The London Fitness Scene

Danielle Linton

They say you don't know what you have until it’s gone. Coming from someone who left London for Northern Finland - and then came back again - I can speak from experience! 

Since the multiple recessions we have suffered here in London, things have changed slowly, but dramatically. Gym memberships are no longer a necessity; viewed now only as a luxury, memberships have declined. This has opened the gateway for a whole new perspective on fitness. 

Survival of the Fittest

Those gyms that have survived have done so for a reason. Bigger chains of well-known brands have bought out smaller chains, creating super clubs filled with Les Mills classes, swimming pools and a whole heap of equipment and Personal Trainers hoping to show you how to use it all properly. They run the typical group fitness program with spinning, yoga, pilates and the such.

On the other end of the gym spectrum are gyms such as GymBox - in a league of their own. They offer anything but the ordinary and are often built in unique spaces such as disused cinemas (movie theatres). Live DJ’s spin tracks while you work out and the timetable is laden with innuendoes such as S&M…Stretch and Massage in addition to lesser available classes such as Pole Fitness, Aerial Yoga, Circus Skills and Broga (Yoga designed for men).

Nothing in Life Is Free

But in London, you have no excuse not to get fit for all that is offered free of charge. Nike runs a comprehensive weekly schedule of live Nike Training Club (NTC) classes across London in their stores and parks, in addition to one-off events throughout the year. Lululemon offers complimentary yoga at each of their 4 showrooms in London and will be opening their first European store in London in March 2014. You can also find a run club to join any day of the week where people come together to run the streets of London! 

What these ‘free’ classes have created is a community. A support network for those who want to 'get fit’ but have no one to do it with, don’t know where to start, and / or can’t afford to hire a Personal Trainer. Fitness has become bigger than just going to the gym. We now go to class…with friends…followed by breakfast / brunch / dinner with those same friends where we chat about our journeys and what goals are next on our fitness lists! 

Popping Up in London

For those who haven’t been hit quite so hard by the recession, or are just willing to pay - they are spoiled for choice with boutique studios. Studios which specialize in particular areas such as spinning, reformer pilates or dance. They are quirky looking, with great decor and eye-catching branding. London recently just got its own version of Soul Cycle in the form of a studio name Pscyle. Each class is set to a banging set of tunes…a high energy performance from your instructor (who is highly likely to be an actor / actress) and moves you don’t expect in a spin studio! 

I currently teach in one such studio which specializes in Powerplates, Spinning and Glow Yoga. For clients who have found what they love in one (or all three of these areas) they are in the perfect place. Fitting in back-to-back sessions of yoga and Powerplates, or Spinning and pilates. These studios react to the needs of their clients too - offering workshops such as Yoga for Runners & Cyclists just as the runners are realizing they really should do more stretching.

Studios even temporarily pop up these days. They utilize underused, or unusual spaces and keep us entertained for up to a week. The Secret Yoga club is one such pop up…their classes are followed by a three course raw vegan meal, which helps create that community and makes for a great evening. 

Something for Everyone; Filing the Gaps

The gaps left in the markets I have described above are filled by small enterprises that specialize in their own areas. Ex-professional ballerinas who create a ballet-based workout called Sleek Technique run online classes and recently collaborated with Sweaty Betty (the British lululemon) to reach a wider audience live in the Sweaty Betty stores. 

Like Boxing, and Yoga?! Now we have Boxing Yoga! Dance fitness, Martial Arts fitness, Budokon Yoga, Capoeira, Kangoo (shoes with springs!!)…you name it, London has it!


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