There is a new “gym” on 14th Street in New York City called Complete that has three stair-masters, seven elliptical machines, and 10 treadmills. It also has a rooftop garden, a juice bar, a full spa, and a “Himalayan Salt” member’s lounge.
The gym, which opened its doors earlier this month, is the latest addition to a new wave of fitness spaces we’re seeing across NYC that want their clients to come in, work out, and stay all day. According to Complete’s owner Alex Reznik, this particular storefront was built to “promote a strong sense of community, and give clients the opportunity to come and spend a big part of their daily life there.”
It’s just the beginning in what will be a wave of physical experiences that aim to blur the lines between wellness and everything else that happens in the day. Last fall, we called “wellness under one roof” as one of the biggest trends of 2019, and since then we’ve watched wellness clubs and communities like The Well and Lina open their doors in NYC to give customers spaces where they interact with wellness in a single destination. Now, we’re seeing traditional gyms—like Complete, Equinox, and Life Time—become one-stop destinations for wellness… and life.
Obviously, this comes at a time when at-home and digital fitness technology has gotten smarter—with players like Obé, Mirror, Tonal, and Peloton offering fitness enthusiasts the opportunity to access luxury experiences within the spaces they’re already living their lives. A 2017 report estimated that the digital fitness market is expected to climb to $27.4 billion by 2022. While this may not necessarily mean that people are up and quitting their gyms altogether, it is offering an entirely new frontier of options that don’t require paying upwards of $100 a month in dues.
So what can a physical fitness space offer that a program in your basement cannot? Two things plain and simple. “Now that physical spaces are threatened by digital platforms—whether that’s Amazon killing the mall or Peloton giving the boutique fitness model a serious run—I think you have to ask: ‘What are the things that digital can’t kill?’ That’s the experience and the community,” says Beth McGroarty, director of research and PR at the Global Wellness Institute. “All the studies show that what’s happened with the digital revolution is that loneliness has skyrocketed, particularly for younger people. I think the boutique fitness boom happened because it rushed to fill the need for a space you could go to with other people to do something.”
So what are traditional gyms to do? Meet you at work, on vacation, and at home (but in a whole new way). Earlier this year, Equinox announced that it would be partnering with co-working brand Industrious to put co-working spaces inside of its gyms, starting with the new location at 35 Hudson Yards in New York City. The chain also recently opened its first ever Equinox Hotel in the same space. “Equinox was built on the notion that fitness can empower a life well-lived and foster a strong community of high performance individuals,” says Liz Miersch, VP of content and partnerships at Equinox. “As important as digital is, nothing replaces a human connection–people are looking for experiences with others.”
Luxury gym chain Life Time has taken the element of community one step further, and plan to open full-on wellness residences Las Vegas, Miami, and Dallas starting in 2020. They’ll feature luxury apartment buildings near LifeTime Fitness clubs (and membership fees will be included in rent), essentially merging the spaces where you live and where you work out into one, no screen necessary.
It’s important to note that while physical spaces are looking to unite and help people connect, digital platforms are also aiming to create a solve, and many are seeing success. There are plenty of digital communities that have been created surrounding digital fitness—the #sweatyselfie didn’t invent itself, after all. Thanks to social media, platforms like Obé, Peloton, and Beach Body are all known to have active online communities, who even meet up IRL.
As for what’s next with the brick-and-mortar spaces? Look for them to become flush with amenities: Complete has got the aforementioned roof deck, spa, juice bar and salt room. Equinox’s Hudson Yards location has four (I repeat, four) pools, holistic lifestyle coaching, including nutrition and sleep, and of course, a whole lot of fitness classes. As Miersch puts it: “We take digital into consideration but it really is about always offering our members the ultimate luxury lifestyle and fitness experience.” So, while the rise of digital has made luxe sweat sessions more geographically and financially accessible to an entirely new demographic of people, until your iPhone comes with a lap pool or green juice on demand (though, I suppose PostMates?), good, old-fashioned brick and mortars aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re only getting better.
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