There used to be a time when getting fit meant going to your local gym or popping in a Jillian Michaels' DVD in the privacy of your own home. However, in the past few years, the fitness scene has shifted from something that everyone could partake in for a low fee to a hedonistic experience that comes with a wildly expensive price tag.
Meet Maria Benshimol, a New York fashion buyer who spends more than $400 a month on boutique fitness classes — and she's happy to fork over the cash. Another boutique devotee, Valeria Navarro, a marketing consultant based in New York City, doesn’t have a gym membership but she works out six times a week and pays by the session (usually around $30-$40). Though it sounds ridiculous to spend so much on a fitness habit, more and more women are hooked.
Here are a few reasons why people can't quit the boutique fitness scene:
1. An all-inclusive gym membership doesn't cut it.
After a long day at the office, the last thing someone feels like doing is counting reps. This problem can be solved by attending a class in which the instructor is not only knowledgeable but there to motivate you through a full-hour session. And those who crave variety but don't necessarily want the steep price tag can opt for a fitness subscription service like Class Pass or FitReserve that allows them to dabble in these classes at a discounted price.
2. Paying for an individual class might make you more likely to work out.
Here's one woman's take: Janine Shub, 24, claims that taking more expensive boutique fitness classes has made her workouts more consistent. “When I had a gym membership I'd sometimes skip the gym weeks at a time and I wouldn’t feel guilty about it,” she says. Now it's different: “I make sure to only sign up when I’m 100 percent sure I can make it because I know how much money I would be wasting if I missed class.”
Signing up in advance for a fitness class takes a much higher level of commitment than just having a gym membership. Most of these studios have very strict cancellation policies. Once you book a spot you have to cancel usually between 12 and 24 hours in advance, or you'll be charged a fee. Being financially penalized for not working out makes you less likely to bail at the last minute.
3. You get exactly what you're looking for in a workout.
Maybe your last gym only offered Pilates or yoga classes with okay instructors who didn't really wow you. Boutique fitness studios provide complete descriptions of the classes — so you know exactly what you're getting into, and you can even check out an instructor's playlist.
Ilan Hecht, a New York dentist, takes a very specific competitive team spinning class that is only offered at one boutique gym called Swerve. "If I know which bakery sells my favorite cake, I wouldn't go looking for it at Whole Foods," he says. "The same applies to my workout, why would I pay for a gym membership if the only class I like is Swerve?"
4. You get to work out with people who are as into the class as you are.
Boutique studios allow you to surround yourself with people who like the same type of workout and vibe as you. Forget the chick in your old spin class who rides to her own beat or the out-of-shape dude in your Pilates class who constantly needed one-on-one attention. The people who choose boutique fitness studios are more invested and enthusiastic about their workouts.
5. There are more and more studios to choose from.
Popular studios are expanding rapidly. Look at SoulCycle, which started with a single indoor cycling studio in New York City and now has 56 locations nationwide. Flywheel, another popular indoor cycling studio, can be found in 13 different states, and Pure Barre, a ballet-inspired workout, now counts 300 locations nationwide.
6. Boutique studios offer a healthy way to pamper yourself.
“Paying a significant amount of money to take a class at a fancy studio feels like a treat, and it’s also a way of confirming to yourself that you are worth the expense," says Caroline Zwick, a New York–based psychologist.
Ana Pelucarte, a fashion entrepreneur, currently has a gym membership but occasionally rewards herself with the occasional boutique fitness class. "I love taking classes at SLT, but it's expensive so it's impossible for me to go as often as I would like," she says. "I only go on special occasions, which ends up being about two or three times a month."
There is no evidence that taking a boutique fitness class will make you fitter, but it's a luxury many women are willing to splurge on on a regular basis. Who knows how long this trend will last, or whether or not SoulCycle will burn out like Billy Blanks and Tae Bo. But any trend that gets more people excited about fitness is okay in our book — as long as we're not footing the bill.