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Why Are DC Studio Fitness Classes So Darn Expensive?
Local owners offer their take on why their classes cost more than a gym membership. By Melissa Romero
Boutique fitness studios, such as Bar Method, charge more than $20 per class. Owner Kate Arnold says one reason prices are so expensive is that students receive more individual attention due to smaller class sizes. Photograph by Melissa Romero.
Comments () | Published March 28, 2013

We love that Washington has no shortage of boutique fitness studios, and that the options to get our sweat on only continue to grow. But take just one class at your neighborhood studio and you’ll notice that while your waistline may be shrinking, so is your wallet.

It’s no secret that boutique studio classes cost a pretty penny—much more so than getting a gym membership that offers its own group classes. And the costs don’t stop there: On top of paying the drop-in fee, studios often charge extra for renting a yoga mat or cycling shoes—even towels.

Take barre classes, for example. Ladies have latched onto the leg-shaking ballet-like workout, but drop-in classes start at about $22, with the priciest fee we’ve seen in the area topping out at $25. If you were to attend a barre class three times a week for an entire year, you’d be taking a $4,000 chunk out of your bank account.

After checking out multiple local barre classes, fitness blogger Meaghan Stakelin of DC Fit Crasher wrote, “I continue to be baffled with $24 to $25 classes popping up. It’s fun to go occasionally here and there, but at least for me, it’s not a cost effective way to get in shape on my budget.”

Xtend Barre DC owner Kelly Griffith says pricing is something she struggled with before opening her studio in Mount Vernon Square earlier this year. “Barre classes are more [expensive than] Pilates and yoga classes, yet I did not want clients to have to purchase more than one package; I wanted it to be interchangeable,” she says. Ultimately, she decided to offer her single classes on the (relatively) lower end at $22.

Bar Method DC and Bethesda owner Kate Arnold hopes once a class-goer latches onto the trend, he or she will purchase a multiple-class package. A 20-class package at Bar Method costs $400, which comes out to about $20 per class. Drop-in classes are $24.

In addition, certain boutique studios keep class size at a minimum so as to provide individual attention to each student, similar to receiving a personal training session, which Arnold points out costs much more than a single drop-in class at a fitness studio. Therefore, studio owners have to balance out the smaller number of clientele with higher fees. 

Still can’t justify forking over all that money to exercise? At least you’re not paying New York prices. Revolve’s new indoor cycling NYC location charges $28 for a single class—that’s $10 more than at their Clarendon location.

Categories:

Fitness Fitness Classes
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  • Patrick

    I have had the pleasure of serving the fitness industry for almost 25 years. I started a Boot Camp company called Sarge in 1989 and always kept prices under market. I sold the company and believe they still are under market ($5/class). Now I run athlete training services which demands higher fees due to limited times with athletes and more staff education ($6-$17/class). And am still way under my colleagues ($40). In fairness to them I dont pay Bethesda and DC rent and Bethesda and DC trainers always demand a higher per hour rate then the suburban trainers. One last comment....most gyms are owned by gym rats, not business people...usually under funded and poorly run and out of business in 12 months (2nd fastest failing business is a gym). Some of these mentioned might be run by business people who are actually trying to make a profit and may still be around in 5 years. Before dropping the $. Find out, are they weekend certified coaches? How many on staff have exercise science degrees? Can you get a free trial class?

  • ExcitedtoRun!

    I did the math too and ended up joining Equinox. its a $1500 annual investment but the classes are small and has the same exclusive feel as the boutique studios.

  • zdg

    Couple comments: boutique studios need the best instructors (often w/ specialized training), so they usually pay more than your standard chain gym does (and pay additional bonuses based on the # of students in each class.) Your membership at a chain gym is subsidized based on 100s or 1000s of people who sign up and never come (or maybe they do - that's why you're never guaranteed a machine or a spot in class, whereas at boutique studios you can sign up in advance and lock in a spot.)

    The great thing about boutique studios is that nobody is forcing you to go and pay the fee. You can still run outside for free, or go to a chain gym and get a good workout. But for many people, the luxury experience at a boutique studio is what compels them to return and helps them stay in shape.

    To the person who commented below on "inflated profit," I might add that running a boutique studio is a business. Owners need to make a living. Just like nobody's forcing you to eat at Komi, you can eat at McDonald's any day you want.

  • ColleenLerro

    It does get a bit frustrating with how expensive some of the fitness class options are, but I do love the variety and how much is available. I agree with Meaghan's comment that a lot of the classes don't make sense as your go-to-way to get in shape, but do make for a fun change of pace to drop in on once in awhile.

  • arc4242

    Kelly Griffith and Kate Arnold didn't give particularly convincing arguments for why their fees need to be so high in this article. I'd be interested to know a little bit about the overhead costs associated with these businesses to justify the high price. It feels a little bit like buying a t-shirt at Urban Outfitters; you have to wonder how much of the sticker price is just inflated profit.

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