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

This much is for sure: We have options. No fewer than five ballet-inspired barre studios popped up in the Twin Cities in the past year. Small group personal training is the focus of several newer gyms, including Discover Strength and Tiger Athletics. Others, such as OrangeTheory and Koko FitClub, are incorporating technology to track the effectiveness of a workout.

Gimmick, or the new norm? Time, and class registrations, will tell. Workouts come and go like fashion trends. Industry veteran Lonna Mosow, who runs a fitness studio in Eden Prairie, has seen this cycle before: small gyms giving way to big health clubs and back to smaller studios again. “There’s been almost a full evolution,” she says.

Big gyms are responding to the current boutique boom by adding more classes and niche programs. Hastings-based Anytime Fitness, founded on a less-is-more philosophy, now has group exercise rooms at some of its 2,000-plus locations around the world. Life Time Fitness is focusing on specific programs such as adult swimming, rock climbing, and triathlon training.

“The dynamic we’re seeing now is a new set of consumers saying, ‘I need to take personal responsibility—there’s no magic pill or diet.’ But they want to get healthy by doing what they love,” says Jason Thunstrom, vice president of public relations and corporate communications for Chanhassen-based Life Time. “The old model was, sign up for a membership, then figure it out. Now we’re seeing more people leading by interest area first.”

Of course, for most of us with jobs and families and mortgages, it’s challenging enough just getting to the gym—any gym. Now we’re supposed to learn Latin dance, train for a race, and find our way to inner peace on top of a stronger core. How do we fit it all in?

Sara Afdahl, a full-time retail buyer, wife, and mother of two, canceled her gym membership when her son was born six years ago. She bought an elliptical machine and ran outside until the first freeze, but gradually she starting trying small classes at Balanced Barre & Pilates in St. Louis Park and Wayzata, Discover Strength and Tiger Athletics close to home in Plymouth, and Core Power, which has yoga studios all over town.

She and her husband alternate morning or evening workouts and kid duties, or she sneaks in a 30-minute session over the lunch hour. Afdahl doesn’t like to pay for a workout more than twice a week. Even so, she ends up spending more on packages at small fitness studios than she did on monthly dues at the big gym. It’s worth it, she says. “Working out is my only stress reliever.”

Afdahl likes the variety, the intimacy, and the intensity of small studio classes. “I want to be pushed,” says the 36-year-old. “Especially as I get older—if I’m going to take an hour to work out, I want to leave it all there, know I did what I could do, and move on with my day.” Find a boutique that’s fits your need*. Then read on to learn more.



Jazz up your fitness routine with our guide to boutique workout studios across the Twin Cities, including pilates, yoga, barre studios and more. GO »

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