From Bars and Restaurants to Retail: The Changing Face of the Gym

Instagram/@sweatandtonic

Going to the gym isn’t what it used to be. At least, not in some of the world’s most vibrant cities it isn’t. Providing more than a sweat session, a growing number of fitness venues offer a well-curated lifestyle and a distinct brand. No longer a space to solely work out solo or take a fitness class, the gym has become a place to socialize, shop, and sip even cocktails (or smoothies and green juice, naturally).

A prime example is Toronto’s newly opened – and much anticipated – Sweat and Tonic, which offers more of a social club vibe than that of a fitness club.

changing-face-of-the-gym
Instagram/@lululemonto

Housed in a historic three-story building, you’ll find a state-of-the-art fitness facility, spa, café, and bar where members can chat with others in creative and comfy lounge spaces. Further uniting its members, Sweat and Tonic also hosts weekly speaker series, corporate retreats, social events, demos, screenings, and pop-ups. For those also there for, um, the fitness, the gym offers more than 150 yoga, HIIT, and spin classes weekly.

Across the pond in London, those with pockets deep enough not only get a five-star workout at luxury fitness chain Third Space, but their own concierge, a spa, and the option of private massage chairs. and laundered gym kits. The brand also offers luxury fitness-filled escapes for its members.

In response to the persistent retail apocalypse, gyms and smoothie bars are teaming up throughout North America, as smoothie brands move away from being solely mall staples.

As Business Insider highlights, smoothie chains have historically relied on foot traffic in malls. With the move away from the mall by shoppers, relocating to share real estate with gyms makes sense when it comes to sales.

changing-face-of-the-gym-1
Instagram/@bagandbougieto

Pricey and popular fitness institutions like Equinox and SoulCycle have partnered with retailers and restaurant chains for years. In cities with sky-high commercial real estate costs, partnering with a gym may offer a less risky way for smaller businesses like local green juice or food companies to enter the market.

Aside from making strategic financial sense, the changing face of the gym marks a shift from a functional space to a lifestyle in itself.

At a time when new boutique fitness facilities – complete with their drop-in rates – seem to open practically weekly, gyms need to set themselves apart in the overall experience to build brand loyalty.

A growing number of fitness facilities organize social events for their members like at Planet Fitness, this means weekly pizza nights (right?) At some gyms, the culture is even comparable to a nightclub – if that’s your vibe.

In the past few years, some fitness facilities have also become spaces to both work out and work.

changing-face-of-the-gym-2
Instagram/@sweatandtonic

As GQ highlighted last year, the latest trend reflects the ever-growing gig economy with gym-co-working hybrids, as fitness facilities are now introducing the concept of co-working office space. Back in 2013, Brooklyn Boulders rock-climbing gym first launched the concept at its Somerville, Massachusetts location. Equinox then introduced its first co-working space back in 2016 and now features six of their Sports Club locations worldwide, sleekly redefining the concept of work/life balance.

The hotel gym is even getting a makeover, as wellness increasingly becomes a priority for travellers.

At Archetype in the newly opened JW Marriott Edmonton, the sprawling gym is reason enough to book a stay. The space features cutting edge brands, offering things like Sorinex rig systems, Keiser compressed air technology, Woodway, ICG 7 spin bikes, and even a Somadome meditation pod. Hotel guests also have access to four custom curated group studios, with yoga, boxing, spin, and HIIT-style classes. Membership options are available here to non-hotel guests.

changing-face-of-the-gym-3
Instagram/@thefitfatale

The bottom line is that the gym now provides more than just a toned body.

It offers a community of like-minded people, a strong sense of culture, and a bubble to escape the outside chaos for an all-encompassing mind and body experience – whether you come for an hour or stay all day.

Articles You May Also Be Interested In:
12 Canadian Workout Brands That Will Have You Sweating In Style
9 Places To Score Discounted Or Free Fitness Classes In Toronto
6 Workouts In Toronto That Are Fun & Effective
Fitness Studio Owners Explain Why Classes Are So Expensive
How I Got My Job As Founder & CEO Of BOLO Inc.