At Stepping Out Studios on 26th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, devotees of Brooklyn Bridge Bootcamp sweat through endless sumo squats while, on the other side of the wall, women gracefully move through salsa steps. Seven blocks away, a new Crossfit box, In Fighting Shape, operates out of a tiny studio tucked into the back of Complete Body & Spa.
Both Brooklyn Bridge Bootcamp and In Fighting Shape are independent companies, but they’re part of a growing group of homeless fitness methods that host classes out of rented spaces all over the city.
305 Fitness and Holly Rilinger’s new After Hours workout also operate out of Stepping Out. Body Conceptions by Mahri has classes at Dance New Amsterdam, while AKT Motion and The People’s Bootcamp use Ripley Grier’s rehearsal spaces. Doonya hops back and forth between DANY studios and New York Live Arts, while Trooper Fitness runs classes out of Body Space Fitness.
The market for rented rooms that can accommodate fitness classes has become so huge, in fact, that dance studio directors are becoming workout landlords. “My fitness business is growing in a very fast way. I think it’ll be equal to my dance class business probably within this year,” says Stepping Out president and CEO George Ciao, who started hosting fitness brands less than two years ago and now has two to three sweaty classes booked every night.
What’s driving the phenomenon? “It all goes back to how expensive New York real estate is,” says Doonya CEO Anu Duggal. Many brands don’t have the money to shell out for a studio off the bat, and building a following while they look ensures they’ll have bodies in the room once they find one.
Fitness studios also require a very particular type of space, with, say, room for showers or the ability to mount equipment, and building owners are not exactly looking for tenants who blast loud music and invite people in to jump up and down and drop heavy objects.
But while the search is difficult and some trainers say they actually prefer running roving classes without the headache of studio ownership, in the end, most are still yearning for a place to call home.
“For every trainer who wants to start their own fitness company, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘I need to get a space,'” says Trooper Fitness creator Prince Brathwaite. “After a while, I realized that Trooper Fitness is not a place, it’s a community of people who feel strong and want to get stronger. The space isn’t necessary,” he says. “At some point, though, we will get a headquarters.” —Lisa Elaine Held