Why Are DC Studio Fitness Classes So Darn Expensive?

Local owners offer their take on why their classes cost more than a gym membership.

Fitness studios like Bar Method in Bethesda and Chinatown will be open on Black Friday for classes. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

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.