In the past few years, specialized boutique fitness chains have popped up around Sarasota at a remarkable pace. They give the city a more with-it vibe, and they can be a solid investment for anyone who finds group fitness classes more motivating than solo workouts. But make no mistake—class fees for certain studios are not paltry. That's why I tried out three of the bougiest workout trends in town. I wanted to see which ones might be worth trading in my $20-a-month student rate at my local YMCA for:
3800 S Tamiami Trail, Suite 16, Sarasota; 5275 University Parkway, Suite 131, Bradenton
Pure Barre technique is a hybrid of Pilates and ballet that works the entire body. In a barre class, you will do exercises using the wall handrail common in ballet training (the barre) and perform small isometric movements, which build strength through static holds. You will be asked to do tucks, contractions of the glutes and abdominal muscles—all meant to promote good posture and activate stabilizing core muscles.
The goal of the class is to start shaking. It sounds odd, but if you’re doing the class right and pushing yourself, you’ll wind up with quivering muscles, indicating that you have worked them to the point of fatigue, and it’s a satisfying feeling. In a typical class, besides the barre, you will also use a resistance band, a Pilates soft ball, hand weights and a yoga mat. Pure Barre emphasizes core strength, but I guarantee that your quads will also be feeling ready to collapse after a couple minutes of pulsating on your tippy toes with a ball between your thighs.
The pace of the barre workout and the stretching between different segments of the class are intended to promote the development of lean muscle rather than bulk, hence the claim that it builds a dancer’s body. It’s kind of hard to nab a break due to the fast pace of the class, but you’re obviously not going to get body-slammed if you stop for a drink of water. One thing that strikes me about Pure Barre is how streamlined and efficiently the class runs—there is no wasted time.
Average number of calories burned per class: 200-400
Average Single Class Price: $25
Best for: I like Pure Barre for muscle endurance. Even when I’m able to squat heavy weight, the isometric holds of this workout are highly challenging, proving strength and power aren’t everything. Pure Barre is also great for toning—think Michelle Obama arms—and flexibility, since this workout seems to have the best stretching sessions, while those in the other classes seemed rushed or harder to follow. It’s also a great choice if you want a tight core and improved balance.
3908 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
Mantra uses the low-impact Lagree fitness method enjoyed by some celebrities, in which you perform slow and controlled movements on a Megaformer. The Megaformer is a unique, multifaceted machine that uses a system of springs and pulleys to provide resistance as you do muscle-lengthening workouts. The workouts emphasize core strength, cardio, strength training and balance, with Pilates influences. All in all, it is an innovative and addicting workout, and I had a ton of fun sliding around on such a clever machine. Mantra took basic exercises like lunges and planks to a new level and it made my abs more sore than they had been in a long time.
I found the workout challenging in a good way, and I worked extra hard to keep my balance. The only thing I found overemphasized in Mantra’s mantra was the cardio aspect. I didn't find my workout particularly heart-pumping. But the atmosphere was friendly and bright, and the teacher was attentive. For my first class, they wrote my name on a big board welcoming me to the Mantra fam.
Average number of calories burned per class: 500-700
Average Single Class Price: $30
Best for: Mantra’s Lagree fitness method is fantastic for building long, lean muscle, and although this Pilates-influenced workout has similar goals to Pure Barre, it might be a better bet for building strength by activating those slow twitch muscle fibers. This is a great choice for balance, toning and improving your muscles’ range of motion, and also probably the ultimate core workout.
1605 Main Street, Sarasota; 6509 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 5275 University Parkway, Suite 116, Bradenton
Orangetheory Fitness blends cardio and strength training, and bases its branding on the science of EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In standard English, Orangetheory claims that by pushing you into the EPOC “orange zone,” it promotes a calorie after-burn for up to 36 hours following a class. During an Orangetheory workout you wear a heart rate monitor on your wrist. This allows you to follow your heart rate zone (and others’ if you are feeling competitive) on a screen throughout the workout. Afterward, you are presented with various stats, such as the calories you burned. This makes it easy to ensure you are pushing yourself and staying in that ideal orange zone, and if you stick with Orangetheory, it’s a great tool for tracking long-term improvement.
I worked up a great sweat in my first Orangetheory class. The studio features treadmills, rowing machines and weights, which you will use in cycles throughout the workout. You spend time with each piece of equipment in a rotating order. The strength-training routine changes daily, but every class features HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts on the treadmill, where you shift back and forth between a slower and faster pace.
The structure of the class was confusing to me and I felt left in the dust for the first 10 minutes, but the enthusiastic instructor and fellow attendees didn’t let me stay lost. Of all the studios in this list, Orangetheory has the most social and inclusive environment. This is fantastic if you thrive on group accountability, but if you prefer to stay in your own lane with fitness, it might be too overwhelming for you.
Average number of calories burned per class: 500-1,000
Average Single Class Price: $28
Best for: If burning calories is your main goal, Orangetheory is the best choice of the three workouts. It is also the best bet for your cardio fix. And finally, if you’re a guy who feels uncomfortable working out with all women, Orangetheory is the least tailored to women on this list and does not highlight defining your waist like Pure Barre and Mantra. This seems to be the class with the most diversity.
Ultimately, I decided to keep my gym membership because I want to be swole, and none of these workouts on their own will give you big muscles. But I think I’d like to treat myself to these boutique workouts every now and again. For that Sarasota fit life, they are all literally the greatest. Catch me after Mantra eating a SunniBunni yogurt, shopping at University Town Center after a Pure Barre session, or with my CROP Juice following an Orangetheory workout. I’ll probably be wearing my SRQ hat and Lululemon leggings, too. I’ve got no shame. This is Sarasota, where the bougie shall inherit the earth. And if you’re on a fitness budget, you can always run the Ringling Bridge.