments and 14 shares.) Other popular fitness instructors, like Natalie Uhling, Darryl Gaines, and Lindsey Clayton weighed in to say the same thing had happened to them. Flywheel instructors jumped in to invite trainers from other studios to come take their classes (“#team”), and tons of people weighed in to rail against the lack of “soul” the policy stood for.
“I spent the last five years of my career keeping all of these fitness wars quiet. Everyone knows it goes on and everyone hates it,” Gonzalez says, “and I just had a moment and said ‘I think consumers deserve to know the way certain institutions treat their peers.’”
While many fitness brands happily invite other instructors into their classes and even collaborate on events and promotions, the ‘no instructors’ policy is not unique to SoulCycle. In fact, paranoia about the stealing of “trade secrets” and instructor poaching is widespread in the industry, and some studios even include clauses in their waivers ensuring you’re not an instructor who teaches elsewhere. Gonzalez says he has also been banned from Equinox (which owns SoulCycle).
But it usually happens in the shadows, since the industry prides itself on selling happiness-boosting endorphins and positive, life-changing motivation. Gonzalez’s post opened the floodgates of frustration. Clayton, who teaches at Bari, Barry’s, and Cyc, wrote, “Since when is health and fitness supposed to separate people? Isn’t it supposed to bring people together?” Or, like any competitive industry, is it about practices that just serve the bottom line? —Lisa Elaine Held
What do you think? Is banning instructors from other studios a crazy policy or one that studios need to have in place to protect their methods? Tell us in the Comments, below.