When Finweek spoke to Steve Uria, the charismatic personalit y behind S.W. E. A.T. (Specialised weight, endurance, aerobic training) 1000 (supposedly the number of calories burned per session), we could hear the passion in his voice. This was probably also due to the fact that he had been encouraging people to give it their all the whole morning, as one does when you are a celebrated fitness guru, especially when leading a S.W.E.A.T. 1000 session – the sizzling, high-intensity workout which has become something of a cult among the fitness inclined.
From financial bigwigs to fashion icons and soul singers, Uria’s S.W.E.A.T. 1000 classes have quickly gained a loyal legion of followers.
Together with brothers Paul and Andrew Rothschild, Uria launched the first S.W.E.A.T. 1000 gym in Sea Point, Cape Town. Having spent 22 years in the US working with professional athletes and training movie stars, Uria brought not only considerable experience and expertise to the mix, but also the magnetic aura of a ‘celebrity trainer’ (although he’s clearly not to keen on this term).
Uria, who served in the South African army, founded the concept of ‘ boot camp’ training when living in Florida, so he was no stranger to launching new ideas and novel ways to get people moving.
Uria designs the S.W.E. A.T. 1000 workouts, which are a combination of interval-style routines – incorporating specialised treadmills that incline to 30 degrees and f loor work with an exhausting sequence of high-intensity exercises.
The gym in Sea Point was an instant success and Uria and his business partners were soon opening gyms countrywide. Their biggest hit to date has been the gym in Morningside, Sandton, which Uria says has been a phenomenal success and by far their top performer (there are currently seven studios nationwide). He says that they are now planning to take the concept to New York and London, and possibly even the US.
What attracts people to S.W.E.A.T 1000 classes, explains Uria, is the high energy and chemistry that characterises each session, and the fact that no two workouts are the same. The environment is also vastly different to traditional gyms, with an intimate, nightclub-like feel to it – aided by funky lighting and fast-paced music (and even the occasional DJ appearance).
“All your senses are stimulated during a S.W.E.A.T. 1000 class,” says Uria, “It’s like going into a nightclub, bringing people into the moment, and then walking out on that high – but a positive, healthy high.”
It is clearly a high that many are becoming addicted to, although as with any addiction – healthy or otherwise – it comes at a cost. A single class at the S.W.E.A.T 1000 studios costs R195, although it does offer package deals which are more costeffective. S.W.E.A.T draws you in by not charging for your first class.
Uria admits that the cost is a factor and is very likely a prohibitive factor for many. He is currently revising the price at sister gyms in Bedfordview and Brooklyn, Pretoria, where the concept has yet to receive the surge of interest it attracted in Sandton and Sea Point.
This doesn’t seem to bother the highenergy entrepreneur, however, who says that there is a growing interest in health and f itness in South Africa, which is definitely spilling over into the corporate arena.
“We have a huge following from financial services companies such as Investec and RMB,” he explains, adding that he has been approached to work with various companies and participate in loyalty programmes and team-building days. He is also being inundated with franchise requests, with many looking to jump on the sexy S.W.E.A.T. 1000 bandwagon.