Boutique Fitness: More Than a Boring Old Treadmill

If variety's the spice of life, then a big-box gym rat's existence must be oh-so-bland.

In fact, training yourself to a treadmill day in and day out is downright dull — especially when so many other options are available. Personalizing and diversifying a workout routine is easier than ever, thanks to health-focused smartphone apps, specialized social networks, and boutique studios.

The key to keeping your summertime fitness routine fresh is experimenting with à la carte classes and technology to create a custom regimen.

For starters, get outside. Taking an early-morning walk through your 'hood or a late- night run around the park can be invigorating. The problem? There's not much accountability. Without something to push and challenge you and track your progress, motivation is tough to come by.

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Enter two mega-popular apps: Lose It! and Map My Fitness. With the first, you can count calories, input your workouts, and set weight goals. The second can track more than 600 activities, from running to cycling, and rank your performance when you complete popular local routes. Both are available for free, though paid subscribers can get more in-depth nutritional analysis, along with sleep and step tracking on the platinum version of Lose It! ($39.99 a year). And for $5.99 a month, Map users get an ad-free experience with training plans and mobile coaching.

So, you're sufficiently motivated and you finally hit that 10-minute mile mark. To Tweet or to Facebook? Well, neither. Turns out that your friends and followers couldn't care less. According to a study commissioned by U.K.-based, more than half of those surveyed reported that social media posts about fitness and health are the most annoying — right up there with cryptic status updates and chronic food-posters. Ouch.

Lucky for you and your undying need to share, there are digital outlets for fitness-focused folks to post their victories, tips, and tricks. For example, Fitocracy users can rack up points and badges for reaching new levels of fitness while connecting with Facebook friends who also partake in the gamer-style social network. It's free to join, though a premium membership is available for $4.99 a month. If money's a motivator for you, then GymPact might be more effective. You and friends decide how many days a week you'll exercise and agree to forfeit at least $5 if you skip. The lost bucks are distributed among the group's non-slackers at the end of each week.

Without binding gym contracts, you can score those coveted workout points (or, as we noted, cash) by working out just about anywhere. More importantly, you're free to try out the latest trends. Commitment-phobes, rejoice. You can sample a butt-kicking bootcamp or super-sweaty spin-meets-yoga session without any need for exclusivity. Most specialty workout spots offer cheap deals or discounted packages for first-timers.

That's all the more reason to check out cool classes like Pure Barre, which has four Valley locations and offers a month of unlimited classes to new clients for $100, and Surfset Fitness, a simulated wave-riding ab shredder available at AZ Extreme Fit. The intro course costs $5.

Trendy? Most definitely. But it sounds a helluva lot more exciting than another hour on the elliptical. So sample away.

Ballet Fusion Fitness: When your dance-crazed pals tell you they've found a BFF, better do a double-check. They're likely talking about Ballet Fusion Fitness, a Mesa-based studio that offers a range of movement classes. Test your toes in a classical ballet course (you'll find courses for total newbs and seasoned pointe practitioners) or seriously sweat during Ballerobica, belly dancing, and ballet boxing. Do all those and you'll still have plenty of booty-shaking (and -shaping) routines to try, like floor barre and Latin. Your first class is free. After that, drop-in costs $12. Classes can also be purchased by quantity or as monthly memberships. (2655 W. Guadalupe Road, Suite 27, Mesa, 480-788-8348,

The Body Lab: What's Pilates-plus, you ask? Well, combine core-centric Pilates with fat-burning cardio — and a contraption called the Megaformer — and you get an idea. The full-body workout is the brainchild of Sebastien Lagree, who created the workout with slimming and strengthening in mind. Once you get past thinking of your spring-and-pulley exercise companion as a Decepticon relative, the 50-minute class promises to exhaust your muscles, ease stress, and get you looking lithe. The first class is free. Once you complete that, single group sessions cost $30. Class packages, private training, and memberships are available. (4414 E. Camelback Road, Suite 106A, 602-840-2885,

CoreBalance Studio: CoreBalance blends three forms of specialized fitness. The studio's lineup includes barre, Pilates, and yoga classes. But things really get rolling in spin class, where RealRyder stationary cycles help pedal people burn up to 20 percent more calories than they would on the average spin bike. Why? Well, the bicycle leans from side to side, creating a more realistic road-riding experience. There's no charge for your first class. Drop-in is $15. (3240 E. Camelback Road, 602-840-3789,

Krav Maga: FX cartoon spy Sterling Archer asserted that karate is the Dane Cook of martial arts. That would make Krav Maga the equivalent of Louis C.K. — brutal and basic. Developed in Israel, the form of hand-to-hand combat melds boxing with jiu-jitsu and focuses on delivering counter-attacks based on natural human instincts. Bonus: It burns boatloads of calories. React Defense Systems offers $20 intro classes for aspiring fighters. With four Valley locations and three training levels, they'll toughen and tone up quick. (2620 E. Rose Garden Lane, Suite 3, 602-485-5728,

Tough Lotus: If you are under the impression that hammocks are for lazy days, then aerial yoga is bound to blow your mind. The downward dog you've come to know gets deeper, higher, and stretchier when you're suspended in mid-air by a silk band. Plus, the topsy-turvy practice is said to increase flexibility with minimal strain on those increasingly creaky joints. The studio's intro class costs $12, after which individual classes range in cost from $17.60 to $20. Other classes focus on trick moves, spinal decompression, and strength training. (3050 N. Dobson Road, Suite 2, 480-287-0026,

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski