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Gyms venture beyond the treadmill


The fitness industry now stands at $31 billion, and the franchise model is taking a healthy chunk of that. That share, however, is getting sliced and diced with every next-wave fitness concept that hits on some of the biggest trends.

The entire industry is growing; market researcher IBIS World pegs growth at 2.1 percent over the last three years and it’s poised to grow further as demographics change and disposable incomes rise.

According to the Franchise Times Top 200+, fitness concepts grew sales by 21.7 percent overall through 2016. The growth is across the board, but novel brands are adding units fast.

Atop the list of most-popular fitness trends are high-intensity interval training (HIIT), group training, wearable technology, body weight training and strength training. That top five comes from a survey done by the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Health & Fitness Journal.


GymGuyz delivers trainers to the customer.

Working out with a group of like-minded people with similar fitness goals has been around for a long time, but it just broke the ACSM top 20 last year. It is now the second most-popular fitness trend.

That’s a major change, and it’s clearly growing when one looks at the rise of brands like Orangetheory Fitness, Title Boxing, Club Pilates and new classroom offerings at traditional big-box gyms. People want more than a treadmill and a weight corner and it’s radically changing how people spend their fitness dollars.

“You’re starting to see this trend driven by millennials, the concept of lifestyle design. You’re seeing a lot of people that want to do more with their fitness regimen. They go to Pilates, yoga and a typical gym,” said Workout Anytime COO Mark de Gorter.

He added Workout Anytime fits well in that lifestyle design framework. The 140-unit 24-hour gym works with any schedule, and Gorter said the value pricing means customers can still buy a la carte classes here and there at places like Club Pilates or Solcioty or Title Boxing for a bit of community, a little respite or a lot of energy to fit into their fitness lifestyle puzzle.

At Club Pilates, franchisee Keely Watson said it’s all about creating a community around the workout at the five locations.

“It’s all about making that happy, positive place. People work out for a lot of different reasons, but I love hearing how many people say mentally I needed this, I needed to take a break,” said Watson. “Creating an environment where people can do that is important.”

Solcioty’s first franchisee, who is opening her first location, said as a young, fit person, the brand’s extreme focus on community and group fitness got her interested.

“When people like me walk into a gym, I want to feel like I’m part of something. It makes it more fun because working out isn’t necessarily fun,” said India Welton, who at 22 years old, understands pretty well what her young peers want in fitness.   

She said the concept “fixed” a lot of the issues she had with the workouts, but also brought in that community feeling she craved. She said she often felt alone or part of some faceless crowd in traditional gym classes. She was looking for that connection and a little break from the day-to-day chaos.

For franchisors who were already embracing other lifestyle brands, these growing fitness brands mean tapping into another segment of their core customer’s design (and another corner of their pocket book).

Donald McConnell, an area representative with Title Boxing, said getting into the brand meant a brand that fit right in with customers at the six Massage Envy locations he operates as a franchisee. He already had a place for his customers to find respite, but liked the high-energy piece of that lifestyle puzzle.

“I really liked the health and wellness field, anything that can make people feel good. I wanted to get into a brand that is emerging,” said McConnell.

Convenience is becoming an ever more-important factor. The small-format fitness concept that popped up on the commute home is pretty convenient, but at-home training is becoming an affordable and incredibly convenient possibility.

GymGuyz, the 140-unit mobile fitness franchise, is among the fastest growing fitness brands out there. It also fits in with other trends like group fitness.

“We’re in homes, senior homes, churches. About 50 to 60 percent is homes and the rest is other places,” said GymGuyz founder and CEO Josh York. “It doesn’t get better than that. If you think about back in the day, people got their bread delivered, people got their milk delivered and the world is morphing back into that again.”

He said many of his customers still make room for other fitness activities as they design their fitness lifestyle.  

As customers look to pick what fits their lifestyle, there’s a lot of room for brands to tap into every fitness niche.

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