There’s something calming about the Century City mall. Already a hot-spot for luxury-ticket items like Next Health’s trendy Cryotherapy and Vitamin IVs, or, at the other end of the spectrum, Eataly’s multi-story Italian decadence, the shopping center has recently become home to another one-of-a-kind offering: Equinox’s first ever completely outdoor fitness club. Officially opening its doors to the public in late September, the club was already bustling when I visited late last week.
Dubbed Equinox+ In The Wild, the 27,000-square-foot outdoor gym is equipped with the same level of hospitality and attention to detail that the indoor clubs offered in a pre-pandemic world, and it might be the solution for staying in shape and preserving community while indoor fitness remains risky. Between views of the L.A. skyline and the added bonus of working out in the sunshine, this new club is a win-win — at least for Angelenos. An outdoor option is less tenable for cities like New York, Toronto or London, especially as winter approaches, but here in L.A., where indoor-outdoor living has always been part of the culture, embracing In The Wild is a no-brainer.
“When people come up here to do their first workout, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is awesome!’” laughed Jack Gannon, Equinox’s Senior Vice President for the West Coast. “They’re so excited to be outside with the views, and the air, and to just not be in their own apartment. This has been an adventure — and we put this together in about three weeks — so from an operations standpoint it was challenging. We’ve even rearranged the club four or five times as we learned member behavior.”
Gannon is right: the new outdoor club is not only impressive, it’s completely unexpected. On the top floor of the mall’s parking structure, a back corner lot has been completely re-imagined from drab gray concrete into a sleek, turf-covered paradise, complete with a full selection of cardio machines, weights, dedicated class space and plenty of room for distanced free weights, TRX, yoga, stretching and more. For destination members who are already familiar with this Equinox location, the shift is fairly easy: simply head up two more floors from the regular third-floor entrance to the fifth floor, then turn left to find the new outdoor space.
Entering the terrace build-out feels like an event itself, with temporary silver rails and a logo-covered backdrop to direct visitors to the gym’s check-in desk, where all guests have their temperature taken and sign a waiver indicating they’ve had no known contact with anyone with symptoms of COVID-19. Masks are required to enter, but per California’s guidelines, as long as there are eight feet or more of distance, people can safely remove their masks while working out. To that end, all cardio machines are safely spaced eight feet apart to allow for non-masked use, and as long as social distance is in place, weight lifting and other strength-building workouts can also be performed without masks.
Visiting the gym on a particularly sunny day last week, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much space there was to workout freely. Soldiering my way through a 45-minute workout curated by Equinox’s Regional Personal Training Manager, Annie Blackford, I squatted, planked and lunged my way through multiple sets without anyone outside our group coming within 10 feet of us — and the gym was plenty full when I was there, too. Even during my brief visit, I saw equipment being sanitized and wiped down all throughout the space, and since opening the space, Equinox has begun using medical-grade disinfectant on everything. As the Regional Director of Group Fitness for Equinox, Stephanie Vitorino is confident that bringing people together at the outdoor club is safe not only for guests taking classes, but also for herself and her coworkers in their workplace. And there is something special about coming back together after six months of isolation.
“We’ve worked with health experts and created a task force that implemented guidelines for cleaning, social-distancing and safety protocols as well as mandatory health screenings,” Vitorino explained. “I’m extremely confident in how our brand is protecting the safety of our members and teams. And since Into The Wild is centrally located in the heart of Los Angeles, we’re seeing members come together from many different clubs. Reuniting with people they haven’t seen in months is bringing so much joy and a sense of belonging.”
When I was visiting, even members who had clearly come to workout together were respectfully holding space from each other, and the overall setup of the gym made that easy. Divided into several different sections, there was no chance that a speed workout would run over into the cardio section, or that a midday class might crowd out strength training. And as much as there is room to be separate at the outdoor club, Gannon reiterates that the company’s core focus on community remains the same.
“We are definitely community-based, and the company has evolved so much around that over the last several years,” Gannon said. “We’ve been open under a week here, and so much of the community hasn’t seen each other in six months. It’s so interesting to see people run into each other and watch this reunion take place — and then two days later they’re showing up together. So that community is starting to build again as we’ve opened this opportunity. Especially in the times we’re in, people need that more than ever before.”
Joining Equinox can be a spendy endeavor, but like plenty of other brands, the company has shifted with the times to increase accessibility when it comes to budget. Currently, membership tiers all range in the $200-$300/month range, with single-club memberships in Los Angeles on average around $220, a regional Southern California option at $245, and global club access at $305 per month. Right now, the pricey $300 initiation fee has also been waived, and the month of October is free. That offer is good through September 30, so if an outdoor gym is calling your name for the fall, now is the time to act.
Like most gyms, all of the Equinox indoor club spaces have been closed since the Mayor’s office gave an order for shut down in early March. After six months, Gannon said a massive wave of the community has opted to try out the outdoor space and resume membership. “The overwhelming positive response from our members that have come, visited, and rejoined has been incredible,” he said. “It’s off the charts beyond our expectations both from a business and that we’re meeting our members’ needs. We’re very proud of it, and we’re still learning, but we’re proud of the experience we’ve built.”