The Boutique Fitness Boom

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A smaller, more personalized trend is shaping up Savannah

Whether you’re inclined to roll out a yoga mat or snag the front bike at spin class, getting fit in the Lowcountry used to mean heading to the local big-box gym. But boutique fitness has muscled its way into the Hostess City, proving that bigger isn’t always better.

The boutique fitness movement emphasizes small, single-focus studios offering a higher level of personal attention, a specific fitness philosophy and strong brand association. In Savannah, locally owned franchises of Pure Barre, CrossFit and Orangetheory Fitness have sprung up in multiple locations, earning rave reviews and building loyal customer bases.

While the methods and science of each club vary — Pure Barre focuses on isometric movements using a ballet bar; Orangetheory employs a heart-rate monitor and target heart zones; CrossFit’s format is rooted in functional fitness — they all share the same mantra: Do one thing, and do it well. 

For franchise owners, that “one thing” invariably necessitates a laser focus on member engagement. From tracking personal milestones to offering pop-up classes, contests and organized social outings, the emphasis on connection and involvement goes far beyond a traditional club orientation or single training session.

“We know and use every one of
our member’s names in and outside of class,” says Zan Millsap, head coach
at Orangetheory Fitness. “For that hour, everybody is off their phones and fully connected to what’s happening with
their bodies.”

Caroline Brennan, owner of Pure Barre Savannah and Pure Barre City Market, agrees. “Our members become like family,” she says. “We know what’s going on with them inside and outside the studio.”

The clubs actively use social media to engage and celebrate their members, and there’s a larger value placed on personal empowerment, championing clients’ smaller steps toward their goals versus the traditional industry emphasis on markers like weight and inches.

At Hyperformance Athletics (a CrossFit affiliate), it’s not uncommon to hear a cast-iron bell ring out over the class music, celebrating a client’s new personal best. Around the corner at Pure Barre, members look forward to signing a ceremonial ballet barre commemorating benchmarks like
a 100th or 1,000th class.

“Our focus is on the whole self,” Brennan says. “We strive to help our members do a little better today than they did yesterday.”

Tailored personal attention comes with a price tag, where a single class might cost as much or more as a full month of membership elsewhere. Drop-in classes at Orangetheory, Pure Barre and CrossFit are between $25 and $30 per class, and all three studios offer monthly membership fees with prices varying by location; they also all roll out introductory specials and holiday pricing. But there must be something magical in that alchemy of camaraderie, empowerment and sweat, because higher fees don’t seem to tamp down member enthusiasm.

“Pure Barre is my favorite addiction,” says Courtney Brown, a two-year member of Pure Barre Savannah. “Every morning when I walk in, it feels like seeing
family,” she says. Numbers back up her high praise. According to The Association of Fitness Studios, national member retention for niche fitness is almost 75 percent, about 5 percent higher than traditional clubs, and boutique fitness studios are the largest growing segment of the gym industry.

While these three franchises offer novel ways to shape up, the desire to develop healthy habits in the New Year is nothing, well, new. Tracy Garcia, a CrossFit Level 2 trainer at Hyperformance, shares a helpful reminder that applies to anyone, regardless of their interest or budget.

“The hardest part is walking in the door,” she says. “Once you do that, the sky’s the limit.”?

Stretch your
fitness goals

Tight shoulders? Sore hamstrings?

StretchLab Savannah, 5525
Abercorn St., Ste. 90, offers
assisted and one-on-one stretching classes from
Flexologists (with 60+ hours
of theory and hands-on
training) who assess client needs and come up with personalized plans to improve overall health and flexibility.  

Membership packages and group classes are also available.

For more information,
call 912.335.4555 or email  [email protected].

“Everybody is off their phones and
fully connected to what’s happening with their bodies.”­— ORANGETHEORY HEAD COACH Zan Millsap