Finweek English Edition - - COVER -

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.

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