So Much More Than A Workout

How one local studio is attempting to change the culture of fitness spaces

by Lily Ferguson / Garnet & Black

In recent years, some have started to shy away from traditional health clubs or gyms due to a sense of toxicity and competitiveness. This change has led to the boom of boutique fitness studios in the past few years. Boutique fitness studios are smaller gyms that specialize in a certain type of experience for their members. These studios often have intimate class sizes and a sense of community. Even with this sense of community, many of these clubs are shrouded with the veil of exclusivity that doesn’t cater to all members of our society. 

But a former University of South Carolina student is hoping to change that narrative. 

“I remember when my sister went to a boutique studio and she said, 'Is there a uniform? Like do you have to wear a uniform there?... Everybody looked the same,'”  Lauren Truslow, owner of two barre3 fitness studios in the Columbia area, said.

In a world of athletic exclusivity, the barre3 fitness studio attempts to break many of the toxic barriers found in the fitness world. Truslow, a local entrepreneur, opened her first barre3 studio in 2014. Aimed at trying to foster a community of inclusivity, barre3’s fitness model focuses on meeting its members where they are. 

“We celebrate modifications and options. We celebrate body size and we celebrate our differences,” Truslow said. “I love that when you look around our room there are different ages, different shapes, different sizes, different backgrounds, different jobs. I think that is what makes barre3 so unique.” 

Providing spaces that allow unique identities, stories and perspectives to be reflected is important to making spaces more inclusive of all body types. 

Notable celebrities such as Lizzo have helped to change the narrative and make a workout about more than just losing weight. She has used her platform to further the scientifically backed idea that weight is not synonymous with health. In a TikTok from June of 2020, “I’m not working out to have your ideal body type, I’m working out to have my ideal body type,” Lizzo said. “Health is not just determined on what you look like on the outside.” 

As found in Women’s Running,  there is a multitude of scientifically-backed benefits of exercise that aren’t weight loss. Examples are stress relief, improved sleep and an overall gain in energy. Connecting with your body and having time for mindfulness is a core aspect of the barre3 program. 

“We’re so much more than the workout,” said Truslow. “I want you to get your heart rate up. I want you to do strength training. But then at the end, we're going to have mindfulness time and we're going to connect to ourselves.”

Lizzo has also helped to bring the term body neutrality to the forefront of this conversation. It is a philosophy that focuses on accepting your body in its current state and acknowledging what it is capable of doing. A fitness studio such as barre3 helps to exemplify this by allowing modifications to their workouts. 

“You have to meet people where they are so they can feel successful. Pretty quickly out of the gate, I got pregnant with twins when I opened my first [barre3] studio,” Truslow said. “I feel like that kind of was a turning point for me personally … because my body just physically wasn't able to do what I was able to do prior. It made me celebrate and love the fact that we modify it for our clients.”

The world of fitness is clouded with messages of loving yourself unconditionally and the commercialization of the body positivity movement. Practicing body neutrality allows for people to meet themselves where they are and accept their body in its current state. Working out is more than just losing weight. It is about mindfulness, an increase of energy and connecting with oneself.