November 12, 2018

Boutique Fitness – Is it worth the money?

I’ve recently moved gyms and during a particularly unenjoyable 20 minutes on the Stairmaster, I started to think about boutique fitness and what I really wanted from a gym membership. When it comes to choosing a gym, there are a few things I take into account and my ‘Tick List’ includes, good quality equipment, enough space in the changing room and preferably a pool.

Which leads me to Boutique Fitness, is it worth the hype? Or just another way to extract money from an audience, who are hungry for more…?

I fondly remember my first ‘Boom Cycle’ spin class, apart from the small factor of finding a bike in complete darkness and feeling like an elephant, it was awesome. I was enthralled by the music and in complete awe of Hillary, she has the figure of a Victoria Secret Model and was using her towel as a prop, her spin bike was her rodeo and we were watching. I guess we were the adoring audience. For me, a Northamptonshire born and bred 30 something it was what can only be described as an ‘experience’. I pottered around the studio with the same enthusiasm and excitement, as I did when I first snuck into a nightclub aged 16. I wanted to talk to people, I wanted to see every nook and cranny, most of all though, I wanted to fit in.  

Regardless of all this, I wasn’t sold on a long-term basis. It felt not unlike that fancy bar in town, which you might visit as a one-off with your friends when you’re feeling a bit flashy and full of sass. 

My previous ‘Boutique Fitness Experience’ had been at 1Rebel, I’d followed their Instagram account and allowed myself to get sucked into the clever marketing. There was a stage when the ‘Who’s who’ of fitness, were all posting sweaty selfies against the background of the bronze lockers. I felt like they were selling me a lifestyle, and selling it extremely well and I was completely lured in, I wanted to work out with the beautiful people. Hell, I’m not even a huge protein shake fan, but naturally, I wanted to be able to post the “Infamous” post workout shake shot on my Instagram feed.  

They say we should be different, but following the crowd is so tempting, so I booked a class…

My first impressions were good, I immersed myself in the incredible changing rooms and pushed my limits during a “Reshape” class, my heart was pounding, sweat was pouring and my endorphins were reaching an exciting new peak. There I was, bursting with positivity, the marketing had worked and I was ready for round two.  I booked myself into a spin class and tried to chase the same emotions; only to realize that sometimes you can’t recreate a certain feeling. It was peak time, the class was full, I felt out of place, unable to relax and make the most of the experience.  The atmosphere of the changing room felt competitive and pushy, I wanted to shower, change and escape as quickly as possible. Proof that sometimes anxiety and fitness don’t always mix well. 

I reached out on Twitter to get some honest feedback on this topic, I wanted to understand if normal fitness enthusiasts actually pay £20+ a class on a regular basis and what they look for in these classes. Suddenly a trend appeared, the responses had a buzzword and that was ‘Barry’s Bootcamp’.  Not unlike 1Rebel, Barry’s Bootcamp has one hell of a marketing division, with terms like ‘Hell Week’ which for a mere £85 you are encouraged to attend one class a day, every day for 7 days. Why? “It’s the ultimate challenge we’ve all been waiting for!”. I might be missing the point, but me that sounds like a completely different kind of hell and not the sort of experience that would make me want to scream “take my money”.

To further my understanding, I tried the following gyms: David Lloyd – Which is ideal if you want to be surrounded by a better-heeled clientele and have access to a spa and/or enjoy tennis. Personally, I’d suggest saving money and join Virgin instead.  Gym Box – The appeal was completely lost on me, I found it poorly lit, substandard changing rooms and nothing out of the ordinary. Third Space –  My first impressions where good,  the gym is beautifully laid out with a real feeling of luxury and very high-end equipment. I took a HIIT class, which was unfortunately well over a standard level of attendance and ended up feeling not unlike complete chaos. The selection of classes is hard to rival but with prices starting at £150.00 pcm I’d expect nothing less. 

Taking all of this into account, I took a closer look at the people I follow for fitness inspiration…

One thing was instantly clear, not one single person was bragging about the location, I’ve not seen any high-end clubs tagged or ‘Smoothie Selfies‘. My feed is full of people running, attending CrossFit, pushing limits in unidentified gyms and posting genuine sweaty selfies. Which brings me to the fact that fitness doesn’t have to be high end to make you feel good, you don’t NEED to take a selfie in a fancy changing room and if you want a spa, visit a spa.

Thanks, Boutique Fitness Venues, you’ve made me feel good (and bad), I’ve enjoyed using your Dyson Hairdryers and digging out my Sweaty Betty and Charli Cohen threads, but it’s time for us to take a break. I think I might be better off without you. 



4 responses to “Boutique Fitness – Is it worth the money?”

  1. Steph says:

    Ah! So true! I don’t miss seeing those fads on Instagram at all. We have had a couple of new gyms pop up down my way recently which are real “nuts and bolts” types of gyms – 100% functional, no added frills. I’m currently going through my “intimidated by them” phase, but curiosity will get the better of me eventually.

    • Katie G says:

      I think nuts and bolts gyms can be a good thing but like you quite rightly say, they are a little be intimidating. But in comparison to a fancy pants gym, they are bloody great!

  2. This is such an interesting post! I’m in the unique position of seeing both sides, I work in a boutique lux gym and it is beautiful. We’re all about providing our clients with an amazing experience, making them feel super special and ensuring they have the very best trainers, and I definitely notice a difference between the classes I do at work and the classes I’ve taken in my local cheap and cheerful gym. I also hear from a lot of my clients that working out somewhere nice helps motivate them to train, they know they can come to us and there’ll be lovely fluffy towels and beautiful products afterwards and that they’ll be using the very best equipment. However, when I train myself I just hit the local leisure centre and it does what I need it to do, although it could be because I do event specific training and work with coaches and am pretty confident in a training environment, so ultimately most boutique classes are lost on me! I reckon both have a place depending on why you want to work out.

    • Katie G says:

      I love this perspective, it’s really interesting to hear from someone who actually works within that industry. I completely understand how good it feels to have fluffy towels, a beautiful changing room, top trainers and an ‘Experience’. I’m not sure if it’s my personal anxiety, but I had a stage of feeling very ‘aware’ in these locations, almost as if I don’t fit in or deserve to be there. I go to a mid-range gym but love that fact that despite the fact you work at a high-end gym a leisure center meets your need’s.

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