Should You Ditch Your Gym Membership?

Weighing the pros and cons of trading in the traditional gym for a boutique studio.

Stick with the gym, or try a boutique? (Photo via Jupiter Images.)

At least three different boutique studios have opened up in the Back Bay within the past year, offering everything from ballet-type isometric workouts to pilates classes with cardio. And given the rate at which their classes sell out, it’s pretty obvious that Bostonian fitness enthusiasts are looking to try the latest trends.

But when it comes to signing up at one of these studios, whether in addition to or instead of your traditional gym, there are a few things you should find out first — both about the studio and yourself.

First, about the studios: In general, these classes are trying to compete with the personal trainer, not the group exercise classes at your gym. The classes are smaller and have specifically trained instructors — which means that everyone usually gets some attention and assistance. Many studios even have their own certifications and requirements. A personal trainer will charge between $60 to 120 per session, and a class at a boutique studio will cost you less than half that. What’s more, if you need the discipline of scheduling an appointment with a trainer and receiving their coaching, the classes give you that through their specific time slots and encouragement from the instructors.

That said, if you only want to have one fitness membership, do you know if you’re the kind of person who should lose the traditional gym in favor of one of these, or should you stick with what you’ve got?

Who should leave the gym: If you like to do cardio outdoors and only use the gym a few days a week for strength training, ditching your gym membership for a boutique may help produce better results — and it may also save you money. This is especially true for those of you who only use the group classes at a regular gym, rather than the general equipment, as a boutique can offer more consistent offerings and wider time slots. As an added bonus, a lot of these places offer flexible plans depending if you want to go two or three times a week, which allows you to work within your budget and schedule.

Who should not ditch their gym membership: Do you have only 30 minutes to squeeze a workout into your day? Most boutique studio classes last for at least 45 minutes to an hour, so if you cannot dedicate this amount of time, the studio option will not work for you. Same goes for those who like to work out at 5 a.m. or 9 p.m., or who want to come and go whenever they please. Most of the studios do not offer early morning or late night classes, and they’re definitely not flexible when it comes to time: you can only visit when you have appropriately signed up for a class and you will be doing what the teacher has planned for the hour.

All that said though, checking out a single class can be free at many of these studios, so it’s a great idea if you have any interest at all. I’ve listed below a few of my favorite small gyms in the area with their monthly membership fees and a brief description about their specialty. Remember, these prices are for unlimited access. Many offer 10, 20, or 30 class packages that allow you to use them at your leisure.

  • The Bar Method: The Bar Method focuses on isometric exercises from a dance background that combines strength training and conditioning. Props include a ball, bar, band, and hand weights. They offer four to nine classes a day, each lasting around an hour. Classes vary slightly depending on the instructor. $24 per class, $195 for unlimited classes per month, with an automatic renewal.
  • Back Bay Yoga: This studio offers eight to 12 yoga classes throughout the day for everyone from beginners to advanced yogi. This is one of the most affordable specialized boutique studios in the area, and if your budget is tight, you can sometimes catch a midday class for just $5 or $10. Hip Hop Yoga is highly recommended for those seeking a sweaty session with loud music. Standard membership is $15 per class, $125 for a month, with an automatic renewal.
  • CrossFit Back Bay: This studio offers heavy lifters an alternative to the regular gym. It’s the first CrossFit gym to open in Back Bay and is already seeking a membership cap. Drop-ins are not allowed but membership rates vary depending on how often you want to take a class. Sessions are kept small which helps create a personal training feel. Each class if unique and follows a Workout of the Day (WOD). The first class is free; after that it’s $269 per month, for three classes per week.
  • Btone: BTone is a pilates-based class that infuses strength training and cardio. It’s taught on a Megaformer, a variation of the sliding base machinery commonly seen in pilates classes. They only offer five classes a day with 11 spots, so signing up in advance is recommended. $30 for one class, $216 per month, with three classes per week.
  • Exhale: This unique spa and fitness studio offers both yoga and core fusion classes (which are similar to The Bar Method). With access to two locations in Boston, city dwellers have over 27 classes to choose from in one day! Members also receive a 20 percent discount on spa treatments. $30 for a drop-in class, $195 month-to-month unlimited, plus a $100 joining fee.