The Rise and Rise of Boutique clubs.

It started  before Soul Cycle, an underground movement with small groups of exercise enthusiast turning up to workout together. They shared a common desire to train hard, suffer together rather than alone, motivate each other and recognise individual and group achievement. They shared a common goal. Maximize the workout and share the experience.


It began with small studios and enthusiastic instructors and then it gained momentum. The industry looked at it as a fad, something on the periphery, a small group of enthusiastic spinning participants, yoga devotees and Olympic lifters.

Then when Soul Cycle was revelaed, $112 million in anaual sales, people took notice. On the surface it looked easy to replicate. Take a small space, give it a funky appearance, coin a unique training approach and charge by the class not by the month.

Create a quality workout and user experience, make sure you can deliver it to those same high standards over and over again, price it above the norm to create some level of exclusivity.

In the past six months I have worked out in several boutique facilities to experience these sessions for myself. Soul Cycle in Washington DC was my first real boutique experience. I enquired at reception about taking a classs and had the full Soul Cycle experience.  When it was time to ride, my first observation was the amount of participants that were still hanging around from the previous class. They stood in reception, they hung out outside talking, laughing and sharing stories. They were dressed in this seasons workout collection, a few even wore Soul Cycle New York or LA tops just show that they have been riding in various locations. It was a tribe, not just a group of people who happened to do the 5.00 pm class. ……….a community. I chose the class based on two things, one the time slots available, second the music choice of the instructor which was posted on the Soul Cycle website. I Knew ahead of time some of the music I could expect in the session. Not only was it a great workout, but those riders that recognized I was new to the class asked how I got on once it was over.


I then proceeded to buy $150 worth of clothing to show that I had the experience as well.

Orangetheory Fitness, fashions its workout around cardio and resistance training. It’s a more rounded workout with a mix of cardiovascular, muscular endurance and power-based activities.


While the workout is the focus of the sessions, it’s the sense of belonging to something different that was most evident. Welcomed by name by the manager after booking on–line.  Having the workout experienced explained (and then delivered as explained) helped to reduce any anxiety about the up and coming session.

The opportunity to work at my own pace while working out with others. I could compete against myself and the group, while contributing to the overall class effort all at the same time.


Because these facilities are smaller in size than traditional gyms, they provide greater opportunity for staff to interact with members, and for member to interact with each other.


Its not just high price, small space


They have modeled the exercise experience in a way that creates a strong sense of belonging. A workout that is tough enough to challenge everyone and where everyone has a chance to contribute, either just by being there or via some contribution of effort. They have branded the clothing to create a fashion statement that matches the exercise statement. By wearing my Soul Cycle or Orange Theory top, you know something about me. The workouts are designed to get you in the zone, create a sense of FLOW, completely engaged in the workout while working out. These sessions differ from the run of the mill cycle, circuit and studio class. But it replicable, Soul Cycle have xyz sites, and OrangeTheory Fitness are on track to have 800 Clubs by the end of the year.

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