It’s official, our generation of fitness enthusiasts is paying more to sweat – and boutique fitness is very much a thing. Fitness is viewed as an investment, and customers are more likely to put money into their workouts if they are going to receive a richer experience overall. It’s that millennial vibe and all that smashed avocado on toast which we attribute to this new health trend and our ‘fitness status’ in society. I am being pedantic I know, and I must admit, I am very much consumed by the fitness industry myself – boutique or basic, I am all for it.
The Dubai fitness scene is incredibly active right now, with new gyms and studios popping up left, right and centre – the demand is there, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down any time soon. So why not capitalise on the fact that people want to keep fit, and more importantly, in a studio stocked with the latest high-end equipment and indulgent shower products? It’s a society that wants to look good, feel good, and fitness is very much its own status symbol – with bespoke experiences providing that element of exclusivity in a city driven by luxury.
There’s always going to be that crowd that wants to be seen at the hottest new bars and clubs (it’s Dubai after all), but now there is very much a trend to be hitting the workout hot spots in the city – keeping up the pace as we hop from one studio to the next. It’s why Classport, Guava Pass and Class Pass do so well, because they cater to our desire for endless variety. Millennials are developing a diverse fitness palate and they want to sample everything that the sports menu has to offer.
Our attention span as a generation is short, and people can be pretty non committal – the ‘life is too short’ theory has been taken to a whole new level, with more and more people quitting jobs to travel, to spend their time exploring and embarking on exciting adventures, freelancing and starting entrepreneurial ventures to give them the time and space they need to pursue their passions. And it’s the same with fitness – there is a culture of hopping from one trend to the next, and maybe you find the one that fits, and you revisit that one a little more often – it’s like Tinder, but for sport. Having said that, I would say that quite a few people consider Tinder a sport in itself, but that’s a whole other blog feature just waiting to happen (watch this space).
Some of us may still like to keep it simple as we frequent our usual gyms, but the majority of people want interaction, motivation – they want a class that makes them feel good, pushes them to do more and get the best results they possibly can. And that’s where the owners of the studios come in: it’s up to them to make fitness a bespoke experience, to make it unique, to keep it sexy. You won’t get very far in such a saturated market without a decent USP – there’s just too much competition out there. So how are these studios setting themselves apart? Well, it’s so much more than the concept, or the equipment – people want an experience. And that’s where the branding comes in, the ethos – you’ve got to identify your studio’s personality and spirit.
The branding rests heavily on the the instructors: their energy, their skill, their ability to motivate and to give people the results they are working so hard to achieve. They are the heart and soul of the studio, they are the brand, and people will only keep coming back if they find that connection with their instructors – particularly if the price point is high. In our age of social media gone mad, fitness instructors are becoming minor celebrities in their own rights, with a following of people who want to be as fit as them, or at least look as hot as they do in swimwear.
I wanted a case study, an example of boutique fitness in the region, so I caught up with Amelie Hua, Founder and CEO of MOTION spin studio to hear about the rise of the boutique fitness industry from the perspective of a studio owner here in Dubai. After experiencing the Soul Cycle concept in Paris, Amelie came back to Dubai in search of a similar concept, but what she found was a fairly uninspiring take on the original, which is what sparked her motivation to start up her own studio.
Soul Cycle is a fabulous concept originating in New York City, which aspires to revolutionise indoor sport. It is currently conquering the US at hyper speed. In a candlelit room, guided by a coach, we alternate exercises cycling to the beat of lively music. MOTION gets its inspiration from this amazing concept.
1. Why did you choose to open MOTION here in Dubai?
There was no such concept here – something fun and challenging, and yet there was (and still is) a big health and fitness market growing in Dubai, so I thought it was a good opportunity to open here. Dubai is also a city of expats; everyone is far from family, and there are really few places that you feel at home. The concept behind MOTION is to provide not only a fitness routine, but also the feeling of “home” and family that you often miss here.
2. Describe the MOTION brand in three words.
Passion. Challenge. Family.
3. Why did you go for the boutique concept? What value do you think this gives your clients?
Focusing on one service is the best way to make it “extraordinary”.
4. How does MOTION set itself apart from other cycle studios? What makes your studio unique?
I think it’s a lot of different things: the location, the studio, the community, the classes, the instructors, the people, the training. But I think what really makes us different is our team and the passion that drives us.
5. How do you choose instructors who will embody and exude the MOTION brand?
For the moment, only our regular clients have approached us to become MOTION instructors. It’s a challenge for them; it gives them confidence and improves their sense of leadership. We recruit people with passion; everybody can be a good instructor if they have the energy to support them.
6. Do you think the small touches and attention to detail make a difference?
Paying attention to small details makes the bigger picture beautiful. It’s like a painting; the small touches and attention to detail make people feel special.
7. Do you think the bespoke experience enhances the performance of people’s workouts?
Yes. The more effective and personalised the workout, the better you perform. And because you focus on one thing, you have the ability to improve. It’s impossible to do multiple sports and perform well in all of them.
9. What do you love most about the MOTION brand, and the ethos it embodies?
The fact that it’s not just your usual high intensity cardio. It’s a lot more – it’s about changing your life completely. You connect with people, you exercise, you get stronger mentally, physically, emotionally. MOTION is a lifestyle not a sport. It’s “I want to do it”, not “I have to do it”.
When it comes to health and fitness, value and a richer experience don’t necessarily have to equate to a financial marker, the two are not inextricably linked. But one thing with fitness is that you definitely get out of it what you put in; whether that be energy, passion, commitment, or money – you decide on how you invest in your fitness future. Whether you take the boutique or the more basic approach is totally up to you.