Boutique Fitness is taking over the city and the rest of us are struggling to keep up with the latest and greatest without simultaneously burning a hole in our wallets. Gone are the days when there was a neighborhood gym that everyone belonged to. In fact, “going to the gym” is now becoming as rare as using a VCR or making a mixtape. The funniest thing is that gyms were the ones who started this new craze…and now they are paying the price.
At first, gyms were stocked with treadmills, ellipticals, stairmasters and a weight room. A few years later they added mats and Cybex machines and then hired personal trainers to help people learn how to use the new age equipment. Personal trainers worked with individuals to start, however, then they started putting small groups together to help their clients motivate each other — this was the beginning of group fitness. Before long, larger classes were being formed that centered around these personal training exercises and gyms saw an increase in membership renewal. All of a sudden people were feeling a sense of dedication to their favorite class instead of being left to their own devices.
Fitness professionals noticed this trend right away and began developing their own unique classes to draw people in. The early classes like Step and Cardio Kickboxing were introduced as were beginner lifting classes. The combination of fun and hard work exploded. Since then, new workout classes and ideas began emerging like TurboKick, Zumba, TRX, Spinning, Barre and Pilates (just to name a few).
Over the past few years, however, it has evolved even more. Popular group fitness instructors and high-level personal trainers noticed a trend that many gym owners had overlooked: members rarely attend multiple classes. There were well-rounded athletes who liked to go from a Spin class to a Bootcamp Class and then hit the weight room but most people planned their schedule around that one class that they liked or following around their favorite instructors. They began wondering if it was possible to create a studio focused only on this one type of workout. Would people belong to a Spinning facility if that was all they offered? Do they love Spinning enough to dedicate themselves to the art? And the answer was YES. Soul Cycle is a perfect example. They have dedicated themselves to the Cult that is Spin and have profited generously. People live and die by their favorite instructors and plan their weeks around the class schedule while shelling out $35 a class. Why be just a number in a huge gym corporation when they can be Kelly who always comes to Jennifer’s Saturday morning class.
I have the benefit of experiencing both environments through my teaching: the gym setting & the boutique fitness studio and there is a definite difference. While I love the fact that my Crunch classes have “the regulars” who are there every week, chat with me afterwards and always give feedback..they are just a handful of people among the revolving door of weekend warriors that try the classes out each week.
The boutique studio, however, quickly becomes a family. You get to know the owner of the facility, the instructor and really have your feedback attended to right away - even new class ideas! You feel a part of the studio as opposed to just a name in the computer. You find your strength and craft in what this gym offers and have a genuine gage of your ability and level of improvement. You are now a “regular” and that comes with notoriety, distinctive clothing and a sense of purpose in your fitness world.
Let’s be clear - I am in no way downgrading those who belong to larger gyms. As I have said, there are people who go there every week to the same classes and teachers and get that familiar experience. Instead, what I am realizing is that there is also a great benefit to exploring a new-age workout or niche market. As an example, we all have a Facebook friend or two that are dedicated to Cross Fit. We see their statuses about their “box” or pictures of them lifting huge barbels over their heads and we can’t help but recognize their extreme pride in belonging to something. They are part of a team and are working towards a goal which just doesn’t happen in a large gym setting unless you are 100% self-motivated (which most of us aren’t). We like to try something new, have fun, compete with others and feel like we found a workout home. Each boutique studio has a new unique twist on a common workout and you can honestly spend a month or two trying each one out for free which I definitely recommend!
So far, here are the ones I have tried (in order of favorite to least favorite..if you go to their website, free passes are available!):
- PEDAL NYC: obviously huge advocate for this guy!
- Barrys Bootcamp
- Pilates ProWorks
- Refine Method
- Uplift Fitness
- Exceed Fitness
- Core Fusion
- Yo Yoga
If you visit their respective websites, you can sign up for a free class and give them ALL a try or find a few that work for you, grab a friend, and pick a day. There are a ton more that are on my list to try so I hope to report back soon with a new top 10 list! Here are a few others I hope to make it to ASAP (in no particular order):