FITNESS GONE WILD!



 

Every girl dreams about her wedding and how beautiful she’ll look in her dress. Dianne Ward is no different. Her public journey to lose weight in Dianne’s Challenge: Fit for Wedding officially launches today on ProSourceFit.

There’s a new elite class defined by cultural capital rather than by income bracket, people who practice inconspicuous consumption, finding value not in flashy cars but in buying organic food, taking yoga classes and investing in their children’s education. By making wise decisions about education, health, parenting and retirement, this aspirational class reproduces wealth and deepens an ever-widening class divide.

The new social media series made by fitness equipment maker, ProSource, will document Dianne’s journey via the ProSource blog, You Tube videos, and social media until her November wedding. Dianne starts her four-month challenge at 164 pounds. Many leading fitness brands are also on board, providing giveaways to viewers.

The night Dianne was engaged to her fiancé was the same night she found out her father had to have triple-bypass surgery. The emotional day was the motivation she needed to finally drop 20-30 pounds from her petite 5’1″ frame.

The performance of the fitness industry tends to be cyclical. That’s true for workouts, and it’s true for diets. This is a space where things may come and go, and trends may disappear entirely. You can probably think of examples: Jazzercise and Tae Bo and a continual stream of short-lived at-home fitness products—the kinds typically sold on infomercials. Some workouts just repeat the same thing again and again; fatigue, boredom, or distraction sets in, and people decide to try something new.

Smart studios don’t think of themselves as a fitness company; they’re a player in the broader experiential economy. The smartest decisions come from understanding and connecting with customers. The best testing ground for growth is within the walls of mirrored studios. Smart studios recruit and train their instructors quite differently from the way other fitness companies do, for one major reason: Their role is crucial to their riders’ experience. Their instructors are inspirational coaches who leave riders more empowered on their bikes and in their lives. Smart studios count on them to make every class unique, to localize the experience, and to connect with different demographic groups. Smart studios count on them to inspire in hundreds of thousands of riders every month.

Smart studios also differ from traditional fitness classes in the way people value the experience. At a gym you can take unlimited spinning classes as part of a basic membership. Smart studios don’t charge monthly fees, but each class costs around $30, and they ask their riders to book bikes in advance. Smart studios believe the pay-per-class model inspires a different level of energy and commitment that contributes to the overall experience.

“Every woman wants to look and feel amazing on her wedding day, and we know how hard losing weight can be. Our company was built for people like Dianne, who struggle to pay for gyms and personal trainers, but who deeply desire to get fit and healthy. We want to show the world that anyone can lose weight with simple workout equipment and a little accountability,” says President Anatoly Krichevsky.

ProSource conceptualized the sponsored weight loss project when they heard Dianne’s story from their in-house personal trainer, Holly Pinkham. They offered to provide personal training and workout products to help her reach her goals.

ProSource encourages viewers to lose weight with Dianne through this special series by following her progress, doing some of her workouts, interacting with the posts, and following hashtag #fitforwed. They also ask the fitness community to share tips and encouragement to keep her motivated to get fit, healthy, and happy.

Calories burned is just a piece of what smart studios deliver to their riders. Measurability matters, but we’ve heard repeatedly that their team is what keeps riders coming back. Smart studios use behavioral interviewing and on-the-job shadowing to ensure that our teams are motivated to make the time a rider spends at one of our studios the best part of the day. It’s simple but intuitive: Inspired people want to encourage inspiration in others.

Smart studios instructors are their greatest asset. They take riders on a 45-minute physical, emotional, and musical journey that’s similar to theater. You could take a class with the same instructor multiple times in a week, and each experience would be different. Autopilot isn’t an option. Lighting, playlists, words of encouragement—everything is customized in real time to the group of riders in the room. The one constant is the incredible physical challenge.

To recruit superstar instructors, smart studios prioritize great personality and individual expression—their training program will fill in any Spinning-specific gaps. To retain those stars, their model values career trajectory. Smart studios pay above-market wages, and 78% of their instructors work full-time, with health insurance, paid vacations, and continuing education, which is very unusual in this industry. They also have free access to on-staff physical therapists. Their retention rate over the past few years has exceeded 95%. They get about 20 applications for each opening in their training program. Instructors go through a rigorous 12-week training at headquarters, where they learn everything from the elements of the workout to musicality to anatomy and biomechanics. Once they’re on the podium, smart studios invest considerably in further training and development. Because smart studios are a growth company, they see how they can build careers by relocating to new markets, growing into regional development roles, or through promotion.

Some of the best lessons come from outside the industry. Smart studios consider how Disney trains its staff and how Starbucks keeps its stores community oriented. Smart studios watch how Airbnb adds digital products while remaining intuitive. Smart studio enthusiasts will tell you that it’s not just one or two things that make smart studios unique—it’s the combination of many. It’s the welcoming attitude of the staff, the charisma of their instructors on the podium, their clothing collection, and their attitude. It’s difficult for imitators to copy any of that, let alone all of it.

It’s never been part of their strategy, but they’ve attracted an influential clientele, especially in New York and Los Angeles. Some people think that relying on celebrities to create buzz is its own form of faddishness. There’s no question that celebrities have brought smart studios attention, but they don’t do anything special to bring them in. From what we hear, high-profile customers appreciate that they can ride in a community setting and that instructors will never draw attention to them.

Choosing the right location for a new studio is a science, and smart studios begin their research a year before they hope to break ground. There’s no substitute for spending time locally and hearing from future riders what matters to them. What do they do with their free time? Where do they exercise and when? What gets them out of bed early? By understanding their lifestyles, smart studios can build a studio around them—not the other way around. And, of course, smart studios consider which of their instructors can best help build community in a new market.

When it comes to innovation, smart studios do some things you might expect. They’re always looking to improve the design of their studios, which some people have compared to Apple stores. For instance, smart studios put iPhone chargers inside the lockers, because the charging stations they used to offer at the front desk were getting crowded. Smart studios have super-bikes, which use magnetic resistance and a carbon belt drivetrain. They’re superior to usual bikes, which use friction-style resistance: They ride more smoothly, and they last longer. Smart studios redesigned the handlebars to accommodate their choreography and to provide greater stability for the upper-body workouts they do on the bikes. And their workout continues to evolve as their riders become stronger. Today their instructors utilize more interval training in their classes, and their hand weights are heavier than they were a few years ago.

Smart studios are confident that they’ll keep growing, because people are looking for places to connect with one another and disconnect from technology. They want experiences more than they want stuff. The reason so many wellness categories are growing is that people recognize the importance of investing in their bodies and their minds. That’s why they believe that they are not as sensitive to the economy as some other premium brands are. Transitions have proved to be times when their brand is acutely relevant to their customers.

Simply put, they’re not a fad. Indoor cycling has been around for more than 30 years because it’s a safe and efficient way to get a cardio workout. It’s easier on the joints than many other forms of exercise, so riders can stay with us for years. Smart studios took this old form of exercise and reinvented it as a full-body workout with emotional and mental benefits that go far beyond fitness. Friendships and communities are enduring. Because smart studios have those elements at their core, their brand will endure too.

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