Let's Get Physical!

Suddenly boutique gyms are everywhere—with boxing or barre, classes for new moms or boomers. Take a walk in our gym shoes to find the one that’s best for you.

Let's Get Physical!
Photos by S. Henke, K. Harris and S. Colgan
Steele Smiley, founder of STEELE Fitness

It’s there, like a wagging finger, every time we drop off the dry-cleaning or pick up a pizza: another fitness studio. Rare is the strip mall these days that does not include some sort of boutique gym—be it yoga or weightlifting, barre or boxing. They’re open early, late, and even around the clock. This extreme access and convenience flies in the face of our best excuses for not working out.

Now there’s an exercise routine for everyone, whether you have 20 minutes or two hours, whether you want to sweat . . . or not.

Fitness expert Chris Freytag is of the sweat mentality—her High Intensity Interval Training class packs the largest gymnasium at Life Time Fitness in Plymouth every Saturday morning. She’s worked in and around gyms for years, and she’s noticed it, too: There have never been more options. That’s good news for those of us who struggle to fit fitness into our already over-filled lives. “There’s no one-workout-fits-all,” Freytag says. “The industry is expanding as we’re learning more about healthy living.”

The Twin Cities tends to be more fit-focused than other places in the nation. But with a whopping 68.1 million Americans who are inactive, obesity and diabetes on the rise, and health insurance changes on the horizon, the pressure’s on. And more people seem eager to get off the couch—especially as the economy recovers.

Health club membership leveled off during the recession, but it’s inching back up again. Aging baby boomers, who tend to have money to spend on fitness as well as the bulges and aches that come with age, are a big factor in this uptick. First Lady Michelle Obama’s crusades against childhood obesity are driving an increase in gym membership among teens, too.

And for those of us who are accustomed to finding exactly what we want when we want it on our smartphones, treadmills in a cavernous warehouse just don’t cut it.

All of this has contributed to a growing number of gyms, both large and small. The trend is particularly pronounced in Minnesota, which has a reputation for being a fitness industry launch pad. We’re home to three of the biggest health club chains in the country: Life Time Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and Snap Fitness. We’re also home to The Marsh in Minnetonka, Ruth Stricker’s pioneering health and wellness fitness center, as well as STEELE Fitness, one of the original boutique gyms, which may take its luxury personal training–focused business national this year.

“Everything in the world is moving toward smaller. Smaller, more focused, and better at what we do,” says CEO Steele Smiley, whose core concept is to bring personal training to the client—wherever and whenever it’s convenient. “The average person is more committed and overscheduled than ever before. Concepts that succeed are the ones that completely bend to the customer.”

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