I thought Life Time was just a gym—until I moved in.
For a few days, anyway, during a recent trip to Miami, upon hearing that the healthy-lifestyle brand with athletic centers across the US and Canada had recently opened its first 14-story “live, work, play, and stay” development in Coral Gables, now open for long- and short-term stays. Checking in, I learned that Life Time—which owns the Miami marathon and even has its own brand of water—is more like a bona-fide health Empire, populated by a tribe of smiling, fit, happy people. I quickly became one of them. I stayed in one of the massive complex’s 495 residences, a gorgeous two bedroom covered in granite and marble and boasting views right down to the bay. I worked from a desk space at the elegant coworking space, ate low-carb delights at the Life Café adjacent to the sprawling pool, savored a ridiculously invigorating massage courtesy of Aida at the spa, filled my fridge with snacks from the Trader Joe’s in the complex, and marveled at the well-equipped Kids Club (which offers 2.5 hours of free childcare per month, not to mention tutoring and art classes as part of a Kids Membership option).
And, yes, I went to the gym. No, not the gym—Life Time calls it a “luxury athletic resort”; I dub it a jaw-dropping wellness wonderland, with the most up-to-date equipment I’ve ever moved my muscles in, trainers who look like they literally live to get you in perfect shape, and 70 classes a week, from pilates to barre to spin.
Curious to know more about the ethos of Life Time and its further plans for world domination—well, at least the expansion of its “live, work, play, and stay” model to such cities as Las Vegas and Chicago—I threw some questions at the uber-charming Mark Huckaby, Regional Leasing Manager of Multifamily Operations at Life Time Living.
What does the Life Time slogan “love your life” mean to you? Life Time has been around for 30 years, as of July, 2022. Several years ago, we did a lot of customer research and the two words people overwhelmingly used to describe how Life Time makes them feel were “healthy” and “happy.” That’s our passion: to empower people to live healthy, happy lives and to love their life doing it. Exercise, community, time well-spent, finding their passion, trying new things—we own and produce more than 30 athletic events including NYC Triathlon, Miami Marathon, Leadville 100-Mile Run and Mountain Bike Race, Sea Otter Classic and more. This is all about “Love Your Life!”
I was struck during my stay by how unbelievably, well, happy the Life Time staff are. What’s the secret to creating such a tribe of a joyful team? That’s awesome of you to say. First, people who choose to work at Life Time are aligned with our company values and truly want to be with us. We have a robust training program that sets them up for success in whatever role they have; Life Time University is our training and development division, and we establish programs that help them grow in their careers with us. We have great leaders who don’t manage but truly lead and do the work, along with their teams. And a lot of our General Managers or Club Directors—like Gino at Coral Gables, whom you met—have grown up working at Life Time. We all truly love our jobs and that leads to a joy-filled team.
How do you describe Life Time as a company to someone who knows nothing about it? Many people describe Life Time in two ways: 1. Today’s modern country club without the golf; or 2. An athletic lifestyle resort. We’ve embraced the athletic resort because truly it is what we provide to our members–and what members provide to one another: a place for healthy living, healthy aging and healthy entertainment from 90 days to 90 years. When our founder Bahram Akradi started Life Time, we were Life Time Fitness. Those three words were each specific in meaning: we have our life, we have time, and we have fitness. We dropped “Fitness” in 2017. Over time, and with Bahram’s original vision intact, our clubs grew to be on average 115,000-square-feet serving the entire family with boutique-style classes, incredible personal trainers, beautiful spaces with high-end equipment and furnishings, programming for kids, full-service spa and salon and fast-casual restaurant, outdoor and indoor aquatic centers and more. Fitness is simply just an aspect of who we are, which is definitely not a gym—that’s basically a curse word internally! Life Time is a high-barrier to entry compared to the low-barrier clubs, and our members choose to come.
Describe the evolution of the brand, from the gym to the new residences and more. As Life Time grew its clubs from its first built in Eagan, Minnesota, to now more than 155 across 29 states and three in Toronto, many people began working out and working at Life Time. They’d set up shop in our Life Café because their jobs were flexible. We adapted by increasing our Café spaces and adding more outlets, too, then adding more lounge spaces throughout the club. We could also see the evolution of remote work and knew we were well positioned to create a premium coworking space like no other. We currently have eight Life Time Work destinations, with our first in downtown Chicago and Atlanta slated for 2022. With Life Time Living, it was a complete reimagination of where and how we live, work and play. We’re building these in coveted areas that boast convenient access to restaurants, shopping, nightlife and transportation.
To play devil’s advocate, why would someone want to stay at a gym? When we first announced the concept for Life Time Living, we had a response of many, many thousands signing up for our waiting list. Why? Because our Life Time members truly love what Life Time offers, and the convenience of everything in one place with access to so many amenities is very desirable. What a Life Time Village, with our leased residences or “Stay” concept, provides goes well beyond an “apartment gym.” Creating a connected living experience makes life easier in multiple ways—with appointments, meals, classes, training and more. A phrase we’ve heard for years is, “I could live at Life Time.” No joke, we’ve heard it for years!
How many new residences are in the works? What’s so cool about them? Coral Gables was our first Life Time Living location. Our next locations will be Henderson, Nevada, and downtown Chicago, both opening Spring. 2022. There are a few others in the works for 2023: Burlington, Massachusetts, and Stamford, Connecticut. We have many other possible sites to come. What makes it all so cool is the community that we are able to bring together. I’ve always thought and known that we have cool members at Life Time. So being attractive enough to bring people from all over to Work, Live, Play, Stay—well, that alone is super cool. Because of how attractive our concept is, we are also getting the likes of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods signing on to be a part of this community, just to name a few.