In the past, getting a workout in the airport meant sprinting to the terminal while carrying an awkward piece of luggage and weaving between traveling families. You arrived at the terminal sweaty and stressed before sitting in an uncomfortable seat for hours.
Roam Fitness founders Ty Manegold and Cynthia Sandall want to dramatically improve what it means to get a pre-flight workout. The luxury gym’s first location opened in February 2017, just past security next to gate D1 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. What the 1,175-square-foot gym lacks in size, it aims to make up for it in convenience. In addition to the gym itself, Roam features showers, healthy food, workout clothes to rent, its own flight-tracking boards and vacuum sealing if you bring your own clothes.
“We have everything for someone who’s traveling through in their business suit to be on a treadmill in five minutes or less,” Manegold says.
The rental clothes are free with your membership, but you can also buy clothes if you don’t want to rent them. Day passes are $25, and annual memberships are $30 per month. Day pass members can reserve a 15-minute shower slot when they check in, and annual members can do so 24 hours in advance. The showers are equipped with Amazon Alexa-powered devices to help you keep track of time.
Right now, BWI hosts the only Roam Fitness location. The company hopes to expand, but branching out has presented challenges. Airports like to keep as small a footprint as possible, which means businesses that make a lot of money in a small space are ideal. Gyms, which require space to work out, are a harder sell than something like a bar or shop.
But Manegold and Sandall believe the mindset of airports is slowly beginning to shift. “Some of the leaders have started to look more closely at the passenger experience and providing additional services,” Sandall says. “They’re looking for healthier options like being able to exercise or do yoga.” San Francisco and Dallas, for example, have installed airport yoga studios, and Indianapolis International features stationary bikes that charge your phone.
Short-term goals for Roam include a joint location with XpresSpa at San Francisco International and another location at JFK in New York, both of which are slated for the middle of 2019. In addition to convincing airports that Roam is worth the space, the gym must also play a waiting game: Airport bars and restaurants often have long-term leases that hamper the gym’s expansion plans.
In the meantime, Manegold and Sandall hope to get the word out and convince travelers that working out while waiting for a flight is worth it. Roam at BWI features an elliptical, three treadmills, a rower, two stationary bikes, two benches, free weights, a pull-up assist and a stretching space with yoga props and medicine balls. Roam will never be Gold’s Gym, but Manegold and Sandall are OK with that. They believe most travelers would prefer some form of cardio before a long flight. They also hope the fact that Roam has a luxury feel (and isn’t a “budget motel basement gym,” as Manegold puts it) will make the space feel inviting.
As people continue to pour money into fitness, Roam thinks the demand for an airport gym will grow. Although Manegold and Sandall hope casual flyers will make use of the gym, they envision their main clientele as frequent flyers who want to have more free time at their destination. They also think airport employees will use the gym. The more people use and enjoy Roam, the more likely airports will view gyms as a crucial experience to have.
“Right now if you go to any airport, you can expect there to be some sort of spa service,” Manegold says. “Fifteen or 20 years ago, that was unheard of.”
Roam hopes to open 20 more locations in the next five years. In the company’s perfect world 15 years from now, travelers will just expect a Roam to be somewhere in their terminal. The company’s website even includes a page where you can petition your local airport to open a Roam Fitness. In addition to partnerships with spas, Roam would like to partner with hotels, Airbnb hosts, and even insurance companies. But for now, the main goal is convincing travelers and airports alike that a long travel day can be much better with a workout at your terminal.
“It’s an efficiency thing; it’s a health thing,” Sandall says. “When we designed this gym and what’s included in the day pass, it was very much, ‘What do people need to feel comfortable and feel like they’ll get in and out the door and still make it to their gate on time?’”
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