What were you doing before launching STRONG?
In my early years, I worked as a marketing manager in the oil and gas industry, but I was also a personal trainer, I did some marketing consultancy on the side, and I helped run a nightclub on the weekends. I kept myself super busy!
At the age of 26 I discovered F45 through my business partner, Mark, and spent the next four years rolling out six F45 studios and a yoga studio, and founding Journey Retreats.
Our studios won some big awards and were the busiest in the world for a few years. But as much as we loved F45, it was never our own concept, so Mark and I decided to sell all of our studios and re-invest in our own franchise concept, which is now known as STRONG.
Tell us about it?
Pilates inspired, cardio infused, STRONG is a part reformer, part rowing, full body workout that’s high-intensity and low impact. I’m confident to say there’s no other pilates-inspired concept in Australia that burns anywhere near as many calories as STRONG.
Every STRONG studio consists of 15 Rowformer beds all lined up with the rower/cardio side facing a half-length mirror, and the reformer/strength side facing a full length mirror.
The beds are part reformer and part rower. The rower is a Concept 2 – the market leaders in their field. The whole thing is 4.1m in length and is a pretty amazing piece of machinery!
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 single workout.
What’s it like inside a studio?
We’ve spent a lot of time on the customer experience – STRONG studios will all smell the same as we’ve customised our scent to ensure clients feel energised when they walk in the door. We play a lot of Jay Z so we included Cognac in our scent!
When the class is rowing we blast deep house beats and the lights come right down, creating more of a nightclub feel. When you’re on the reformer side of the machine you’re more likely to hear RnB anthems, with the tempo of the workout becoming much slower, focusing on time under tension for those pilates inspired movements.
Every studio has beautiful bathrooms with phone chargers in the lockers. We steer away from any single-use plastics and encourage all members to bring drink bottles, towels and grip socks.
Where did this idea come from?
An old housemate of mine found the Rowformer on Instagram and she made contact and then introduced me to Ernie Reinhardt, the creator of the Rowformer. Ernie holds the patents for the Rowformer and uses them in his studio, Hardtfit, in California.
We jumped on a plane to LA and visited the studio in Newport Beach. I tried a class and can legitimately say it was one of the toughest workouts I’d ever done! At that time I was rehabbing a broken ankle and couldn’t do any impact training. I instantly fell in love with the low-impact, high-intensity workout.
How did you take this product and turn it into your own offering?
Myself and business partner Mark negotiated a supply agreement with Ernie. We now hold exclusive rights to the Rowformer machine in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, as well as holding exclusive rights to repurpose the Hardtifit method on the Rowformer machine in these territories. Although Ernie has done a great job with the machine, we felt we needed full control to build out a franchise model that would suit the Australasian market.
Do you run different classes on the rowformers?
We currently run five different classes: STRONG Burn, STRONG Body, STRONG Resistance, STRONG Core and STRONG Form. After every 13 weeks we bring in new classes, with new moves and sometimes new accessory equipment. Most recently, we’ve brought in heart rate technology with two display screens and a client portal, so our STRONG humans can track their progress effectively.
Why are rowing and pilates a perfect combination?
In its own right pilates provides clients with increased flexibility and mobility through the joints, as well as a massive improvement in core strength and increased muscular endurance and overall strength.
Meanwhile rowing also has little to no impact on the joints, making it perfect for HIIT training. It gives a full-body workout, as it uses 85 per cent of the muscles in the entire body.
You simply cannot get a combination that provides you with a more intense, calorie burning and muscular strengthening workout with absolutely no impact on the joints.
Who comes to do a STRONG class?
Our key audience is not gender related, in fact we love to promote ourselves as being 100 per cent gender neutral. The reformer market has traditionally been predominantly female and we aim to change that at STRONG.
Our key clients are people who want more out of their workout. People who may have done pilates or reformer in the past, and feel like they need more. Qualitative data tells us many consumers feel like they need to go for a run or do an extra workout on top of their standard reformer session. With the rower we can service those needs and give the client an additional calorie burn.
We also aim for clients who want to be challenged, but don’t want the risk of high-impact training. We get a lot of ex-professional athletes who train at the studio, who still really want to be pushed but aren’t physically capable of impact training due to injuries and overuse.
What kind of feedback have you had from customers?
The client feedback has been incredible. The community that our STRONG studios are building is something really special. It includes men, women, professional athletes, people new to fitness and people who have cancelled all of their previous gym memberships and have committed to training solely at STRONG. Our clients are time poor and need a place where they can train smarter.
The feedback has been consistently positive. The trainers are tough, the workout is tough but it’s all worth it for how good you feel afterwards.
How are you coping with the COVID-19 situation?
We’ve tried minimising all expenses and have been fortunate with the assistance from the Australian Government.
Upon closure, the first thing we did was source as many rowing machines as we could and we dropped them at our members houses with programming guides.
This is a complimentary service to our members as we hope to hold on to them once we’re able to re-open.
Throughout this time we’re working on our systems, innovation and technology and hope to re-open as a more refined service offering.
What are your plans for STRONG?
Once things get back to normal, we’re hoping we’ll be able to open more STRONG studios in the near future. Longer-term we have Australia, New Zealand and Asia in our sights. Once we’ve refined our processes and are 100 per cent happy, we’ll start looking at some serious expansion investment.