Studio Savvy

Nina Badzin gives us the scoop on local fitness options.

Although walking is my favorite form of exercise, I’ve heard the messages from doctors and trainers reminding me that turning 40 means it’s time to get serious about working my muscles and adding new challenges to my fitness routine. Regular strength training is the best tool to combat the yearly losses of muscle mass and metabolic function that come with aging.

If you also need to shake up your routine or you’ve been curious about the ever-growing number of small fitness studios in St. Louis Park, join me on my tour of some of the many local options.

Haute Barre
Barre has existed on the exercise scene for long enough now that people have stopped confusing the regimen with a dance class. In case there’s any doubt, I promise there are no leaps or spins at Haute Barre, located in the West End shopping center with easy underground parking and above ground ramps. I sampled a variety of classes at Haute Barre and felt a good challenge during each one. “We want every minute of your workout to count,” owner Amber Eggert says.

Eggert opened the studio in 2013 and takes pride in its reputation as a welcoming and fun atmosphere with an efficient workout for every muscle group. She opened with classic barre classes, but has since added options such as yoga and classes incorporating more cardio and heavier weights. I found the studio clean and friendly, and I particularly appreciated the quick transition from walking in the door to starting the workout. If you sign up in advance, you know you have a spot and can arrive two minutes before class begins, a perk not possible in a big gym.

Several types of monthly memberships are available, as well as class packages and drop-in rates.

Co-owners John Grubb, Steph Winters and Brent Albrecht created Fitspace in a spacious studio off Beltline Boulevard with the intention to turn the gym model upside down. They do not offer memberships because putting the customer first means acknowledging that clients like to maintain variety in their fitness routines, with activities like running, golf, tennis, and skiing in addition to classes at other studios around town. They want Fitspace to aid in a client’s entire fitness and overall health routine.

Grubb, Winters and Albrecht focus on the long-term relationship with their clients who come to Fitspace for personal training, small-group training, yoga, Pilates or even self-led time on the weight and cardio machines. Other options include sessions with the two dietitians on staff or a physical therapist, metabolic tests and seminars. Independent trainers have access to the space as well.

Packages and single-session rates are available for individual and small-group training, in addition to the other services.

Vinna Fitness
At Vinna Fitness, located on Dakota Avenue near Highway 7 and the library, there are free weights, mats, ropes and other ways to work your muscles rather than weight machines. The only cardio equipment is a section of rowing machines and stationary bikes, which founder Jason Green says aids posture problems that many clients don’t even realize they need to improve. Green and co-owner Lani Varela are committed to helping clients, most of whom are between 40 and 85, stay active and strong for the other activities they want to pursue and to stay free of injuries.

In addition to clients who come via word of mouth, based on Green’s years training athletes at the University of Minnesota, Green and Varela also get referrals from orthopedic surgeons, physicians, and physical therapists. At Vinna they have a reputation for creating programs that are great for clients who want to ramp up their fitness, increase flexibility, work toward weight loss and get back into fitness safely post-surgery.

 Every new client goes through a functional movement screen (FMS) and a medical evaluation to determine the program for the next six weeks, which helps the coaches understand any specific needs a client might have in group classes, too. FMS is the same screen all professional athletes undergo. “Everything we tell you to do, we can tell you why,” Green says. “Our big thing is educate, educate, educate.”
Three levels of membership give clients differentiated access to personal training, semi-private sessions, and classes. All clients get new personalized programs every four to six weeks.

When I walked into Alotapilates on West Lake Street by St. Louis Park High School, I immediately appreciated the calm, comfortable atmosphere. Founder and co-owner Jenny Jennings says she purposely doesn’t play loud music and she’s made a point in her 20 years in business to stick to Pilates without trying to do anything else. At Alota Pilates they have a fully stocked studio with mat, reformer, spring and Wunda chair classes.

Jennings says clients tend to come between one and four times a week, utilizing a combination of private or duet sessions in addition to classes of up to four clients. The average age of clients is in their 50s (though clients range from 45 to 80) and most are women, though men come as well. Jennings emphasized how important it is to her and her team that clients feel comfortable and safe in the studio no matter their age, shape or level of fitness.

Package rates are available for all classes, private and duet sessions rather than membership options. 

Additional Options in Golden Valley & Hopkins

At 9Round they pride themselves on a total-body 30-minute workout that begins at the client’s convenience. The workout is a circuit that starts every three minutes, so there is no specific time you need to arrive. Manager Katie Deeney says, “If you can do the 30-minute session twice in a row, you didn’t work hard enough the first time.”

At Yogatiques in Hopkins just off Mainstreet, clients can choose from Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and other styles of yoga; appropriate for all levels. The studio also features workshops and events.