Aaron Smith has dedicated most of his life to travelling the world looking for the biggest and best fitness trends.
In fact, when I spoke to him he was in New York doing two classes a day, every day, to test what the new gyms and studios had to offer.
“We do it to see if there is anything we can improve,” said the Sydney-based boutique gym founder, “and the big fitness trends usually start in LA and NY, if not London – they’re the three Meccas of fitness in the world at the moment.”
While working in London, Smith discovered “high performance” pilates.
“I knew I had to bring this style of training back to Australia and add my own personal touch.”
And so KX Pilates was born. Then came Barre, yoga and cycle and retreats.
But there is a catch. These classes aren’t what you’d expect from the traditional gym experience.
For example, KX cycle is a cross between cardio and an upper-body workout. Yes, there is an arm component.
It fuses the elements of traditional cycle class with upper body weights and endurance training to produce a high intensity, 500-calorie burning workout.
“These trends are coming into the market now. They combine the high performance cardio element… with a functional fitness element,” Smith said.
“So you might do 3-4 minutes on a treadmill at different intensities, and then while that’s happening your partner is doing resistance training or ab work and then you swap.
“Customers get the benefit of their cardio workout at the same time as their resistance training.
“You’re constantly changing the body the whole time. That’s getting people better results.”
Smith doesn’t claim to be an inventor and said it’s about the way the exercises are presented to the customer, creating a better experience.
“It’s not something new… it’s the way it’s packaged,” he said.
“In Australia, gyms will open up and offer five or six different classes that are good, but they don’t focus on one being amazing.
“At KX we open up one studio in one style and make it amazing. This means rather than servicing five different types of clientele you’re focusing on just one.”
He admits, “It’s not for everyone… but I definitely think we’re taking clients away (from the larger chains).
“People are realising that they don’t just want to be a number any more and they want to feel a part of something in a community.”
“[Customers say] they don’t like men in gyms staring at them and grunting, and all the other stuff that comes with a push and pull gym.”
“The old school gym is dead… Fitness First has encapsulated that. They had to change. They’ve re-branded, they’ve got smaller class sizes, trying as much as they can to change but they still don’t have the experience right. They don’t personalise it.”
“We focus on the client from the moment they walk in the door, how they’re greeted, how they’re treated, the way they’re spoken to, the way they get to know the trainer, the limited class sizes.”
KX has opened 17 franchises across Sydney and Melbourne since it launched in 2010 but Smith said there will be at least 20 before the end of the year.
“Last year we did $2.9 million in revenue. This year it will be over five.”
So what has he learned from scouting the States for the next big thing?
“Australian people see through the hype,” he said.
“At the end of the day if you haven’t changed from what they’re doing over in the States… and just expect it to work, it won’t.
“Americans are a lot louder, a lot more boisterous. They like people screaming at them, they like to be dripping sweat and all hardcore kind of stuff. We’re a little bit more reserved and set in our own ways.
“You have to adapt it and change it to fit our personalities, culture and way of life. The actual product or service is generally the same but how it is delivered needs to be changed.”
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