Le Journal meets Héloïse Nangle, professional horse rider turned COO at one of London's best boutique studios, Core Collective to hear how she has guided the brand and her team through the crisis, the future of multi-location fitness and just why community is so important at their studios.
C/C, as an early pioneer in the London boutique fitness scene, has a strong track record for innovation and adaptation. How did you adapt your offering during the past year to cope with the ever-changing restrictions?
2020 was the year to move online. Pre lockdown 1 we were developing our online and on demand platform CCTV, as it was a market we wanted to explore, so we were able to put our focus into this and fast track its launch as the studios were forced to close. Through this and amongst the endless opening and closing of our sites, we have been able to engage with our community and still bring a full timetable of effective and quality led workouts to our clients, no matter where they are.
CCTV, launched during 2020 as a response to lockdown 1.0, offered virtual access for those missing their favourite trainers, classes and workout buddies. How do you see this area developing in tandem with your studios going forward?
Our physical spaces are where it's at - you simply can't fully replicate online, the real life, in class experience, however, realistically this isnt always possible and I think it is a great support to our main offering. Whether you are away on holiday, or have a very limited amount of time - the benefits working out brings, shouldn't be curtailed because of your situation. CCTV enables you access to a supported session, anytime and anywhere. Whilst I believe Strength training and anything high intensity belongs in a gym, the more holistic style workouts can more easily, than the former, be done from home so I see us still offering live classes at those more difficult times. For example, a Sunday evening, where you are looking for something like a Yin Yoga class to wind down your weekend but don't want to leave the house. I see us running a supplementary online timetable to enable us to offer this to our clients too, supporting all areas of their fitness journey.
At its outset your vision for C/C emphasised community, it must have been a challenge to maintain that bond during lockdowns, what was your strategy?
Time makes people forget and so it was very important to us to try and stay engaged with our clients and also very importantly our team - they are what fundamentally make up Core Collective. Every week we ran events via zoom for our community and team to take part in - from a virtual birthday party, to our podcast club and Thursday night team zoom quiz (an activity synonymous to Lockdown 1.0 - we actually even tried bingo at one point, we had had hit up so many quizzes). We wanted to be present as much as possible and offer a space for people to feel good, when there were so many challenges to be dealing with. We also amended our communications to suit the environment and created the C/C List - a weekly cultural guide to digital events, happenings, recipes, and discounts to independent businesses we were purchasing from - basically what was helping keep us sane and entertained!
How would you describe that community, what makes C/C so unique and how have you and your team nurtured that in the past 6 years?
It might sound a bit of a cliche but when I'm there, leading a class with all my regulars, it genuinely feels like you are doing a workout with friends, and many of them now are just that (and I hope they feel the same way about me). One of the main reasons I do what I do - the energy my clients bring is second to none. We are such an open entity, and are always wanting more to join the community we are creating - everyone is welcome - it is from this that great friendships emerge. The Community is ever changing but always consistent in the motivation and support it provides - everyone has a different destination but we are on the journey together and here to celebrate all the highs no matter how big or small as goals are achieved.
Looking back as we ease out of the crisis, have there been any moments which on reflection have been positive for you and the team?
Overall I would say it has been a very challenging experience and one that I have learnt a lot from. We have had to learn the true meaning of essential and off the back of that difficult decisions have had to have been made. We can't just forget about, and what continues to be the huge financial struggles of all the businesses that have suffered as a result of COVID-19. However, as a result, as a team we are closer and more unified than ever and I feel privileged everyday to work with those that I do. We have created an incredible support system to each other and it's them that have made the past year so much better! Everyone has had to pivot and it has been awesome to see how they have all used this time to expand their skill sets and take on roles/ projects in areas where they previously had no experience (part of why this team is so great, no one is static). We are coming back more knowledgeable and excited with what we can offer as a unit going forwards.
Do you think you will see changes to the way in which C/C will operate in a post lockdown world?
To be honest, not hugely. As with so many areas, the Covid period has exacerbated many existing trends that were already developing such as working from home and the decline of the High Street. The trends we see continuing are an increasingly informed, knowledgeable customer seeking out genuinely well thought out, effective ways to workout and this is something we strive to provide and take great care over - from our structured class programming to our curated spaces. As stated before, I can see us offering a supplementary online timetable, at times when people are more inclined to move from home but other than that, our focus lies in expanding on the physical side.
We saw a strong bounce back to gyms and studios during the last lifting of lockdown restrictions in 2020, despite the growth in availability of online/at home classes. What do you think is the reason people are still so passionate about working out together?
At home it is easy to hide, it is easy to say no to that one more rep - there is no one to be really accountable to. If you want to get fitter, stronger, leaner, whatever your goal may be, sometimes you need to test those boundaries and push those limits. This is far easier done in real time, under the guidance of an instructor, where you can't just 'turn off your camera' - we've all been guilty of that at some stage, I know I have! And returning to the gym doesnt need to over complicate matters, it can continue to fit into your daily routine - our fitness classes at Core Collective have been designed to be effective within a 45min window and accessible to all levels of fitness. By taking yourself to a place separate to your living space, as well as the physical benefits, it is also beneficial to your mindset - it starts to wear thin, living, working and training in the same space as it is all too easy to get distracted by work/ life mid way through a workout - these distractions can be eliminated by going to a gym. Place your phone in a locker at the start of a session and enjoy the time for you. You'll definitely work harder and as a result feel better for it.
The rise of the social aspect of boutique gyms is also one not to be knocked. More and more people want an option to see friends/ go on dates etc away from alcohol and a class is a great option. You save money, you feel better and it's a vibe. For example... an epic Cycle class has a lot of similarities to hitting the dance floor in a club, and you definitely leave on a high, just with the added bonus of no hangover.. I mean, trainers now spend as much time curating their playlists as they do on the programming, I certainly do! At Core Collective it really has been wonderful to see the community that has developed over the years - so many friendships and relationships have been forged within our spaces through regular attendance and people engaging with each other post class. Talking points are easy as immediately you share an interest just by being in the same class together. As people look towards cleaner living, I only see these spaces becoming more intrinsic to socialising with one another.
What have you personally missed about the studios in the last year?
So so so many things BUT - The post cycle high with my Monday 6.30pm crew - I'll say it louder so they hear it at the back - NOTHING beats that feeling!!! Come and join us - it's a vibe.
What advice would you give to those coming back in to studio?
Let's get going!! Don't be afraid to return and don't hesitate to ask any of us for advice - we are here to support you every step of the way and it can feel like a daunting prospect after what is basically a year out. Take it step by step and set up a routine that works for you and one that you can stick to. Motivation doesn’t just happen, it's about creating momentum and starting to feel fitter, stronger, better that will keep you wanting to push forward. Better together.
What’s next for C/C in 2021?
There are several exciting prospects in the pipeline... we are continuing to develop our current partnership with Soho House and will be running a comprehensive class timetable from White City House and Shoreditch House, as well as developing a couple of new class concepts, building the community outside as well as inside (literally) and looking to expand on the number of sites we have ourselves.... watch this space!
For details on Core Collective Studios and CCTV classes at home, visit here.
Follow Héloïse on Instagram here.