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Destination gyms: how clubs are creating experiences to keep clients coming back
Going to the gym is no longer about working up a sweat in silence and scurrying home. The new breed of destination gyms is creating social experiences to rival nightclubs and cafes.
Fitness is a way of life
Fitness is more than an activity. It’s a way of life. All over social media, fitness enthusiasts refer to their training and diet as ‘the lifestyle’. For a new generation of gym-goers, working out is replacing clubbing, drinking and eating out. It’s a one-stop shop of socialising that supports - rather than conflicts with - physique goals.
A new breed of gyms are responding to this shift by creating aspirational experiences that make members want to turn up, and then stick around. Branding, social media, lighting and live DJs are making destination gyms the place to be.
The key here is niche focus. Destination gyms choose their brand personality and communicate it with clarity and consistency. They don’t try to be all things to all people. The pay-off is a loyal following who will spend more time (and money) at their facility.
Destination gyms are better than home from home. They’re what a consumer would want their home to look, sound and feel like if only they had the budget.
How five fitness facilities became go-to destinations
The destination gym is a global movement, and in future blogs we’ll look at examples from around the world. But to get us started, here are five clubs that are setting the benchmark for destination fitness in the UK…
Tribeca Studios, Ealing, London - tribecastudios.co.uk
Tribeca Studios offers signature classes from a sleek, stylish facility. Here you’ll find fresh flowers, great music in the entrance and smoothie bar, and reed diffusers (smell is such an important part of the brand). The look and feel is more like a trendy NYC bar than a UK gym, with clean white metro tiles, copper finishes and old-school yellow steel lockers.
The studio was designed with the social experience in mind. The smoothie bar is the central hub of the club, where you'll regularly find a group of customers and instructors before and after workouts. The social aspect extends into the local community. There’s a Pilates class for Ealing Trailfinders pro rugby team, speed networking on bikes with a local networking group, and ‘Yoga for Runners’ classes for Ealing Eagles running club.
Founder Hayley Balls says: “Gyms can be intimidating places. But at Tribeca, there are no turnstiles or harsh colours that assault the senses: the studios are low lit with an instructor spotlight, and the studio lights are controlled by instructor during the class. Our people are important, too. Our team of concierge greet customers by name and can advise members about classes and instructors.
“People's attitudes towards exercise are changing. They're looking for awesome experiences that improve their lives. Our gym is a treat, not a chore. Everything about the Tribeca experience plays to our motto: Do More of What Makes You Happy.”
1Rebel, London – 1rebel.co.uk
Operating at two locations in London, 1Rebel is a stylish boutique health club with a polished, urban feel. There are no membership payments; instead, people choose to opt in to high intensity pay-as-you-go sessions.
A centrepiece of the club is the Rebel Reshape workout that uses the Rebel Box, built by Escape as a multi-purpose station for use as a plyometric box or weights bench. It features storage for dumbbells, medballs and resistance tubes, making sure that everything needed for the workout is close by.
1Rebel certainly earns its place in any list of destination gyms. The stunning interior design extends all the way through to the changing rooms, described as ‘on another level to any gym I’ve been to’ in one review.
Some of London’s top DJs and live musicians are often there, making sure that workouts happen to a suitable beat. The club has also hosted seminars on subjects from fuelling a training session to conquering Mount Everest. There’s even the ‘Barber & Blow’ onsite hairdressers and barbers.
And there’s more - free Prosecco every Friday and free shakes every lunchtime, social events (like the 1Rebel Christmas Challenge that combines a workout with an after-party at a local café), and the 1Rebel Open House that brings together ‘sweat, dirty beats, live MCs, endless prosecco and serious shapes thrown on the dance floor’.
The Club Gym, Glasgow - theclubgym.co.uk
Heading north to Scotland, The Club Gym is a slick Glasgow gym with a nightclub atmosphere, complete with a DJ playing four nights a week and lighting that’s reminiscent of a top-end nightclub. The branding is very clean cut and funky, more edgy than most gyms. It all creates a special atmosphere and makes The Club Gym THE place to be.
Simon Kennedy is a Director at The Club Gym. He says: “We are sponsored by Optimum Nutrition (ON) and host plenty of social events - including some with a DJ set from ON athlete Joel Corry. We also work in partnership with clothing brands, food prep companies and exclusive bars to host events for our members. In-house, we have a protein bar and we find most people hang out before and after training. This opportunity to chat to other members and to staff plays a big part in creating that important sense of community.
“Everyone in the team tries to support our clients in all aspects of a healthier lifestyle, not just in delivering fitness. We want this to be a place where people are proud to say they are a member. It’s crucial that you create a community, so people feel like they belong to something. These days, people are looking for a gym that offers the personal touch. They know they have choice, and are willing to seek it out. Make yourself the place to be, and reward people for choosing to spend their time with you.”
TRIB3, Sheffield – trib3.co.uk
Dedicated bootcamp gyms in Sheffield (and soon in Manchester and Leeds), TRIB3 is all about offering a vibrant training environment with a big focus on a collective experience. The studios feel like nothing else, with all natural materials and carefully chosen pieces sourced from local antique shops. As well as the workout spaces, there are saunas, treatment/therapy rooms and juice bars.
Users of the club are motivated through recognition, including on social media. Being publicly acknowledged as a Warrior (after completing 50 workouts) or immortal (for doing 100 workouts) adds to the sense of accomplishment. For everyone, the Steel Week challenge is all about completing seven workouts in seven days.
Kevin Yates, CEO of Trib3, says: “This is a vibrant club with a cool aesthetic, a millennials-focused training ethos and a one-of-a-kind approach. We’ve had unbelievable feedback; people who attend boutique studios around the country and in London say we’re up there with Barry’s, and that’s the best accolade you can achieve.”
Progress Gym, Yeovil - progressgym.co.uk
Finally, we head down to Somerset to visit Progress Gym, a large independent facility. Step inside and you’ll see vibrant colours, with skylights and large doors bringing in plenty of natural light and fresh air. There’s a serious sound system that’s put to good use by local DJs who play from the mezzanine level.
Owner Rob Harris says: “Gyms that offer a more social experience are always going to be ahead of the crowd. The personal touch will lead to increased trust and a stronger bond, so we hold outings to other gyms, events and celebrations, free-to-members seminars with the likes of strongman Andy Bolton and pro bodybuilders, have a six-a-side football team and give Member of the Month prizes.
“I try to think of what every other gym does, and then do the things that most gyms don't do. It keeps members returning - and telling others about us. Members regularly come in to take advantage of the free coffee we offer. They'll often come before their workout to get advice and stay afterwards to talk about training and nutrition.
“In short, we try to be more than a gym and aim to exceed our members’ expectations. This shows in our performance of 97-98% retention per month of our subscription members.”
Creating unique experiences
Destination gyms provide a powerful experience that inspires and motivates long after the workout is over. They are always different to other facilities in the local area, offering something unique that resonates with a niche group. Typically run or managed by a strong character, destination gyms are authentic in their branding, providing a strong sense of belonging while supporting members on an individual first-name basis.
Members are willing to invest their time, money and energy in gyms that cater to their desire for individuality within a strongly bonded community. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but get it right and you’ll enjoy long-term loyalty from customers who will spread the word to others.
Can we help you create an amazing destination?
Email us at [email protected] or call us if we can help you rethink your approach.
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