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Fitness: Bodyism: movement as medicine

Lifestyle brand Bodyism is blurring the lines between fitness and spa in the ultra-luxury sector. Jane Kitchen talks to founder James Duigan about his loyal tribe of followers

By Jane Kitchen, Spa Business and Spa Opportunities | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 6
“Truly listening and transforming lives – that’s our ‘why’, that’s our purpose,” sayd Duigan
“Truly listening and transforming lives – that’s our ‘why’, that’s our purpose,” sayd Duigan
Among others, Bodyism has partnerships with Fairmont in Dubai, the Capri Palace in Italy and Amilla Fushi in the Maldives

Ten years ago, Australian-born personal trainer James Duigan founded Bodyism – billed today as a global wellness and lifestyle company – with a mission to spread his catchy ‘Clean and Lean’ philosophy to as many people as he could.

Duigan’s Bodyism is a holistic approach to fitness, and blends traditional workouts with supplements, branded merchandise, and mindful eating.

Today, it has a flagship fitness centre in London’s Notting Hill – complete with things like purified oxygen and Vitamin D-emitting lights – and a series of partnerships with some of the hottest new hotel wellness centres around the world, including The Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach, Amilla Fushi in the Maldives and the recently opened wellness centre at the Lanesborough in London.

Partnering for growth
Bodyism is blurring the line between fitness and spa, nestling into a comfortable space under the luxury wellness umbrella. Duigan says partnerships with hotels and spas mean that Bodyism devotees discover new places – and the hotels benefit from the brand’s devoted following. Another part of the success is Bodyism’s merchandise, and the branding, which Duigan says means customers spend both more time and more money.

These partnerships involve both a brand fee and a revenue share, but Duigan says “every time we’ve done a partnership, everybody’s done really well – it’s just always been very successful, and revenue’s jumped...It’s a huge value for all of our hotel partners. People will choose a hotel because they can train with Bodyism; it’s a great symbiotic relationship.”

Bodyism’s most recent partnership is with Oetker Hotel’s London outpost, The Lanesborough, which is has opened an 18,000sq ft (1,672sq m) spa and wellness centre designed to be “one of London’s most exclusive private members fitness and health clubs.” Bodyism is managing the fitness portion of the club, and creating programmes for club members. It will also bring a number of its signature programmes to the centre, as well as its holistic therapy, which incorporates yoga, personal training and nutrition.

“I think what we bring is something unique in terms of how we take care of people at Bodyism, by truly listening and transforming lives; that’s our ‘why’ – that’s our purpose,” says Duigan.

Duigan has worked closely with Beata Alexandrowicz, founder of Pure Massage, who has overseen the therapists’ training at The Lanesborough, to create a more seamless link between spa and fitness. “Therapists will be in communication with trainers,” Duigan explains. “This gives the personalisation that clients want.”

The next frontier
The brand also has partnerships with the Fairmont on The Palm Jumeriah in Dubai, the Capri Palace Hotel in Italy, and the D-Hotel Maris in Turkey. Bodyism’s work with the Amilla Fushi resort in the Maldives at its Javvu Spa again saw the lines between spa and fitness blurred.

There are upcoming plans for a location in Greece, as well as a significant project underway at The Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach, which “will be like nothing else,” Duigan says. Duigan and his wife, Christiane – his business partner, who oversees the supplement and activewear portion of the business – will move to Los Angeles in July, to focus on the brand’s expansion in the US, which Duigan calls “our next frontier.”

Still, he says, they’ll take on that frontier slowly and deliberately. “We’ve chosen very carefully in terms of where we are and who we work with, and continue to be very discerning,” he says. “There are never going to be a thousand Bodyisms around the world.”

Clean and Lean
Bodyism’s ‘Clean and Lean’ philosophy refers to the body being ‘clean’ of toxins and ‘lean’ as a result of nourishing food and regular exercise – not necessarily groundbreaking health and fitness concepts, but all packaged up in neat, easy-to-digest packages and beautifully branded merchandise that devotees can take with them on the go. The brand has a following – both celebrity and otherwise (actor Hugh Grant and model Lara Stone are both devotees) – due in large part to this easy-to-understand lifestyle approach. “Over the years we’ve worked with many high-profile people who make their living by how they look, and happily we’ve understood and found that what works fastest and best is focusing on your health,” explains Duigan. “So we do movement very differently – we look at movement in terms of it nourishing your body and building your body up, as opposed to depleting it and breaking it down. It’s really a completely different way of looking at how the human body moves and why we’re doing exercise.”

Bodyism’s clientele is often globally minded, spreading time between London, New York, Paris and LA, so it’s important to create a programme that can move with them wherever they go. Clients don’t work with one trainer, but rather with a team of people, which can include yoga experts, ballet teachers, boxing coaches, fascial stretch therapists, nutrition coaches, holistic healers or massage therapists.

A holistic lifestyle
With Bodyism, a ‘Body Oracle’ assessment takes a close look at clients’ lifestyles in order to match them with the right combination of trainers and experts. “It’s a very holistic approach, with a team of people working with one person,” explains Duigan. “We work on the hope that life is long, and you only have one body.”

Founded on the belief that movement is medicine, the fitness part of the programme incorporates a wide variety of techniques focused on alignment, posture, intelligent weight training, functional movement, stretching and Pilates, and features programmes like Bodyism Acroyoga – which combines acrobatics and yoga – and Bodyism Ballet, which focuses on attaining graceful posture and maximising core strength.

Nutrition includes menus developed around unprocessed, seasonal food, with a focus on quality of ingredients rather than calorie-counting. Clean and Lean supplements are tailored to specific needs or problems, such as getting a good night’s sleep, improving digestion, increasing energy or improving complexion – and are the fastest-growing part of the business. They enable busy people “to gain a huge amount of health benefits without the stress or pressure,” says Duigan. “Each supplement was created with a single pillar of health in mind. I looked at what people needed and worked backwards from that.”

The lifestyle aspect spills over into merchandise, with Clean and Lean cookbooks, pregnancy books, fitness equipment, activewear clothing, and a range of herbal teas. “It’s a mindset – a philosophy,” says Duigan. “There’s a lot around the brand – it really tells a story.”

And that mindset has helped fuel a growing tribe of devoted followers. But Duigan also attributes much of his success to the reasons he founded the company in the first place. “We always focused on why we were doing what we’re doing,” he explains. “Our ‘why’ was to change people’s lives. It brought more depth and gravitas to what we did. I’m a bit old-fashioned in that I believe that if you do a really good job and add value to people’s lives, then you’ll have a good business.”

Duigan and his wife, Christiane, who oversees Bodyism’s supplement and activewear business
Duigan and his wife, Christiane, who oversees Bodyism’s supplement and activewear business
Actor Hugh Grant is 
a Bodyism devotee / PA
Actor Hugh Grant is a Bodyism devotee / PA
Nutrition includes menus developed around unprocessed, seasonal food with a focus on quality
Nutrition includes menus developed around unprocessed, seasonal food with a focus on quality
Nutrition includes menus developed around unprocessed, seasonal food with a focus on quality
Nutrition includes menus developed around unprocessed, seasonal food with a focus on quality
Bodyism is partnering with Miami Beach’s Raleigh Hotel for a project that will be ‘like nothing else,’ says Duigan
Bodyism is partnering with Miami Beach’s Raleigh Hotel for a project that will be ‘like nothing else,’ says Duigan
Different ways of moving, such as yoga and stretching, are part of Bodyism’s philosophy
Different ways of moving, such as yoga and stretching, are part of Bodyism’s philosophy
Different ways of moving, such as yoga and stretching, are part of Bodyism’s philosophy
Different ways of moving, such as yoga and stretching, are part of Bodyism’s philosophy
Different ways of moving, such as yoga and stretching, are part of Bodyism’s philosophy
Different ways of moving, such as yoga and stretching, are part of Bodyism’s philosophy
Different ways of moving, such as yoga and stretching, are part of Bodyism’s philosophy
Different ways of moving, such as yoga and stretching, are part of Bodyism’s philosophy
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Lifestyle brand Bodyism is blurring the lines between fitness and spa in the ultra-luxury sector. Jane Kitchen talks to the company’s founder James Duigan about his loyal tribe of followers...
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