Health to wealth: Òt­ness is our busi­ness

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BUSI­NESS JES­SICA WE­IN­STEIN www. sw3at­stu­ www.BURNR­­sta­

THE UK health and fit­ness in­dus­try is in good shape. If it were a per­son, it’s the sort who joins a gym in Jan­uary, uses its mem­ber­ship and is now at the point where it is post­ing pic­tures on In­sta­gram, wear­ing “strong not skinny” tshirts. With 7,038 gyms in the UK boast­ing 9,900,000 mem­bers and an es­ti­mated to­tal mar­ket value of £4.9bil­lion, fit­ness is big busi­ness.

But take a look at those fig­ures. The busi­ness model is based on all those peo­ple who join a gym and then don’t go. Now, new­com­ers to the in­dus­try are of­fer­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. In­stead of vast fac­tory-type gyms, or pricey per­sonal train­ing, their busi­ness plans are based on of­fer­ing a more per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We fo­cus on a full trans­for­ma­tion process,” says Adam Mu­rad, 30, of fit­ness stu­dio SW3AT which opened in Septem­ber. “It’s not just ‘in, out and bye’”. He de­scribes SW3AT Stu­dio as “group per­sonal train­ing” — a new gen­er­a­tion of gym where you get the ca­ma­raderie of a group class with the at­ten­tion and per­sonal fo­cus of a one-on-one train­ing ses­sion.

“There are six peo­ple max­i­mum to a class and every­one gets the at­ten­tion they de­serve and need to be able to do ex­er­cises cor­rectly.” And this at­ten­tion doesn’t end once the class is over. “We have clients mes­sag­ing us say­ing ‘What should I eat for break­fast and din­ner?’ and send­ing me pic­tures of their food. It’s pretty cool to have that sort of in­ter­ac­tion.”

His busi­ness part­ner Jess Becker, 28, agrees. “We want to know every­one’s name; we want to be able to re­late to them per­son­ally. It is goal-ori­en­tated as op­posed to just com­ing in and leav­ing,”

The SW3AT stu­dio in West Hamp­stead looks like the weights sec­tion of your stan­dard gym. There are ket­tle­bells and dumb­bells, Smith ma­chines and TRX ropes hang­ing from the ceil­ing. No tread­mills. “Any­one can run on a treadmill,” says Becker. “It’s so easy to plateau.” SW3AT Stu­dio fo­cuses on body­weight ex­er­cises that should lead to vis­i­ble and sus­tain­able body changes, fu­elled by the pair’s years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the fit­ness sec­tor.

Mu­rad trained as a per­sonal trainer at 19 and, af­ter a bad ex­pe­ri­ence at a “big com­mer­cial gym where I got lost in the abyss” de­cided he wanted to start a fit­ness rev­o­lu­tion.

He takes his fit­ness very se­ri­ously and is fast­ing on the morn­ing I meet him (although he does tell me that he holds an eat­ing record at a chicken wing restau­rant in Is­ling­ton — so there’s hope yet for all of us). Becker had a change of ca­reer five years ago, qual­i­fy­ing as a trainer af­ter work­ing in events. She’d been spend­ing all her free time — and money — go­ing to fit­ness classes.

“I think I could say I’ve been to ev­ery class in Lon­don now”, she laughs. How­ever she found that she didn’t see a real change phys­i­cally by go­ing to one-off classes. When she in­vested in a per­sonal trainer, the re­sults were tan­gi­ble, but it was just too ex­pen­sive. Becker and Mu­rad met at a JLE Hal­loween party 10 years ago, be­came friends and even­tu­ally de­cided to go into busi­ness to­gether.

Danielle Gabay, 24, has no for­mal train­ing but has al­ways been into fit­ness. She cred­its this to her up­bring­ing in Is­rael, where she lived un­til she was 12. “In Is­rael every­one has to be in the army, which forces you to be fit.”

But, she says, Is­raeli fit­ness is dif­fer­ent to the UK. “Peo­ple will go for a run on the beach,” she says, rather than com­mit to gym mem­ber­ship. She be­lieves that get­ting chil­dren and young peo­ple into a fit­ness rou­tine early is the best thing — both for phys­i­cal health and psy­cho­log­i­cally.

“I be­lieve that fit­ness is for­ever and if we es­tab­lish ex­cel­lent fit­ness habits from a young age it will lead to great health ben­e­fits and habits.” Her spin stu­dio, BURNR, of­fers teen-spe­cific spin classes and teen and par­ent classes.

She says she wants to en­cour­age teenagers to en­joy fit­ness and prove that “it’s not neg­a­tive”. If you have hor­ror-film mem­o­ries of PE classes at school, you’ll wish that Gabay had been around for you. “A lot of kids don’t like PE lessons but here they will have a lot of fun with loud mu­sic, every­one tak­ing it at their own pace.”

And the disco-y at­mos­phere of BURNR — neon strobe lights, pump­ing mu­sic and in­struc­tors who lead the class from a podium at the front ,work­ing an iPad like a DJ with a deck — means that spin­ners can be tricked into for­get­ting they’re work­ing hard.

Both SW3AT Stu­dio and BURNR — yes, they have names that bog­gle the eyes — aim to of­fer a work out ser­vice that works for their cus­tomers. When I spoke to Gabay, BURNR had just com­pleted its launch week. “We learned a lot. For ex­am­ple the 6pm class was too early to get to

af­ter work, and the teen class that was at 5pm, we found that most kids aren’t even back from school then, so we’ve amended the timetable.”

A lot of re­li­gious women at­tended the Fri­day morn­ing class, “so we de­cided to run some women-only classes with a fe­male in­struc­tor — so the women would feel com­fort­able.” This was an un­ex­pected but wel­come side ef­fect of be­ing con­ve­niently lo­cated be­tween Mill Hill and Hen­don.

All th­ese fit­ness start-ups take their jobs very se­ri­ously. Cur­rently Becker and Mu­rad lead all the classes at SW3AT Stu­dio, while Gabay goes to the BURNR stu­dio ev­ery day af­ter her day job.

Fast-paced cir­cuit classes or sweat­ing it out un­der bright lights isn’t the only way to be fit, though. Jen Lan­des­berg from

Blessed Yoga takes a calmer ap­proach to fit­ness — but is no less rig­or­ous. I’m a lit­tle scared by her In­sta­gram page — fea­tur­ing her demon­stat­ing beau­ti­ful, com­pli­cated and in­tense look­ing poses – but she says she posts them to en­cour­age non-yo­gis to give it a try. “A year ago I was a beginner. I preach to clients you can do any­thing.” Lan­des­berg, 23 says she went from in­flex­i­ble, gym-phobe to yoga teacher af­ter be­ing in­spired by her very first yoga class. “I’d al­ways had a fas­ci­na­tion with yoga from afar but I never thought I’d love it as much as I did,” she en­thuses, ad­mit­ting that she started look­ing at teacher train­ing cour­ses on a whim.

She was a stu­dent at the time and had long sum­mer hol­i­days stretch­ing out in front of her. Want­ing to learn a skill and hav­ing been suf­fi­ciently in­spired by her hand­ful of pre­vi­ous yoga classes, she took the plunge.

Study­ing psy­chol­ogy at Bath Uni­ver­sity, Lan­des­berg had al­ways had an in­ter­est in men­tal well­be­ing “but I’d ap­proached it from a sci­en­tific point of view.” One of the rea­sons she thinks she felt such an affin­ity to yoga came not from the phys­i­cal ef­fects alone but “also the men­tal things that come from it. Yoga gave me a safe place and break from the stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment [of uni­ver­sity] and to be able to share that peace­ful­ness and calm­ness with other peo­ple is great.”

She says she of­ten gets com­ments from shocked clients who say that her class changed their mood dras­ti­cally. “Yoga is way more than stretch­ing — you only have to watch some­one who is re­ally fit do yoga to know that yoga is ex­er­cise — the sweat, the shake. I’d be re­ally shocked if you didn’t sweat af­ter a class.”

Cur­rently most of Blessed Yoga’s clients are Jewish. Lan­des­berg built up her busi­ness by word of mouth — and de­spite not do­ing any PR now re­ceives yoga equip­ment from com­pa­nies who have spot­ted her on In­sta­gram. She cred­its the Jewish com­mu­nity for her suc­cess. “I’m so grate­ful for the com­mu­nity I’m part of — I gen­uinely don’t think my busi­ness would be the same.”

Prac­tic­ing a mix be­tween Vinyasa and Hatha, Lan­des­berg de­scribes her classes as fo­cus­ing on strength and flex­i­bil­ity — and also fun. “Let’s not take any­thing too se­ri­ously!” she laughs. “I don’t love ex­er­cise, I strug­gle to get my­self into the gym, so find­ing yoga was amaz­ing”.

Just as be­ing in­flex­i­ble or un­fit is no bar to start­ing and en­joy­ing yoga, nei­ther is gen­der or age.

“I have a lot of young men as clients, which I wouldn’t ex­pect, and they’re prob­a­bly more into it than my other clients!” she tells me. “And older women who say to me: ‘I thought I’d give this a go as my last shot to keep me ac­tive’ —and they love it.”

Blessed Yoga is based in a stu­dio in her gar­den in Arkley, Bar­net but she also trav­els to clients’ houses, so if you’re think­ing of start­ing a healthy habit for the new year, this one can fit around your timetable.

Tra­di­tion­ally, fit­ness ar­ti­cles in Jan­uary are all about the “new year, new you” but th­ese ex­perts agree it’s bet­ter to find an ex­er­cise you can con­tinue to love once Jan­uary is over too. “It’s good to set goals,” says Mu­rad “but there’s got to be a jour­ney — it’s a new life­style, not a new you.”

Jen Lan­des­berg strikes a pose (above), (left) Danielle Gabay and a col­league from BURNR

Get on your bike at BURNR

Work­ing out at SW3AT

Jess Becker and Adam Mu­rad of SW3AT stu­dio

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