There was a time a couple years ago when I dragged my ass out of bed at 5:45 am three times a week and walked to the Soul Cycle studio on 83rd and 3rd while it was still dark out. 45 minutes and $34 later – oh and another $2 for shoes – I emerged sweaty, sore and empowered to tackle the day.
That phase has since passed. I like a good spin class, but the thought of clipping in at 6 am makes me actually laugh out loud now. So does the price tag. For hundreds of thousands of other people though, this is a regular facet of their morning routines.
You can mock the neon merchandise (“Noon on Monday” stretched across a muscle tank) or the cringe-worthy lingo all you want (“book a bike, find your soul,” etc.), but these boutique fitness studios are on to something. In 2016, SoulCycle boasted a roster of 440,000 active riders and a reported $112 m-i-l-l-i-o-n in revenue in 2014, according to IPO filings. I imagine both numbers have since climbed, years later.
The insane success is perhaps directly linked to the growing spending power of millennials. And guess what we want? An environment (ideally one that blasts Michael Jackson mashups) where instructors not only tell us what to do in order to get the best workout, but also encourage us to be our best selves. Going to a SoulCycle class is kinda like going to a Tony Robbins event, flashing lights and sporadic group cheers included.
Millennials Are Spending an Insane Amount of Money on Boutique Fitness
Amanda, 28, works out at selective New York City studios 5-7 times a week at the price tag of about $1000 a month. When I asked her why she chose SoulCycle and bootcamp and over a traditional gym, she told me it’s all about the instructor and the community.
“I found someone who makes me believe in myself and set me on a path to stop seeing limits and engender positivity in my life. Someone who monitors my progress and supports me,” she said. “And the friends I’ve made are like having a second family. They’re there for the good and the bad, they’ve seen me cry, they’ve seen me sweat, and they are always there cheering on my victories, calling me out when I need a push.”
She exclusively works out with the same instructor, by the way. Akin Akman, who’s amassed a casual 56,000 Instagram followers, along with a Nike Master Trainer title and IMG model representation, not to mention a cult-like “army” of people signing up for his spin and bootcamp classes.
They’re willing to pay top dollar for them, too. A recent survey by Myprotein revealed the average American is coughing up $155 each month on health and fitness. That adds up to $122,000 over the course of a lifetime. Yowza. That’s more than a college education.
As the largest generation is U.S. history, millennials are poised to shape the future of the economy – and it’s looking like the future’s going to involve a lot of lycra.
So what’s the point, is the amount we’re shelling out on fitness good or bad? Does it matter?
Older generations like to criticize millennials for our spending habits. They don’t understand why we’re renting homes instead of buying one, or using car sharing apps instead of owning one. They’d probably scoff at $97 leggings, or $250 barre class packages.
When I asked Amanda if she ever felt hesitant about the cost, she didn’t miss a beat. “It’s definitely expensive, but it’s no different than personal training (it’s actually cheaper) and it’s FUN,” she said. “I am happy to wake up at 5 am and go, it’s like going to a morning rave. I’m always annoyed getting there, but by the end I leave beaming. It’s an investment, but it’s an investment in you, in losing 60 pounds, in getting out of your own way.”
I feel similar about my yoga practice. $80 a month for a studio membership (admittedly, a bargain compared to the NYC prices I was previously accustomed to), feels justifiable to me for something I love, keeps me sane, and use about three times a week.
My friend Emily recently took the same route. “I was blowing away $40 for a gym membership I literally never use,” she said. “I even have a free gym in my apartment building and I never go. The only thing that actually gets me moving in any capacity is a yoga class, so I realized I could keep paying for the gym even though I don’t feel the spend, or I could suck it up and pay more for something I’d actually use.” She now pays $200 for unlimited yoga classes every month.
There’s something to be said for shelling out on something you love, on exercise you truly enjoy. After all, the only habit that has a chance of lasting is one you find hard to give up. It doesn’t sound like Amanda’s giving up her workouts anytime soon.
“[Boutique fitness] provides something that personal training never did for me, because I was never having fun and I hate working out alone in front of people,” she said. “It makes me anxious.”
And herein lies the biggest takeaway.
If you’re spending a lot of money on exercise you love, and it keeps you motivated and feeling real good, then as long as you can afford it none of these statistics really matter. Go on with your bad self.
If you’re spending a lot of money on exercise you hate, and you dread waking up to go to the gym and you’re doing it because you feel like you have to, then $112,000 over the period of your life is a lot of fecking dough. Think about all the vacations to Mexico you could take instead. Think of all the tacos! Or, you know, a house. If that’s what you want.
Feel like sharing how much you spend on fitness every month and how you feel about it? Meet me in the comments!