Five Favorite Boutique Fitness Studios in Metro Phoenix

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 boutique fitness studios. Here are five of our favorites in and around Phoenix.

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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 the 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. See more at www.studiobff.com.

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. See www.thebodylabaz.com.

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. Check out www.corebalancestudio.com.

React Defense Systems 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 boat-loads 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. See www.reactdefense.com.

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. Get details at www.toughlotus.com.

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