SoulCycle, Reebok, Equinox… Oh, My!
So New Year’s came and went—as did our resolutions. I think we can all begrudgingly confess to having put more gym time on our lists. It’s the redheaded stepchild of all resolutions. Most loathe the thought of including it but feel obligated to anyway. Yet, year after year, while resolutions have stayed the same, the gyms have changed.
In New York City—a place once synonymous with prohibition, Studio 54, Times Square strip clubs and overall indulgence—gyms were a rarity. Today, they’re no longer just for the fitness obsessed. They say more about us than Facebook, LinkedIn or OkCupid.
Choosing a gym is about as personal as choosing a doctor or church. No longer just an experiential brand, gyms have become your personal brand. They shape how you wake up in the morning and how you go to bed at night. You loathe it. You love it. You pay your dues. And you keep coming back.
When I first moved to NYC as a naïve, spirited and broke college grad, I envied those who held the magical card that granted them access through the glamorous entryways of Equinox, Health & Racquet, Reebok Club and Soho House. My options, however, based solely on price, were limited to New York Sports Club (which was still a stretch), Crunch, and Boom. And naïve, I was—opting for a yearlong membership to New York Sports Club.
Years later, due to stubborn loyalty, I’m still a member. It might be because New York Sports Club is the Starbucks of all gyms—I can’t go 10 blocks without one at my disposal. Or, maybe I feel like I’ve devoted too much of my time to the brand to give it up. Whatever the reason, my loyalty today is more questionable than ever. Boutique gyms are popping up everywhere. And not just their retail spaces but their cult-like followings, stylish apparel and social prestige.
Soul Cycle, with its exclusive classes, bags, t-shirts, and general coolness, and CrossFit, with its warehouse-style, invite-only hardcore sessions, are two of many. Even Lululemon, which has in-store classes, pop-up sessions, and their ‘Shit Yogis Say’ YouTube channel, is giving me second thoughts on my blind devotion. Yes, I may just want to be a yogi, but is it too late?
What’s clear at NYSC is their lack of tribe. Rarely do I meet someone gushing about the gym or wearing branded apparel. NYSC doesn’t seem to get that gyms are no longer just a place to sweat—they’re now a social venue, as shown by Equinox’s cafes and Crunch’s quirky dance classes. Reebok, once exclusively a sneaker and apparel brand, now stands for NYC gym exclusivity and offers use of its unique Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa. Even less pricey gyms like Planet Fitness understand the “new gym normal.” Its recent ad campaign mocks fitness crazed folk and totes its “judgment-free zone.”
So, what does this mean for us? Whether spinning, lifting tires, pole dancing or yoga is your thing, there’s a gym for you. But remember, choose wisely.