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The Playbook

More than 71 million Americans worked out at health clubs last year, according to the report from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

And while boutique fitness studios are outcompeting large, multipurpose health clubs, they found that 1 out of 5 Americans belong to at least one health club or studio—a record high since the IHRSA began tracking health club utilization in the mid 1980s. But no two gyms are exactly alike. And now, more than ever, you have a myriad of options when it comes to finding a gym to utilize. From bare-bones CrossFit boxes to minimalist members-only clubs, you’ve got to choose the one that suits your style, not to mention your fitness goals. Of course, you don’t need a “fancy” gym to get results, but the right environment can transform exercise from merely a chore into an elevated “experience.” Herewith, the six options the modern man has at his disposal today.


CrossFit Box

Example: Reebok Crossfit LAB

CrossFit is an all encompassing workout that includes elements of gymnastics, weightlifting, calisthenics and endurance. It’s built around becoming extremely fit and functional across a broad range of exercises. And it’s always done in a stripped-down gym (aka Box). And while walking into the garage-like space (where you might see someone swinging on a pair of rings or flipping a tire) is no doubt intimidating, CrossFitters have a reputation for building a family atmosphere of support. Nearly all exercises are scalable, which allows you to adapt every “workout of the day” to your individual skill level.


Example: Barry’s / Orangetheory

There's a reason bootcamp-style training is so popular. Because it gets you noticeable results and fast. While the group atmosphere and fixed schedule certainly help with motivation and accountability, the real secret is in the setup. Go to enough bootcamp workouts and you’ll pick up on a theme: time-based interval circuits with minimal equipment so you can focus on intensity. 

Boutique Gym

Example: Equinox

If you appreciate high design, luxe locker rooms and beautiful people, you’ll fit right into a boutique gym like Equinox. Here, you’ll find the latest machines and any trendy piece of equipment. Plus, they’ve got personal trainers available for one-on-one training along with group fitness classes that mimic those of smaller specialized boutiques. If you want to train on your own, gyms like Equinox also offer apps to lead you through a workout via your phone. What’s more, most are kitted out with steam rooms, saunas and luxurious toiletries to boost post-workout recovery and relaxation.

Members-Only Club

Example: Performix House / Dogpound

What an even more exclusive and personalized approach to your fitness? These invite-only gyms are essentially a mix between Soho House and WeWork—a “fitness incubator” where you get trainer-led custom workouts along with benchmarking and nutritional programs designed especially for you. Top off those high-intensity workouts with the best possible recovery options, from massages and cryotherapy chambers to infrared saunas. The only catch (other than cost)? You’ve got to apply or be invited by a current member.


No-Frills Gym

Example: 24 Hour Fitness

Whether it’s a local gym or a stripped down chain like 24 Hour Fitness, these spots usually have two things going for them: they’re affordable and typically aren’t over crowded. Of course, quality varies enormously. Instead of a juice bar, you might only have access to a water fountain. But if all you’re looking for a place to lift weights and maybe get in some cardio on a treadmill or rowing machine, you should be set. If you’re the type that would happily workout alone in your garage if you had the space and equipment, this is the spot for you. 

Class-Based Studio

Example: Rumble / SoulCycle

When you want to mix a touch of socializing with your workouts, these studio-based gyms offer some camaraderie and motivation along with a focused and often themed workout. From boxing-based studios, such as New York’s popular Rumble gym (a dimly lit club with a “no hits to the face” rule and wrist-friendly punching bags filled with water) to high-intensity indoor cycling studios like SoulCycle that leave you drenched with cathartic sweat.

* Close to home is key: According to a report highlighted by the wall street journal, your gym should be no more than four miles away from your home (or office). Four miles seems to be something of a tipping point: people who had to travel roughly that amount went to the gym around five or more times per month, while people who had to go five or more miles went only once.

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