Style Over Substance

About the title of this blog…

I’m going to have a rant about the rise of the boutique fitness market and the inverse effect it’s having on client technique and health.

Style over substance - to think looks are more important than content. I’ll come back to this.

Why the rant? 

Yesterday I was teaching a TRX class at the flagship Sweaty Betty store in Carnaby Street. A quarter of the way through the class I’m doing my usual lecture about core positioning and how important it is and the class starts their first plank.  GOOD GOD.  50% of the class, even after being cued to the point of boredom, lift up into the most horrific planks I’ve seen as a collective in a long time. 


I turned the music off and asked them where they usually go to learn such crap technique? Some of them said, their owns gyms and a few ClassPass classes, and then one girl, in particular, broke my heart.  She had massive lordosis, curvature of the lower spine, giving her a Kylie Minogue bum.  Sounds good huh?  It isn’t.  It can lead to a lot of back and hip problems.

Anyway, she told me that she was a big fan of one the top circuit boutique classes in London who shall remain nameless. They’re killing it.  Almost printing money. Fantastic for them but also hugely part of the problem for the customer these days.  I asked how many times she’d had her technique corrected in this ‘favourite’ class of hers.  She replied with NEVER almost instantly. She’d been to over 10 classes there. Heart-breaking. Not once had they zoned in on her posture, her squat, her control over her pelvic stability.  These are fucking basics people!  She seemed almost dejected once I’d focused on her.  Suddenly she was failing. Then the usual magic happened. I helped, she learned, she corrected and the strength came. I’ve always loved that moment.

The boutique fitness market is absolutely booming.  Look at the number of multiple studio openings happening all over London with classes filled, ludicrously, to the brim.  You never need to go to a nightclub anymore in this city.  You can get your fitness and clubbing done in one darkened seizure inducing studio anywhere (eye roll).  I will concede the lack of alcohol is good though.

Ok, clever clogs.  If these classes are so busy they must be doing something right…right?  Yes, they are.  The studios are beautiful, all-encompassing lifestyle machines, that draw you in like a fly to a blue lamp and you just never leave.  The trainers are sexy as hell, abs exploding everywhere, mic packs turned up to the max surrounded by mirrors so they can watch and seduce each customer into thinking that THEY are special.  They forget that the customer IS special.  Each customer has an underlying need to be more confident, feel strong, get help with moving correctly and become part of something that is improving their lives. 

Question: How the hell are they going achieve health, fitness, and wellness whilst being drowned in horrific technique and some egomaniac screaming at them?

Answer:  They won’t.

Some maths:

Class numbers up = Money up (YAY for us studio owners) = Decrease in technique/customer care

In 2018 Equilibrium will open studio 2 and take on the behemoths of the London fitness boutique scene and by God, if you come in with bad technique we will be on you in seconds like a 24-hour carwash team cleaning up and perfecting your chassis immediately.  We won’t scream, we’ll guide. You won’t be part of the crowd; you’ll be part of a family that looks out for each individual person, not a herd of cattle being put through the grinder each hour.

A caveat.  My opinion doesn’t extend to every class in London.  There are some phenomenal setups and outstanding trainers in London.  You just have to find them.  A couple of tips for finding them:

1.     Do they know your name when you leave?

2.     Did they correct any piece of technique throughout or just describe what the next exercise was?

3.     Did you realise your technique was failing?

4.     Could you hear yourself think?

5.     When you looked across the class could you see the person at the other end or was the strobe light burning your retinas?

6.     Did you get a smoothie at the end? (Huge eye roll).