When the pandemic hit, Kara Holinski, 23, and Justin Hunter, 22, realized they really, really missed going to group fitness classes. The Foggy Bottom couple played sports in college—basketball for Holinski at MIT, and football for Hunter at Harvard. Post-graduation, they turned to guided classes like Orangetheory, Barry’s, or Flywheel to help them find a workout routine.
But when gyms and studios opened again in June, the two didn’t feel comfortable working out indoors. They realized there were plenty of outdoor public spaces in DC available for use, and a lot of fitness instructors out of work as studios closed or laid off employees. So they decided to capitalize on the moment and create their own pandemic-era fitness group.
OutFit is a platform for instructors to host outdoors, socially distant workout classes in DC. Holinski and Hunter provide the locations, workout equipment, and tools to book clients, and instructors are free to set their own rates and coach classes whenever they’d like. So far, the group is working with 20 coaches who have experience at spots like Solidcore, CorePower, and Orangetheory. Hundreds have signed up for classes.
The group launched in October and was originally hosting classes at spots like Meridian Hill Park. But as winter approached, they realized they needed to find a spot to protect clients from the elements. The couple decided to contact event venues that may be seeing a drop in business and reached a deal with Dumbarton House in Georgetown.
Since the beginning of December, OutFit has hosted HIIT classes, yoga sculpt sessions, and cycling under a tent on Dumbarton’s back patio. The spot has industrial grade heaters that kick the temperature up by 25 degrees, and because it’s distanced from the street, they’re able to blast music during workouts (no silent disco-like headphones). Clients are required to wear masks the whole time, all stations are spaced widely apart, and the tent has open sides to provide ventilation.
The duo says all these steps make the experience feel almost like being back in a boutique workout class: “[It has] a lot of the feel of a studio. It’s 65 [degrees] with music, and we have lights and all that type of stuff, but just in Corona times,” says Hunter. “While the winds are howling and it’s cold and rainy, we found a way to make it feel like the old environment.”
And because there isn’t a ton of overhead—no expensive studio rental fee, no stocking the fridge with bougie vegan power bites—OutFit is able to give a bigger kickback to instructors than they’d make at typical studios, the duo says. Ninety percent of proceeds from park classes go toward instructors, and teachers get 50 percent of the profits from Dumbarton classes.
While OutFit isn’t the couple’s full-time gig—Holinski works for the philanthropy Schmidt Futures, and Hunter is at Capital One—they have big dreams for the group. They plan to continue hosting classes beyond the pandemic, and one day expand the OutFit platform into other cities and make it a full-time venture.
The way they see it, OutFit fills a gap in the fitness community: Typically, instructors can either get into the business by investing in their own studio, working for a group that sets their schedule and wages, or scrapping it out on their own.
“Our hope is to create a fourth option, where you can get a lot of the infrastructure that a studio would provide as far as marketing and digital, but it’s on your own terms with your own brand,” says Hunter. “I don’t think people necessarily want to be tied down for something that they’re on call for, and are more interested in a flexible, entrepreneurial style of work.”
They hope to do some good along the way, too. Their classes are often cheaper than options like $39 Solidcore workouts, which they hope makes fitness more attainable to all demographics. And the duo eventually plans to direct one-percent of the revenue toward upkeep of parks or other public spaces in low-income communities.