Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Rise of Boutique Fitness Studios

Boutique fitness studios are the fastest growing trend in the fitness industry.  As I travel throughout the Washington, DC area I see more of them from yoga, cycling, circuit training concepts, and other new innovative trends.  This is a common trend throughout the country.  These boutique fitness studios now account for 42 percent of the American health club market. That's double what it was just a year ago. The average gym membership is about $57 per month while just one class at a boutique studio can run $25 to $40.  Most boutique users were found to use more than one facility—a health club and a stand-alone cycling studio, for instance.

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Boutique studios tend to be located in highly foot-trafficked locations in affluent cities.  They are a byproduct of the gentrification taking places in many of these cities.  Very few are located in suburbs.

Meredith Poppler, vice president of media communications at the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), cites dramatic growth of studios as two-fold for owners, the cost of running a small studio is less expensive compared to the overhead to maintaining a full service gym.  “These studios are centered on a particular community of people with similar passions [Pilates, yoga, Zumba, boxing], and provide a high-tough, personalized environment.”

Why have them become so popular?  They have not reinvented the wheel in terms of their concepts.  The combination of exercises and the overall experience is the draw.  Relationships are established within the class and it is a great way to train with friends, families, and co-workers.  

The challenge with group training is the lack of individual programming to address needs and goals.  Since a group workout is, by its very nature, designed for a group, it may fail to address individual differences or weaknesses.  Someone with a previous injury or weakness in a particular area performs the same workout as another participant who is strong in that area. Granted, good teachers are quick to provide progressions and regressions for individual cases, but it's often difficult to address each unique situation.

Many of these boutique studios have a singular focus.   They revel in specialized training in niches such as Pilates, barre, yoga, group cycling, boot camp, mixed martial arts and boxing.  For example a cycling studio provides an intense cardiovascular workout.  Yoga provides strength and flexibility.  More circuit training or HIIT (high intensity interval training) studios are popping up.  They incorporate high intensity cardio exercises, rowing, and resistance exercises utilizing body weight.  They have incorporated science and technology.  Some studios have participants wear heart rate monitors during the session.

With the boom it has created a more competitive market place for consumers dollars.  Working out used to be straightforward with strength training, cardio and you’re done.  In today’s market the options are plentiful.  Big box gyms are offering similar group classes to compete with boutique studios so they will not lose their members.  

To get the best of both worlds, program group fitness classes into your schedule alongside a structured individual regiment.  Your overall training should include strength training, cardio, and stretching.  That way, you'll reap the benefits of the group experience, while at the same time addressing personal needs brought by individual training.  

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer