By Anna Kohanski Mason
Group fitness is having its moment. The industry is on fire – the biggest names in boutique fitness are all expanding, and new studios and concepts are cropping up left and right. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all wagering huge bets in fitness technology; major fashion labels are launching active-wear lines; and Hollywood is creating programming to turn instructors into celebrities. Everyone wants a piece. And for good reason: the power of group fitness is extraordinary.
When people come together to work out, something really special happens. There is an electric current when people "burn" together, and they reach higher as a result. From group fitness classes of twenty people to marathons of twenty-thousand, the shared experience, sense of accomplishment, and added responsibility of working out together helps people push themselves to reach for something higher.
As the co-founders of BurnThis, a social app and lifestyle website for fitness, my business partner, Monica, and I talk about this all the time. We constantly ask, “Why? What is it about breaking a sweat together that gets people so fired up?”
This combination of passion and curiosity fueled us to quit our corporate jobs (Monica’s as a federal prosecutor, and mine as a bond trader) to found BurnThis, together with our friend, Louise. The electricity was something we had experienced personally throughout our own lives, and it shaped our respective relationships with and passion for fitness.
While people were finding ways to connect through fitness in person, we noticed that there wasn’t a technology platform in the market that effectively connected the dots digitally. We looked around and saw tech being used for change in so many other industries, and we asked: Can we build a technology platform that helps create communities in fitness? Can we build something that makes people more accountable, more motivated, and more inspired? Can we “bottle” that electric current, put it in an app, and literally let people carry with them in their pockets?
We launched the free BurnThis app in January 2014 as a tool for people to discover and book fitness classes in their neighborhoods. Then, as we saw the popularity of fitness pop-up events take hold, we expanded the platform to include cool, curated fitness events. One constant component of our booking technology is that we allow people to see who is signed up for a class or event. Users can follow each other in the app, and get push notifications when their friends sign up to workout. It is amazing to watch the domino effect of people signing up for events because their friends are going. We watch events sell out before we have even “announced” them because of the power of a fitness social network.
Now that we have been up and running for almost a year, one of the things we realized is that actually attending a class or a fitness event is a very small component of the overall fitness equation. As fitness continues to emerge as a red-hot lifestyle, we are all looking for fitness-related inspiration throughout the day – something to help motivate us to get to the workout class, or decide to train for a race. We realized that we needed to push ourselves beyond booking, and create new tools in the app that would let people share their stories and inspire each other. This decision came to life last week when we launched THE WALL – a photo creation tool that enables you to post and discover the most inspiring and motivational fitness stories. People can share their personal brand, style, motivation, or workout schedules.
Today, we are just scratching the surface of the really exciting ways that technology can affect people’s workout habits and patterns. We can’t wait to introduce BurnThis to a broader audience, and continue to build a dedicated fitness social network.
Anna Kohanski Mason, co-founder of BurnThis, believes that fitness and friendship are the two pillars of healthy living, and finding a way to combine them was the foundation for BurnThis. She has been working out four to six times per week since she was 15 years old, and continually seeks ways to mix up her workout depending upon her mood and fitness goals. Prior to launching BurnThis, Anna was a Vice President at The Seaport Group, where she was a distressed and high-yield bond/private equity trader. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and her MBA at NYU Stern School of Business. Anna grew up on the East Coast and has spent the past seven years living in New York, but is now happy to call the Hollywood Hills in California her home.