By Aly Teich
Last spring, an incident took place at SoulCycle. One of the co-owners of Barry's Bootcamp showed up to take a class at the ever-popular studio on his day off, and a week later, he received a letter from a lawyer at SoulCycle saying that he was no longer welcome back.
This incident — “banning” one instructor from enjoying another instructor’s class — was shared all over social media. It created an uproar within the fitness community, sparking hundreds of comments from other instructors, owners, and trainers stating they had received similar calls, both from SoulCycle and other studios. In addition to a great deal of press on the incident — many other studio owners stepped up to make it clear that everyone and anyone was welcome at their establishments.
Considering the quick and widespread response around the fitness community, “banning” is clearly a hot topic within the industry, but one that isn’t often openly discussed. In fact, SoulCycle is most certainly not the only fitness company that implements such policies in the goal of protecting its workout and its brand. After all, their brand has taken years to build and shape into what some may deem a cult-like following of celebrities and fitness enthusiasts alike - including myself.
As someone who comes from a media and marketing background, and has just launched my own health and wellness company, I fully understand the need for brand protection and the fear of someone copycatting your brilliantly-thought-out-soon-to-be-empire.
Yet ultimately, in an industry in which our collective (yes, collective) goal is to help people lead healthier and happier lives, "banning" and similar protective behaviors in health and fitness companies is simply a disservice to the industry as well as our consumers, especially in an industry which is supposed to be setting such a positive example for so many. Here’s why:
1. IT HAS TO BE THE RIGHT FIT
With the current boom in boutique fitness studios (not to mention vegan cafes, and juice bars), there are countless choices for getting healthy in New York and other cities alike. This abundance of choice has not only left consumers completely overwhelmed, but often picking fitness classes and diet fads based on what seems the most popular. However, health routines are only sustainable when they are the right fit for people and their lives. This is something the health and fitness community should not only be aware of, but embrace if our goal is to truly help people lead a healthier lifestyle. Everyone is going to eventually have their “spot” that they remain loyal to, so why worry about keeping people out?
2. IT SENDS THE WRONG MESSAGE
I find it ironic that an industry that drives home messaging to consumers such as “Love yourself!" “Be the best you!" and “Health is not about being better than others, but about being better than you were yesterday!” can’t seem to apply these lessons to themselves. We should all heed our own advice and focus on doing what we do best: allow people to decide if they enjoy what we have to offer, and to decide if it helps them meet their personal goals. Additionally, the words “pack,” “team,” and “community” are painted on the walls within gyms and studios, printed on branded apparel, and preached during classes. How do we expect consumers to follow these values when we are not leading by example?
3. A LITTLE HEALTHY COMPETITION IS, WELL, HEALTHY
This is true for any industry. Having competitors only pushes you to continually improve your brand and stay ahead in business. It is through these competitors that we learn and grow as companies, institutions, and industries, helping us offer better products to our consumers. We should embrace learning from our competitors and having them learn from us, as not only does it strengthen our industry as a whole, but it, again, comes back to our collective goal - offering people the best ways to get healthy!
4. YOUR COMPETITOR IS YOUR CONSUMER
I don’t know about you, but if the owner of one of my very-successful competitors came to try my workout, I’d not only welcome her/him, but I would be shouting from rooftops that a leader in my own industry was also a patron at my company. Public relations opportunities aside, as health and fitness professionals, we should know how important variety is in a healthy lifestyle. While my job is to try and review ALL workouts and health routines, I must still maintain my own routine for the sake of my health. This is the same for fitness instructors and trainers alike, many of whom I love working out with outside of their own classes in other studios. So if other people in the industry choose your method as a way to keep healthy, you should embrace that you are part of their personal health routine, and welcome them with open arms, high fives, and fist pounds.
5. RELAX, NOBODY CAN TRULY COPY YOU
I have this conversation with studio owners all the time when discussing filming a segment on them for The Sweat Life. They express concerns about allowing cameras into their studios for fear of copycats. My response is always the same: nobody can truly copy what you are doing, as we have not yet figured out how to clone people. While someone can learn and copy the moves and sequences in your class, I don’t believe it is these elements alone that make people truly fall in love with a studio or a routine. It is the whole experience, including, and most especially, the people behind the studio, the energy of your instructors, and the overall tone you set for the experience of your consumers. I am aware that many people could copy my brand and end up doing video reviews of studios, but I have to be confident in my voice, my vision, my approach, and my point of view — all of which can never be copied.
In the end, and not to get all kumbaya on you, but banning anyone from your business or establishment is just not a kind thing to do. In an industry that is supposed to have such a positive effect on people’s lives, we should have that goal in mind for all parts of our practices.
Founder and Host of The Sweat Life
Aly is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She left Manhattan for Madison, Wisconsin to become a proud Badger for four years, and since then has lived on both coasts, traveled around the world…twice, and found herself right back here in The Big Apple.
Aly has always been an active kid, and now grownup (although she still acts like a kid.) She danced her way through the School of American Ballet until her teens, competed on horseback at a pre-Olympic level, lettered in three varsity high school sports, and completed three marathons and numerous triathlons. She’s also an avid skier, golfer, aspiring surfer, and can do a mean belly flop.
Following a ten-year career in television and media — including the Late Show with David Letterman, CBS Television, Tribeca Film, and Conde Nast — Aly switched her focus to health and wellness five years ago when her mother was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. Trading in her Late Show with Letterman badge for Nikes, Aly made it her goal to help people live healthier lives. In the fall of 2013, she decided to bring all of her experience and passion to one place, The Sweat Life.