David Minton, LeisureDB | Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 5
I’m in California for the annual IHRSA gathering. Around 12,000 people have registered for the convention and trade show from 70 different countries, including 200 from the UK.
California is the most populous state in the US, with around 40 million residents – were it a country, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world.
It’s home to four of the world’s ten largest companies and four of the ten richest people and is considered a global trendsetter in so many areas including technology, film, new media, wine and, of course, fitness.
The can-do attitude here is layered with dynamism, creativity and a pace of life that’s infectious. No wonder the state has six of the 15 fittest cities in the entire country.
People who live in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego value their health and love working out and as a result, thousands of people are inventing new fitness concepts all the time.
As a result of this energy and focus, these cities are home to some of the most successful global fitness trends and brands including, group cycling, Piloxing, Pound and Aeriform to name a few.
High street revolution
Fitness in California is also the darling of the high street. A failed nail bar turns into WoLAFiT, a failed showroom turns into Carrie’s Pilates Plus, a failed fashion store becomes the fashionable CruBox.
New brands like Bunda (for a better butt), RiseNation, (30 minutes of VersaClimber classes), LIT (Low Impact Training based on water rower and resistance bands), Prevail (high energy group boxing classes) are just a few of the new workouts I tried or considered during my visit. StretchLab, seemed a good idea at the time – this operators offers one-to-one ‘assisted stretching’ for 25 minutes and two days later I really felt it.
StretchLab is one of the portfolio of concept brands under the Xponential Fitness label – others include RowHouse (a low-impact rowing concept), Club Pilates (with over 360 sites, the USA largest Pilates franchise) and most recently a NYC dance concept called InTensive, which was developed by Anna Kaiser.
Founded in 2017 Xponential is backed by private equity heavyweight TPG Growth and has industry veteran John Kersh – formerly with Anytime Fitness – on the team as chief international development officer.
I tried their group cycling offer, CycleBar, in LA’s Culver City – this brand will debut at Battersea, London around June this year. Oliver Chipp has taken the master franchise agreement for the UK and plans to open over 30 studios over the next few years.
Floyd Mayweather, the controversial boxer, with an estimated fortune of US$1 billion and renowned for his fitness levels, has opened a flagship Mayweather Boxing & Fitness studio on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
In small intense classes, you can follow Floyd’s training programme. At the end of the class I asked my instructor how long it will take to improve my shadow boxing technique – “About a year,” came the reply.
To help me get to this level of excellence, I have the Mayweather app and the virtual in-home workout.
Mayweather and his team are thinking big – 200 sites are planned over the next two years – with a franchise model that allows for the rebranding of existing gyms which will help the company to scale faster.
In 1986 Angel Banos first walked into a Gold’s Gym on Venice Beach and today, with his brother, they own 11 clubs in the Greater Los Angeles area and have just agreed to expand into southern California.
One of my early LA favourites was Angel’s Gold’s West Hollywood on Cole. Besides the stunning atmosphere, this club keeps the studio on trend with pre-choreographed Barre classes from SoulBody. I just wish my body flowed as well as some people around me.
Body bar and ballet barre are mindfully intense movements that work deep into the muscles and give great results – no wonder the word ‘sculpt’ comes up so often in conversation in California.
Outside the main cities, the fitness love-in on the high street continues. Temecula City in Southern California, just north of San Diego, has a population of just over 100,000, with a median household income of US$78,356.
The City sustains over 20 fitness brands, plus boutique studios, all scattered throughout the shopping complex and where the ‘high-value, low-price’ operator EOS Fitness are just fitting out a new site to add to the mix.
EOS Fitness are expanding their business following their acquisition in 2015 by BRS and PEM. As an indication of things to come, it’s worth remembering BRS took Town Sports International from 22 clubs to 162 locations and an IPO in only ten years, so watch this space.