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Skipping Gym for Specialized Studios

Skipping Gym for Specialized Studios

Although Columbia has several full-service gyms, it’s also home to an increasing number of specialized fitness studios. Besides the convenience of not having to traipse through an entire gym full of people doing other kinds of workouts to get to the class, what do these specialty studios offer that makes women flock to their doors? Pure Barre and Sumits Hot Yoga both opened in Columbia in October 2012. Keep reading for an insider’s look at these studios through their owners’ eyes, and find out what studio regulars have to say about their experiences.

The exercise regimens explained

As you might guess, Pure Barre is a ballet barre exercise; it combines Pilates, light weight work and the use of the ballet barre for stability and resistance. Each 55-minute class is a fast-paced, full-body workout set to music. It is nonimpact and builds the long, lean muscles most of us associate with a dancer’s body. But those with no dance background — or even those working on basic fitness — shouldn’t be intimidated. Owner Lauren Matteson likes to tell people, “If you can hold onto a barre, you can do it.”

Brittany Wills, who co-owns Sumits Hot Yoga with her husband, Allen Wills, and Jesse Murphy, calls the studio “an alternative workout that incorporates both cardio and stretching components.” Each class consists of the same 80-minute series of specialized yoga poses performed in a room heated to 100 to 105 degrees. The intensity of the workout is dependent on how hard you work, which means that you are personally in charge of how demanding each workout is. Hot yoga offers mental and emotional benefits in addition to physical ones.

How the owners got hooked

Matteson attended her first Pure Barre class in Florida while she was studying for her law-school entrance exam, and you might be surprised to learn that it wasn’t love at first sight. She left the class frustrated because the workout was so difficult. But she didn’t just stew in frustration; she kept going back to class, and within a week, she was hooked. Within three months, she had signed a franchise agreement for the first Pure Barre in the entire state of Missouri. She knew Columbia would be a great niche for the studio because of the city’s active lifestyle culture. Four months after that, the studio was open and offering classes.

Wills discovered the Sumits Hot Yoga workout when she was looking for something different while living in Springfield, Mo. She loved the gym but discovered that the gym was too dependent on her — she had to rely on herself to put away her cellphone and push herself through her workout routine. She fell in love with hot yoga over the course of a two-week trial package but had to justify to herself the expense in addition to her traditional gym membership. The biggest pull was that it enforced “an 80-minute break from the chaos of life.” When Wills and her husband moved back to Columbia, she wasn’t willing to give up hot yoga and decided to pursue opening a studio here. Because Columbia is a fitness-oriented town, from the trail system to public schools that encourage active lifestyles from an early age to local companies that offer wellness programs, she thought it would be a good fit.

Pure Barre

Matteson has taken other barre classes, but she thinks the technique and culture of Pure Barre set it apart. Studio owners know their clients, not only their names but also their stories. The teachers are passionate and friendly, and classes are small enough that students receive one-on-one feedback. The exercises and music are given to the studio from corporate, but each trainer mixes them to make a different routine for each class. Matteson thinks this is a crucial reason clients seek out specialty studios; the trainers know the most about that specific type of exercise and can better tailor modifications to every client. Yet, Pure Barre also maintains the best parts of the group fitness atmosphere: accountability, a little bit of competition, the building of relationships and the sense of being a part of something.

The reception area also doubles as a retail area where clients can purchase Pure Barre-branded sticky socks, trendy active wear and accessories such as hairbands. Ballet barres adorn the walls of the Pure Barre studio, and mirrors help clients check their form. The carpeted flooring is clean — no female viagra alternative shoes allowed — and all the exercise props are kept neatly organized in back rooms along with cubbies for clients to store their belongings.

You might guess that most Pure Barre clients are women, and that’s true, but don’t be surprised if you see a male client in a class. Men receive the same benefits from the exercises as women do. The most rewarding part of owning a Pure Barre studio for Matteson is helping clients accomplish their goals, especially when lifestyle changes have dramatic quality-of-life improvements, such as the reduction of chronic pain.

Sumits Hot Yoga

Sumits Hot Yoga licenses studios and provides training and the routine, but some aspects of the studio, such as the lobby design, are up to the individual owners. Wills says they worked to make the studio inviting and try to maintain a delicate balance of a high-end feel that’s still approachable. The reception area includes a retail area stocked with hot yoga necessities such as mats and water bottles; fashionable yoga wear and accessories can also be purchased right in the studio. The practice room is clean and spare: hard wood floors and mirrors, the minimum setup to provide the space for practice and the ability for students to check their form. The changing rooms are spacious and include showers for those who prefer to clean up before heading back into the outside world.

The majority of Sumits Hot Yoga’s clients are women, but 25 to 30 percent of the clients are men. Wills makes it a priority to staff the reception area with friendly faces who not only guide first-time students through the information they need to know before the first class but also check each client in for each class. Although the routine of the workout stays consistent, instructors personalize their classes through their personal style and music choices while keeping the yoga routine the same.

Wills loves seeing people respond to Sumits Hot Yoga’s teachers and how hard the new teachers work to contribute to the studio.

Why clients keep returning

Word of mouth brings a lot of new clients to Pure Barre. Vanessa Brown says Pure Barre has a little bit of everything she’s liked about other exercise programs. She finds the instructors are extremely helpful with making sure every client has correct positioning during all the exercises, and beyond that, she has even found other clients in class to be role models. She loves the noncompetitive environment and how supportive everyone, instructors and classmates alike, is. Within a couple months of working out at the studio, she’s gotten stronger and improved her coordination.

Jeannette Cover has always admired the gracefulness of ballet, and she enjoys the challenge of Pure Barre’s athletic approach. She’s realized that the more she comes to class, the deeper she is able to strengthen because of Pure Barre’s concentration on small muscles and small movements.

Instructor and practitioner Kelsi Phillips likes how she doesn’t always realize how hard she’s working out; the small moves and beat of the music allow her to focus on herself and internalize her workout. As an instructor, she loves that clients never reach a plateau. “Pure Barre never gets easier, though you get stronger,” she says.

People come to Sumits Hot Yoga for a variety of reasons. Some have injuries that make other exercise difficult, and some are already yoga practitioners who are curious about the hot yoga experience. Client Chris Sparkes likes how the studio feels like a family and appreciates how hard everyone at the studio works to know the clients. “I really love the physical and the spiritual sides of the journey,” she says. She also likes that the workout is low impact but that she can increase the intensity if she wants to.

Anita Ellis was never sure if she was performing exercises correctly by herself at the gym and likes having a teacher to guide her through every step of the practice. She also finds the instructors at Sumits Hot Yoga “very forgiving” in that they always respect the place where each individual is; she’s always felt welcomed and encouraged. And, like Wills, she enjoys that the workout takes a set amount of time.

Jordyn Gehlert, one of the newest teachers at Sumits, loves the heat and loves to sweat. She enjoys the fact that it’s a workout you can do every day and that it has modifications to make it work for everyone.



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