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How NYLO Fitness Disrupts The Exercise Industry

NYLO Fitness owners Elena Sokina and Sean Cronin were well aware it was time to disrupt the traditional fitness industry model. 

In fact, as they saw it: 

The fitness industry has primarily operated under the same model since the 1970s. Large spaces are converted into bodybuilding-style machine-filled gyms for large crowds. This business model is predicated on the fact that most gym members will never use the facility. In fact, gyms with a legal capacity for 160 occupants have 1500 members or more with the bet that most people will stay home.

Due to COVID, group fitness classes are a thing of the past. When members show up regularly and in force every New Year, there is a line for the weight rack. In traditional gyms, one on one personal training is an afterthought. Big chain gyms take between 50% and 80% of each private training session’s cost. Furthermore, trainers are forced to adhere to a rigid pricing structure that does not adequately reflect their value as skilled professionals. These dead-end jobs for professional trainers are not looking to transition into management. Experienced trainers eventually abandon these chains and pursue their livelihood in a mélange of residential gyms and independent training gyms across the city.

But some fitness professionals want customers to get more out of their workout experience. Sokina and Cronin have broken into the fitness industry to make working out fun again and not feel like a chore.

NYLO Fitness Disrupts The Fitness Industry 

NYLO is the first independent training facility to offer a private luxury experience for independent trainers and clients. Independent gyms are traditionally sweaty dungeons, whereas NYLO’s atmosphere exudes mindfulness, cleanliness, and aspiration. Clients are no longer locked into monthly contracts. NYLO leases its private training space (1700 sq ft) by appointment, permitting no more than ten people on the floor at a time. Trainers have a clean, luxurious, and practical training environment where they bring their most discerning clients. NYLO doesn’t want employees–it wants business partners. The trainers hired are empowered to run their businesses out of NYLO, similar to the ‘WeWork’ model. 

NYLO Fitness was created by Sokina and Cronin when the two were struggling to find work after the pandemic. Both were filling carts up with weights trying to train their clients in local parks due to COVID protocols. 

Behind The Creators Of NYLO Fitness 

Elena Sokina began her career as an attorney. After feeling the burnout of corporate law, the Moscow native started a second career as a competitive snowboarder and instructor. Sokina immigrated to the US in 2016, where she worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor. In 2019, frustrated with the gym environment, she created ‘Other Path Training,’ a semi-private private training studio in Jersey City. OPT combined the effectiveness of custom exercise regimens and nutrition plans with the team camaraderie of group training. In March 2020, all New Jersey fitness facilities were closed due to COVID lockdowns. When restrictions lifted but only allowed one-on-one indoor training. Sokina maintained her membership by loading a gorilla cart with weights for city park workouts. Sokina simultaneously leased her facility to independent trainers and athletes for private training.

Cronin’s path was a bit different. He started work as an environmental activist for Greenpeace on the streets of NY. After working in ecological fundraising and green home remodeling sales, the English major moved to South Korea to work as an English language instructor. In 2013, Cronin began working as a fitness instructor in Seoul at night while teaching English in the day. Cronin returned to New York in 2016. He began working as a personal trainer in Tribeca, where he met Sokina. The two quickly bonded over their history of finding fitness late in life after abandoning other careers and their shared culture shock in the new city. 

During NYC’s lockdown, Cronin also took a gorilla cart filled with weights and equipment to local parks to continue his training. In August 2020, Cronin and Sokina moved into a 2-bedroom Battery Park City apartment. One bedroom and bathroom were converted into a private gym and locker room for their local clients.

In 2021, Cronin and Sokina closed their respective locations and created NYLO Fitness.

The Focus Is Back On Health

NYLO differs from most fitness studios in the industry because it focuses on integrating every aspect of health: biologically, psychologically, and socially, in addition to partnering up with several local regenerative farms. NYLO looks at the theory of how physical health encompasses human relationships with the physical world, how we move through it, eat pieces of it, and what we’re in contact with. Psychological health focuses on our relationships with ourselves, understanding our needs, and designing a lifestyle that meets them. Social health focuses on our relationships with others and facilitating relationships with our clients, suppliers, farmers, and other vital components, based on mutual benefit, respect, and ecological integrity. 

Advice to Novices Hoping To Break Into The Fitness Industry 

Sokina and Cronin use their separate private training floor to build an intimate relationship with and understand each client. Clients mindfully practice new movements, dig deep into their relationship to food, and discuss their health away from the eyes and ears of stray (possibly judgmental) gym members. Each lifestyle design is bespoke, as each client has their context and aspirations. We use regenerative natural and science-based approaches to physical, mental, and social health. 

For anyone looking to break into the fitness industry and change the stereotypical norm, Sokina and Cronin offer three pieces of advice. The first? “People are the point.” Most jobs will be automated eventually, as training is with the move to apps and digital. Focus on developing your emotional intelligence and connecting to your clients. They are the ones who matter. 

Their second tidbit of wisdom: looking and feeling good are side effects of being physically, mentally, and socially healthy.” Focus on building health and resilience in mind and body, not on punishing bad behavior. Everything else follows. Lastly, they believe that following the rabbit holes will help you learn as much as possible. Your interests will change over time, and that will only add to the breadth of your knowledge. The range is the quality that allows you to connect disparate findings across disciplines. 

NYLO’s Future 

Within the next five years, the two hope to see multiple NYLO locations throughout Manhattan. As our world continues to feel the effects of the climate crisis, it’s apparent that an approach to health must include the planet’s health. NYLO partners with regenerative farms and uses sustainable products to promote the biosphere’s health, all life on earth, including ours. They believe that what is good for you and good for the planet are the same things. Natural systems are inherently regenerative and beneficial. 

COVID has helped accelerate the collapse of the personal training industry. Fitness apps are becoming popular with lower price points. Within ten years, they plan to expand NYLO to urban areas across America. High-quality personal trainers will be expected to provide a more luxurious experience to discerning clients who recognize the value of their trainers. NYLO will offer education and certifications to independent trainers to use the facility. They will teach trainers their methodology, philosophy, and the fundamentals of running a personal training business, which they will be free to continue operating out of the facility. 

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