Good Sweat

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blink Fitness: A sneak peek at Equinox’s new budget-friendly gym

Blink Fitness

A Blink employee cleans up the Front Porch for the big opening today at noon

This weekend, Equinox, the Ritz-Carlton of fitness brands, is playing the Lanvin-for-H&M game and introducing a new, non-luxury product: the no-frills gym.

Blink Fitness will debut with three locations: Paramus in New Jersey, Yonkers in Westchester, and a Manhattan outpost in the old Tower Records building at East 4th Street and Broadway in Noho. Lines have already formed for the memberships priced at a very reasonable $20 per month.

“After the recession hit, we started to look at places like Planet Fitness and saw an opportunity for us to enter this space and really have a creative expression of what fast, fun, and affordable fitness can look like,” says Dos Condon, the vice president of Blink Fitness.

So what does a $20 a month membership get you?

Blink Fitness

Blink doesn't skimp on top-of-the-line cardio and strength equipment—it's the same as Equinox's

Industrial modern design, created by the Rockwell Group, for starters. The same top-of-the line cardio and strength equipment made by Life Fitness and Precor (100 cardio machines and 60 strengthening) used at Equinox. A decent-sized stretching area with a “functional zone” floor created by Pavigym, which has some useful elements like a space for ladder drills, and less essential ones like a hopscotch.

What’s missing? Amenities. The locker rooms are attractive, but ultra-cramped. There’s no complimentary Kiehl’s, mouthwash, or even towels to mop the sweat off of your brow. You can borrow one by putting some money into an on-site vending machine or BYOT.

Also absent: group fitness classes and personal training. It’s a decision that likely reflects the main purpose this gym will serve—a place for the thousands of New Yorkers already heavily invested in the boutique fitness scene, who lay out $30 for spin classes, $35 for barre classes, and have a regular yoga studio for which they buy 10-class packs. They just need a place to run and lift.

Blink Fitness

Exposed columns and bright accents contribute to Blink's modern design

Condon says Blink is suited to the busy professional short on time and for (less-committed) newcomers, who may not be $150-monthly contract material, we suspect. “It’s accessible for people who don’t currently go to gyms,” Condon explains. “I think newbies are going to feel very comfortable here.”

To make them comfortable, there’s the club entrance, which Blink calls the Front Porch. It’s being billed as a social area for members to linger with a few stools and suped-up vending machines that sells healthy-ish beverages and snacks. The machines will soon carry other items like iPod earbuds, and, yes, towels.

With the Blink Noho opening its doors today, and New Yorkers flocking to the $20-per-month gym (plus enrollment fee), should we be worried about getting a treadmill? “There are easy business solutions to something that’s going to be very popular,” Condon says. “Will we allow people to wait in lines to get on a piece of equipment? No, we won’t allow that to happen.” —Lisa Elaine Held

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