While there are many different types of gyms and fitness studios, in the most simplistic terms; the difference between a gym and a studio is largely based on client volume and training space.
Every gym is different, some may be devoted to a certain type of training, but usually they have an open training area for self training or working with a personal trainer and they often have 1 or more studios devoted to group classes like aerobics, spinning, yoga, and more. Some gyms are dedicated to one type of training like body building or Crossfit, while others are a 1 size fits all model. Many large scale gyms are chain gyms, here in Quebec we have Nautilus, Energie Cardio, EconoFit and World Gym, to name the most prominent.
Fitness Studios are often dedicated to a type of training such as yoga, pilates, or strength training, but some offer a range of classes to suit a variety of needs. Studios don’t usually have an open training area for drop in training, you must reserve your class spot ahead of time and you usually purchase a class pack or monthly membership.
Which type of training facility is right for you?
This will depend on a few key factors such as your preferred training style, schedule, budget, proximity to home, and your goals. If you only factor in economics or convenience; a large gym will be much more attractive to you as they are usually cheaper and have more available training times. Depending on where you live, you might have a studio very close to you and will be more likely to go there than have to travel farther to get to a large gym. You may also prefer the commitment of making a class reservation or an appointment with a personal trainer.
There are some major important distinctions between a gym and a fitness studio so let’s look at each one and see how they stack up.
We are all strapped for time so we need to take into consideration how easy it will be for you to train but also how likely are you to actually avail yourself of these conveniences.
Gyms sometimes offer 24hrs of service, or at the very least, early to late hours which means you can go whenever you have time. They also often have more class times available so you can catch a group session on your time than with a small studio. However that convenience may make it too easy for you to say “I’ll go tomorrow” or later, or “I was going to do a class but wasn’t motivated so I just walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes”. Its WAY easier to phone it in at a big gym. Finally, considering the busy hours in high volume gyms may make it impossible to follow a workout plan if the machines you need are always full.
Large gyms usually have parking which is a major bonus if you need to drive to your gym. But since they often need a massive amount of square footage and parking, large gyms are not as easily accessible in cities as studios can be.
Studios of varying sizes will offer a different variety of classes, an extensive or limited schedule and different types of services. For example, some studios only dedicate themselves to yoga so if you want to add some kickboxing to your workout schedule or strength training, you’ll need to find another studio that specializes in that. Unless of course you find a gem like Studio MoFitness that offers yoga, kickboxing, cardio dance, strength training and more! The main difficulty with a studio is matching your schedule to theirs. In some cases, it may not be worth it, but the benefit of committing to a schedule, is that you develop a consistent routine and consistency is your path to success when it comes to fitness. Cities are full of small, medium, and large studios and can often be much more accessible by public transportation, bike, or foot than large gyms.
Since COVID, many studios have developed hybrid class models which means if you can’t make it to the studio, you can follow a live class from home.
The bottom line is that both studios and gyms have different convenient factors to consider but at the end of the day, the most important thing is to remove as many obstacles between you and your workout as possible.
As with anything and especially in these particularly expensive times, cost is a major deciding point for many. When I was first starting out, cost was the only thing that mattered but as I grew to value exercise more, I changed gears and learned to understand that the dollar amount is not the only cost factor to consider.
GYM: Usually large gyms cost less because they rely on yearly plans to lock people into regularly scheduled payments whether you are in town or not. They often do not allow you to purchase a group class pack and if you want to pay monthly without commitment it will be more expensive. These types of chain gyms rely on the fact that many people sign up with the best intentions but won’t actually go regularly past January. If every member showed up at the gym on a regular basis, they would simply not have enough space. Their business model thrives on the expectation that you will not succeed. In fact, the way they run their business almost ensures your failure. (Crowded spaces, little to no interaction with fitness professionals, no investment in your individual needs, highly objective/impersonal training environment. )
With as many as 30 or more people in a group class, the instructor may remember your face but likely has no idea what weight you lift, what injury you may have, and may not have time to correct poor posture making your workout inefficient and possibly dangerous.
When it comes to Personal Trainers, large scale gyms often don’t pay them what they are worth and don’t have guaranteed hours. Once such gym in Ville St Laurent, paid 13.89$ per hour (2019) and would have a trainer work an hour here and there, as needed so you could have a client at 8am and another at 11am and one at 2pm and they would only pay you for the 3 hours you worked. This means trainers come and go quickly, you may start a program with one trainer and go through 1 or 2 more during your prepaid sessions. This makes your training inconsistent making your goals harder to reach, and it becomes difficult to trust each new trainer’s style.
STUDIO: A monthly membership at a studio might cost between 130$-300$ but you will more often than not, be one of a few in a class and the trainers will put all their energy into creating an optimal experience for you. Studios rely on a small base of loyal clients and tend to spend years developing professional relationships with their members.
Many studios are owned and operated by independent trainers who are passionate enough to start their own business and become thoroughly invested in the success of their members. They carefully select trainers who are not only incredibly proficient at what they do but also motivated in making their class a success in order to keep it on the schedule.
When you hire a personal trainer at a studio, you will train exclusively with that trainer, in our case the owners. Your success is their success as studios rely on word of mouth to increase their member base.
Coaches will often relay important information about members to each other so that they can prepare classes according to who is attending. For example; if we have a new member who is post-partum, we will let the other trainers know so that they can plan safe alternatives to specific exercises.
At the end of the day, you have to consider what your fitness investment means to you, do you value quality over quantity. If you pay for a monthly membership, but aren’t disciplined enough to actually use it, then it’s a waste and perhaps you should spend more on your wellbeing by considering the cost of accountability.
Presumably you have some type of goal for your fitness training and depending on what your starting point is you may need more attention to help you get there. Even if your goal is to simply become an active, healthy person by moving your body more, you still need some direction as to the optimal way to do this for you.
GYM: If you are a beginner, you’ll need specific instruction on how to use machines at the gym, how to safely squat, lunge, chest press, etc, in order to not only optimize your training but also do it safely. As trainers, we often see people who think they are doing something correctly, but are actually doing it poorly. So really, no matter where you think you are starting from or how much knowledge you think you have, hiring a certified and experienced trainer will only benefit your overall training. Even now, when I feel unsure of my form, I ask another coach or research it thoroughly.
STUDIOS If you have specific goals, they may not align well with the regular fitness class schedule and you may want to invest in personal or small group training. At Studio MoFitness we, offer both; the big difference being the cost and level of 1 on 1 attention. In a small group, you will get a higher level of instruction than in a regular group class but you may need to wait till the trainer is done working with someone else in the group to address your needs, this is why the cost is lower than with Personal Training. In Small Group Training, you still have your own progressive program as you would with private 1 on 1 or group training. Your progressive training is always modified in real time as we go, in case we find something that doesn’t work, or something that works better than we thought. However if you join our regular group training schedule, our class sizes are still small enough to benefit from personalized instruction and gives you the opportunity to ask questions.
LOCAL VS BIG BUSINESS
Finally your choice may come down to an ethical decision. You may choose to add to the coffers of a large corporation that prays upon failed intentions so the executives can live a lavish life while paying their employees poorly OR you can choose to support a locally owned, family operated business that celebrates their members successes, treats you as a whole human and not just a number and uses their hard earned gains to create opportunities for their employees.
A Studio generally offers a higher quality of service than gyms but you really need to ask yourself what is important to you and consider the options that are available based on your needs.
Want to join our Small Group Training Program or try out Personal Training?
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