It may be a new year, but the noise around wellness and wellbeing is just as loud in 2022 as it has been in recent times. Beverley Bayes, Creative Director at Sparcstudio, takes a look at future fitness trends and how hotel design can be used to direct the new wave of spa and wellness spaces being offered in hotels in 2022 and beyond…
Sparcstudio Design, a specialist studio focused in the design of spa and wellness – and therefore an expert studio to identify fitness trends in hotel design – has long had its finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest fitness trends through its work with destination fitness clubs, such as Third Space, Rise Gym, and Aspria clubs in Europe, as well as substantial fitness facilities that form a key part of hotel spas, such as South Lodge Spa, Champneys Mottram Hall, and Sopwell Cottonmill Club.
Fitness is currently undergoing a post-pandemic revolution, which is set to boom. Many people have tired of working out at home, so are longing for both experience and connection, along with the chance to work out in beautiful surroundings in a social and supportive setting. In a world where ‘health is the new wealth’, people recognise the importance of being fit and active and are beginning to convert to a more wellness-based vacation, become a member of a standalone club, or frequenter of one of the many ‘pay & play’ boutique studio/spin studios. Many are also joining membership waiting lists to aspirational hotel spa and fitness clubs that offer exclusive memberships in a luxury setting. Hotels are therefore perfectly positioned to meet these needs but, in many cases, require a complete rethink in terms of design approach to fitness spaces & offering.
Experience-led design is spearheading a new wave of design in the spa and wellness space, especially when it comes to gyms and fitness studios. Well-designed fitness offers are moving away from the typical gym set up in a basement with rows of equipment packed into darkened spaces, a concept that originated from the ‘cardio-theatre’ model with equipment ranged around a wall of screens. Cutting-edge fitness design is now much more about wellness spaces with soul, designed with a softer biophilic approach, ideally overlooking and connecting to natural surroundings with outdoor workout facilities.
An optimal gym layout, as seen at South Lodge Spa, designed by Sparcstudio, is open-plan and light-filled, incorporating at its centre a functional training zone for group and social exercise with TRX rig surrounded by zoned spaces for cardio, weights or resistance work. Designed to offer an uplifting experience, the 18.5 square-metre gym was located on an upper level of the spa with full height glazing opening onto a dedicated training terrace, benefitting from views of the South Downs and the spa garden terraces below, complete with natural swim pond at the centre.
People are naturally drawn to nature, and exercising outdoors can form part of the offering at any hotel or gym that has some appropriate and available space. It can be vast, exploring woodland terrain, building outdoor equipment and nature trails, or simply a yoga deck or HIIT terrace that has fresh air and views looking across the landscape. It can add variety to the workout and offer a new experience for many guests.
The inclusion of technology is also key to design and it should enable and facilitate in a discreet way rather than translating into clinical, sensory deprived environments. In advanced spaces, some sites are installing recovery areas with 3D imaging machines, locker rooms complete with infrared saunas with big-screen TVs that stream Netflix, and selfie-friendly cryotherapy chamber, while treadmills can be fitted with O2 vaporisers so that you can train to peak performance. For many millennial gym-goers, a trip to the fitness studio will often replace a night out at the pub or nightclub. This is especially true for many young urbanites. New high-end boutique gyms are aiming to cultivate a tribal loyalty and community. Club membership has become a status symbol and savvy urban hoteliers can embrace this, designing their fitness space and offering within to match the needs of this growing subculture.
Historically, fitness studios are often multi-use, uninspiring, and over-lit spaces. Sparcstudio take more of a bespoke approach based around the experience and how you want to make the user feel. For example we designed London’s first dedicated hot yoga studio, which is a truly sensuous space with pale pink panelling lined with fragrant juniper logs and fitted with state of the art anti-bacterial technology. Members can enter deep stretches and poses, and detoxify through perspiration, in a hot, cleansing environment.
Whereas high energy classes such as spin or HIIT can resemble a night club in terms of their style and delivery with immersive, wraparound lighting and sound. The advent of virtual classes has increased the utilisation of these rooms without the need for additional members of staff. They also tap into the tribe-like following that many have (think Les Mills and Peloton).
The home-meets-hotel concept is growing, as demonstrated by the rapid expansion of Locke Hotels. Developing this one step further, they are taking a private members club-like approach to the offering with an array of experiences ranging from flexible co-working spaces, destination dining, artisan grocer, yoga studio, rooftop cocktail bar, a locally-inspired cultural programme. Niche hotels, and international members clubs cultivate their audience to create a tribe-like following where international wellness travellers expect to turn up in their next destination to find the same level of service, design and experiences, wherever they are in the world. Clever hoteliers have realised this and have created fitness spaces that feed into the need for belonging and collective experience.
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Main image credit: Sparcstudio