Equinox is More Than a Gym. It’s a Church.

“Commitment is discipline. Commitment is guts. We know it, and so should you.”

It’s Monday morning. The sun is rising and I’m waiting as long as I can to pull the covers off myself and get out of bed. Doing so is the difference between a relaxing weekend and five days of locked-in intensity. As I lay in bed scrolling my Twitter feed, I see a new post from Equinox: “Morning people aren’t born. They’re made. #EarlyRiser.”

I rip off the sheets, jump out of bed and throw on neon compression shorts, a bright orange shirt and gray shorts to complement my bright blue Nikes. I look in the mirror and nod my head to pump myself up. It’s game time. Let’s go.

Ask any Equinox member about their experience and they’ll say the same thing: I love it there.

Equinox is more than a gym — it’s a fitness club. It’s a sanctuary. It’s home. And it’s a soothing escape from the intense streets of New York City… with refrigerated eucalyptus scented towels! That’s why the average Equinox member visits four times per week, more than double the monthly attendance of the average American gym member.

As one member put it, Equinox regulars personify the journey of the Equinox itself, a journey of fitness that leads towards self-discovery. It’s the one luxury I treat myself to in spite of a shoestring budget that keeps me away from fine steakhouses, bars on the weekends, and events at the Madison Square Garden.

Equinox is a mecca for passionate urban achievers who wake up every day trying to become better versions of themselves. Brand messaging reminds its members why they moved to New York in the first place — to put in their 10,000 hours and achieve greatness.

Equinox has built a powerful luxury brand with a careful focus on hospitality and strong brand partnerships with high-end brands like Juice Press, Net-A-Porter, Smartwater, Lululemon and Kiehls. Equinox capitalizes on the unique characteristics of high achieving urban Millennials, differentiating themselves from the macho-man, blue collar vibes of Gold’s Gym and Planet Fitness. The club is geared towards technologically-savvy, successful Millennials looking to maximize their lives.

Members will say their Equinox membership has made them a better citizen of the world. They credit the health boost to increased productivity, stronger social networks, and increased fulfillment.

Inherent in its rise, Equinox capitalizes on five core trends:

  1. Millennials demonstrate success through their lifestyle, not material possessions
  2. Health is a status symbol
  3. Need for New Communities
  4. Media Reinforcement
  5. The Equinox Lifestyle

1. Millennials demonstrate success through their lifestyle, not material possessions

The rise of social media gives us an outlet to broadcast our lives in ways that weren’t possible just a decade ago. Facebook hosts our memories and our interests. On Instagram, we show off the glamorous parts of ourselves with carefully edited feeds that convey contrived personas. While we’re more transparent on Snapchat, we’re more likely to share our experiences when we’re doing something that boosts our social capital. At its core, experiences shared through social media become the lens through which the world sees us.

As our lives become more transparent, the things we do influence social status more than ever before. People don’t go to social media to see what their friends own. People follow their friends and influencers to see what they’re doing and what they stand for.

The Equinox routine is an attractive routine to share on social media, in addition to the boost in physical appearance that frequenting the gym offers. Belonging to Equinox says you’re deeply committed to health. It makes you cool.

2. Health is a status symbol

While status was once defined by the size of our house and the car we drove, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat provide 24/7 insight into our lives, thereby putting experiences above possessions in the quest for esteemed social status. As humans rise up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, wellness is at the center of more conversations than ever before.

The rise of health as a status symbol is a byproduct of the millennials have towards health. On average, Boomers and Gen X’ers define health as not being sick, or having an appropriate height/weight proportion. Millennials have a different perception of what it means to be healthy with a bigger focus on day-to-day routine, living an active lifestyle, eating well and taking care of their minds. Increased passion for wellness is showing up outside the gym too with the number of people participating in running events growing an average of 9% every year since 2005.

Older generations defined success with a nice home, two cars in the garage and a 52-inch flatscreen in the living room. In contrast, Millennials don’t strive to own more stuff, opting to spend their disposable income on brands and experiences associated with a wellness lifestyle instead. Boosted by the increasing ease of mass communication, and the shift in how we communicate from from text to images, Millennials proudly one-up each other by sharing these experiences on their social channels.

3. Need for New Communities

As the world becomes more secular, younger generations will find new ways to foster community and friendship. For hundreds of years, humanity has turned to the church and their neighbors for these ubiquitous human desires. With the rise of globalization and urban migration, cities are increasingly diverse, crowded and secular.

Taking inspiration from cult-like subsidiary Soul Cycle, Equinox is adding group fitness classes and meet ups to build stronger ties between its members. Classes like AMY’s Army Cycling, 30/60/90, and The Pursuit: Burn, foster a shared sense of loyal commitment that Equinox members are known for. Members enter weekly check-in goals (mine is 5), and track their health and wellness activity within the app. These are powerful reinforcers.

Since moving to New York 124 days ago, I’ve proudly logged 101 check ins. Like a large cohort of members, I’m more obsessed with the club than my own fitness goals.

The experience is tribal. It’s luxurious, but not intimidatingly so. It’s tons of fun.

Each one of New York’s 36 clubs comes with its own vibes — at SOHO, you’ll find Kanye West and an eclectic mix of fashion models. Meanwhile, hardcore businessmen flock to the more traditional feel of the Rockefeller Center location while creative types frequent Flatiron. Equinox locations vary as much as the neighborhoods themselves, all pristinely maintained while reflecting the vivid intricacies of surrounding businesses and coffee shops.

Equinox members hold a special bond that comes from the inherent commitment that comes with being a member. People there don’t half ass their hour at the gym. Members connect while breathing heavily as fresh sweat drips down their forehead and into refreshing eucalyptus towels.

4. Media Reinforcement

The rise of smartphones and social media means that brands who seek to foster deep connections with customers need to find new ways to foster these relationships. In return, loyal customers spend more time engaging with their favorite brands as they willfully opt-in to branded messaging. Furthermore from Equinox accomplishes exactly this.

Focusing on “The science, the travel, the style, the music and more for the high-performance life,” Furthermore adds to the overall membership experience with brand-relevant content for members. Each piece of media reinforces the Equinox brand with nutrition advice, special workouts, fashion commentary, and travel tips. Brand messaging is further reinforced on the platforms technologically savvy Millennials use most: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

With each piece of content, loyal members are willingly deepening their connection with the Equinox brand. By offering members seemingly personalized content, high lifetime value members who’ve already built friendships through Equinox and incorporate the gym into their daily routine gain increased brand loyalty.

5. Equinox as a Lifestyle

Equinox is a part of my identity. Each day, I strive to embody the Equinox brand with deep passion for holistic wellness, and a longterm commitment to becoming a better person tomorrow than I am today.

These messages are reinforced with branded slogans like “It’s Not Fitness. It’s Life,” “Commit to Something” and “We’re All Works in Progress.”

Each neurological reinforcement continues to a powerful flywheel that keeps members engaged with the brand, and more importantly willing to pay the monthly membership fee. With strong motivational messaging and vivid aspirational images, high performance members strive to embody the Equinox brand in ways other high end brands can only hope to do.

Daylight savings time has ended, the clocks have turned back an hour, and I’m laying in bed on this frigid Sunday morning. Once again, Equinox reappears in my feed just when I need it most. Keeping my head on my soft pillows and hiding under my blankets sounds more appealing than a 10:30 Pure Strength class at the High Line location. “Clocks fall back. You don’t. #CommitToSomething.”

By tapping into unique urban Millennial desires, Equinox is forging a a stronger connection with members than any gym before it.

Like a religion, members find meaning and fulfillment by striving to become their best selves through a daily worship. With Equinox, people revere wellness and a mutual commitment to sound minds and sound bodies. Health, like religion before it, is the first step towards achieving their loftiest goals and living their best possible lives.

Equinox is the new church 🙏

Further reading and the inspiration for this post: Inside Equinox Gym’s Perfectly Fit World (and Top-Secret Club)

Special thanks to Daniel Tucker for editing this post 💯

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