At F45 in Forest Acres, participants watch screens during their workout. Each class also has an instructor to make sure everyone is doing the movements correctly. (Photos by Grayson McClendon/Carolina News and Reporter)
From pilates to cycling to yoga, boutique fitness is becoming one of the most popular ways to work out in the Midlands.
The smaller fitness centers are the fastest-growing sector of the nation’s $30.8 billion fitness market, according to The Rise of Boutique Fitness blog. That’s only expected to grow.
Level Fitness, for example, is a recent addition to the Columbia area. It will open in Forest Acres in late October.
Others have opened in the past few years.
In a gym around 800-3,500 square feet, members are paying for a more individualized workout experience. And the small gyms specialize in one or two types of exercise, providing what’s sometimes called “group fitness.”
People are looking for community while focusing on their favorite type of exercise.
“Typically a boutique studio can adapt and grow and adjust based on what their clients need a little more compared to a different franchise,” said Level Fitness co-owner Lilly Greenhalgh.
Level Fitness‘ founders have backgrounds in different exercise specialties. They came together to practice yoga, pilates and Lagree, which merges the two, through both group and private sessions.
Lagree is new, “especially to the East Coast,” Greenhalgh said. It combines cardio, strength and core exercises through the use of machines.
While the muscles get worked, the workouts are easier on the joints and great for people with previous injuries.
“It’s also nice that we can offer private sessions, because some people get a little bit intimidated when they see the machines for the first time,” Greenhalgh said.
Fitness boutiques also provide a social aspect that is difficult to create in larger gyms.
“I believe that it reaches an emotional need that others have with connection and community that helps people and keeps them coming back,” said Lizzy Troutman, manager at Studio Fire on Columbia’s Rosewood Drive. “There’s a level of accountability for group fitness that I think is really valuable for the consumer.”
Two women own Studio Fire, and both are looking to franchise the business.
Another popular kind of workout in specialized gyms is HIIT fitness, according to Regymen Fitness.
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, which can be intensely community based and isn’t limited to boutique studios. Orange Theory, Basecamp Fitness, Chosen Uno Training and Studio Fire all focus on HIIT.
These workouts are a mixture of cardio and strength, and the classes are typically an hour or less.
F45 Training is a HIIT workout studio and provides many opportunities for its members to meet new people and build strong relationships.
The boutiques also get the opportunity to connect and partner with different organizations around Columbia.
F45 occasionally partners with Steel Hands Brewing Co. in Cayce for training camps and happy hours.
CycleBar participates in Cycle Gives, which are stationary rides for a specific group, usually employees and members of non-profit organizations.
“We provide the venue, the instructor, the studio, the entire experience,” said Julianne Reynolds, studio manager.
Burn Boot Camp pairs with Panhellenic sororities at the University of South Carolina for group classes, which are sponsored by the chapter and free for the members.
It also wants members to foster community through workouts.
“I have friends here who will cheer me on the entire time. It’s just honestly super fun,” said Burn Boot Camp trainer Suezanne Hall. “You push each other. It’s just like a big family, a really big community, which is super sweet.”
The majority of Columbia’s boutique gyms post online member highlights and videos of participants during workouts. They use Instagram and a variety of other social media platforms, which gives members yet another opportunity to connect.
CycleBar posts pictures of riders after they complete their first class or hit milestones.
“The No. 1 marketing tool is digital, and we use it like crazy,” Reynolds said. “That’s how our members communicate, that’s how we reach a much broader audience. I mean, social media is king.”
The gain in popularity has helped local businesses. And everyone is welcome.
“We’ve got all ages, all races, all sizes, and all financial demographics,” Reynolds said.