Step Up or Step Aside


Blitz HIIT Class.jpg

As a spin instructor, runner, and a strong supporter of the Edmonton fitness community, I want to call out our current fitness organizations and put the pressure on to recognize the importance of being proactive and thinking of what the industry needs, before we as consumers, know we need it.

Diversity is the foundation of innovation and economic growth. The fitness community, especially during the rapid growth we are experiencing in Edmonton, needs to recognize the importance of diversity, as a collective, in order to keep up. But what does that really mean?

Expansion is simply increasing the volume of economic output. Like Starbucks did over the last decade, we are seeing fitness facilities pop-up on every street corner. This is not because we all woke up one day with an epiphany that we love coffee or that we want to workout, this is because of convenience and a reaction to industry competition. We want to get our workout in and drink our coffee near home or work. In order to be the go-to and retain clients, no matter what your product is, you need to be accessible and be “the best” at something.

Innovation focuses on offering a wide variety of talents and specialties, which is a vital component to diversity. Innovation does not stop once one identifies what they are “the best” at. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have seasonal drinks, fancy ways of ordering espresso + milk + foam, or re-inventing a beverage such as the flat white by adding a white dollop. It is an ongoing process that requires constant development and assessment – if you want to be “the best” at something; diversity never sleeps, which means innovation doesn’t either. There is always someone out there that will do it better if you don’t continue to push the envelope.

Many fitness organizations recognize these concepts but their application and demonstration of understanding is lacking. Many of these recent pop-ups reflect fitness fads, not longevity of an organization.

As consumers, we know two things:

  1. We won’t see results if we do the same workout day-after-day.
  2. Convenience and efficiency are things we want in all aspects of our life, especially when it comes to our fitness.

This is why we have witnessed larger fitness facilities (corporate gyms) include everything but the kitchen sink into membership plans. If you want a personal trainer, Olympic lifting sessions, exercise classes ranging from Zumba to indoor cycling, free weights, or you want to get your sweat on using one of ten different cardio machines, you can have it. The question you need to ask is “what are those large fitness facilities the best at?” It sounds like they are “the best” at being mediocre.

As Millennials, we expect to have our cake and eat it too, so how do we get that with our fitness? In Edmonton, it comes in the form of Boutique style fitness facilities. These independently owned venues offer several but not all options. They focus on a smaller but specific demographic. They offer community and collaboration over high-volume interactions. They build relationships, not contracts and annual fees.

As consumers, we want efficiency, amenities and most importantly, our time to be valued. No one likes bringing their own towel, showering with twenty other people, or going for a sixty minute workout and only feeling like we got thirty-six minutes worth. We lead busy lives and everything comes back to the cost-benefit analysis, even when we are looking at our health and fitness. We are also a generation with a “no bullshit” mentality – knowing what our fitness facility is “the best” at speaks to brand awareness and what the organization stands for. We don’t have time to guess or let them figure it out, they need to show us.

As Edmonton continues to grow, we need our fitness community to do the same. Boutique style is the way of the future because they offer an incredible and personable experience but what truly sets them apart is that they value community. They are giving back, as much as they are taking in. They create an environment where you can work out with your friends, no matter the skill level, and they value you as a participant.

The only thing holding boutiques back from taking off and overthrowing all corporate gyms is the ability to be innovative and understand what Edmontonians need before they know themselves. Boutiques will need to diversify their offerings without compromising their brand and without diluting what they are “the best” at. No one wants to purchase four different memberships to ensure well-rounded fitness but we also won’t settle for anything less than “the best”.

I suspect that this means we are going to see boutiques branch out at being only one thing (ex: pilates studio) and offer other fitness opportunities within their space, or partnering with other studios that align with their culture and vision to ensure their clients get the same experience but vary in physical activity. This sound pretty good to the consumer but if we want to be members of this type of community, we need to hold our favourite boutiques accountable because feedback is the best measure of experience and how to be innovative. We need to step up and tell them what we want and keep holding them accountable to pushing the envelope.

Share your thoughts