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Despite the fact that I am a personal trainer, a (currently not-practicing) group fitness instructor, and someone who likes lifting weights when I’m not running, I don’t belong to a gym. Both my apartment building and my office building have a gym, and I can use the wonderful outdoors as my running gym, so I have trouble justifying paying for a membership to a commercial gym. However, even though I have great resources available to me, I sometimes miss the amenities of a gym--unlimited equipment, group fitness classes, yoga, etc. Wouldn’t it be awesome if my apartment building or office building gyms offered similar amenities and a comparable ambience to that of a commercial gym facility? Imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered that something like this already exists in the Washington, DC area.
Almost 2 years ago, Ryan Stitt came up with the idea for KICK Fitness. Flash forward to today and KICK is not just an idea anymore--it is a living, breathing business with three thriving locations. Currently, KICK is contracted with The JBG Companies, an investor, owner, developer, and manager of several different types of real estate properties. KICK Fitness is present at three residential locations: The Alaire in Rockville, Sedona|Slate in Clarendon, and Sky House in Southwest DC. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan at KICK’s newest location, Sky House, where he took me through a great workout and told me a little bit about his innovative new company:
Abby: From where did the idea for KICK originate?
Ryan: I can actually pinpoint the exact date and time. May 15th, 2012 around 2am. I was laying in bed thinking about training a few clients in my own apartment building gym. And I thought, “Our lease is almost up. We should move into a new building with an even nicer/bigger gym and I can train clients there.” And my next thought- “I will sign an exclusive agreement with the building and turn it into my "own" place (music, signage, atmosphere, etc).” And then it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. “I will sign an agreement with a developer with multiple luxury apartment building properties.” I immediately started texting all my friends who work in real estate development. At 2am. I have a screenshot of those text messages saved. Definitely my life "aha" moment.
A: What makes KICK different?
R: The energetic atmosphere. Many factors influence the atmosphere of a gym (music, smell, other patrons, cleanliness, etc). And it's very standard for "state of the art fitness centers" in apartment buildings (even the new ones with nice equipment) to [feel] lifeless. I tour a lot of these facilities and it's very common for people to start whispering when they walk inside. Whispering?!! I wanted to change that.
A: What services does KICK provide?
R: We offer private training sessions at all 3 locations and group fitness classes in the facilities with available space. For example, our gym at The Alaire in Rockville does not have a dedicated group fitness room, but we are offering a Spring Bootcamp outside. The newest facility (Sky House at SW Waterfront) has a large group fitness room, and this Summer we plan on offering programs for yoga, Zumba, and a full-body conditioning class.
A: Currently, you are contracted with JBG. What do you think made JBG stand behind your idea?
R: I was fortunate that the JBG folks I met with are "fitness people". They understood how exercise and nutrition really enhances one's life. They also understood that happy/healthy tenants stick around and renew their leases. And as one of DC's premiere developers, they obviously want premium amenities. I think my education and background in retention marketing also helped convince them I knew what I was talking about.
A: When starting a new business in the fitness industry, what are the hardest obstacles to overcome? On the flip side, what are your favorite aspects?
R: In some ways, it is a very crowded market. Big box gyms, independent trainers, bootcamps sponsored by larger corporations, Zumbathons, spin studios, yoga studios, Crossfit boxes, etc. There are hundreds of companies competing for your fitness dollar, and sometimes it is difficult for them to differentiate themselves. On the other hand, that variety is one of my favorite aspects of the fitness industry. There is something for everyone!! Working out should be fun, convenient, and should fit your budget. I love seeing clients find a class, trainer, or routine that makes them ENJOY exercise.
A: When hiring trainers, what are the top three characteristics for which you look?
R: First and foremost, great trainers have to "connect" well with other people. That doesn't necessarily mean extroverted, but they have to get people to like them and trust them very quickly. Second, they must have a passion for the incredible machine that is the human body. That can mean a 4 year degree in exercise science (you enjoyed it enough to study it for 4 years), or maybe you're a career changer like myself. I loved exercise enough to do it 6 days/week, study it in my spare time, get certified as a trainer, and walk away from a marketing career to be a trainer full time. Lastly, a great trainer must be responsive and organized. Calendars and email inboxes can change very quickly and a trainer needs to stay on top of those things. I love getting a simple text message response from my trainers- "On it".
A: Anything else in the works?
R: Of course, JBG continues to grow and KICK will continue to grow with them. They currently have several new projects in the DC metro area at various stages of planning/development. Also, I just launched a separate brand called LIFT Fitness that will serve office building fitness centers. Different name, logo, website, etc. But same concept. The first LIFT location is One Franklin Square in downtown DC.
With his background in business and a passion for fitness and wellness, Ryan is well-equipped to not only manage KICK, but to continue driving it towards success. He has a thorough grasp on the wants and needs of all those involved--the investor, such as JBG, the residents, and also the personal trainers he hires. Prior to venturing out on his own, Ryan worked as the Personal Training Manager at a highly popular and successful commercial gym in downtown Washington, DC, so you can be sure that any trainer you meet at a KICK facility will be more than competent and ready to help you meet your personal goals. Not able to move into one of JBG’s KICK Fitness-equipped facilities just yet? Have no fear. Some of the KICK facilities offer personal training services to non-residents as well.