Each new year brings new ways to exercise, new expert opinions, and fancy new buzzwords you can use to impress your friends. In the Creative Capital of the World, where everyone’s trying to get a leg up, studios and trainers are doing what they can to capitalize on consumer hunger for new and exciting workouts. Here’s what’s hot in L.A. right now.
A workout in L.A. is never just a workout. Everywhere you go, fitness studios are trying to offer their clients an experience, partially catering towards a millennial user base that craves a multi-sensory lifestyle. At Burn60 Studio in West Hollywood and Brentwood, the focus is on tailoring the workout experience to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding guest. In 2018, they plan to release a user interface for their treadmills that can be pre-programmed to engage the user at every touchpoint of their workout. Burn60 founder Janet Crown says this is a demand that big box fitness franchises will have a hard time meeting. “Millennials are looking for a more immersive workout with light, music, and text,” Crown says. “They’re much more likely to engage in something that’s going to be experiential. It can’t just be a piece of equipment; it has to be engaging.”
Around the corner from Crown’s West Hollywood location, there’s a yoga studio that was founded on the belief that the fitness community is craving a different experience altogether. Playlist Yoga is a high-energy yoga studio that creates a practice centered around popular music, where you can vinyasa to the sounds of Taylor Swift or Jimi Hendrix. Its founder Jordan Cohen was a “regular gym guy” when he moved to L.A. from New York in 2009 but quickly realized there was a need to give a certain ancient practice a modern twist. “Yoga’s been around for more than 5,000 years so the practice itself isn’t going anywhere,” he says. “I just thought there could be a way to modernize it and make it a little more fun. We’re getting a lot of yoga newbies that have the same assumptions about yoga that I originally did—that it’s slow, spiritual, and that it can’t necessarily be modernized. But our style changes that with the music and the intensity.”
For Rise Nation founder Jason Walsh, one of the year’s hottest fitness trends came to him at a Nine Inch Nails concert. “I was jumping around having the time of my life while this music and light show was going on. That distracted me from the fact that I was actually sweating and getting a workout in. That’s when it started making sense to me that we should be creating an experience.” Now, Walsh and his instructors use music to shape his clients’ workout routines. Their methodology has to do with tempo and beats per minute, creating playlists that contribute to the movement of the client just like a dance routine.
As important as any of L.A.’s fitness trends this year is how gyms are creating and engaging in communities. Cohen talks about his vision of the fitness studio as what he calls a “third place.” “Traditionally you had your job, your home, and your religion. Now it seems these fitness communities and group classes have replaced religious institutions as that third place you can go to unwind.”
At Playlist, where every class is centered around music, Cohen says that a song can contribute to the yoga community. “What’s great about the music is it creates conversation. A lot of times you’ll see students approach the instructor after class to ask about a song that was played during class. It creates an instant connection in the community and between the instructors and students.”
Crown sees the L.A. fitness customer gravitating towards community-oriented spaces. “We have stories, like people that met at Burn60 and are now married with children, or women or men that have had diseases and are now recovering—our clients become our family. They become an integral part of our lives and we become an integral part of theirs. It’s not a gym that you just show up to and leave. It’s really somewhere we’re all connected, and I don’t think that’s available everywhere today.”
At Rise Nation, Walsh has built a patio outside his studio facing the Hollywood Hills. It’s designed for guests to recover, stretch, and compare workouts with fellow members.
While many Angelenos are visiting their respective places of workout worship for a sense of community and belonging, many of these studios are now coming to them. In an effort to cater to the customer and deliver a memorable experience, Cohen says he expects L.A. to receive an influx of pop-up fitness events that bring the workout on the road. Playlist holds a monthly pop-up class at the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, and fitness gurus like Amanda Kloots and Brittani Rettig will be popping up at places like 3rd Street Dance and Playground LA in early 2018. Cohen says: “What’s great about L.A. is that while we’re all competing with one another for the same customer, it’s been a very supportive community where everyone is really down to help one another so that all the L.A. brands succeed the best they can.”
Analytics & Wearables
The inevitable change to fitness this year will be the already-begun infusion of technology into the space. Wearable technology continues to evolve beyond just counting steps and measuring heart rate. It’s giving the weekend workout warrior the ability to track her progress like never before, and it’s giving gyms the ability to provide value to their customers by sharing results and progress.
Studios like Burn60 already operate with the tenets of tech at the heart of their mission. Says Crown, “We’re big believers in heart rate monitors and setting goals, tracking your accomplishments during class, and keeping a log of your improvement. Everyone in our class has a heart rate monitor and we educate them so they better understand what they’re trying to achieve.” Burn60 sends its clients regular emails outlining their accomplishments and encouraging them to set new goals. Along with the tech her studio provides, Crown says she’s seen a significant increase in customers wearing devices like FitBits or Apple Watches in her studio. “I believe being data-driven is a trend that’s going to be around for a long time because people want to know more about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, how they’re doing it, and how well they’re doing it. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing how you’re doing something better this week than you were last week. Gauging these things gives you a better opportunity to control your fitness level.”
Where to Work Out in L.A.
“You can’t swing a cat without hitting a gym here,” says Crown. “Certain areas are loaded with boutique fitness studios which is great for the customer.” Locals are certainly spoiled for choice: A search for fitness studios returns more than 3,400 results on Yelp. But that means it can be hard to know which studios are worth your time. The west side of L.A. remains the hub for working up a sweat, and Downtown and the Arts District are up and coming, but there may be no better neighborhood than West Hollywood, which Cohen calls the “ground zero for health, wellness, and fitness.”He says, “Los Angeles is filled with people testing out different types of workouts before they try to take them to other cities. L.A. is ground zero for new and emerging brands to create their base and build their communities.”