The word “boutique” may evoke thoughts of sophisticated fashion or home decor, but in the workout world, boutique fitness is a burgeoning trend among facilities that cater to specialized workouts.
As a general rule, boutique fitness studios are smaller gyms that concentrate on one or two specific fitness areas in a more communal atmosphere. They attract predominantly younger customers who want convenience and a sense of community that comes from enrolling in a class or having a personal trainer.
Boutique fitness outlets began to emerge nationwide in the early 2000s and have kept pace — or surpassed — memberships of more established “big box” chains in the $30 billion fitness industry. By 2015, 35 percent of U.S. consumers patronized boutique fitness studios, more than the number of people who used more traditional fitness facilities, according to an International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association Health Club Consumer Report.
Trainers and teachers are an important part of the boutique experience.
Kim Patterson opened Valley Yoga and Fitness, at 3536 Teays Valley Road in Hurricane, earlier this year to replace the void that was left when the Lifespring Yoga studio closed in Teays Valley last October, she said.
Along with yoga, hot yoga and candlelight yoga classes, some of which Patterson leads, Valley Yoga and Fitness offers classes in high-intensity interval training, cardio kickboxing, zumba, tai chi and other disciplines.
Most classes accommodate all levels of yoga practitioners. An available monthly Yoga Foundations series allows newcomers to learn some of the basic poses and terminology before enrolling in a more advanced class.
“All of the yoga teachers have to go through yoga teaching certification,” Patterson said.
She added that by Valley Yoga and Fitness being a smaller boutique studio, client options can be somewhat more — well, flexible.
“We are able to cater our classes and pricing more to meet the needs of the local community. If there is something they want or need, we can make it happen. When you go to a franchise, sometimes it is harder to facilitate change as quickly, since it has to go up the chain,” the Hurricane resident said.
Charleston Snap Fitness WV will celebrate its first anniversary with an open house from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, at 13 Kanawha Blvd. W. in Charleston.
“It’s easy to join a gym where they’ll cut you loose, and you’ll have good intentions but don’t know what to do,” said Cameron Jones, a personal trainer for 12 years and the gymnasium manager at Snap Fitness WV’s Charleston location.
“My biggest thing involves four trigger words,” he said. “Convenience: picking a gym convenient to get to. Balance — not doing anything too extreme. People say they’re going to work out seven days a week for two hours a day, eat only broccoli, and that doesn’t work. Sustainability — which is implementing the plan that fits your life and not some extreme thing. And having a support system — including a trainer who can keep you accountable. The gym atmosphere kind of hits into that, where you can find some like-minded people.”
Jones said all five of the Snap Fitness locations in and around the Kanawha Valley work in conjunction with Generations Physical Therapy for those seeking physical recovery as well as fitness.
“When we bring somebody in, they meet with a physical therapist and a personal trainer partner,” he said. “A physical therapist can give them a screening and talk to the trainer. We can work together — the trainer and therapist — to make a sustainable routine.”
At Power Up Sports & Wellness in Hurricane, co-owner, head personal trainer and exercise physiologist Taylor Stillpass suggests contemplating your everyday lifestyle and goals before devising your fitness regimen.
“There are several things to consider when deciding what gym to join,” Stillpass said. “Some of the questions I encourage people to ask before joining are: Does the gym have the right equipment and environment for you to make progress? If you have children, does the gym offer nursery services or things that kids can do while you exercise? Does the gym have exercise classes if you’re someone who does better in a group? Is the gym located close enough for it to be a regular part of your schedule?”
A trainer’s credentials — and trainer-client chemistry — are vital ingredients to transformative success, as well, he said.
“While certifications and education in the field are a must,” he said, “to me, experience can be just as or even more important. I would want a trainer who has either taken him- or herself to a level that I would want to achieve or has helped others do the same.
“Personality is another factor to consider,” Stillpass added. “You will be spending a fair amount of one-on-one time with your trainer; finding someone you click with and motivates you in a way that works for you can make all the difference.”
Yoga practitioner and instructor Emily Jones established Lifespring Yoga & Wellness originally in downtown Charleston in 2012, moving to the current Kanawha City site five years later.
Along with offering traditional and hot/infrared yoga classes, Lifespring provides five to seven classes daily and 30 classes weekly.
“The most rewarding thing as a small business and studio owner is the community that’s created at the studio,” Jones said. “We have amazing students and amazing teachers. I’ve trained almost everyone who works at the studio. It’s all in-house. They come in as students, become interested, take the teacher training and become teachers. The people who come here connect and make lasting relationships and friendships.”
Brandy Robertson, who played basketball for Marshall University and earned a master’s degree in exercise science from the Huntington school, offers personal training, fitness consulting and nutrition consulting at Brandy’s Health & Fitness in South Charleston. She says training doesn’t have to take up a huge chunk of time to produce results.
“Right now, I offer 30-minute sessions. I think, for most people, working for 30 minutes is all you need,” Robertson said. “In today’s society, that’s about all the time most people have. If you have the most effective approach and you’re doing it right, that’s all you need. And most people can make 30 minutes work within their day.”
To maintain a training routine that doesn’t become too routine, she said, variety is the spice of workout life.
“I get bored easily. I need to move and constantly change up a lot of what I do,” Robertson said. “Today’s workout is not going to be the same as yesterday’s. You can challenge the muscles in different ways. Mixing up the workout prevents boredom and helps spark results. People seem to enjoy that.”
An individualized, boutique fitness approach can prompt desired results more readily, she said.
“Everybody has different strengths or weaknesses and goals. All of those things are going to differentiate your workout plan,” Robertson said.
She said her youngest client is 14 and the oldest is 91, each with a distinctive training plan Robertson devises. She said exercise not only builds muscle but confidence with the majority of her clients.
“I like for them to see that they can do this stuff,” she said. “They not only feel good physically but mentally. Across the board, I think it’s just good for the soul.
“A big part of it is having fun. Working out is something you need to enjoy, particularly if you want it to become a lifestyle. It should be a lifestyle, not a fad,” Robertson said.
For those who want to work up a sweat, build muscle and self-discipline and learn self-defense techniques, Butch Hiles Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & MMA, LLC in downtown Charleston can supply a variety of personal-development options.
Owner, founder and instructor Hiles holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as black belts in several other martial arts and combat martial arts styles, such as Reality Fighting and Japanese Jujitsu. Hiles’ facility, which opened at its current location 10 years ago, provides boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts, krav maga and cardio classes.
Private lessons and classes for children are also available. Hiles often gives seminars on fighting techniques, anti-bullying, self-defense and other topics as well.
“A lot of times, I’ll go to offices and do self-defense seminars or people will come to the gym. Those are more to help the community and be part of the community,” Hiles said, noting that the seminars are often presented free or at a nominal fee to make them more affordable and accessible.
Hiles also says students benefit from his 30 years of experience. “The family that invented Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the family that trained me,” he explained. “One of the good things is that people don’t have to go to huge cities like L.A. or New York; they have somebody here who’s trained with somebody who invented the sport.
“As cliche as it sounds, our goal is to make a difference in people’s lives, getting out and having healthier lifestyles,” he said. “Martial arts isn’t for everybody, but it helps you get into shape and do your best training-wise.”
For Hiles, it’s about more than exercise. “When somebody joins our gym, it’s kind of a community. As an instructor, if I have 100 people in my class, all 100 people are legitimately my friends,” he said. “I have 30 years of training from all across the world, and people coming to our gym are getting to experience all things I experienced and those things are kind of priceless.”
One trait that all trainers emphasize is patience.
“Losing weight through exercise and nutrition is not an overnight process,” Stillpass said. “The key to success in fitness is just simply sticking with it. Follow a sound plan designed for you by an expert in the field, work hard consistently week after week and, in time, you will achieve more than you probably ever thought you could.”
National boutique fitness studios have also opened franchises in the area, such as CrossFit 304 on Charleston’s West Side and Orangetheory Fitness, which has facilities at Southridge Center and Barboursville.