22 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2021 issue 7

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Leisure Management - Philipp Maier


Philipp Maier

Urban Health Club is a key element of the collaborative, future-facing, urban regeneration development that is Urban Harbor. Its founder and CEO tells Kate Cracknell about his desire to create something new, extraordinary and beautiful, while at the same time improving people’s health

Philipp Maier, founder and CEO of Urban Health Club photo: URBAN HEALTHCLUB
Technogym equipment and Mywellness were chosen for the new club photo: URBAN HEALTH CLUB
The space is set up to support a wide range of training types, from calisthenics to Pilates photo: URBAN HEALTH CLUB
The club is part of an urban regeneration project called Urban Harbor photo: URBAN HEALTH CLUB
The UHC Spa is open to club members and non-members photo: UHC Spa
The UHC Spa is open to club members and non-members photo: UHC Spa
The space has warm colours, natural materials and light photo: urban health club
Given its location, the club also caters for corporate members photo: URBAN HEALTH CLUB
Given its location, the club also caters for corporate members photo: URBAN HEALTH CLUB
Urban Health Club has a membership club feel with reception and vegan café photo: URBAN HEALTH CLUB

Tell us about the Urban Health Club concept
Urban Health Club is a €2.8m hub for fitness, wellness, athletics, calisthenics and health in Ludwigsburg, Germany and part of the Urban Harbor urban regeneration project.

We believe health should be the primary goal of every individual, so this is our focus, incorporating not just fitness but also nutrition and balance in everyday life.

At Urban Health Club, members’ wellbeing comes first in a space that allows them to be together, train together and recharge their batteries.

In addition to classic fitness training, we offer crosslift, dance, reformer Pilates and more, all united under the Urban Health Club brand.

Our class programme is constantly developed and adapted according to participant feedback – introducing advanced classes, for example, or creating new Saturday specials – with all classes delivered by highly educated, charismatic trainers who proactively encourage members to work out in our unique space.

Urban Health Club has also set out to create new standards in the design and digitalisation of its services, in line with the whole future-looking ethos of Urban Harbor. We’ve created a completely digital club where members, personal trainers, coaches and our distinct training areas are all connected, by utilising Technogym Mywellness.

From the end of July 2021, we’re also adding Hyrox, having secured exclusive rights for our region.

Tell us about Hyrox
It’s a global fitness ‘race’ – athletes around the world compete in the same tasks, with each event hosting up to 3,000 people.

Competition starts with a 1km run, followed by a functional workout which is repeated eight times. Participants wear a timing chip and get an individual ‘finish time’ which Hyrox aggregates to create global rankings across different age and user groups. Each season ends with a world championship where people with the fastest times from each city go head to head.

Turning to the club, what makes it special?
The interior design of Urban Health Club began with the desire for change – for something unique, extraordinary and beautiful.

My personal motto is: ‘It’s not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself’, and the design and architecture of the club are my own. My inspiration was drawn from various different sources and industries, but we’ve brought it all together at Urban Health Club in a way we don’t think exists anywhere else.

We wanted to create an atmosphere of urban rhythm and relaxation at the same time, so the entire space has warm colours, natural materials and light in a way that inspires tranquillity and balance. Bright rooms and hip design elements provide a visual kick, but overall it’s a clean, timeless design that dovetails well with the club’s casual, relaxed atmosphere to appeal to its diverse target market.

Are there complementary services?
Although it might initially seem unconnected, I need to start by telling you about Projects M, my advertising and digital agency. The M team consists of creative specialists in design, film, PR, strategy, process as well as online and offline experience. We believe digital transformation is the challenge facing every business today, and at Projects M, we love to connect offline and online to create seamless experiences.

UHC Home production falls under the umbrella of Projects M. It’s an independent showroom and shop for fitness equipment and designer furniture – I’m an official reseller for partners including Smow (high-end furniture), Devine Wellness (snowrooms and heat experiences) and Technogym fitness equipment and digital connected fitness.

Other complementary businesses include UHC Spa, which is open to Urban Health Club members, as well as operating as a standalone business for non-members. With its Moroccan-style interior design, the spa offers various treatments and massages, as well as a private workout area and private day spa that can be booked.

The newest business is ‘UHC The Gym’, for which an outdoor gym in the form of a cage has already been built in the Urban Harbor space. More 24/7 facilities will be built soon.

What are your membership options?
Urban Health Club offers six-, 12- and 24-month memberships which include indoor training, access to the spa, a range of indoor and outdoor group exercise classes, and at-home training via the Urban Health Club app.

There are various add-ons that can be booked on a monthly basis, including dance, calisthenics, crosslift, outdoor gym, Pilates reformer training and Navy Seal Workouts. There’s also, as mentioned, a private workout area. Almost every member books at least one or two add-ons.

Tell us more about your app
Every member has access to our Urban Health Club app, which allows them to stay connected with our trainers and the club no matter where they are in the world. We use the Mywellness Prescribe, Self, Coach and Challenge business solutions from Technogym for this. In addition to the daily workouts, we also promote the live classes that are available on our Urban Health Club social media channels.

It’s so important to exercise regularly, not only to strengthen your immune system but also your mental and physical wellbeing. That’s become even more important in the difficult times we’ve been going through recently, with social distancing, limited options to exercise and lots of home office time. You have to make time to exercise and move, and our app helps with this.

Under the slogan ‘Creating your health’, I’ve also called on all fellow citizens – members and non-members alike – to exercise more and have made free sports and fitness sessions available to everyone through UHC Live, our online classes.

How did you navigate COVID-19?
We’d only recently opened and as a club in its start-up phase, this exceptional situation was challenging. We made the best of it by leveraging our digital infrastructure to perfect the customer journey.

We communicated via push messages through our Urban Health Club app, responded to individual customer needs and created a 360-degree user experience. This included UHC Radio, a live streaming platform that brings Urban Health Club’s beat to any connected device.

Meanwhile, our membership models continued as usual [German clubs continued to collect payments during lockdowns]. Now we’ve re-opened, members have received a compensation voucher which they can use to book premium classes, to use the private spa area, to pay for personal training or meals in our vegan café, and so on.

Together with the UHC community, we’ve come back stronger. Our members have come out to meet us with solidarity, commitment and support. Mails, calls and posts are consistently positive and very supportive of us as a club.

How skewed is your membership towards corporate?
The club isn’t only designed for a corporate audience. Its diverse mix of demographics spans students and local residents as well as professionals and employees, and we work hard to build a sense of community and cohesion via events, special offers, special classes on Saturdays and fundraising campaigns. This has grown even more important during COVID-19.

We do have a strong ‘Corporate Health at Urban Health Club’ offering, though, with a focus on time- and cost-effective ways to keep employees healthy. The pushing back of retirement age, and growing demands on employees, means prevention is now more important than ever.

In addition to gym-based training, personal training, workshops and workouts, such as Pilates, yoga, back fit, functional training and relaxation classes, we offer various medical checks and screenings. These provide a very precise overview of the member’s current situation, allowing us to assess individual risks and to factor in muscular imbalances and tailor-make solutions – both for physical and mental health – based on actual data.

We also offer occupational health management and at-home programmes to keep members motivated beyond our club, with the ultimate goal of ensuring healthy, motivated, fit employees.

And it’s well worth the investment on the part of employers: healthy employees with increased motivation and company loyalty – as well as lower levels of absenteeism – result in a high cost-benefit ratio. The average return on investment is 1:4.

What are your plans moving forward?
The immediate future will see us completing our 24/7 outdoor gym and building the rest of our new ‘UHC The Gym’, which will also be 24/7.
Further locations are also planned in various metropolitan areas over the coming years.

I then intend to re-imagine the Urban Health Club concept at least every five years.

Introducing Urban Harbor

Urban Harbor – of which Urban Health Club is a part – is an initiative working to redesign urban spaces and bring them back to life.

The first location is a former machine hall in the city of Ludwigsburg, just north of Stuttgart in Germany, which has been transformed by Max Maier Urban Development into a cutting-edge business hub.

Principle, Max Maier, sees people as ‘space-creating beings’ and makes architectural space, real estate and urban development for Urban Harbor and its people. The philosophy is to transform the old industrial area to thrive in a future context, with architectural, economic, ecological and social values uniting to create a city of the future.

The 200,000sq m of Urban Harbor is home to numerous digital start-ups, as well as the headquarters of global brands such as Porsche Design, Porsche Digital and Bosch Grow. In total, over 8,000 people come together to work in the new district “on the ideas of tomorrow”.

The development has been based on creating new work and living spaces that inspire innovation and creativity by taking things out of their normal contexts and moving away from familiar working environments and classic corporate workplaces.

There’s also a variety of event locations and meeting spaces alongside Urban Health Club and the UHC Home showroom, including Follow the Café / Bar – a digitally-powered kitchen where all appliances are connected to each other, quality control is in place from the field to the plate, and fresh vegan food and “the best coffee in town” are served.

“We believe true innovation does not live through the products themselves, but through the user or customer, so our focus in our Urban Health Club location at Urban Harbor is on people,” says Philipp Maier.

“We create experiences. Awaken emotions. Connect personalities. Think globally,” he says. “Urban Harbor is a place where culture and classicism, tradition and future, sports and lifestyle come together. It’s a place where collaboration is put into practice, powered by digital processes and services. And there’s more to come.”

The Urban Harbor development is home to brands such as Porsche Digital / photo: urban harbor
A former machine hall has been transformed into a business hub / photo: urban harbor

Originally published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 7

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