Group of people working out in a class on yoga mats.
The start of a new year propels exercise motivation among many people, and these boutique gyms are trying to help members achieve their goals while providing feelings of community. — Getty Images/Nitat Termmee

The New Year’s resolutions are in full swing and fitness is probably at the top of most lists. Coincidentally, most gym enrollments occur in January and taper off throughout the year. Regardless of when someone decides to start their fitness journey, these small boutique gyms are dedicated to helping people achieve their goals, offer built-in accountability, and cultivate groups of like-minded people to cheer each other on.

Wellbee Fitness

Based in Orange County, California, Wellbee is a dream come true for Iva and Tom Heckmann. When the couple met, Tom was an accomplished investor and executive at 24 Hour Fitness. Iva had an extensive background as a fitness instructor and studio owner. They both got their entrepreneurial spirit from their families, and collaborated to open Wellbee.

Iva and Tom were new to Huntington Beach when they opened Wellbee in 2016. Their mission was to foster an inviting, community-driven environment. The coaches are the face of the business, rather than Iva and Tom, which is what they always wanted. The trainers really get to know everyone and have organically created a sense of belonging for the “hive’s bees.” Iva said, “I want to make sure everyone who visits our gym feels that sense of community. I just want it to give that feeling of ‘I belong here.’”

There are currently seven Wellbee studios spanning Huntington Beach, Anaheim, and Yorba Linda. Classes offered include bootcamp, spin, and yoga. The gym is also experimenting with a yogalates/spin class called spLIT at its North Huntington location.

It’s Working Out

Kristen McAuliffe opened It’s Working Out in 2011 and had been a group exercise coach and personal trainer for 20 years prior to that. She and her staff have a combined 100 years of experience in the fitness industry, sharing ideas and wisdom with each other to optimize the gym members’ experience. Having seen many fitness fads come and go, TRX Suspension training is one that Kristen firmly believes in and centralizes at It’s Working Out.

Beyond group classes and one-on-one sessions, this Cincinnati, Ohio studio stands out as having the tri-state’s only golf performance fitness program. On staff are five Titleist Performance Institute (TPI)-certified trainers and a TPI-certified physical therapist. These golf-specific exercises improve mobility and stability, strengthen the core and enhance balance, and educate about the anatomy of the body-swing connection.

Those who are interested must complete a screening to identify physical limitations and communicate personal goals. The TPI trainers will even work with the gym-goer’s swinging coach, if they have one, to correct any poor posture or swinging habits that might negatively impact their game.


Angelica Segura and Julia Hammerer are on a mission to bridge the gap between strength and serenity. With the help of crowdsourcing and partnership with Emma Straight, owner of Boulder, Colorado’s Kondition studio, MELTprjct came to fruition in 2019.

Originally from Barcelona, Angelica and Julia moved to Boulder with the dream to open their own studio. They found there was something missing in fitness programs and wanted to design classes that melded spirituality and physicality. So, they came up with the concept of “mindful sweat.”

Mindful sweat is the overarching philosophy at MELTprjct. Each class begins with five minutes of reflection and intention-setting to guide the workout. This is followed by 45-60 minutes of combined boxing, strength training, and conditioning. For an even more flexible experience, MELTprjct offers both in-person and online sessions, and some outdoor classes as well.

Iva said, “I want to make sure everyone who visits our gym feels that sense of community. I just want it to give that feeling of ‘I belong here.’”

Iva Heckmann, Co-founder, Wellbee Fitness

Maxed Out Fitness

Personal trainer, fitness model, and American Natural Bodybuilding Federation (ANBF) pro, Ashley Hesgard, is the owner of Maxed Out Fitness in Annapolis, Maryland. This boutique gym specializes in personal and athletic training, small groups, boot camps, and nutritional consulting. With an emphasis on customization, these programs are tailored to each member’s unique needs to develop personalized exercise routines and meal plans.

With over 20 years of experience as a personal trainer and strategic meal planner, Ashley embarked on her journey as a business owner in 2020. The studio opened in 2021 and has gained traction in the area, voted as 2023’s best gym, best boot camp, and best personal trainer in Annapolis.

Maxed Out Fitness offers 24/7 gym access for its members and hosts fun or charitable events throughout the year.

The Studio (MDR)

An America’s Top Small Business honoree, The Studio (MDR) was founded in 2011 by New York City transplant, Lisa Hirsch-Solomon. Centered around the Lagree Method, The Studio (MDR) offers full body workouts that combine elements of Pilates, yoga, and strength training on Megaformer machines. These machines provide support for controlled, smooth, and safe movements.

After 15 years as a successful music and entertainment executive in NYC, Lisa moved to Los Angeles and pursued her desire to own a fitness studio. Living with epilepsy, exercise and nutrition have always been important to Lisa, and after meeting Sebastian Lagree in 2009, she began learning and practicing the Lagree Method. Her studio was initially intended to empower women through health and wellness, but men like actor Cuba Gooding Jr. and Olympian Conor Dwyer have proven it benefits everyone.

The class offerings range from novice to advanced, some that involve spring-loaded stretching, meditation, or modifications for expecting and postpartum mothers. There are currently five studios in Marina del Rey, Culver City, Playa Vista, and Manhattan Beach.

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