It’s just before 10 a.m. and I’m already on a train bound for Manhattan. Rising before noon isn’t my ideal way to begin a Saturday but I’m optimistic (if not a bit terrified) about the Pure Barre class I’ll be taking as part of SELF Magazine’s inaugural Up & Out Studio event.
For more than two decades, the publication’s Workout in the Park wellness festival drew thousands of women to Manhattan’s Central Park for a day of exercise, beauty consultations and healthy treats. This year, SELF took its flagship event in a new direction, offering intimate group exercise classes—among them, Barry’s Bootcamp, Flywheel and Plyojam—that are more aligned with the evolution of the fitness space.
“What was happening in the marketplace was all these great studios were becoming the hottest trends, which is not new this year, but certainly is something that’s growing prolifically,” says Eric Johnson, associate publisher-marketing at SELF Magazine. “We really wanted to recognize that and to create a program that was more on-brand, more on-trend with what’s happening today with the studio partners. They’ve got such tremendous followings of their own; it makes sense to go where the consumers are going.”
As I enter the event, held at Spring Studios, I feel myself growing tense. I’ve never taken a Pure Barre class. The last time I was near a ballet barre, my pink tutu had the power to make all of my mishaps adorable. What if I can’t hack it as an adult? What if I pass out and have to explain to my boss that I was unconscious for half of my assignment?
Mercifully, I run into Mary Murcko, publisher of SELF, as another magazine employee guides me to my class. She reminds me that the point of the Up & Out Studio is to try a new workout without the intimidation factor. Everyone else will be a newbie just like me. I’ve got this.
Inside the Pure Barre studio I find floor mats lined up, each equipped with a pair of weights, a small exercise ball, a resistance band and a new pair of the recommended Pure Barre “sticky socks” to keep participants from sliding off their mats. What I don’t find is a ballet barre. I learn that the class has been modified for the Up & Out event and I sure as hell don’t complain.
Glancing around the room, I notice that the assistant to the class instructor is wearing a crinkled shirt in a material I don’t recognize (made from the tears of past barre participants, I assume). And then it hits me—the garment is perfectly normal. What I’m seeing are her perfectly cut washboard abs right through her shirt. Commence panic mode. I’m going to need a very different kind of bar after this experience.
Forty minutes later, the session has ended and I am in awe of the human body—not because I aced the class but because I am now aware of at least 25 muscle groups I was previously oblivious to. All of them hurt. I happily stumble down to the sponsorship zone, where rewards for my hard work surely await.
Making my way downstairs, I notice a table stacked with SELF-branded workout towels and plenty of copies of the magazine’s latest issue. Votive candles and purple flowers give the set-up a tranquil feel—a welcome calm after the Pure Barre storm.
Nearby, about a dozen sponsors are activating in a spacious room that allows attendees to mill about and refuel with a variety of healthy samples, from Lumi juice to Macro bars to Essentia water.
Meanwhile, Cover FX provides mini makeovers featuring its Custom Cover Drops bar, which allows users to create their perfect foundation color. Chantelle hosts personalized bra fittings. Bliss offers a photo engagement. It’s a health, wellness and beauty extravaganza that ties in nicely with the event as a whole.
“Events are done in conjunction with our advertising partners because they’re just as interested in getting live in front of our consumers as we’re interested in talking to our consumers,” says Johnson.
With a robust readership both in print and online, SELF is a veritable success in the world of modern journalism. Nevertheless, experiential plays an important role in the publication’s marketing mix.
“It’s really about getting in front of our consumers and having them experience the brand live,” says Johnson. “We hear time and time again that [consumers] want more from the brand and they really want to experience it first-hand, and that’s why events continue to be so successful. They’re really passionate about it.”
As I exit the event, I’m handed a swag bag filled with goodies from SELF and its sponsors, along with a handout inviting me to try another free fitness class the next day. My muscles have had enough for one weekend, but for a moment I consider the offer. After surviving Pure Barre, other boutique fitness programs suddenly seem within my reach.
Kettlebell Kickboxing, perhaps?
Featured photo courtesy: Brian Ach