Most health trends come and go, almost as soon as you’ve unpacked your cold press juicer.
The business world’s affinity for combining client meetings and workouts is getting stronger at fitness spots such as Barry’s Bootcamp, SoulCycle, and Rumble, and gyms like Equinox. The trend has been building among media relations and entertainment industry professionals in New York and Los Angeles, and bankers have slowly started to jump aboard. Wall Street is now fully engaged.
“Instead of going out, I see so many entertain by going to workout classes before and after work,” says Sean Liebowitz, a director and energy/industrials trader at Sanford Bernstein, who mentions Rumble, SoulCycle, and Ripped as popular venues.
Barry’s Bootcamp, where much of the maximum cardio workouts take place on treadmills that are kicked up to 10mph (16km/h), has seen growth in early bookings to insure side-by-side workout spots. Vicky Land, vice-president of communications and brand strategy at Barry’s, says the service comes at a premium.
“We often act as a concierge service to guarantee side-by-side treadmills. We do that quite frequently for people in finance,” she says. “We have a lot of ‘two spots’ which are people ‘sweat-entertaining’.”
The cost is US$50 per person, almost 30 per cent more than an average class.
“Everything is relationship-based these days. If you have a fun workout with a client, it’s much more impactful than wheeling and dealing over the dinner table,” she says.
Land says that the Tribeca and NoHo locations have the highest percentage of client workouts. They have no immediate plans to open in the financial district. “We get a lot of requests to open in Midtown, where there are a lot of hedge funds,” she says. “Last year we actually got a call from a hedge fund asking if we could hold Barry’s classes in their large private gym.”
At the high intensity biking destination SoulCycle, a four-person corporate sales team accommodates demand for events and special business requests. “There are only so many steaks businesspeople want to eat in a week,” says Gabby Etrong Cohen, senior vice-president of PR and brand strategy. “Across the board, people are time strapped, they don’t have four hours to hit the golf course, or two hours for a boozy meal. Plus, they want to do something good for themselves, plus they get networking out of it.”
Some of SoulCycle’s biggest finance clients are Bank of America, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and ING, according to Cohen. The company has 84 studios across the US and Canada; the financial district location is one of the busiest in early mornings. Cohen notes that San Francisco’s South of Market studio also does heavy corporate business.
At Equinox, group fitness classes such as Playground Experience (PGX) – a training circuit which can be broken out into different teams – is a popular place for members to bring clients. According to Bloomberg, PGX has attracted finance people like Strauss Zelnick, founder of Zelnick Media Capital.
“Our mission at Equinox is to empower our members to maximise their potential,” says Equinox chief marketing officer Vimla Black Gupta. “Our mission rings especially true for those members working in the finance industry where finding balance isn’t a luxury they can always enjoy.”
Earlier this year, Equinox, which owns SoulCycle, invested in the boxing-oriented fitness company, Rumble, which has an outpost in NoHo and a big following in the business community.
Sanford Bernstein’s Liebowitz says there has been a trend towards more health-related and fewer boozy-type events, adding that “less traders want to be out late or simply feel gross the next day because of a huge meal or drinking”.
These fitness temples have also become places of employment for former finance people. Among its employees, Barry’s counts Austin Caghley who went from being a business analyst at Goldman Sachs to a popular instructor. Justin Meli, a business consultant with an MBA, now teaches Barry’s in Washington.
“His background helps him bond with and understand the mentality of business leaders,” says Devin Murphy, who spent over four years at the hedge fund Coatue Management and four more at Sypartners, consulting for Fortune 100 companies. She was a five-times-a-week Barry’s client; now she is the vice-president of operations.
In the past year, Murphy has seen greater demand for classes at Barry’s. “We keep hearing from human resources in finance, ‘all our employees are banging down the door to make this part of our wellness package’.”
Some companies take a more direct approach, according to Murphy . She says it’s common for hedge funds to buy out entire classes for just 15 people. “It’s partly networking and partly team-building. We see people from finance do buyouts at least once a week.”
The cost to book an entire class at a peak time: US$5,000.
“They take the 5am class. That way they still get to work early. And it’s also the accountability,” she says. “You would hear it if you get to the trading desk and you were the one who didn’t show up for class.”