IRVINE, Calif. — As fitness clubs seek to reclaim pandemic losses, a new entrant is looking to seize vacated territory.
STRIDE, fitness chain founded in Pasadena in 2017, has been signing studio owners to take its in-studio running concept to neighboring cities. With seven locations so far, a new Irvine franchisee is eyeing even further expansion.
Betsy Scannell, co-owner of a studio located at Irvine’s Spectrum Center, said business has been tricky, but after opening in August, she hopes to open three more locations in the San Diego area.
“When COVID hit, it got really risky, but we had already signed a lease, so we went for it,” Scannell said.
The concept pairs running with weightlifting and core workouts offering customers of all ages and fitness levels a program that can fit their goals. Each franchisee leases Woodway treadmills, to-off-the-line equipment that provides a low-impact running experience. The treadmills can sync with Apple Watches, and coaches encourage customers to purchase a heart rate monitor, which can feed real-time data to in-studio monitors. That offers instructors another tool to help them push a client or advise another to pull back.
The workouts can vary, but often fall into the HIIT category, or high-intensity interval training, which asks students to dig deep for sharp, limited duration bursts.
STRIDE brings its concept to market as the industry finds itself in recovery. Fitness clubs were among the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, with national chains like LA Fitness forced to shut down and freeze membership payments.
In 2019, before the nationwide closures, worldwide revenues were $96.7 billion supported by 184 million members spread amongst nearly 210,000 fitness clubs.
Once fitness clubs were forced to close, home gym equipment became hard to come by. Stock prices from popular home bicycle Peloton, which can come with a subscription to fitness videos, skyrocketed. Share prices quadrupled from $30 to more than $160 over the span of 2020 before tumbling back to the $80 range in 2021.
Prominent brands like Gold’s Gym and 24-Hour Fitness had to file for bankruptcy protection as customers canceled memberships and sought alternatives.
Other disrupted industries like restaurants and movie theaters were forced to adapt, searching out slivers of business where they could succeed.
STRIDE is new and is still finding its feet as established competitors look to regain their purchase in a loaded market. The fitness company uses a nucleus of trainers to write fitnesses routines each month, which are then customized in-house by coaches of the various franchisees.
Memberships start at $144 per month for a lifetime membership, or $179 without the promotional discount.
“It’s not a big box gym where you go in and figure out your own workout then leave,” Scannell said. “You have a coach to push you.
Lessons can pair running with core and weightlifting for those interested in strength training.
STRIDE Irvine’s coach Donovan Stewart said even classes with 50 minutes of running vary in pace and intensity, so attendees can run again the next day if they want to.
Stewart brings his experience as a former collegiate runner and classroom chops in nutrition and exercises science. Having competed in sprints, Stewart took up the challenge of coaching marathon runners after college in his first job at a New York fitness club.
“I was the only runner in the gym so they automatically assumed I could train people for marathons,” Stewart said, who developed a running club and training routines. “I’m a sucker for learning.”
Stewart’s broad running resume strikes at the heart of the kind of specialized variety STRIDE has endeavored to create to go along with the monthly price tag.
Customers have trickled in, but as running events around the county resume, Scannell said gym representatives would be out recruiting new students.
The studio is planning a booth for Sunday’s OC half-marathon.
“It’s hard to get people into the studio,” Scannell said. “I think they’re still scared.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the treadmills. The name is Woodway. The story also incorrectly stated where the chain is based. It was founded in Pasadena, not based there. (Nov. 5, 2021)