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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

HCM People: Ed StanburyBLOK: CEO and co-founder

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled...

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3
BLOK founder, 
Ed Stanbury, is
building a global lifestyle brand
BLOK founder, Ed Stanbury, is building a global lifestyle brand

How did BLOK come about?
I went to look at a warehouse in Upper Clapton for my property and construction company and fell in love with the Victorian tram depot next door. It had stunning original features – vaulted ceilings and cast iron pillars – but was in a serious state of disrepair so was standing vacant. I offered a low rent and the landlord accepted.

I’m quite entrepreneurial – if I see a deal I usually take it and then work out what to do with it afterwards. So I found that I had an amazing building, with around 2,500sq ft of left-over space. I started asking my friends for ideas and Max Oppenheim, a high end fashion photographer, suggested turning it into a film and photo shoot location.

At that time Max and I were doing a lot of boxing and yoga and my wife, Reema, had started going to class-based gyms. We began to think it would be more interesting to open a boutique studio, with boxing and yoga.

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled.

What was your design vision?
We really wanted to create a space which has a vibe to it, not just somewhere with loud pumping music and dark rooms. Our inspiration has come more from the restaurant and bar sector – where it’s a labour of love to design, build and curate an experience. I don’t believe we’ve really seen that in fitness yet.

Because of our location, we couldn’t rely on having the heavy footfall of a high density area, so we set out to create an environment where people would want to hang out together – somewhere our friends would like.

We designed as we went along, sometimes we had to take down walls which had just gone up. Still, it only took four months to complete and we opened on 1st February 2016.

Within three weeks of the launch, Wallpaper voted BLOK one of the 30 coolest gyms in the world and Harpers Bazaar said it was one of the best gyms in London. As we were so small, we were always full, which added to the reputation.

To cope with demand, we rented another unit and turned it into a dedicated boxing studio – we kept all the original features and just added a ring and hung the bags off the original beams – it looks very raw.

This studio has been a backdrop for major shoots with brands such as Adidas, Apple and Under Armour and is definitely one of our most iconic spaces.

I don’t want to overplay the art element, but at the same time it’s a key part of what makes us unique in the industry. It’s part of the overall experience, creating an environment where you want to spend time. To this end, we have partnered with amazing artists like Arran Gregory and Ben Cullen Williams, both of whom have permanent exhibitions and sculptures at our sites.

What were the main challenges of launching a gym?
Arguably, having zero knowledge of the industry was a challenge, but it did mean we were open to ideas. We overcame this by sourcing great teams and giving them autonomy to make decisions.

Many operators want to have complete consistency across the brand, but we want to be constantly evolving, changing and adapting, so we encourage our instructors to try new things and make the classes different every time.

You launched a third club, in Manchester, in September, how did this come about?
We were approached by amazing restaurant operators, Bistrotheque, to be the fitness operator in an exciting development they were involved in, in a Victorian warehouse in Manchester, and we said yes right away.

We’ve made a real effort to integrate with the local community and businesses and tell them what we’re doing in advance and have found that people have bought into the concept. From our point of view, the market in Manchester isn’t that much different to London.

We’ve found that people have just as much disposable income and as much desire for the experience. What’s been more of a challenge is recruiting instructors, as many didn’t have as much experience in group training, so we needed to provide extra training, but now we have a strong team that rival our London instructor base.

BLOK ran its first retreat this year, are there plans for more?
Yes, we’re planning to build it into a sizeable arm with at least 10 and up to 20 retreats each year. We might even look at having some permanent retreats. However, in 2020 we’ll be looking to open four new clubs in London, so we’ll only be running one or two retreats this year as we need to prioritise the core business.

We already announced the first retreat for 2020, which will be hosted at a former French cognac estate. Each morning starts with a run, followed by meditation. Every day there’s a yoga class and a fitness class and either a longer yoga or fitness workshop. This year we’ll have a nutritionist and chef who’ll be preparing mainly plant-based food designed to go with the training regime.

It’s all about community, building strength and skills-based progression. It’s not a bootcamp or about weight loss.

A week’s retreat is a great opportunity for our members to immerse themselves in an experience and make new connections and gives us another platform to engage with our community.

What other plans do you have?
We’re fundraising for expansion, including a move into digital fitness this year. This will allow us to take the brand beyond the studios to a wider audience who either live too far away or can’t afford classes. We have amazing spaces to use as backdrops, great videographers and more than 200 instructors, so we have the potential to create so much content.

BLOK – key facts

• There are currently three BLOK sites – Clapton, Shoreditch and Manchester, with plans to open four more in London in 2020.

• This high-end concept comprises studios for group exercise, changing rooms, reception area, art gallery and a café.

• The brand has been built on art, architecture and a highly designed environment, where people want to spend time.

• Classes are focused on building strength, skills and progression in order to keep clients coming back. There are strength and conditioning workouts, as well as yoga, barre, boxing and calisthenics.

• Each studio offers between 160 and 180 classes a week.

• Prices vary across the three sites, with a single class costing £15 in Manchester and Clapton and £17 in Shoreditch. Prices drop significantly if you commit for 12 months, with 10 class-a-month memberships costing just £84 in Manchester and Clapton and £100 in Shoreditch.

• Retreats and digital fitness are also in the pipeline.

BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/2020/618988_524940.jpg
The CEO and co-founder of BLOK tells how he developed ‘one of the coolest gyms in the world’
Ed Stanbury, BLOK,boutique fitness
People
The remote personal training service has also been a great success: we’ll maintain around 40% of our PT business for April
People
HCM people

Michael Ramsay

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There’s something about the combination of fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibres working together that absolutely destroys you and gives you an almost euphoric feeling at the end of every workout
People
Kate Cracknell talks connected health and digital transformation with Chris Blackwell-Frost, Martin Friend and Rick Crawford from Nuffield Health’s senior management team
Features
feature
Premier Global NASM has restructured its education offering to create new career pathways to help personal trainers and individuals entering the sector navigate their way to career success. Dan Rees explains the rationale
Features
Coronavirus
As clubs were ordered to close, one logical response was to freeze memberships, despite the financial difficulties it would cause. However, many operators found their community was willing to support them, as Kath Hudson reports
Features
Coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has inspired a huge pivot to digital right across the industry, from sole traders to large chains and trusts. Kath Hudson looks at some of the offerings pulled together in lightning fast time to keep members active and sane
Features
HCM research
The good news? People are changing their exercise habits in lockdown, becoming more active and spending more time exercising with their children, according to new research
Features
Coronavirus
While Europe and the US are in the thick of coronavirus shutdowns, health clubs in China are starting to reopen. Jak Phillips examines how three Chinese operators tackled the challenge of the pandemic and came out ahead
Features
Supplier showcase
Wattbike has partnered with Intelligent Cycling to transform indoor cycling with innovative new technology that enables automatic personalisation for riders in a group cycling class
Features
Software
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing gyms across the world to temporarily close their doors, staying connected to your members digitally has never been more important. Software suppliers tell Steph Eaves how they’re contributing
Features
Latest News
Austrian medical health and wellness operator, Lanserhof, has launched a programme for people who’ve had ...
Latest News
HCM can report that Europe Active's annual thought-leader conference, the European Health and Fitness Forum ...
Latest News
The number of people signing up for memberships at Planet Fitness has been at 2019 ...
Latest News
Gyms in England could be open in July if lobbying by the fitness industry comes ...
Latest News
A survey by Savanta ComRes, in partnership with Sport England, has studied the impact of ...
Latest News
Gyms and health clubs in the US have begun reopening their doors, with a number ...
Latest News
CIMSPA, has opened a consultation on the safe delivery of sport and physical activity online, ...
Latest News
Independent gym owners in Ohio have filed a lawsuit against state officials, challenging the decision ...
Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Opinion
promotion
The activity industry finds itself in a position of considerable threat. Two-thirds of the world’s gyms are closed – that’s 230 million members unable to attend a fitness facility, according to data platform fitNdata.
Opinion: Ensuring members return after lockdown
Opinion
promotion
Elon Musk has plans to conquer Mars and these days the meat on your hamburger can be grown in a lab - so why are so many fitness businesses still using papers and pens to create workouts for their members?
Opinion: How the current pandemic may be helping the fitness industry to innovate
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Incorpore and MoveGB ink groundbreaking partnership to transform corporate wellness offering
Incorpore and MoveGB have entered into a landmark partnership, combining the UK’s largest provider of corporate gym memberships with the nation’s biggest network of classes.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: myFitApp launches branded live-streaming as part of its COVID-19 support package
Innovatise, the company behind myFitApp, has announced the immediate availability of its customer- branded live-streaming solution.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Premier Software Solutions Ltd
Premier Software was founded in 1994 and has proven experience developing business management solutions specifically ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Matrix Fitness
Matrix strives to offer equipment that will captivate your members, is easy to maintain, and ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Fitness equipment
Healthcheck Services Ltd: Fitness equipment
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Exercise equipment
Matrix Fitness: Exercise equipment
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
04 Jun 2020
Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
13 Jun 2020
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
06-07 Jul 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
28-31 Aug 2020
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
11-12 Oct 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates

features

HCM People: Ed StanburyBLOK: CEO and co-founder

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled...

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 3
BLOK founder, 
Ed Stanbury, is
building a global lifestyle brand
BLOK founder, Ed Stanbury, is building a global lifestyle brand

How did BLOK come about?
I went to look at a warehouse in Upper Clapton for my property and construction company and fell in love with the Victorian tram depot next door. It had stunning original features – vaulted ceilings and cast iron pillars – but was in a serious state of disrepair so was standing vacant. I offered a low rent and the landlord accepted.

I’m quite entrepreneurial – if I see a deal I usually take it and then work out what to do with it afterwards. So I found that I had an amazing building, with around 2,500sq ft of left-over space. I started asking my friends for ideas and Max Oppenheim, a high end fashion photographer, suggested turning it into a film and photo shoot location.

At that time Max and I were doing a lot of boxing and yoga and my wife, Reema, had started going to class-based gyms. We began to think it would be more interesting to open a boutique studio, with boxing and yoga.

Although we’re now ambitious about creating a global lifestyle brand, initially there wasn’t a grand masterplan – we just thought it would be fun to open a local gym and that has spiralled.

What was your design vision?
We really wanted to create a space which has a vibe to it, not just somewhere with loud pumping music and dark rooms. Our inspiration has come more from the restaurant and bar sector – where it’s a labour of love to design, build and curate an experience. I don’t believe we’ve really seen that in fitness yet.

Because of our location, we couldn’t rely on having the heavy footfall of a high density area, so we set out to create an environment where people would want to hang out together – somewhere our friends would like.

We designed as we went along, sometimes we had to take down walls which had just gone up. Still, it only took four months to complete and we opened on 1st February 2016.

Within three weeks of the launch, Wallpaper voted BLOK one of the 30 coolest gyms in the world and Harpers Bazaar said it was one of the best gyms in London. As we were so small, we were always full, which added to the reputation.

To cope with demand, we rented another unit and turned it into a dedicated boxing studio – we kept all the original features and just added a ring and hung the bags off the original beams – it looks very raw.

This studio has been a backdrop for major shoots with brands such as Adidas, Apple and Under Armour and is definitely one of our most iconic spaces.

I don’t want to overplay the art element, but at the same time it’s a key part of what makes us unique in the industry. It’s part of the overall experience, creating an environment where you want to spend time. To this end, we have partnered with amazing artists like Arran Gregory and Ben Cullen Williams, both of whom have permanent exhibitions and sculptures at our sites.

What were the main challenges of launching a gym?
Arguably, having zero knowledge of the industry was a challenge, but it did mean we were open to ideas. We overcame this by sourcing great teams and giving them autonomy to make decisions.

Many operators want to have complete consistency across the brand, but we want to be constantly evolving, changing and adapting, so we encourage our instructors to try new things and make the classes different every time.

You launched a third club, in Manchester, in September, how did this come about?
We were approached by amazing restaurant operators, Bistrotheque, to be the fitness operator in an exciting development they were involved in, in a Victorian warehouse in Manchester, and we said yes right away.

We’ve made a real effort to integrate with the local community and businesses and tell them what we’re doing in advance and have found that people have bought into the concept. From our point of view, the market in Manchester isn’t that much different to London.

We’ve found that people have just as much disposable income and as much desire for the experience. What’s been more of a challenge is recruiting instructors, as many didn’t have as much experience in group training, so we needed to provide extra training, but now we have a strong team that rival our London instructor base.

BLOK ran its first retreat this year, are there plans for more?
Yes, we’re planning to build it into a sizeable arm with at least 10 and up to 20 retreats each year. We might even look at having some permanent retreats. However, in 2020 we’ll be looking to open four new clubs in London, so we’ll only be running one or two retreats this year as we need to prioritise the core business.

We already announced the first retreat for 2020, which will be hosted at a former French cognac estate. Each morning starts with a run, followed by meditation. Every day there’s a yoga class and a fitness class and either a longer yoga or fitness workshop. This year we’ll have a nutritionist and chef who’ll be preparing mainly plant-based food designed to go with the training regime.

It’s all about community, building strength and skills-based progression. It’s not a bootcamp or about weight loss.

A week’s retreat is a great opportunity for our members to immerse themselves in an experience and make new connections and gives us another platform to engage with our community.

What other plans do you have?
We’re fundraising for expansion, including a move into digital fitness this year. This will allow us to take the brand beyond the studios to a wider audience who either live too far away or can’t afford classes. We have amazing spaces to use as backdrops, great videographers and more than 200 instructors, so we have the potential to create so much content.

BLOK – key facts

• There are currently three BLOK sites – Clapton, Shoreditch and Manchester, with plans to open four more in London in 2020.

• This high-end concept comprises studios for group exercise, changing rooms, reception area, art gallery and a café.

• The brand has been built on art, architecture and a highly designed environment, where people want to spend time.

• Classes are focused on building strength, skills and progression in order to keep clients coming back. There are strength and conditioning workouts, as well as yoga, barre, boxing and calisthenics.

• Each studio offers between 160 and 180 classes a week.

• Prices vary across the three sites, with a single class costing £15 in Manchester and Clapton and £17 in Shoreditch. Prices drop significantly if you commit for 12 months, with 10 class-a-month memberships costing just £84 in Manchester and Clapton and £100 in Shoreditch.

• Retreats and digital fitness are also in the pipeline.

BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK Shoreditch, the second to open, with design by Daytrip Studio
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
BLOK is planning to open four new clubs in 2020
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Stanbury is planning a move into digital fitness, using existing facilities as backdrops
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
Some of BLOK’s spaces have been used for photoshoots by brands such as Apple
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/2020/618988_524940.jpg
The CEO and co-founder of BLOK tells how he developed ‘one of the coolest gyms in the world’
Ed Stanbury, BLOK,boutique fitness
Latest News
Austrian medical health and wellness operator, Lanserhof, has launched a programme for people who’ve had ...
Latest News
HCM can report that Europe Active's annual thought-leader conference, the European Health and Fitness Forum ...
Latest News
The number of people signing up for memberships at Planet Fitness has been at 2019 ...
Latest News
Gyms in England could be open in July if lobbying by the fitness industry comes ...
Latest News
A survey by Savanta ComRes, in partnership with Sport England, has studied the impact of ...
Latest News
Gyms and health clubs in the US have begun reopening their doors, with a number ...
Latest News
CIMSPA, has opened a consultation on the safe delivery of sport and physical activity online, ...
Latest News
Independent gym owners in Ohio have filed a lawsuit against state officials, challenging the decision ...
Latest News
OYO Fitness is looking to benefit from the rapid growth in people looking for at-home ...
Latest News
Glenn Earlam, CEO of David Lloyd Leisure (DLL), says the operator is reopening 26 of ...
Latest News
Peloton is working to engage with consumers in the US and UK during the global ...
Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Opinion
promotion
The activity industry finds itself in a position of considerable threat. Two-thirds of the world’s gyms are closed – that’s 230 million members unable to attend a fitness facility, according to data platform fitNdata.
Opinion: Ensuring members return after lockdown
Opinion
promotion
Elon Musk has plans to conquer Mars and these days the meat on your hamburger can be grown in a lab - so why are so many fitness businesses still using papers and pens to create workouts for their members?
Opinion: How the current pandemic may be helping the fitness industry to innovate
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Incorpore and MoveGB ink groundbreaking partnership to transform corporate wellness offering
Incorpore and MoveGB have entered into a landmark partnership, combining the UK’s largest provider of corporate gym memberships with the nation’s biggest network of classes.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: myFitApp launches branded live-streaming as part of its COVID-19 support package
Innovatise, the company behind myFitApp, has announced the immediate availability of its customer- branded live-streaming solution.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Premier Software Solutions Ltd
Premier Software was founded in 1994 and has proven experience developing business management solutions specifically ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Matrix Fitness
Matrix strives to offer equipment that will captivate your members, is easy to maintain, and ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Fitness equipment
Healthcheck Services Ltd: Fitness equipment
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Exercise equipment
Matrix Fitness: Exercise equipment
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
04 Jun 2020
Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
13 Jun 2020
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
06-07 Jul 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
28-31 Aug 2020
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
11-12 Oct 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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