A regular review of interesting cultural shifts & marketing developments as viewed through the collective lens of the Stancombe Research + Planning Team

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is The Primal Urge Upwardly Mobile?


There is a massive range of people, kids in trainers, grey heads, attractive slim women, finely toned young men.

The background noise is a hubbub of contemporary music from PA speakers hung hugh in the roof and chatter from the floor. Empty sports drink bottles are scattered amongst the sofas and metal chairs in the rest areas.

There is a clatter of metallic equipment up in the cavernous ceilings and from time to time there are the grunts and groans of extreme effort. Groups of friends laugh and joke and pairs of climbers offer each other advice. But mostly the atmosphere is one of relaxed, but independent camraderie.

Absent is the heavy lifting of ‘look at me’ weights and the latest chic in gym wear. Look carefully and you notice an almost total absence of convention. Quite the reverse, the clothing look is sort of discarded or faintly grunge and the body toning is absolutely in line with body weight and size, if anything the most toned bodies look more like the toned natives of some remote rain forest tribe.

And yet the movement appears to be growing as more and more ‘rock gyms’ or indoor climbing walls appear around city suburbs and the fringes of urban industrial areas.

Is this the next great evolution of the modern fitness gym?

The appeal is becomes somehow very simple when you step back and watch the smallest of the kids, under the watchful supervision of their parents clamber enthusiastically upwards and then hover gently back down to the ground.
Clearly somewhere, deep within our primal selves there is an utter and absolute need to climb things.

Rock gyms are tapping into the that primal urge and combining it with the modern need to burn off excess food consumption and tone the body in line with the dictates of our current societal conventions. The climbing time creates a burst of energy that tones and develops muscles in absolute proportion to the owner’s body, there are no muscle freaks here! In addition, the ‘ground time’ offers time out for that social chatter and banter, something that is, by convention, very absent in a pure exercise gym.

As an offshoot from ‘outdoor’ climbing, indoor climbing walls began in the seventies and are now a very large industry. This enterprise is beginning to take a coherent shape, from the operators who invest in locations and thousands of square meters of artificial walls and fixed ropes to the manufacturers of the ‘artificial’ hand holds and climbing equipment.

Indoor rock gyms are beginning to become a very big business. But to date, no single entity or brand has emerged as a market leader.

But if the number of kids parties, complete with party cakes and attendance at late evening climbing sessions is anything to go by this industry will only grow and grow.

When was the last time you saw a kids birthday party complete in the sweaty weights room at an inner city gym?

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