Soul Cycle recruits actors and models, not fitness experts. CycleBar refers to their instructors as “CycleStars”. Cult boutique fitness instructors have massive social media followings like celebrities. Studios invest heavily in high quality music, video content and lighting. In many boutique fitness studios, the leader/instructor performs from an actual stage. What has clearly emerged in the last few years as a boutique studio trend is the merger of entertainment and fitness.
Does this sound like a fitness business or an entertainment business?
The answer is yes. For business people looking at this industry, and for legacy fitness businesses, there is a whole new paradigm for viewing what the business actually is. Having a nice facility and cool equipment and providing great workouts is not enough. Letting people listen to music on their headsets and watch TV while running on a treadmill is not enough.
Giving a great workout is not enough
When you think of entertainment, whether it be movies, sports, theater, or music, the appeal is that it provides a respite from the ordinary, and evokes an emotion or feeling you enjoy. Until recently this is not how most people described “working out”. It was not entertaining. I’m a boutique fitness junkie, and when I think of my favorite workout experiences in the past few years, it is in a class where I’ve literally grinned so hard my cheeks hurt, or when I’ve teared up from emotion, or when I have been shocked by something. Were these the classes where I got the best workout in terms of sweat or calories burned? Frankly, I have no idea.
In the last 10 years I’ve had hundreds of conversations with studio-starters looking to build successful fitness businesses. At some point in the consulting, I have often had to stress that giving a great workout is only one piece of the puzzle. People are now spoiled…..because they know they can get entertainment and fun as part of their workout. In my experience the most successful studios have something ‘more’ built into their vision.