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features

HCM People: David Barton

Gym U

Gym U is offering the most scientifically-advanced equipment and ushering in a new level of luxury

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 7

What’s your expertise?
My qualifications are mostly hundreds of failures resulting in the occasional success.

I’ve studied, experimented, read, taught, and contemplated, and there is no qualification that prepares someone for the alchemy and magic of a gym that actually works. In fact, the creative impulse happens suddenly and there is no preparation for this that I can think of.

What has shaped your philosophy?
The first time I ever walked into a gym, I was transported by the energy. Local criminals were working out next to the local cops, it was a world apart from the outside. That was my moment, and from that moment on, I was hooked. It’s infectious and intoxicating, and when I get it right, I know a member walks into my club and feels that they’re walking into the best party in town. They’re in the right place at the right time; that’s perfection in my book.

Tell us what’s happening now
There is a new post-pandemic world, which requires an updated paradigm in the gym business. I created a new concept called Gym U (www.gymunyc.com) because I felt it was necessary for someone to fill this void and pre-empt the possible obsolescence of the gym as we know it.

Tell us more
Gym U is a project that’s very dear to my heart. Located on 215 West 23rd St in Chelsea, New York City, Gym U is built in the space of my original David Barton gym, which opened over 20 years ago. It opened in June. Gym U is offering the most scientifically-advanced fitness equipment, training and wellness services I’ve gathered and amassed from my travels, ushering in a new level of luxury and personalisation in the fitness world in New York City.

Every club I do is different; a lot is based on the local market and the demographics and psychographics of the locals. When designing U, I drew inspiration from the movie Metropolis which gives it a Deco and Expressionist feel.

How is it different from and better than your previous NYC gyms?
Gym U is similar to previous David Barton gyms in that the space will feel uniquely curated to its demographic – unlike other chain operations, Gym U reflects the specific personality and charm of New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood: colourful, vibrant and energetic.

Gym U differentiates itself from its competitors through the caliber of its workout equipment and personal training, which are guaranteed to deliver results. Members can expect to experience the most efficient and fun workout with machinery from premium fitness brands such as Pannatta, an Italian manufacturer that has redesigned the mechanics of strength training.

How are you using technology?
I was amazed by the advanced technologies implemented globally in the fitness world and brought them all to U. The gym carries ARX adaptive resistance equipment, which utilises patented, motorised resistance and computer software to maximise every rep to create a perfect workout with maximum results.

We’ve partnered with the world-class Precision Health Alliance from Australia to deliver a full epigenetic diagnostic profile for members, utilising AI. Our trainers can provide members with key insights into their health and fitness needs considering their genetic predispositions, taking all the guesswork out of working out.

We also offer sessions with the Neubie, an electrical stimulation therapy that reprogrammes muscles for optimised performance and recovery times. Even three sessions with this powerful tool are guaranteed to deliver visible results. We also have an area for recovery powered by Fuel Stop, a wellness boutique in Uptown NYC that offers personalised IV Drips and Ozone capsule treatments.

How will you future-proof this business?
Although one never knows what the future will bring the gym will be future-proofed by fostering community and personal engagement.

Of course, it’s important to stay ahead of trends in science and technology, but the basics of the right environment and great customer service never go out of style.

What’s the perfect customer journey?
New gym-goers need to feel comfortable when joining a gym. At U, we’ll focus on the community aspect, helping newcomers feel welcome and providing a fun, dynamic workout experience.

We have an esteemed roster of trainers I hand-picked who will work closely in tandem with members to identify their fitness goals and develop a highly tailored workout regimen for success. The core mission is delivering a user-focused experience for our members that makes going to the gym for a workout one of the highlights of their day.

Can design contribute to the success?
Absolutely. I worked closely with architects such as Charles Renfro and Stephen Alton and collaborated with creatives Peter Brescia, Rose Wood and award-winning lighting design firm Focus Lighting to deliver a sleek and energising space that encourages movement the moment our members walk through the doors.

Lighting is incredibly important in gym design, because we want our members to feel good and look good when they work out. The entire space is thoughtfully lit with mood lighting and lined with mirrors to provide that extra visual element needed for workout motivation.

What are the most important things to consider when designing a club?
The word design misses the point. What I try to create is an emotional experience. Having said that, I think our industry has historically lacked vision when it comes to design.

Some operators overdesign their clubs, they lack restraint and include too many ideas, finishes patterns, graphics and signage. In my gyms you might have a soundbite or a design moment, but there’s always a reason why it’s there.

It’s easy to neglect certain elements of design, such as lighting or auditory components, which all take part in creating an enjoyable environment geared towards movement and fitness. For instance, you can have all the workout equipment in the world, but if the space is flooded with harsh fluorescent light, it will take away from the overall experience.

Similarly with music, you need to consider a playlist that caters to the vibe of your member demographic, that also aligns with the general mood and atmosphere of the gym and location.

You’re designing gyms around the world. What was the inspiration for Anvil?
Anvil was inspired by a dream I had of being a tiny being in the world of Giants. I played with scale and proportion to create a fantasy, and an escape from the world outside.

There’s a combination of grit and glamour, akin to the shiny chrome on a Harley Davidson. Sometimes the greatest challenge is to create luxury without being precious or fancy or feeling like something other than a gym. With Anvil, I tried to be intriguing and titillating.

What motivates and inspires you? 
I’m inspired by movies, music, paintings, buildings ... sometimes just my imagination.

What’s the best gym you’ve seen that isn’t one of your own?
I once went to a gym in Nantucket. It was in a small windswept house on the beach with open windows that allowed a warm breeze and the smell of the ocean. There was very little equipment and I believe no staff whatsoever, but there was something so simple and authentic about that little gem of a gym.

What’s your personal wellness regime?
I do mostly strength training, focusing on slow, controlled movements. I’ve discovered bodybuilding-style training is the best solution to combat ageing.

• From the archives: www.hcmmag.com/Barton12

• Watch David Barton interviewed on the Entrepreneurship at Cornell YouTube channel www.hcmmag.com/DavidBartonCornell

David Barton timeline

1988 Graduates from Cornell in Human Ecology

1989 Declines grad school to work as a PT

1992 Establishes first David Barton Gym in NYC

1992 - 2013 Grows to nine clubs

2013 Sells to investors

2016 David Barton Gyms owned by Club Ventures close

2018 Launches TMPL gym brand in one location in NYC

2018 Sells TMPL to Town Sports

2020 Town Sports ceases trading

2023 Creates Gym U in New York City

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
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features

HCM People: David Barton

Gym U

Gym U is offering the most scientifically-advanced equipment and ushering in a new level of luxury

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 7

What’s your expertise?
My qualifications are mostly hundreds of failures resulting in the occasional success.

I’ve studied, experimented, read, taught, and contemplated, and there is no qualification that prepares someone for the alchemy and magic of a gym that actually works. In fact, the creative impulse happens suddenly and there is no preparation for this that I can think of.

What has shaped your philosophy?
The first time I ever walked into a gym, I was transported by the energy. Local criminals were working out next to the local cops, it was a world apart from the outside. That was my moment, and from that moment on, I was hooked. It’s infectious and intoxicating, and when I get it right, I know a member walks into my club and feels that they’re walking into the best party in town. They’re in the right place at the right time; that’s perfection in my book.

Tell us what’s happening now
There is a new post-pandemic world, which requires an updated paradigm in the gym business. I created a new concept called Gym U (www.gymunyc.com) because I felt it was necessary for someone to fill this void and pre-empt the possible obsolescence of the gym as we know it.

Tell us more
Gym U is a project that’s very dear to my heart. Located on 215 West 23rd St in Chelsea, New York City, Gym U is built in the space of my original David Barton gym, which opened over 20 years ago. It opened in June. Gym U is offering the most scientifically-advanced fitness equipment, training and wellness services I’ve gathered and amassed from my travels, ushering in a new level of luxury and personalisation in the fitness world in New York City.

Every club I do is different; a lot is based on the local market and the demographics and psychographics of the locals. When designing U, I drew inspiration from the movie Metropolis which gives it a Deco and Expressionist feel.

How is it different from and better than your previous NYC gyms?
Gym U is similar to previous David Barton gyms in that the space will feel uniquely curated to its demographic – unlike other chain operations, Gym U reflects the specific personality and charm of New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood: colourful, vibrant and energetic.

Gym U differentiates itself from its competitors through the caliber of its workout equipment and personal training, which are guaranteed to deliver results. Members can expect to experience the most efficient and fun workout with machinery from premium fitness brands such as Pannatta, an Italian manufacturer that has redesigned the mechanics of strength training.

How are you using technology?
I was amazed by the advanced technologies implemented globally in the fitness world and brought them all to U. The gym carries ARX adaptive resistance equipment, which utilises patented, motorised resistance and computer software to maximise every rep to create a perfect workout with maximum results.

We’ve partnered with the world-class Precision Health Alliance from Australia to deliver a full epigenetic diagnostic profile for members, utilising AI. Our trainers can provide members with key insights into their health and fitness needs considering their genetic predispositions, taking all the guesswork out of working out.

We also offer sessions with the Neubie, an electrical stimulation therapy that reprogrammes muscles for optimised performance and recovery times. Even three sessions with this powerful tool are guaranteed to deliver visible results. We also have an area for recovery powered by Fuel Stop, a wellness boutique in Uptown NYC that offers personalised IV Drips and Ozone capsule treatments.

How will you future-proof this business?
Although one never knows what the future will bring the gym will be future-proofed by fostering community and personal engagement.

Of course, it’s important to stay ahead of trends in science and technology, but the basics of the right environment and great customer service never go out of style.

What’s the perfect customer journey?
New gym-goers need to feel comfortable when joining a gym. At U, we’ll focus on the community aspect, helping newcomers feel welcome and providing a fun, dynamic workout experience.

We have an esteemed roster of trainers I hand-picked who will work closely in tandem with members to identify their fitness goals and develop a highly tailored workout regimen for success. The core mission is delivering a user-focused experience for our members that makes going to the gym for a workout one of the highlights of their day.

Can design contribute to the success?
Absolutely. I worked closely with architects such as Charles Renfro and Stephen Alton and collaborated with creatives Peter Brescia, Rose Wood and award-winning lighting design firm Focus Lighting to deliver a sleek and energising space that encourages movement the moment our members walk through the doors.

Lighting is incredibly important in gym design, because we want our members to feel good and look good when they work out. The entire space is thoughtfully lit with mood lighting and lined with mirrors to provide that extra visual element needed for workout motivation.

What are the most important things to consider when designing a club?
The word design misses the point. What I try to create is an emotional experience. Having said that, I think our industry has historically lacked vision when it comes to design.

Some operators overdesign their clubs, they lack restraint and include too many ideas, finishes patterns, graphics and signage. In my gyms you might have a soundbite or a design moment, but there’s always a reason why it’s there.

It’s easy to neglect certain elements of design, such as lighting or auditory components, which all take part in creating an enjoyable environment geared towards movement and fitness. For instance, you can have all the workout equipment in the world, but if the space is flooded with harsh fluorescent light, it will take away from the overall experience.

Similarly with music, you need to consider a playlist that caters to the vibe of your member demographic, that also aligns with the general mood and atmosphere of the gym and location.

You’re designing gyms around the world. What was the inspiration for Anvil?
Anvil was inspired by a dream I had of being a tiny being in the world of Giants. I played with scale and proportion to create a fantasy, and an escape from the world outside.

There’s a combination of grit and glamour, akin to the shiny chrome on a Harley Davidson. Sometimes the greatest challenge is to create luxury without being precious or fancy or feeling like something other than a gym. With Anvil, I tried to be intriguing and titillating.

What motivates and inspires you? 
I’m inspired by movies, music, paintings, buildings ... sometimes just my imagination.

What’s the best gym you’ve seen that isn’t one of your own?
I once went to a gym in Nantucket. It was in a small windswept house on the beach with open windows that allowed a warm breeze and the smell of the ocean. There was very little equipment and I believe no staff whatsoever, but there was something so simple and authentic about that little gem of a gym.

What’s your personal wellness regime?
I do mostly strength training, focusing on slow, controlled movements. I’ve discovered bodybuilding-style training is the best solution to combat ageing.

• From the archives: www.hcmmag.com/Barton12

• Watch David Barton interviewed on the Entrepreneurship at Cornell YouTube channel www.hcmmag.com/DavidBartonCornell

David Barton timeline

1988 Graduates from Cornell in Human Ecology

1989 Declines grad school to work as a PT

1992 Establishes first David Barton Gym in NYC

1992 - 2013 Grows to nine clubs

2013 Sells to investors

2016 David Barton Gyms owned by Club Ventures close

2018 Launches TMPL gym brand in one location in NYC

2018 Sells TMPL to Town Sports

2020 Town Sports ceases trading

2023 Creates Gym U in New York City

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features
Editor's letter

Into the fitaverse

Fitness is already among the top three markets in the metaverse, with new technology and partnerships driving real growth and consumer engagement that looks likely to spill over into health clubs, gyms and studios
Fit Tech people

Ali Jawad

Paralympic powerlifter and founder, Accessercise
Users can easily identify which facilities in the UK are accessible to the disabled community
Fit Tech people

Hannes Sjöblad

MD, DSruptive
We want to give our users an implantable tool that allows them to collect their health data at any time and in any setting
Fit Tech people

Jamie Buck

Co-founder, Active in Time
We created a solution called AiT Voice, which turns digital data into a spoken audio timetable that connects to phone systems
Profile

Fahad Alhagbani: reinventing fitness

Alexa can help you book classes, check trainers’ bios and schedules, find out opening times, and a host of other information
Opinion

Building on the blockchain

For small sports teams looking to compete with giants, blockchain can be a secret weapon explains Lars Rensing, CEO of Protokol
Innovation

Bold move

We ended up raising US$7m in venture capital from incredible investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Primetime Partners, and GingerBread Capital
App analysis

Check your form

Sency’s motion analysis technology is allowing users to check their technique as they exercise. Co-founder and CEO Gal Rotman explains how
Profile

New reality

Sam Cole, CEO of FitXR, talks to Fit Tech about taking digital workouts to the next level, with an immersive, virtual reality fitness club
Profile

Sohail Rashid

The app is free and it’s $40 to participate in one of our virtual events
Ageing

Reverse Ageing

Many apps help people track their health, but Humanity founders Peter Ward and Michael Geer have put the focus on ageing, to help users to see the direct repercussions of their habits. They talk to Steph Eaves
App analysis

Going hybrid

Workout Anytime created its app in partnership with Virtuagym. Workout Anytime’s Greg Maurer and Virtuagym’s Hugo Braam explain the process behind its creation
Research

Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
Fit Tech People

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
Fit Tech People

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
Fit Tech People

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
More features