By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A campaign by the Union Square Partnership to promote fitness during the winter months as well as the neighborhood’s gyms and fitness retailers was a surprising hit, with nearly 1,000 people signing up for the offered complimentary fitness classes and other freebies. The program ran for one week and ended last Monday.
“We were expecting about two to three hundred people to sign up,” said Kriss Casanova, Director of Economic Development at the Union Square Partnership. Instead, the Partnership said that Early Bird passes were gone within nine minutes when registration opened earlier in February. An additional 900 people signed up for passes to the free classes and events throughout last week. Casanova said that it got to the point where they had to turn people away because the events were so packed. Those who weren’t able to snag passes to any of the fitness events were able to participate in the social media giveaways, which included memberships and packages to various gyms and studios, including one prize that offered a bag of goodies from the Union Square Greenmarket and an annual membership to the 14th Street Y.
Although the park has offered free fitness classes outside during the warmer months, this new program got the many fitness studios and health-oriented businesses involved with free exercise classes, personal training sessions and complimentary gym membership packages at places like CrossFit Union Square, Core Pilates NYC, Crunch, Clay Health Club and Spa and others.
While many of the sports apparel stores were involved by offering discounts on merchandise for the event, some even offered classes themselves, like Lululemon Athletica on Union Square West, which offered a Vinyasa yoga class on Sunday and Reebok FitHub, also on Union Square West, which held a cardio workout last Friday.
“The idea for the program really stems from a way to support the local businesses by catering to the health sector that is increasing in the neighborhood,” Casanova said. “So we wanted to promote them and be the connecting force between the businesses and New Yorkers.”
Casanova said that part of the motivation for the event was to help people recover from the winter blues.
“It’s winter and people don’t have much motivation to try new things,” she said. “There are so many different types of workouts these days that it can be intimidating to just walk into a CrossFit.”
She added that gyms and fitness studios suffer from their own sort of winter blues at this time of year because the highs from New Year’s resolution sign-ups are wearing off.
“They’ve already finished their own promotions for that so we thought this would be another way to help them bring in new customers to their businesses,” she said.
The main focus of the event was to get New Yorkers involved with the indoor businesses, and while they had still hoped to get participants involved in the park, the weather refused to cooperate.
“Unfortunately this has just been the coldest February ever and we were trying to do more in the park, but this has been a great way for people to try out new studios,” Casanova said.
The Partnership has plans to hold the event again and Casanova said that given the success of the event this year and the fact that they didn’t even start reaching out to retailers until January has their expectations high for next year.
She added that it they are going to conduct a survey for specific feedback on what to improve on, but one definite constant will be the timing.
“The name itself, ‘Sweat Fest,’ was a play on the fact that it’s the winter,” Casanova said. “It’s easier to do community programming in the summer months but this was a way to get people involved at this time of year and it was a play on the winter warrior idea.”