It’s January and the promise of a healthy new year focused on fitness and self-care awaits you. You’ve done everything right—bought the fancy gym membership, ditched the junk food, and gotten your hands on the latest Under Armour gear. Then, a few weeks go by, you lose some steam, and the call of the elliptical machine and free-weights grows fainter.
But what if you had a class of friends waiting for you? A group of people who encourage you and hold you accountable? That’s the idea behind boutique fitness, the latest craze to hit the workout circuit. These specialty gyms offer a more personalized approach to exercise in a more intimate setting. Classes are small and range from more familiar activities like barre, yoga, and spin, to niche routines like belly dancing, surfboard workouts, and Krav Maga.
Once you’ve figured out which classes work best for you, the social aspect of these specialty spaces is undeniable—your workouts become less about burning calories and more about building relationships. “Boutique fitness speaks to the way our society is going,” says Kate Rowe, an instructor at Beachfit. “People want something that speaks to them specifically. The big-box gyms are great because they offer a ton of options, but smaller places offer you an opportunity to find that one thing you really love and hone in on it.” Here are 20 boutique fitness studios worth exploring.
If you find yourself easily bored with your workouts, then 9Round may be the place for you. With nine different exercise stations—hence the name—the 30-minute workout will keep you moving with interval, cardiovascular, and kickboxing fitness stations that change daily. But don’t fret if you are not an exercise pro—all fitness levels are welcome. A trainer will always be close by to demonstrate new routines and make sure you are getting the most out of your workout. Fit Bit: The great thing about 9Round is that there are no class times. Show up at your convenience, as a new circuit starts every three minutes. 3713 Boston St., 443-743-3832
Slightly hidden in the heart of the Station North Arts & Entertainment District between foodie favorites Colette and Pen & Quill, you’ll find this serene space. If its exposed brick, natural light, and high ceilings don’t immediately send you into a state of nirvana, one of the many yoga options or belly dance sessions will surely do the trick. Looking to make a new friend? Try one of the popular acroyoga classes during which you will achieve poses you never thought possible, with the help of fellow classmates. Fit Bit: All classes at Asana Roots are $10—now that’s a steal! 1707 N. Charles St., Suite 201, 443-305-9642
Located in a historic mill, this yoga haven is sure to make your inner HGTV goddess giddy. With its brick walls, sliding barn doors, and airy space, it creates the ideal spot for every yogi. Here, instructors believe in making yoga accessible to all, no matter your age or skill level. Included are weekly classes in meditation and pranayama—the formal practice of controlling your breathing. Fit Bit: Each session focuses solely on you and your personal growth, rather than competition with peers. There is also free parking, which we all know is a major plus. Two locations, including 3000 Chestnut Ave., #15, 410-662-8626
As the popularity of barre grew in trend-meccas New York and California, partners Aimee Fulchino, Kara Bennett, and Marni Gorman took notice and opened the very first stand-alone barre-specific studio in Maryland in 2011. The trio runs the Quarry Lake-side boutique in Wellwood and, together, they create an atmosphere where clients can escape from the chaos of everyday life and into the world of high-intensity, core-friendly yogabarre and powerbarre. Fit Bit: The studio puts an emphasis on modifications so that each move is performed correctly and safely. 2586 Quarry Lake Drive, 410-486-8480
Lara Custer helms this Timonium studio of full-body barre and mat Pilates classes that will leave you slick with sweat, wobbly-legged, and smiling. The recently renovated, modest flagship studio provides an intimate and encouraging environment where you can feel free to move at your own pace. “A lot of people are intimidated at first to come in, but they feel welcome right off the bat just from our instructors and the vibe from everyone else in the studio,” says Custer. Fit Bit: With a second Ocean City location unveiled last May, you now have no excuse to not work out on vacation. 2300 York Road, #203, 443-509-0277
When Beachfit opened in Harbor East two years ago, it was definitely aimed at the surfboard-inclined. The studio introduced Baltimore to Surfset, an interval training technique in which students engage their core on a stationary board. Since then, Beachfit’s bright blue walls have expanded both in offerings and in space, doubling in size just last year. Now, the studio offers nearly 10 classes including boot camp, cycling, TRX, and barre. Beachfit prides itself on classes of fewer than 15 people. “As an instructor, I can clearly see what each student is doing and how I can help them improve,” says Kate Rowe, who teaches surf camp. “We’ve become like a little family.” Fit Bit: If you play your cards right, you might even get a treat—whether it’s salads from nearby Sweetgreen, to-go waffles on the weekends, or a champagne toast after morning cycling. 1400 Aliceanna St., 410-753-4354
Any time the word “boot camp” is involved, you know you’re about to break a sweat. From burpees and sprints to squats and TRX, these 50-minute burn sessions change up weekly to keep you on your toes. But not to worry—you’ll feel right at home with the high-fives and positive vibes given out by fellow attendees. “This is for everyone. It is simple and aggressive and challenging, but it’s for anyone who wants results,” says owner Casey Musick. Fit Bit: BeMore Boot camp takes your results very seriously. In fact, if you don’t see any results, you’ll be completely refunded. Now that’s an offer we can’t refuse. 3100 Boston St., 410-979-5646
Feel the heat at this specialty yoga studio in Cockeysville. Devotees of hot yoga spend 90 minutes sweating it out with a set of 26 specific poses in a room heated up to 105 degrees. Sound awful? We promise it’s not. In fact, the heat helps to loosen muscles, deepen stretches, and massage internal organs, while the immense amount of sweating rids your body of toxins. You’ll walk out of class feeling like you’ve just completed a juice cleanse. Fit Bit: Bring a towel to put on top of your yoga mat to prevent unwanted slipping and sliding. 40 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville, 410-683-9642
This midtown mainstay, once known as Pop Physique, is undergoing a bit of a makeover. But not to worry—all the muscle-shaking intensity and dancer-like grace remain in this high-ceilinged spot, where twinkling chandeliers will make you feel like a member of the corps de ballet. And that’s by design—even the class routines are set to music, choreography-style. Says General Manager Kim Quinn, “Most women have a little ballerina inside of them.” Fit Bit: The studio’s re-vamp kicks off with two new classes—a barre stretching class to give you those long, lean dancer muscles, and a cardio dance and yoga class that will make you feel like you’ve scored a part in Flashdance. 339 N. Charles St., 443-869-0498
Though we may be biased, we think that out of 160 CorePower Yoga studios nationwide, the Federal Hill location is one of the most beautiful. In addition to the natural light that pours through its large windows and the updated, modern design, this yoga destination challenges guests to push through physical boundaries and channel emotion into energy. As a bonus, this studio, which offers a variety of classes for both the beginner and experienced yogi, is equipped with a retail shop stocked with everything from workout attire to yoga mats and essential oils. Fit Bit: For some added intensity to your everyday yoga grind, the Federal Hill has a Yoga Sculpt class that combines free-weights with yoga and cardio to strengthen muscles and sweat out those toxins. 1420 Key Hwy., Suite 201, 443-707-2230
This bright and colorful cross-training center is ideal for workout aficionados of every age, experience level, and body type. With a unique focus on alignment and form, this studio offers a variety of classes from restorative yoga and barre to cycle 45—a 45-minute, spirit-lifting spin class that is sure to make you sweat. Says owner Melanie Pipkin Kozel, “If you’re intimidated by fitness you can be sure to find a nice, supportive community here.” And when it comes to working out, there’s just nothing better than that. Fit Bit: In the spirit of maintaining a fitness destination for all, The Dailey Method features a charming child-care center that offers services during popular class times, giving on-the-go parents an opportunity to focus on their workouts. 1220 East Joppa Road, Towson, 410-938-8925