May 9, 2012, 2012 -- Imagine you're in an unfamiliar city and you're looking for a restaurant reservation. What do you do? Probably visit OpenTable and find a restaurant and a reservation. Done.
Now imagine you're in an unfamiliar city and you're looking for a yoga class. What do you do? Ask the concierge? What if he or she isn't a yogi? Maybe Google "yoga classes, XYZ city." Then you sort through all the results and try to find one near your hotel. Then visit the website, view the class schedule. Call to find out if there's space and how much it costs. Make a reservation.
It's almost this exact scenario that faced Megan Smyth, co-founder and CEO of Go Recess, Inc. just one year ago. She was working in investment banking and didn't belong to a gym because she liked taking different classes. But, they were hard to find. "I found myself looking at Google maps and Yelp and then finally I'd find a studio nearby. By the time I tracked down a schedule and entered my credit card information, the class was booked."
GoRecess.com, still in beta, is a new website that aims to be the "OpenTable for boutique fitness industry." Launched in late April, it's aimed at people who gravitate towards smaller studios specializing in a specific type of class. "Hotel gyms," said Smyth, "have the basics, but we appeal to the customer who likes the class environment."
That's a description that fits Caroline Schuman, a book publishing sales director and self-described yogi. Calling on clients takes her on the road at least once a month, she said, and it's not always easy to find a class. "I joined YogaWorks because at least they have studios in a bunch of cities," she said. (YogaWorks has studios in several cities in northern and southern California, as well as New York, according to their web site.) "I could see how this [website] might be helpful."
The launch of GoRecess is a product of the growing trend of boutique fitness studios – think Core Fusion and Bikram Yoga rather than Gold's Gym – and purports to be the only company that aggregates these classes and allows you to book on one site.
Smyth said she sees a huge opportunity in the travel market. With 100,000 classes nationwide, travelers can register once, enter their credit card information, and be able to book classes on the same site no matter where they are.
A search for classes within one mile of my home in Manhattan between the hours of noon and 5 p.m. on the same day returned 12 options ranging from Vinyasa and Bikram yoga to tower and strength classes. But, one of the classes was outside of the one-mile radius I had specified. Another, despite it being 45 minutes before the class was scheduled to start, was no longer available to book.
Still, the class times, locations and prices were very clear, as was the actual booking process.
A test on a smaller city, Cincinnati, returned seven classes in the same time period. However, those were results for the entire city, as opposed to the one-mile radius of my zip code in Manhattan.
Another site, Workout Spots, roundups the available workout "spots" – ranging from boot camp to yoga – and gives class times and contact information for each. It allows users to register for a class at some, but not all, listed establishments. The site doesn't take payment; instead, class goers pay once they get there. The site offers 7,000 classes across 25 states and according to its founder is "growing fast."
A third site, Classtivity, appears to take the class concept one step further by offering more than just fitness classes. At this time, a potential user must request an invitation to be notified when the website actually launches, but the site claims it will offer the ability to search and book all kinds of classes, from yoga to improv. The site is launching in New York City in June and will expand nationwide soon after says founder Payal Kadakia.