Boutique fitness studios — specializing in small classes and one or two areas of fitness — are a major trend for 2020. Sales of high-end, high-tech home fitness equipment like Peloton bikes and The Mirror personal training system are growing. But the traditional gym isn’t going anywhere, fitness experts say.
“The evidence … suggests that the expansion and diversification of the fitness market is more about providing choices to meet the needs of different markets, as opposed to one area significantly growing and another significantly declining,” said Spencer Harris, assistant professor of sport management at the UCCS College of Business.
Another continuing fitness trend is the substantial growth in wearable technology, Harris said. And all of these are cited in the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends.
According to the 2020 survey, wearable technology, including fitness trackers, smart watches and heart rate monitors, is the No. 1 worldwide fitness trend. Lower on the list — but related — is outcome measurement technology that defines, tracks and reports progress toward fitness goals.
“There are noteworthy forecasts about the growth in livestreaming workouts, smart fitness equipment, virtual personal trainers and the use of virtual reality to support a higher quality, more realistic, convenient — and also more costly — fitness experience,” Harris said.
Group training is another trend that ranks high in the 2020 survey, which also cites the continued popularity of outdoor workouts and shows evidence that more employers are including fitness activities and promotions to encourage employees’ health and wellness.
Harris said he is not aware of any specific data for the Colorado Springs market on the prevalence or impact of these trends, but some of them are evident in gyms, studios and homes across the region.
Griffin Hill opened her first Pure Barre studio in University Village just over five years ago, when there were almost no other boutique fitness establishments in Colorado Springs and big-box gyms were at peak popularity.
When she opened her second studio in the Northgate area six months ago, Colorado Springs was well on its way to catching up with the rest of the country.
“In the past three or four years, a lot of different studios in the Springs have opened with specialized workouts,” Hill said. “We’ve probably had at least 10-15 open in the past two years.”
She describes Pure Barre as a high-intensity, low-impact workout that focuses on building long, lean muscle, strength and flexibility, as well as cardiovascular fitness. The workouts use a ballet barre and other equipment, but no dancing is involved.
Hill said hundreds of clients take classes at her two studios. Other studios in town offer yoga, Pilates, cycling, rowing and bootcamp-type programs like CrossFit.
Hill thinks traditional gyms will always be around, because they offer convenience: longer opening hours, child care, and a comparatively low price point.
“Those things do appeal to certain people,” she said. “I think that the reason boutique fitness is so important is because oftentimes people don’t know what they’re doing in a gym setting and they don’t know how to get the results that they want to see — and they aren’t necessarily having fun.”
Boutique studios offer specialized workouts that people can fall in love with, as well as a community element, Hill said.
“No one really cares if you go to the gym,” she said. “No one’s going to check in with you and hold you accountable or be a workout buddy. Whereas if you’re working out in a group fitness environment, you’re going to form relationships with people who are coming at that same time every day and working towards a similar thing. I think those relationships are really what keeps people motivated.”
The studios also offer a higher level of education and personal attention. In contrast to traditional gyms, which often require members to sign up for a long period of time, studio patrons have membership options ranging from drop-in classes to monthly memberships and class packages.
“I think that big-box gyms and working out at home or outside will not go away,” Hill said. “But I think we’ll continue to see growth in the boutique space and this will be something people will continue to seek out.”
Personalized training has been shown to produce better results and keep people motivated, said Paige Whitney, director of the Center for Active Living at the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences and a clinical instructor in health science at UCCS.
Apps, devices and online programs increase opportunities for people to get involved in exercise and find activities they enjoy, as well as helping to sustain behavior changes, she said.
Trainers at the Center for Active Living use an online platform that allows them to identify goals and interests and build personalized programs for their clients.
“The client downloads an app and has immediate access to videos that are recommended by the trainer,” Whitney said.
Another advantage of such technology is to help motivate clients between training sessions and provide clear directions on performing exercises correctly.
The latest fitness equipment comes with built-in coaching as well as integrated entertainment, said Ray Burget, sales manager at Fitness Systems, which sells equipment including exercise bikes, treadmills, elliptical trainers, steppers and rowing machines.
“The way we look at it is that it can get some people started,” Burget said.
There is always an uptick in sales in the winter, he said, “but long-term users turn exercise into a habit, and that still comes down to equipment that matches body motion.”
Home fitness equipment is incorporating technology that aims to duplicate the motivation of taking a live class.
Peloton makes cycles and treadmills equipped with screens that feature live streaming and recorded classes. Besides the $2,000-4,000 cost of the equipment, owners pay $39 a month to access classes.
According to documents Peloton released in August in conjunction with its initial public offering, the company’s sales grew 110 percent to $915 million in fiscal year 2019 over its 2018 sales. At the same time, Peloton experienced a net loss of $245.7 million in 2019, attributed to efforts to expand into new markets.
The Mirror, another home fitness system, goes a step further in creating a class-like workout experience.
A screen the size of a full-length mirror with an embedded camera and speakers produces an interactive display that shows an instructor, classmates and the equipment owner. Trainers provide motivation and live feedback, and the owner can sync a wearable device via Bluetooth to track heart rate.
The Mirror costs about $1,500, and users pay a $39 monthly fee to access a wide variety of workout classes. The company has not disclosed how many subscribers it has, but The New York Times reported in February 2019 that it was selling 650 units — nearly a million dollars worth of Mirrors — per month.
Young entrepreneurs like Sammi Blaque are seeing wider opportunities in the fitness business.
Blaque, who in April won the Southeast Business Plan competition, sponsored by the Business Journal and its sister publications the Southeast Express and Colorado Springs Indy, incorporated many of the latest fitness trends into her business plan.
Blaque is working toward opening a yoga-based boutique studio this fall that aims to integrate wellness lifestyle assistance and help build community in southeast Colorado Springs.
“Instead of the traditional gym experience where you go in alone, work out alone and walk out alone, I want to change that into an experience where people know your name,” she said.
To help fund the project, Blaque is working with corporate clients ranging from Realtors to hair stylists. She helps them achieve wellness through a yoga perspective.
“Whether you’re sitting behind a desk and you’re typing all day, or you’re standing on your feet holding scissors all day, or you might even be operating heavy equipment or machinery, all of that takes a toll on your body and on the mind,” she said. “So I’m offering that lovely gift of yoga to help them cope better with the day-to-day stresses.”
Blaque intends to introduce yoga to clients who might not know much about its benefits, such as people of color and “guys that work on cars.”
Blaque also has partnered with the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center to develop a web-based system to identify, monitor and track progress on physical and emotional goals. She plans on evolving it eventually into an app.
Bringing all of these elements together, Blaque’s goal is to build a community around a wellness lifestyle that will grow to benefit a broader audience.
“I’m experimenting with how I can share this programing with people outside of Colorado Springs and get them involved in the movement,” she said.