Depending on the person, the word “boxing” might conjure images of actors Sylvester Stallone or Michael B. Jordan pummeling their way to a title on the big screen.
But increasingly, others may think of their social and emotional health as well as their wellness routine.
Local fitness aficionado David Ilan Weis is banking on more and more people continuing to do just that and is configuring his franchised Mayweather Boxing + Fitness locations in Los Angeles County as such.
The boutique gym’s program, which mimics the longtime regimen of boxing legend Floyd Mayweather, strives to produce the physical results of a typical high-intensity interval training workout but increasingly mixes in a strong wellness component, such as cryotherapy, hydromassage and compression leg therapy. The gym also offers group workout classes to encourage socialization and community building.
“This was not something that was discussed pre-pandemic. People these days are starting to understand that you’ve got to take care of yourself,” Weis said. “People are now very willing to take the time and money for self-care. We’re very conscious of that and listening to the customer and adding amenities they want.
“Recovery is becoming as important as exercise. I think over the next 10 years, you’re going to see more focus on the post-exercise routine.”
Southern California, and Los Angeles in particular, is of course no stranger to the “mind, body and soul” ethos. However, data does show that more people are specifically seeking out gyms as a conduit to achieve that. And franchisees like Weis are eager to provide, so consumers look to have more and more options moving forward.
“I hope so,” said Marissa Marchioni, an assistant professor of clinical occupational therapy at USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. “The benefit there is what I would consider a more embodied experience, embodiment being the way we experience the world and interact with others as we create and move through life.”
Consciousness toward mental health has been on the rise for years. Outside of a clinical environment such as a therapist’s office, thoughts of mental health and wellness care probably conjure images of procedures like acupuncture, practices such as meditation or yoga or a regular massage appointment.
Exercise is becoming a fixture of mental health as well, a phenomenon made possible through the advent of do-it-yourself gym networks like Planet Fitness, LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness. Weis said that, as he sees it, that development is naturally resulting in individuals seeking the structure of a personal trainer along with the camaraderie of a group of like-minded gymgoers to keep them on track – and having a good time in the process.
“I’ve been in fitness since the ’80s, and it’s become a very broad, fractured category. In the old days, everyone just went to ‘the gym’ and lifted weights, and now it has transformed into a very dynamic business,” he said. “Now when people are looking for fitness, there are all kinds of options. There are a lot of different kinds of professionals. When I started, it was a fad. It was something only athletes went to. Now everybody goes.”
In Southern California, Weis has opened Mayweather Boxing + Fitness franchises in Culver City – his first location, launched early last year – and Santa Barbara. Another location in Redondo Beach will open soon, and Weis is also working on a Brentwood studio that will include 1,500 square feet of space dedicated to personal training and post-workout recovery. Those amenities may include any combination of cryotherapy, ice bath, cold plunge, hydromassage and compression leg therapy options, space and demand permitting, Weis said. He also owns a location in New Jersey.
Among his open locations, Weis said he has about 1,000 members who pay between $129 and $199 a month, based on whether they pay for four, eight or unlimited sessions each month.
In total, Weis has franchise rights for three dozen of the fitness studios, which include teams of personal trainers, professional boxers, kinesiology specialists and other hospitality staff. Franchise rights ring up for around $50,000, and Weis said a total buildout tends to cost around $500,000.
Workouts at the facilities vary based on what the customer wants, but they all share a trait in following the routine that the undefeated Mayweather – who retired from boxing in 2017 – used throughout his career.
“We’re emulating Floyd Mayweather, probably one of the greatest athletes in the history of any sport,” Weis said. “The guy is in his 40s, is an icon and, at his age, still does demonstration fights against champions half his age. If you do his workout, you can get in incredible shape. It only takes three hours a week. The workout of a boxer is an incredible workout.”
And along the way – thanks to large group sizes, booming music, myriad cooldown amenities and a welcoming atmosphere, Weis said –you’ll probably start to feel a bit better about your day.
“Physical activity is one of the central tenets of living a healthy and active life,” explained Marchioni, who worked as a personal trainer before studying occupational therapy. “You’ve got a range of cognitive and mental health-related outcomes from physical activity routines. It’s well documented in the research. You get a neurobiology alteration that you can see on imaging, that you have different activations in the central part of the brain.”
The most recent results of a survey by San Luis Obispo-based physical fitness software company Mindbody Inc., which polled more than 17,000 people, indicated that 78% of consumers see wellness as more important to them now than it ever was, with 64% calling it more important than other leisure expenses. About 40% percent of respondents said they use physical activity to support their mental well-being.
Good for mental health
“The brain is an organ, too, in the same way the rest of the body works,” Marchioni said. “It makes perfect sense that if you’re sending the brain more energy and more nutrients and getting more activation of the brain, that your mental health is going to be better, too.”
In seeking in-person fitness regimens, 81% of respondents to the survey said they push themselves harder in a class, 74% said they prefer to have direction when working out and 67% said it’s easier to keep a routine with classes.
Weis said he has long seen a link between physical fitness and improved spirit and mental health and speculated that the Covid-19 pandemic ultimately pushed people to seek in-person, group activity at a higher clip.
“After a few years of working out looking into a screen, people were going a little crazy. What my gyms do is allow people to not only exercise their bodies, but puts them in a room with other people, cranks up the music and lets them be people again,” he said. “It’s more than just exercising your muscles; it’s also to let loose. If you think about the ways most people work out, they probably like doing it with loud music and around other people.”
He isn’t wrong – 43% of respondents to the MindBody survey said community is a “very important” part of wellness experiences. More than a third said they’re likely to choose a facility known for community-building, and nearly a quarter said they’re more focused on health and wellness when they feel connected to others.
And, according to Mindbody, boxing remains the most popular in-person fitness class.
Marchioni said it makes a lot of sense for gyms and fitness-minded entrepreneurs to respond to the “call to action” of consumers seeking workout solutions to their mental health woes. She cautioned, however, that consumers should beware of venues that rely more on marketing and vibes instead of providing a useful product. Environment is a huge factor, too.
“Many gyms can be detrimental for some folks because it can be such a barrier for someone who doesn’t see themselves as a gym person or doesn’t know a lot about exercise,” she said. “I think overcoming that barrier of initiation, so to speak, and getting someone integrated into something where they feel like they’re in a community space is really helpful.”
Weis said he tries to strike a balance between what’s popular and what actually works and added that he had not yet decided what all to include in his Brentwood location’s recovery area.
“We’re intentionally keeping it flexible, because by the time we open in the next year, we’re not sure what people are wanting,” he said. “(Cryotherapy) was hot two years ago, but now it’s not. Infared (sauna) is hot now, but I have more of a science background and not a hype background, so I’m going to let the science guide my decision there.”
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