Fitmob Rethinks The Neighborhood Workout

It was only a matter of time before the sharing economy hit the gym.

Plenty of people have traded hotels in favor of an Airbnb room, or have forgone licensed taxi drivers to hitch rides with Lyft. And soon, they’ll also trade in their gym membership in favor of a neighborhood workout. At least that's the hope of Raj Kapoor, who launched an app on Thursday called Fitmob that allows trainers to host classes in parks, community centers, or anywhere they find space. “The best way to motivate people is other people, social, community,” he says. “So we said, let’s focus the new gym around people rather than expensive real estate or fancy equipment.”

Fitness enthusiasts use the app to sign up for classes and pay their instructors. Each class costs $15, but the cost drops if students attend more than one class. If they attend two workouts, for example, those classes cost $10 each. If they attend three, each costs $5. This sliding scale is similar to a gym with a monthly fee in that, if you go more often, you’re paying less each time you visit.

To start out, Fitmob has hired just five certified instructors in San Francisco, but plans to eventually allow anyone to host any type of class they want. “They’re the artists,” Kapoor says. Instructors get paid a percentage of class fees. Fitmob has not announced what that percentage will be, but, considering that gym trainers get paid just $15 an hour on average, Fitmob trainers probably won't need to pack their classes to make more than that--no matter what percentage of the fees they're getting.

As with Lyft and Airbnb, Fitmob poses some insurance and legal questions that still need to be answered. The company says its current trainers have independently purchased liability insurance and that the company also has liability insurance. But what if someone gets hurt in a class with an instructor who hasn’t been certified? What if they set up a class somewhere dangerous or illegal? Some areas, like Santa Monica, have cracked down on exercise classes in parks. Others, like Los Angeles, charge fitness instructors to host classes on park grounds.

But these issues haven't stopped Airbnb and Lyft from becoming popular. Kapoor is on the board of Lyft, and is taking his cues from these successful sharing economy companies. For example, he is adopting Lyft’s strategy of handpicking the first providers in new cities. Fitmob will also probably need to ask forgiveness rather than permission, as it will almost certainly encounter some resistance from established gyms, something Lyft and other ride-sharing services are certainly familiar with.

Eventually, Kapoor hopes to expand beyond fitness and into other health-related fields, like nutrition. “Essentially what we’re building is a massive amount of neighborhood communities that care about fitness and health,” he says.

[Image: Fitmob]

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