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Filling office water cooler void, gyms make a comeback

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A Planet Fitness logo is shown.

Peloton posted disappointing earnings on Thursday. In the meantime, gyms like Planet Fitness have seen an increase in foot traffic. Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

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Peloton reported disappointing earnings on Thursday and lowered revenue expectations. Meanwhile, the gym chain Planet Fitness increased its revenue forecast for the next year and is planning new store openings.

Is the work (out)-from-home revolution over?

There are plenty of people getting their pump in at Summit Strong, a boutique gym in downtown Denver. Especially in the evenings, when things get pretty social.

“There’s a handful of guys that will work out at night, that they start a volleyball league or a kickball league that they all play on, and they all met each other through the gym,” said general manager Bridget Schirmers.

These days, the squat racks function more like office water coolers, “because they’re working from home, they’re not really interacting with people at work, not really making a lot of connections, so the gym is where they primarily meet people,” Schirmers said.

2020 was a rough year for gyms — plenty went bankrupt. 

But according to Matt Powell, who analyzes the fitness industry for market research firm NPD Group, there’s a recovering market for exercising with others. “Some people really enjoy the community of being in the gym,” he said.

It’s not just resurgent gyms hurting Peloton, he said. There’s also way more competition in the home workout space from brands like Mirror and Tonal.

“I think everyone saw the early success that Peloton had and said, ‘Let me get a piece of that business,'” Powell said.

Much like the workplace, exercising is becoming hybrid for many people, with some days at home, some days at the gym. 

Rich DeSilva still loves the Peloton he keeps in the basement in Mansfield, Massachusetts. But now that the delta variant feels less threatening, he’s back running and lifting at the gym. It’s not really the community he missed — it’s competition. 

“I feel more motivated with other people around, knowing they’re kind of watching your performance and how you’re doing,” he said.

DeSilva’s not going to the gym to join a kickball team. But there’s something about the gym that lets him be alone … with others. “I enjoy being alone at the gym, having my headphones on, no one talking to me, but yet still having those people around,” he said.

Fair. Plus, it’s weird to ask family members to spot you. 

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