Out of Shape? Join a Fitness Studio

Out of Shape? Get Your Ass to a Fitness Studio

I’m sorry. Maybe that’s a little harsh.

Bear with me – I’ll explain why.

Maybe you’re too sedentary and you know it. (This was me…..)

Maybe you’re going to a traditional gym like an LA Fitness but you’re doing the same routine over and over and not making progress.

Maybe you just don’t even know where to start.

There is an answer.’

The Fitness Studio As Your Wake-Up Call

I’ll level with you: I’ve been resistant to the idea of expensive fitness studios for awhile now. Two hundred a month for a gym membership? Really?

I’ve been a member of Bally’s, and more recently, LA Fitness–both the epitome of the “box gym.” I’m the guy who never joined any classes there; I went in and used the machines I thought I was supposed to use, sometimes did squats with a Smith machine and did some pullups; I mixed strength training with cardio, and thought i was in shape.

I didn’t get any results.

Why? I hated being there.

I was in there by myself thinking “I don’t need anyone’s help.” I just wanted to do my own thing. Go in, work out, leave. No fancy classes. No dangerous moves like squats. Just be, in general, fit.

It doesn’t work that way.

I even built a routine of running twice a week, and going to the gym to “lift” once or twice in that week.

Still didn’t work.

Why DIY Didn’t Work For Me

There are a few key reasons the do-it-yourself approach failed for me.

I wasn’t pushing myself.

I remember some of the meatheads at the box gym carrying a gallon bottle (yep!) of water and their notebook, writing down what they did on each exercise so they could push harder next time.

I’m not that guy.

What I needed was a setting where I’d be motivated to go as hard as I could — and with a general awareness of my limits on different types of exercise, I can usually gauge it now. I use a heart monitor to keep track of how close I am to my max, and that also helps.


I didn’t know what routines to do.

I’m not trained in exercise physiology. Like you, I’m also subject to information overload online–I see new workouts every day posted by hundreds and hundreds of sources. Which one is “better”? Hell if I know.

The CEO of a tech startup once said to me that he enjoys CrossFit–which is a type of fitness studio, of course–because he can go in and have someone tell him what to do for an hour, and walk out being in better shape than before.

I wasn’t trained in the moves I needed to do.

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I’m not really trained in olympic lifts. I can watch YouTube videos, sure, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to risk my back with a back squat. Especially by myself (go on…)

I didn’t have a buddy.

A number of the challenging Olympic and other lifts require buddies for spotting. I didn’t (and still don’t) like coordinating with a single other person to work out at the same time, much less have them follow me around to each station and take twice as long so we can spot each other. Not my thing.

With a studio there are others working out at the same time by default, and in choreographed exercises where we help each other–it’s all good.

What’s A Fitness “Studio” Anyway? Don’t You Mean “Gym”?

No, I don’t.

A gym is a facility with fitness equipment that you can use for a membership fee, and within which the exercise is self directed.

A fitness studio is a boutique facility, usually with a pretty small footprint that specializes in guided training–not self-directed workouts.

America’s do-it-all box gyms–Bally, LA Fitness, Anytime Fitness and the like–have gotten a little long in the tooth. Maybe I’m just burned out from my memories of Bally salespeople talking me into a three year membership and realizing I wouldn’t get any help unless I paid another exorbitant amount for personal training.

Yes boutiques are more expensive, but they provide the personal attention that you need to get results–whether or not you admit you need it. Think of it this way: You could build a full gym in your home, but chances are you wouldn’t get fit. Most people don’t. They aren’t disciplined to do the work every day.

Just like Bally, I wasn’t motivated to go there regularly and work out because I didn’t have a buddy, and I wasn’t self motivated enough. Boutiques solve the buddy problem by having an instructor and buddies there at a given time–you just have to sign up and go.

Kinds of Fitness Studios

Pilates Studios

Pilates studios focus on the Pilates method of course. Pilates is a method consisting of controlled movements designed to build strength without excess bulk.

Functional Fitness & Bodyweight Training

Bodyweight fitness and functional fitness is the focus of BodyweightLife. We encourage the use of bodyweight moves to build strength, power and balance. Bulk isn’t an anti-goal but it’s not something that is sought out–generally weight training is recommended if bulk is the goal.

Spinning Studios

Spinning is an intense form of exercise on stationary bikes. These studios have become extremely popular–one of the most popular studios nationally is SoulCycle, which went for an IPO in 2015.

Yoga Studios

This may be the type of studio that feels most obvious. Yoga is a very personal form of controlled bodyweight exercise; you may have already been to a yoga class–and if so, it was probably at a yoga studio.

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Barre Studios

Barre uses a bar as a prop to perform ballet-inspired, yoga and other bodyweight exercises.

CrossFit Boxes

CrossFit is a studio in that classes are instructor led and the exercise is not self-directed, but this is the only one of the types listed which includes weighted squats and deadlifts, along with handstand pushups and other extreme forms of strength training. Get it!

Aerobic Studios

These tend to include spinning studios but also include other types of aerobic exercises.

Martial Arts Studios

Mixed martial arts is gaining in popularity. In this group we include boxing studios.

Dance Studios

Many folks get their exercise these days from various forms of dance.

What to Look For in a Fitness Studio

Fitness studios do a lot of things their own way. They’re boutique.

Here are a few of the important variables I looked for. Use this list to give you an idea of what to consider:

  1. Schedule – Since the workouts are led by a person, they are at scheduled times and not just whenever you show up. Therefore, you’ll need to find a studio that fits your ideal schedule. If you’re an early bird, is there a 5:30am? (usually there is) What about a 7:30 if you aren’t? I found many with a 5:30 and an 8:30, but no 7:30. That 7:30 was important to me to allow me to get in at a decent hour without having to wake at 5am. Look for what works for you–if it’s inconvenient, you won’t go.
    1. Sub point: Availability. If it’s a high demand fitness studio, they may offer classes at times you want, but they may be full. Ask!
  2. Location – Since the studio you join will be a regular part of your week, it should be close to home or work. If you don’t like taking showers at the gym, like me, you should probably choose a gym close to home. Again–if it’s inconvenient, you won’t go.
  3. The people – This one’s harder to judge without joining, but you’ll want a place where you fit in and like the operators and fellow customers. You won’t feel comfortable if your’e the only novice in a room full of meatheads. Make sure they’re good with people at your level, whatever that level is. If it’s uncomfortable, you won’t go.
  4. Variety – If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may get bored after a while at a given studio. Consider ClassPass. ClassPass lets you take classes at many participating studios for a single membership price. The good news is you get to sample; the bad news is you have to program it yourself, which means motivating yourself to find the kinds of workouts you want, at convenient locations and times, etc. Eventually I suggest zeroing in on a studio you like with people you can get to know and to grow with.
  5. Instructors – Quality of instructors will make the experience. Make sure they push you the way you need to be pushed, but not too hard to the point where you’re vomiting or injured. 🙂
  6. Short Term – Unlike a big box gym, a boutique should be confident enough in its service that the contract should be no more than month to month, with the ability to bail out and go elsewhere if you aren’t satisfied.
  7. Music – Admittedly this isn’t a top item at least for me, but since you have to generally keep your earbuds out to keep up in a high intensity workout and to hear the instructor, you better hope the music they play isn’t horrible. That alone made big box gym trips difficult for me.
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How to Get Back In Shape At a Fitness Studio

General guidance for getting back in shape:

  • Find a studio that teaches the kind of exercise you feel most comfortable with, with the right level of variety, etc.
  • Sign up and take a trial workout or two.
  • COMMIT to it and join.
  • Increase your participation over time. Move from two workouts per week up to four over the course of a few weeks.
  • Get after your diet. Consider the basic principles of the calisthenics diet to give yourself some assistance. 80% of your weight is driven by what you eat vs. 20% that’s driven by your exercise program, so you can NOT ignore nutrition.

Most of all, remember–the best workout is the one you’re actually doing. A fitness studio can mean the difference between working out and NOT working out.

Working out will pay off with better performance at work and in life.

Get it.



Image via Creative Commons license via Flickr.