Health & Wellness

Flexible Fitness

Memberships connect users with boutique studios.

After the birth of her third child, Lisa Quigley struggled to get back into shape. “The normal routine of jumping on the treadmill or lifting some weights just wasn’t working,” says the runner from Havre de Grace. In search of variety, she tried group fitness and loved it, but found the times inconvenient, the classes often full, and attending too expensive.

That was when she came up with the idea for Real Flexi, a monthly membership plan that allows users to pay a flat rate and reserve space in classes at various gyms around town. “Currently, we offer 250 classes a week at numerous locations in Baltimore and Harford County. By the end of the year I estimate thousands of classes including the beltway areas—like Timonium and Columbia—and Ocean City and Delaware,” she says.

Just a few months after Real Flexi launched in November 2014, ClassPass arrived in Baltimore with a similar membership model. “The boutique fitness space is really blowing up in Baltimore,” says ClassPass CEO and co-founder Payal Kadakia, noting that clients love the convenience and variety of classes.

Both programs do have similar challenges, though: Popular classes can sell out, and some find the monthly fee hefty—$99 for ClassPass and $69 and up for Real Flexi—especially since most people are taking boutique classes in addition to their regular gym membership. Real Flexi addresses that problem by including studios with traditional gym equipment, where you can workout as part of your class allotment.

For studios, the benefits of membership (fuller classes, new clients) outweigh the drawbacks (both companies take a percentage of the cut). By signing on as a ClassPass partner studio, Rick Zambrano, owner of REV Cycle Studio in Locust Point, hopes to gain exposure to a broader audience. “People now want the flexibility of being able to take a variety of classes and enjoy several different types of workouts as opposed to going to the [big] box gym down the street.”