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HCM People
Jennifer Maanavi

Our ‘why?’ is to improve the lives of our clients, not to make them feel defeated


Tell us about the business
Founded in 2006 and headquartered in New York City, Physique 57 is a lifestyle brand built around exercise, results, body positivity and a supportive community.

With boutique studios in the US, Dubai, Bangkok and Mumbai, as well as a virtual studio and an on-demand platform, we offer barre-based classes.

The company trades in a number of categories, including via club-in-club licenses (Drop Fitness in the US), Licenses (Dubai, Thailand and India) and franchises (currently in the US), as well as having corporate-owned locations in New York City.

The on-demand platform offers 500 barre videos, with new content added each week.

How did it all begin?
Physique 57 was born out of necessity! The first barre studio in the world was The Lotte Berk Method (LBM). This revolutionary concept came to New York in 1971 when an American licensee brought the method to a prestigious townhouse studio on Madison Avenue. It was incredibly successful from 1971 until 2005, when it closed very suddenly.

Tanya Becker, a long-time, top-rated LBM instructor and I saw this as an opportunity. We set out to modernise the method, develop barre instructors and a luxurious client experience and build a supportive, intimate community – which was rare in the fitness industry at the time.

What were your goals?
Our mandate was to make challenging group exercise fun and addictive for busy women. We worked with the Exercise Physiology department at Adelphi University in New York to test the method and prove that results were achieved in as little as eight workouts, as these quick results were vital to our success with busy New Yorkers.

Our team and their scientists were amazed with the physical outcomes of our programmes.

What had you done previously?
I came from a finance background with an MBA and Tanya had a background in professional dance, choreography and barre. Together we became pioneers in the boutique fitness industry.

Our first studio was tucked away on the eighth floor of an office building in midtown Manhattan. After being open for just a few months, our classes had waitlists and our story became a national phenomenon. Women as well known as Sarah Jessica Parker and Kelly Ripa were regulars.

Why the name?
Two reasons. The first studio was located on 57th Street and 5th Avenue in NYC – we had a studio there for 15 years until the pandemic forced a permanent shutdown – and secondly, the class is 57 minutes long.

Tell us about the workouts
Each studio offers around 40 classes a week in six formats.

The signature classes integrate cardio and strength for fierce, high-intensity, low-impact workouts with sprints, recovery and flexibility exercises to maximise sculpting and toning.

Our proprietary techniques accelerate lean muscle building and increase metabolic rate.

We have clients aged from 18 to 88 and each format delivers low-impact, safe exercises customised for the female body for injury-free strength training.

We offer beginner barre classes so clients can learn the science of our method and refine their form, as well as intermediate and advanced classes to level-up results with creative sequences.

Additionally, we offer a Pilates-inspired sculpting format on the mat to enhance posture, coordination and tone.

We also created a back body-focused class to focus on glutes, triceps and the posterior chain.

Each is developed by our master training team, led by co-founder Tanya and client experience officer, Alicia Weihl. Combined they have 45 years’ experience teaching and developing barre programmes.

Could you explain your digital offering?
Physique 57 on-demand was born from our DVD business which was quite successful – we sold DVDs in 50 US states and had a long run on QVC.

Once DVD sales began to flatten, we transitioned to digital in 2011, long before the pandemic.

For US$29.99/month, subscribers get 500+ Barre Workouts in a variety of formats, including beginner to advanced barre, HIIT, Pilates, and Dance Cardio.

The platform has a very high retention rate and our customer base spans 60+ countries and most of the US.

What’s your approach to hiring and training?
We believe workouts should never feel like a chore and this conviction led us to create a comprehensive instructor selection and training programme.

We seek dynamic, charismatic and skilled dance and fitness professionals who are passionate about delivering a unique and uplifting experience – online, or in-studio. Our focus is not only on what our instructors teach, but also on how they teach. We prioritise training them in the art of teaching, ensuring a holistic approach to clients’ individual fitness journeys.

Our trainers offer tailored guidance to enhance posture and body alignment and inspire clients to operate at peak capacity and we encourage clients to strive for optimal results while enjoying a rewarding, empowering workout that’s fun and memorable. Our emphasis on personalised attention remains a priority.

We aim to deliver injury-free strength training classes that tone and sculpt each muscle group with enough cardio to improve heart health. I don’t believe there’s any need to supplement barre workouts with cardio. I’ve done barre exclusively for 25 years and my resting heartbeat is between 55 and 60 bpm.

How do you adapt for your global locations?
We refine our method regularly to accommodate the needs of clients in all four countries where we trade. We’ve been a first-mover in most of our international markets, so have created formats for clients of varying fitness levels.

It takes patience, creativity and experience to meet clients where they are on their fitness journey and deliver a results-oriented programme that makes them feel successful once the class is over. The Physique 57 ‘Why?’ is to improve the lives of our clients, not to make them feel defeated.

We use our on-demand platform to trial new formats and exercise programmes and then bring the most popular into the studios. Workouts such as crunchless core, ballet boot camp and prenatal programme performed well on-demand, for example.

How important is customisation?
It’s critical to our success. We’ve established the optimal combination of strength and interval training that includes cardio and stretching in a way that works best for the anatomy of the female body. The result can be complete body transformation.

Combining the elegance of dance with the intensity of strength training, barre workouts have emerged as the favourite choice for many women aspiring to achieve substantial changes in their physique.

Barre targets specific muscle groups that are important to women when it comes to creating definition. The small, controlled movements might seem subtle, but they work wonders in sculpting lean and toned muscles. This isn’t about bulk; it’s about creating a sleek physique that feels strong and elegant.

How did the pandemic impact you?
When the pandemic came to New York City, studios were forced to close for 52 weeks beginning in March 2020. It was a ruinous time for fitness operators.

Predicting that closure would last more than six months, and knowing landlords would require rent payments, I immediately closed three of my four studios, as well as one in Beverly Hills permanently. A few international studios were permanently closed as well.

Fortunately, the on-demand subscriber base swelled to record numbers, so we were able to focus our efforts on the digital business where we'd already been successful for 11 years. We were fortunate that our digital business was so well established.

As a result of the closures, I made strategic decisions to scale down our operations significantly. This has resulted in a lean organisation with no lingering real estate concerns and minimal debt. I maintain 100 per cent ownership of the company and reduced the staff by 75 per cent. We experienced a very difficult few years.

What changes did you see in the way people use Physique 57?
Client behaviours have changed. Customers seek a sense of community, tailored to their individual definitions. In New York City, there's a decreased emphasis on leisurely in-studio downtime compared to before the pandemic, with frequent changes in schedules due to evolving return-to-work plans.

While expansive seating areas and lounges hold less importance, the demand for exceptional five-star client services and an inviting studio environment has intensified.

We continue to embrace a steady influx of Zoom clients. Our Soho classes are fully accessible virtually and since April 2020, we've had dedicated members attending each session without fail. This passionate group gathers from various corners of the globe, forming a dynamic and enthusiastic community.

What shape is the Physique 57 business in today?
We’re profitable and opened four new studios last year. We’re also expanding in India.

I'd say we’re lean, mighty and poised for further growth, as well as being focused on increasing revenues in our new studios, with a keen understanding that customer behaviours have changed dramatically.

You’ve done a deal with Drop Fitness. How is it going?
Drop Fitness (www.hcmmag.com/dropfitness) is a beautiful luxury space in New Jersey that brings four studios from New York City together into one massive gym.

Each brand has its own separate studio alongside a large open gym space offering premium cardio and free weights.

This partnership is performing incredibly well. We’re seeking other partners to replicate this success and are opening a similar concept in Westchester County, NY with a veteran gym operator and several well-known NYC boutique brands.

You launched into franchising just before the pandemic. Do you plan to get back to it?
Perhaps in the next two years we’ll consider reopening the sales pipeline.

Tell us about your tech
In 2022 we migrated to Uscreen for on-demand and Momence for our booking software. There are no plans to change this set-up at present, as it's working very well for us.

What challenges have you faced as a successful female entrepreneur?
In almost 20 years as the company’s CEO and sole owner, I’ve encountered numerous challenges. However, overall I’ve found the barre industry to be welcoming and supportive, especially since the pandemic.

Physique 57 is run by women, for women. Being a female leader with empathy, business acumen, resilience and drive has served me well.

What advice would you have for women thinking of a career in the industry?
Entrepreneurship is the best way for women to create their own path to professional and personal success.

This will allow them to design their priorities, create a unique corporate culture and set their own schedule and these opportunities are critical for those who want to achieve long-term professional success while they juggle careers and family.

Consider the following advice to circumvent some of the mistakes I've made along the way:

• Firstly, as a founder, you’ll be the face of the business, so be prepared for an abundance of media attention and don’t be shy.

• Secondly, say no to anything that isn’t critically important to executing your business strategy

• Thirdly, be aware that rapid growth is overrated.

Grow your business in a way that leverages your core competencies and financial wherewithal, not an arbitrary timeline created by ego, investors, or unrealistic expectations.

What are your dreams for the business going forward?
We’re focused on our three key pillars: grow our studio client base, continuously enhance our on-demand community for maximum growth and retention and seek the right partners to accelerate growth.

Physique 57 has been closely held since 2006. To best navigate the dynamic and flourishing landscape of the wellness industry, this is a pivotal time to forge strategic partnerships with like-minded, globally-oriented industry experts to accelerate our growth plans.

By engaging in partnerships with those who align with our ethos, we can position ourselves to broaden our reach to amplify our global impact.

From gym partnerships to joint ventures, we’re open and poised for synergistic collaborations around the world.

Physique 57 locations

• Corporate-owned: Two in New York City

• Franchises: New Jersey, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Brooklyn

• Licensed: Bangkok (3) Dubai (1), India (2), plus New York and Bandra, India opening in 2024

• Club-in-club: Drop Fitness New Jersey and Rhythm Fitness Westchester County, (opening Q2 2024)

Proprietary techniques accelerate lean muscle building and increase metabolic rate Credit: photo: Physique 57
Physique 57 offers an optimal combination of strength and interval training Credit: photo: Physique 57
Classes are suitable for all ages and abilities, with clients ranging from 18-88 Credit: photo: physique 57
Maanavi got the company through the pandemic with proactive closures Credit: photo: physique 57
Physique 57 is run by women, for women Credit: photo: Physique 57
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2024 issue 2

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Jennifer Maanavi

HCM People

Jennifer Maanavi


Our ‘why?’ is to improve the lives of our clients, not to make them feel defeated

Maanavi comes from a finance background and has an MBA photo: Physique 57
Proprietary techniques accelerate lean muscle building and increase metabolic rate photo: Physique 57
Physique 57 offers an optimal combination of strength and interval training photo: Physique 57
Classes are suitable for all ages and abilities, with clients ranging from 18-88 photo: physique 57
Maanavi got the company through the pandemic with proactive closures photo: physique 57
Physique 57 is run by women, for women photo: Physique 57

Tell us about the business
Founded in 2006 and headquartered in New York City, Physique 57 is a lifestyle brand built around exercise, results, body positivity and a supportive community.

With boutique studios in the US, Dubai, Bangkok and Mumbai, as well as a virtual studio and an on-demand platform, we offer barre-based classes.

The company trades in a number of categories, including via club-in-club licenses (Drop Fitness in the US), Licenses (Dubai, Thailand and India) and franchises (currently in the US), as well as having corporate-owned locations in New York City.

The on-demand platform offers 500 barre videos, with new content added each week.

How did it all begin?
Physique 57 was born out of necessity! The first barre studio in the world was The Lotte Berk Method (LBM). This revolutionary concept came to New York in 1971 when an American licensee brought the method to a prestigious townhouse studio on Madison Avenue. It was incredibly successful from 1971 until 2005, when it closed very suddenly.

Tanya Becker, a long-time, top-rated LBM instructor and I saw this as an opportunity. We set out to modernise the method, develop barre instructors and a luxurious client experience and build a supportive, intimate community – which was rare in the fitness industry at the time.

What were your goals?
Our mandate was to make challenging group exercise fun and addictive for busy women. We worked with the Exercise Physiology department at Adelphi University in New York to test the method and prove that results were achieved in as little as eight workouts, as these quick results were vital to our success with busy New Yorkers.

Our team and their scientists were amazed with the physical outcomes of our programmes.

What had you done previously?
I came from a finance background with an MBA and Tanya had a background in professional dance, choreography and barre. Together we became pioneers in the boutique fitness industry.

Our first studio was tucked away on the eighth floor of an office building in midtown Manhattan. After being open for just a few months, our classes had waitlists and our story became a national phenomenon. Women as well known as Sarah Jessica Parker and Kelly Ripa were regulars.

Why the name?
Two reasons. The first studio was located on 57th Street and 5th Avenue in NYC – we had a studio there for 15 years until the pandemic forced a permanent shutdown – and secondly, the class is 57 minutes long.

Tell us about the workouts
Each studio offers around 40 classes a week in six formats.

The signature classes integrate cardio and strength for fierce, high-intensity, low-impact workouts with sprints, recovery and flexibility exercises to maximise sculpting and toning.

Our proprietary techniques accelerate lean muscle building and increase metabolic rate.

We have clients aged from 18 to 88 and each format delivers low-impact, safe exercises customised for the female body for injury-free strength training.

We offer beginner barre classes so clients can learn the science of our method and refine their form, as well as intermediate and advanced classes to level-up results with creative sequences.

Additionally, we offer a Pilates-inspired sculpting format on the mat to enhance posture, coordination and tone.

We also created a back body-focused class to focus on glutes, triceps and the posterior chain.

Each is developed by our master training team, led by co-founder Tanya and client experience officer, Alicia Weihl. Combined they have 45 years’ experience teaching and developing barre programmes.

Could you explain your digital offering?
Physique 57 on-demand was born from our DVD business which was quite successful – we sold DVDs in 50 US states and had a long run on QVC.

Once DVD sales began to flatten, we transitioned to digital in 2011, long before the pandemic.

For US$29.99/month, subscribers get 500+ Barre Workouts in a variety of formats, including beginner to advanced barre, HIIT, Pilates, and Dance Cardio.

The platform has a very high retention rate and our customer base spans 60+ countries and most of the US.

What’s your approach to hiring and training?
We believe workouts should never feel like a chore and this conviction led us to create a comprehensive instructor selection and training programme.

We seek dynamic, charismatic and skilled dance and fitness professionals who are passionate about delivering a unique and uplifting experience – online, or in-studio. Our focus is not only on what our instructors teach, but also on how they teach. We prioritise training them in the art of teaching, ensuring a holistic approach to clients’ individual fitness journeys.

Our trainers offer tailored guidance to enhance posture and body alignment and inspire clients to operate at peak capacity and we encourage clients to strive for optimal results while enjoying a rewarding, empowering workout that’s fun and memorable. Our emphasis on personalised attention remains a priority.

We aim to deliver injury-free strength training classes that tone and sculpt each muscle group with enough cardio to improve heart health. I don’t believe there’s any need to supplement barre workouts with cardio. I’ve done barre exclusively for 25 years and my resting heartbeat is between 55 and 60 bpm.

How do you adapt for your global locations?
We refine our method regularly to accommodate the needs of clients in all four countries where we trade. We’ve been a first-mover in most of our international markets, so have created formats for clients of varying fitness levels.

It takes patience, creativity and experience to meet clients where they are on their fitness journey and deliver a results-oriented programme that makes them feel successful once the class is over. The Physique 57 ‘Why?’ is to improve the lives of our clients, not to make them feel defeated.

We use our on-demand platform to trial new formats and exercise programmes and then bring the most popular into the studios. Workouts such as crunchless core, ballet boot camp and prenatal programme performed well on-demand, for example.

How important is customisation?
It’s critical to our success. We’ve established the optimal combination of strength and interval training that includes cardio and stretching in a way that works best for the anatomy of the female body. The result can be complete body transformation.

Combining the elegance of dance with the intensity of strength training, barre workouts have emerged as the favourite choice for many women aspiring to achieve substantial changes in their physique.

Barre targets specific muscle groups that are important to women when it comes to creating definition. The small, controlled movements might seem subtle, but they work wonders in sculpting lean and toned muscles. This isn’t about bulk; it’s about creating a sleek physique that feels strong and elegant.

How did the pandemic impact you?
When the pandemic came to New York City, studios were forced to close for 52 weeks beginning in March 2020. It was a ruinous time for fitness operators.

Predicting that closure would last more than six months, and knowing landlords would require rent payments, I immediately closed three of my four studios, as well as one in Beverly Hills permanently. A few international studios were permanently closed as well.

Fortunately, the on-demand subscriber base swelled to record numbers, so we were able to focus our efforts on the digital business where we'd already been successful for 11 years. We were fortunate that our digital business was so well established.

As a result of the closures, I made strategic decisions to scale down our operations significantly. This has resulted in a lean organisation with no lingering real estate concerns and minimal debt. I maintain 100 per cent ownership of the company and reduced the staff by 75 per cent. We experienced a very difficult few years.

What changes did you see in the way people use Physique 57?
Client behaviours have changed. Customers seek a sense of community, tailored to their individual definitions. In New York City, there's a decreased emphasis on leisurely in-studio downtime compared to before the pandemic, with frequent changes in schedules due to evolving return-to-work plans.

While expansive seating areas and lounges hold less importance, the demand for exceptional five-star client services and an inviting studio environment has intensified.

We continue to embrace a steady influx of Zoom clients. Our Soho classes are fully accessible virtually and since April 2020, we've had dedicated members attending each session without fail. This passionate group gathers from various corners of the globe, forming a dynamic and enthusiastic community.

What shape is the Physique 57 business in today?
We’re profitable and opened four new studios last year. We’re also expanding in India.

I'd say we’re lean, mighty and poised for further growth, as well as being focused on increasing revenues in our new studios, with a keen understanding that customer behaviours have changed dramatically.

You’ve done a deal with Drop Fitness. How is it going?
Drop Fitness (www.hcmmag.com/dropfitness) is a beautiful luxury space in New Jersey that brings four studios from New York City together into one massive gym.

Each brand has its own separate studio alongside a large open gym space offering premium cardio and free weights.

This partnership is performing incredibly well. We’re seeking other partners to replicate this success and are opening a similar concept in Westchester County, NY with a veteran gym operator and several well-known NYC boutique brands.

You launched into franchising just before the pandemic. Do you plan to get back to it?
Perhaps in the next two years we’ll consider reopening the sales pipeline.

Tell us about your tech
In 2022 we migrated to Uscreen for on-demand and Momence for our booking software. There are no plans to change this set-up at present, as it's working very well for us.

What challenges have you faced as a successful female entrepreneur?
In almost 20 years as the company’s CEO and sole owner, I’ve encountered numerous challenges. However, overall I’ve found the barre industry to be welcoming and supportive, especially since the pandemic.

Physique 57 is run by women, for women. Being a female leader with empathy, business acumen, resilience and drive has served me well.

What advice would you have for women thinking of a career in the industry?
Entrepreneurship is the best way for women to create their own path to professional and personal success.

This will allow them to design their priorities, create a unique corporate culture and set their own schedule and these opportunities are critical for those who want to achieve long-term professional success while they juggle careers and family.

Consider the following advice to circumvent some of the mistakes I've made along the way:

• Firstly, as a founder, you’ll be the face of the business, so be prepared for an abundance of media attention and don’t be shy.

• Secondly, say no to anything that isn’t critically important to executing your business strategy

• Thirdly, be aware that rapid growth is overrated.

Grow your business in a way that leverages your core competencies and financial wherewithal, not an arbitrary timeline created by ego, investors, or unrealistic expectations.

What are your dreams for the business going forward?
We’re focused on our three key pillars: grow our studio client base, continuously enhance our on-demand community for maximum growth and retention and seek the right partners to accelerate growth.

Physique 57 has been closely held since 2006. To best navigate the dynamic and flourishing landscape of the wellness industry, this is a pivotal time to forge strategic partnerships with like-minded, globally-oriented industry experts to accelerate our growth plans.

By engaging in partnerships with those who align with our ethos, we can position ourselves to broaden our reach to amplify our global impact.

From gym partnerships to joint ventures, we’re open and poised for synergistic collaborations around the world.

Physique 57 locations

• Corporate-owned: Two in New York City

• Franchises: New Jersey, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Brooklyn

• Licensed: Bangkok (3) Dubai (1), India (2), plus New York and Bandra, India opening in 2024

• Club-in-club: Drop Fitness New Jersey and Rhythm Fitness Westchester County, (opening Q2 2024)


Originally published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 2

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd