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Fitness Centers, Micro-Gyms and the Rise of Collaborative Medicine

Image © Gensler

This post is part of a series on the rise of healthcare accelerators, and fostering collaborative medicine through innovation.

There’s no question that contemporary health and wellness practices cross the continuum of care: from acute care hospitals to retail health, the health and wellness community now recognizes the importance of all aspects of medicine and champions cross-discipline collaboration. For individuals, a collaborative approach to medicine includes access to the right team of medical professionals, a healthy lifestyle and personal accountability. Eating right, not smoking and staying active must be part of the daily wellness prescription. Luckily, we now have access to tools that can bridge the gap between medical practitioners and everyday wellness regimens. Doctors have long wanted exact information about patients' fitness and activity levels; the surge of wearable fitness trackers and the mountains upon mountains of data they collect can give doctors exactly what they crave. Data driven, collaborative medicine is where this field is headed.

Today, entrepreneurs in healthcare accelerators such as TMCx and MATTER are working to harness this data and apply it to promote more collaborative practices throughout the healthcare industry. At the other end of the spectrum, boutique fitness centers offering choice and flexibility to health-minded consumers, often in retail settings, are exploding in popularity. This post will explore the changing retail fitness landscape and examine how it fosters this end of collaborative medicine—one that houses a destination for wellness in the form of traditional fitness centers (along with new market outposts), in-office workout spaces, and micro or pop-up gyms.

The Fitness Outpost

The traditional 20,000-30,000 square foot fitness center—with its dedicated parking and unilateral fitness functions—is a recognizable landmark in most suburban markets, which provides the physical space and a dependable client base to support the business model. However, there has been emergence of the fitness outpost in secondary and tertiary markets, reaching an expanded audience and serving their fitness needs. The multi-fitness functions of this club type still remain (spinning, mind body, free weights, cardio class and swim—in an all-in-one location).

However, the outpost is an altered version of the base club in the chain, not a stamped-out footprint, with a tailored program based on the local, potential client, demographic. This makes it more like a community center than a gym. For example, In-Shape Health Clubs built into an old Costco, a Circuit City and a grocery store for their clubs in Palmdale Superior, Palmdale Amargosa and Victorville. Through adaptive reuse of vacated big box retailers and by incorporating differentiated amenities on a club by club basis (such as a kids zone, VIP lounge, outdoor pool), each club location is unique, yet still with the common brand thread. Club members have the ability to belong to a singular club or multiple outposts in the area, and can vary their fitness routine.

Image © Gensler

Work and Workout

Another crossroads for fitness into our everyday lives is the collocation of workout spaces into the workplace. Gone is the windowless, often cramped converted conference room, with its ancient gym equipment and lacking airflow or any sense of inspiration. Today, many of the world’s top companies recognize fitness is directly linked to productivity and provide wellness programs for their employees. In Silicon Valley, Gensler worked with Symantec to design SYMfit Center, an award-winning, on-site fitness center that goes beyond equipment and machines, providing group TRX classes, virtual fitness, massages and fitness evaluations.

Make It Tiny

The trend in spaces for fitness these days is the tinier, the better, offering a variety of activities that can easily plug into the small space. The micro-gym, or boutique center, serves the quest to provide an authentic experience with multiple options for working out. The list of micro-gyms is extensive, with examples such as The Dailey Method, Orange Theory, Barry's Bootcamp, yogaworks, and purebarre, which have rolled out locations at regional and national scales. All of these are housed within 5,000 square feet, some as small as 2,500 square feet.

A major player in this trend is the well-followed and trafficked Hyperlinks SoulCycle, a hyper-growth indoor cycling studio. Singular-focus micro-gyms like these can be adjacent to any retail tenant type, such as restaurants or salons. It is critical that the details of the space, and the separation of space, are considered, specifically the demising walls, acoustical details and construction. Designing these micro-gyms can be a space planning puzzle, where space is tight and studio, lockers, retail and reception all reign equally important to the client and staff. Achieving the right balance is key to success.

Image © Gensler

The boutique gym is at the opposite end of the chain fitness spectrum. It captures another audience through its elevated environment and approachable staff. The Gensler-designed Body Kinetics San Rafael location strives to provide a healthy, open and inviting experience for people to be their absolute best self. Well-established in the local fitness community, the founder wanted to combine qualities of his and others' gyms to create a local fitness center that focused on Body Kinetics' key wellness goals. The integrated interior and brand design teams created a light-filled open space that was creatively organized by experience. The entry, lobby and front of the gym were designed to be calm and relaxing. As you pass through the lounge, you immediately take in the entire gym layout. This was a key goal for Body Kinetics, which helped new members quickly become comfortable and familiar with the fitness center. The employees are also part of the equation in the boutique gym. There is a close, very personal connection between trainer and gym member that is paramount to this type’s success. Therefore, it is very important that the staff is treated well. The Body Kinetics location as again the example has a multi-purpose employee lounge that functions as kitchen and small-group meeting spot for discussions on nutrition and healthy cooking. The room features large communal table, mini kitchen and writable wall surfaces to support many functions.

The next horizon for fitness is the ability to be well anywhere, anytime and, of course, the ability to track it. Health-minded consumers want to make use of their in-between time to get fit. That means commuting by bike, walking to the grocery store, purchasing workout gear and clothes, then actually putting them to use! To help with this, SoulCycle recently launched a partnership with Target to offer three days of free spin classes at a pop-up store and studio at 10 of their locations. For any of these fitness anywhere/anytime mash-ups, the key is to track it and compete with others and, even more importantly, yourself!

Erin Alley is a fitness fanatic (runs, hikes, yogas, cross-fits, cycles indoors and outside). She seeks out new players in both the fitness and retail worlds and encourages their vision through design. An Associate and leader of Gensler’s Northwest Health & Wellness practice area, Erin partners (and works out) with clients to improve their Brand by creating a fun and functional fitness experience. Contact her at erin_alley@gensler.com.

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