Candles flicker in a dark room at the Lync Cycling studio in Snider Plaza. The person sitting next to you breathes heavily, every inch of their Lulu Lemon workout outfit drenched in sweat, legs spinning 100 miles per hour. The walls around you shake as the EDM version of the hottest top 40 song blares through the speakers. An instructor shouts encouragement: “clear your mind!” and “let go of whatever is holding you back!”
This is the new millennial social scene. This is boutique fitness.
“It’s high energy and high sweat with perfect music and lighting to go with the beat of the ride,” said senior Kelly Quinn about Lync Cycling studio.
Millennials appear to be flocking to studios that specialize in one specific type of fitness. Studios like Flywheel, Pure Barre, and Tread Barre are a few of the many boutique fitness studios gaining popularity in Dallas. The International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association reported that personalized, or boutique, fitness studios made $24.2 billion in revenue in 2014, a 7.4 percent increase from 2013.
“The main reason students go to boutique studios is for the atmosphere, and the prestige of saying they attend a class at a certain studio,” said Gina Garcia, assistant director of fitness at SMU.
These days, going to brunch in yoga pants and running shoes is not only accepted, but encouraged. And the conversation over Saturday morning mimosas is no longer “who are you wearing?” but “where did you work out?”
Saying you work out at a gym chain like Equinox or LA Fitness, or heaven forbid your universities fitness center, is the fashion equivalent of wearing something from last season’s collection. So not cool.
SMU senior Hannah Dudley has worked out at many boutique fitness studios in the Dallas area and said the reason she keeps going back is because it is just more fun.
“When I workout at Deadman, I get bored. But when I leave a boutique fitness class I’m energized. I get a great workout and I have the best time,” said Dudley.
Garcia said enrollment for group exercise classes at SMU has dropped by half, from around 600 group class passes sold in 2014 to approximately 300 in 2015. She believes this is due in part to the trend.
Chelsea Morehart, regional marketing coordinator for Flywheel Sports, said she’s not surprised by this trend. She thinks boutique fitness studios offer something unique.
“At a boutique fitness studio you are among a community of people who are interested in the exact same thing as you and have similar goals. It’s a family, “ said Morehart.
Flywheel is one of many boutique studios in the Dallas area. Boutique studios typically specialize in one specific exercise and provide a unique atmosphere that doesn’t feel like a gym.
Hensley Ellefritz, a membership advisor at Equinox Fitness in Dallas, said the uniqueness these studios offer is great, but you pay for it. Bigger gyms like Equinox are working hard to create the same caliber of classes that boutique studios provide, but offer them all under one roof, for one price. Equinox offers memberships for $154 a month.
Most boutique studios are charging upwards of $25 for classes lasting around 45 minutes. The studios also typically charge members a cancelation fee that runs around the cost of the class. Members are charged if they cancel their reservation within a certain number of hours from the classes start time or they don’t show up.
Ellefritz said one perk of big gym membership is there are typically no financial penalties for missing or cancelling a class.
“It is hard enough to work out, we don’t want to penalize you on top of that,“ said Ellefritz.
But larger gym chains might have the wrong idea. Some millennials see financial penalties as financial accountability.
SMU senior Jacqueline Stoner, who is a member at Lync Cycling and Pilates Barre in Dallas, said she doesn’t take classes at SMU’s fitness center because she has no motivation to actually attend the classes. When Stoner signs up for classes at a boutique studio, she said she has incentive to show up.
“Knowing that if I miss class I will have to pay holds me accountable,” she said.
Millennials say they love the social aspect, the prestige of attending a popular studio, and as Morehart noted, getting a “killer workout.” But Beverly Sigler, a personal trainer in the Dallas area with over 25 years of experience, said while boutique fitness classes might be fun and trendy, they can also be detrimental to your body.
“Here is what millennials want to do. They want to go hard, they want to feel the burn, they want to sweat, and they want to go like a bat out of hell,” said Sigler.
Sigler believes boutique studios are constantly trying to put a new spin on an old workout in an attempt to make their studios appear trendy and current. In an increasingly competitive field, studios are constantly grasping for new ideas to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
For example, Sigler said boutique fitness studios have put their own twist on weight lifting. Standing on the ground and lifting weights is what people at gyms do. At studios, members lift weights on surfboards, exercise bikes, pilates boards, and bosu balls. But exercises techniques like these could be putting your body at risk. Sigler said weights are supposed to be lifted on a solid ground with a straight spine.
“So why do you want to lift weights while you are floating on a bosu ball, or sitting on a bicycle? It’s not smart, and it’s not safe,” Sigler said.