Last year was difficult for the fitness industry: clubs lost some of their clients. But in some clubs the flow of clients significantly increased. One of them is a premium fitness club Anvil which celebrated two years in May. Its founder is a professional basketball player Nadezhda Grishaeva. We spoke with the founder about what unites professional athletes and successful entrepreneurs and what to do when familiar things disappear.
— The club was opened in a turbulent moment for the fitness industry. What do you think of this experience?
— As an athlete, I am used to taking difficult paths. I gathered my resources and found a place in 2020, the pandemic didn’t frighten me. A cool team of developers and designers helped boost the opening. I found them through sport. Sport is some kind of a club: it makes you very disciplined, athletes are usually successful people from different fields. I know a lot of them, and if I don’t, I find the specialists I need through six handshakes. So everything went well, considering the conditions that turned the whole world upside down.
— Did the pandemic experience of other fitness clubs make you adjust the concept of your club in some way, for example, consider not to open the pool?
— The concept was invented earlier. When I studied in America, the country club format swept me off my feet. Its participants intentionally come to a beautiful place to have a good time: to eat delicious food, to communicate, to play golf or polo. I wanted to make something similar in the city, especially since I prefer the gym to golf.
Our club unites those who strives to create a dream body. And not just bodybuilders. Different people have different ideals of a perfect body. Someone wants to dry their body, someone wants to lose weight or, on the contrary, to build muscles, someone is only interested in flexibility.
In our club, whose name means a metalworking tool in English, each person can hammer out their perfect body. And also to schedule a business meeting in our café, where you can find delicious food with your diet in mind, whether it’s a protein, gluten-free or lactose-free diet. You can spend time with friends in a spa center or relax in a true bathhouse made of dead pine wood. This is a multi-field center for like-minded people.
— And why does the club look rather like a night club: metallic balusters shaped as swords, trainers glowing pink, skulls carved in walls?
— I don’t like being like everyone else and wanted the fitness club to stand out. But what new can we invent for a gym? Every place has trainers and a similar range of services. My task was to gather a community of people who are on the same page. But how to make a statement about the club philosophy right from the doorstep? The bright brutal design does it. The biker symbols highlight our rebellious spirit. The antique-looking statues symbolize the idea of a body as a work of art. The portraits of Marie Antoinette capture the feelings of women who feel like queens even in a gym.
The design solves another important task – to distract people from their problems, from the routine. The elements of the phantasmagoric world of Through the Looking Glass help to recharge. Our giant mantelpiece, various mirrors, the still clock under the ceiling and the unusual lighting turn the consciousness off and turn the imagination on. It’s important for people who have plenty of work.
And our individual approach does the rest of the work: a member comes to us as if we are a family where everyone knows them by name and develop a program based on their goals and characteristics of their body.
Burger and neuromovement
— A lot of your coaches were athletes in the past, and the manager is a world power lifting champion. Why is it important?
— Because athletes have a large experience of body work, they know all the ins and outs and continue developing in their field. The thing is, it’s not difficult to exercise on your own nowadays: just read a couple of books, look through Men’s Health magazines, download a fitness app, choose a few YouTube videos. You don’t even have to go to a gym. I know hundreds of exercises myself which only require your own weight and no equipment.
But if you want a result, you need to know life hacks. You need to know how to combine all the elements so that each of them could enhance others. You need to develop a diet and vitamin supplements, use innovations in the athletic field properly. You need experienced professionals for this. We study relevant trends and try to use them in our work.
— For example?
— Right now our managers and I are discussing new techniques aimed at foot correction. Because the feet are the basis of our skeleton. The state of knee joints, hip joints and back seriously depends on how the toes work and how mobile the feet are in general.
Personally, I am very interested in the neuromovement – a method developed for people who survived a stroke. It’s about movements with a very small amplitude. At first it seems nothing in particular. But when I tried it myself, I was astonished at how, without any painful movements, crackling or stretching, I managed to ease my chronic back pain.
— Is your interest in fitness related to any experience of serious injuries?
— The gym is the main platform of each athlete. When you only go to a basketball court, you won’t get the advantages that will help you win. An athlete needs various exercises that develop muscles, explosiveness, stamina. I spent a lot of time in the gym.
But professional sport is not about health. Each athlete has their own package of injuries and serious physical diseases, ruptures, torn ligaments. I had several knee surgeries. After them I carried my idea of stretching to yoga at first, then to pilates which I love very much. Fitness, for me, is fun and healthcare.
— And how does Anvil combine spa, baths and café with fitness?
— All our departments work in a team. You can’t beautifully lose weight if you only cut down your consumption of calories. At first your muscles go, so you need to choose exercises to burn fat. But before you start exercising, a doctor must evaluate the state of your organism. If someone has high blood pressure, the coach will limit cardio and won’t give them heavy weights. If someone overworked a group of muscles, a special massage and other treatment will make it easier. And the brilliant of the club, I believe, is the bathhouse, out of which you emerge fully fresh. A compounding effect cannot be reached without teamwork. That’s why, when a client goes to a café to choose a meal, the coach already negotiates their caloric intake.
— I heard you helped develop the café’s menu. How did it happen?
— I experiment with healthy diets and love a good meal. And I was very glad when the manager hired a chief with an experience of working in a Michelin star restaurant and a fitness club – Alexander Nevsky. But I was terrified when I saw carbonara and burgers on the menu. They didn’t fit into my picture of a healthy lifestyle.
I met the chief. And he convinced me that burgers are useful for some clients. And if someone maintains a ketogenic diet, for example, for them the bread can be replaced with lettuce leaves. When I mentioned lactose-free and gluten-free dishes, the chief cooked pancakes made from tofu and coconut milk. And it was the most delicious dessert I’d ever tried in my life. It’s still on our menu.
— A lot of clubs lost their clients in 2022, and those who stayed often prefer short-term cards up to three months. Did the crisis affect you?
— Some clients left last spring, some just didn’t understand what the future would bring and didn’t hurry to buy a membership card. But at the same time a lot of people started reflecting on their lives and taking care of themselves. With the lack of entertainment people burst into sport just to remain themselves in a difficult situation. So last year, on the contrary, we had a huge inflow of new clients.
Maybe it’s also a result of our promotion work. We remember that nobody knew us in 2021 and it was hard to break the barrier of the lack of trust to a new brand. The promotion was intuitive. We tried different things, even put advertisements on trucks in our district. And, funny as it was, a lot of people came to the premium fitness club after they had seen an advertisement on a car.
— What to do now? What perspectives do you see?
— I count upon changes, on searching for innovations. We saw VR glasses for fitness on an exhibition – this is a perspective direction. It would be nice to use this. For example, we ourselves decided to develop a line of sportswear for our clients. Last year we already made vests as merch. Now our clients really have a necessity of sportswear of high quality. And I’m looking for the possibility to make a product that will be as good as Nike which I consider a quality standard.
— That’s big!
— Yes, it’s all or nothing. I’m worried about our members: what they will wear now, what they will eat. People come to a premium fitness club to get the best, and we are ready to use all our quick thinking and creativity to support them with a high quality product.