By SYDNEY BRASON All around the city, dimly lit studios featuring upbeat, high-intensity workouts offer classes that leave customers energized and feeling good about their physical health in just 45 minutes. But there’s a price to pay, often $35 per class.Among the largest customer groups are millennials, many mired in student loan debt and stuck in entry level jobs. How can they justify, let alone afford, these pricey workouts? Is a run around the park not enough?
An unsteady start to their careers, combined with accumulating student debt, places millennials on a seemingly restricted budget. Millennials are, however, “still making room in their budgets for wellness,” says Jeana Anderson Cohen, founder and CEO of aSweatlife.com. A Technogym survey helps explain their desire for an instructor-led, team environment in their workouts, finding that 77% of millennials want interaction to help achieve their fitness goals, such as music, apps or an instructor.
SoulCycle is just one example of how boutique fitness has become the hottest fitness trend in New York City, especially with the help of its millennial population. Its rider base has expanded from 40-year-old moms, to teens, college students, and working 20-year-olds. SoulCycle co-founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler say that the fitness boutique’s success can be attributed to careful marketing catered towards a target customer who is younger and is looking for a fun and energetic community exercise experience.
Even Equinox, a luxe gym with locations all over the city, has recently opened Project by Equinox. Referred to as their “first foray into the world of pay-per-class boutique fitness” by wellandgood.com, the space offers innovative classes from “Dance Vibes” to Pilates. On the home page of their website, a marketing statement signifies how gyms have caught on to the boutique class trend: “…we foster an intimate training community where you’ll mix it up with breakthrough talent and be part of the future of fitness.”
According to purposegeneration.com, a millennial insights and strategy firm, one of the ways to ensure the success of a fitness brand is to create a community. The fastest growing brands today have cultivated their own social sub-cultures, “boasting a tribe of loyal followers who hangout after class.”
A sense of community and social atmosphere can explain why millennials have fueled the obsession of trendy boutique fitness classes like SoulCycle. Millennials are also considered “generation wellness,” and a report by Goldman Sachs shows that they are prioritizing their budgets and spending more on healthy food and exercise. In an interview with Business Insider, Cutler and Rice make an interesting comparison, saying that the money spent on one class could “easily be thrown at two or three cocktails in New York.”
Madison Roe, a 21-year-old fashion student living with her twin sister on the Lower East Side, says that she does not have a monthly gym membership because she prefers to pay for workout classes when she has extra money to spend that month. Rather than spend the extra $30 on a round of drinks with friends, she opts for a cycling class instead.
This is seemingly the case with many millennial consumers, as they are weighing the costs and benefits of fitness against other activities. In deciding whether they have the time and motivation to join a gym and workout on their own, they find that spending more by the class is worth it.
“I am willing to pay $35 to have someone tell me what to do because I would not know what to do on my own,” says Marina Anastasia, a 20-year-old student living in midtown Manhattan. “I also don’t have time to spend more than an hour at the gym at night after work or after a full day of classes.”
Millennials find it hard to make sense of joining a gym and paying a monthly membership fee. Spending time figuring out a solid workout routine, combined with a lack of instructor motivation to guide them and push them to their limits, makes paying by the class an easier and more efficient way to burn calories.
Danielle Carriere, a 20-year-old avid SoulCyclist, justifies why she chooses the innovative indoor cycling studio over a gym membership.
“Everyone in your class is motivated towards similar goals of leading a healthier life and having fun at the same time. You just don’t get that at any ordinary gym.”