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Photograph: Courtesy Bold

Private gym pods are coming to Fulton Market this winter

Bold is turning shipping containers into small-scale, pay-as-you-go gyms.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp

The past year has brought us plenty of new ways to work out, from virtual classes to outdoor fitness studios. Now, as winter makes the prospect of exercising outside less and less appealing, Chicagoans have yet another avenue to get moving: private gym pods constructed from souped-up shipping containers.

The 320-square-foot pods, which will pop up on a Fulton Market lot located at 1000 W Carroll Ave starting later this month, are created by Bold, a new Chicago fitness company that's hoping to bridge the gap between at-home, virtual classes and big-box gyms. Bold pods are stocked with the kind of equipment you might find in a typical HIIT or CrossFit gym—think weights, squat racks, bench presses, rowing machines and similar accoutrements—plus a tech system that allows users to try pre-recorded Bold fitness videos, screencast other fitness videos from their device or work out virtually with their trainer. In effect, they're kind of like a tricked-out home studio away from home.

The company's founder, Jake Goldstein, who's a former competitive college swimmer and investment banker, says the idea for Bold arose from a frustration with subscription based big-box gym model, which he believes banks on people using their memberships as little as possible in order to generate profit.

"I grew pretty tired pretty quickly of gyms saying, 'Come sweat with us,' when in reality they're just hoping to capitalize on waste," Goldstein says.

With Bold, he explains, fitness-seekers get exactly what they pay for; in this case, $35 per hour, plus an additional $10 trainer fee. For a gym member accustomed to shelling out $40–$60 a month in fees, that might sound like a steep premium. But if you buy the statistic Goldstein cites—that 67 percent of gym membership benefits go unused—the pay-as-you-go model starts to look increasingly logical, especially for folks who like to work out just a couple times a week and don't want to be locked into a 12-month membership. The numbers tilt even further in Bold's favor if you're partial to boutique fitness clubs or classes, which can rack up hundreds of dollars a month.

Of course, there's also no denying that private gyms are a timely product. Most gyms are open in Illinois with restrictions in place, but social distancing concerns have sent many of us seeking fitness solutions outdoors or within the confines of their homes (Peloton bikes, for instance, have sold at a frenetic pace in the wake of last year's stay-at-home orders). Goldstein's betting that those virtual-leaning shifts are here to stay—and that you're getting pretty bored of being stuck doing workout videos in your cramped living room, too. 

"I see absolutely no reason why [Bold pods] can't be the new fitness delivery method in Chicago, and frankly, across this country," Goldstein says.

Curious about what it's like to sweat it out in a shipping container? You and up to two other people can book a session on Bold's website or Train Bold, the company's app.

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