Boutique fitness: more than just a premium workout

Boutique fitness gyms are on the rise in the capital, and members don’t seem to mind paying a premium price for a premium experience.

Low lights, the latest fitness equipment, strip UV lighting, slogans on the wall like ‘sore today, strong tomorrow’, a protein bar and a PT who knows your name are all tropes for this kind of fitness outlet.

Although commercial gyms still hold a solid title within the fitness world, more and more studio-based spaces are opening up that offer tailored workouts, small group fitness classes, the latest high-quality equipment and social connections which can be hard to find in the capital.

According to Leisure DB’s London Boutique Studio Report 2023,  there are now more than 300 boutique studios across London, up 17.4% compared to 2018.  F45 is the biggest operator totalling 44 studios.

But what makes these more costly options so popular?

Lottie Ackerman, 29, has tried F45 in Fulham, Barry’s, 1 Rebel for Pilates and Psycle for Spin.

Ackerman said: “I personally don’t like having a gym membership anymore because I hate how busy they are.

“In the more premium boutique gyms, you almost get what feels like a PT experience and community feel in one, without feeling like anyone’s watching you or in your way as everyone has their own allocated spaces.

“It comes with a price but it’s worth it for a high-end experience with like-minded people in the room.”

For some studios there is a big focus on the aesthetics of the studio space as well as the classes themselves. 

At 1 Rebel UK for example you can expect darkened rooms with multicoloured flashing lights that give the spin classes a club-like feel. 

For other boutique gyms the focus is very much about building a local community both inside the studio space and beyond the gym itself.

Image courtesy of Ashton Turner

Ashton Turner, Founder of Evolve in Fulham, said: “The big difference between gyms like Evolve and larger chains is that we don’t treat our members like faceless humans.

“Everyone who is a member of our community plays an integral role in making it what it is.

“We welcome everyone, we make it easy to attend, we make it enjoyable but most of all we go out of way to make sure we know our community personally. 

“The social aspects allow us to foster friendships and a close community that extends beyond the gym, this creates a feeling of being supported by everyone.

“In the 8 years we have been open we have had a few people who have met at Evolve and gone on to marriage and children.”

Image courtesy of Ashton Turner – Ashton and Evolve gym members climbing Ben Nevis

Running is another sport where people are increasingly looking to tailor their training with apps such as Runna which acts as a ‘PT in your pocket’ setting out training plans and helping people reach their distance and fitness goals.

Since April 2021 when Ben Parker and Dom Maskell set up the app, millions have downloaded Runna in more than 180 different countries.

Parker said: “As runners, Dom and I felt there was no go-to, accessible solution to help all runners train for any goal, with that in mind we set out to automate the role of a private coach.

Image courtesy of Ben Parker, co-owner of Runna

“We’ve been working on Runna for the last 3+ years and now help hundreds of thousands of runners train for any goal and are now the highest rated running coaching service in the world!

“Running is more popular than ever post Covid with people wanting to be outside and connecting with one another and that certainly helps a business like ours.”

Image courtesy of Ben Parker, co-owner of Runna

Sarah Moody, 38, pictured below, used the Runna app to train for her first ever half marathon.

She said: “I was so new to running I didn’t really know where to start with training for a half marathon, but I saw people on Instagram using the Runna app so thought I’d give it a try.

“I liked having the flexibility to decide what days I wanted to run, even if there were last minute changes to my plans, but still have a structure to my training, which with a gym PT there isn’t.”

Image courtesy of Sarah Moody – at the London Landmarks Half 2024

Lord Alan Sugar clearly agrees that the boutique gym concept is a winner having invested £500,000 into two different lux gym brands in the last two years.

The London-based 2023 winner of The Apprentice Marnie Swindells, 28, owns Bronx Boxing Club and the 2024 winner Leeds-based Rachel Woolford, 28, owns the boutique fitness club North Fitness.

Tailored fitness and wellness as a concept is growing year-on-year across all sports with spaces such as boutique ballet barre studios, rowing studios, CrossFit gyms, boxing classes and wellness spaces who all aim to make workouts and recovery more of an experience than a chore.

Featured image credit – Ashton Turner

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