Exhale Evanston: Your new workout spot?
Inside a workout session conducted by John Nelson, mind body manager at Exhale.
Photos by Jimmy Yook / North by Northwestern

“One and exhale... That’s right, ladies, keep going. Two and exhale.” My legs are basically shaking so much that they are vibrating as I sink down into my 16th plié at Exhale Evanston. I’m convinced they’ll be jello once the hour is up. A techno pop beat bumps in the background as a live DJ in the back corner of the studio mixes motivating music while 20 or so women sweat, squat and squeeze their way through this grueling barre workout. 

Exhale Evanston opened its doors this past week creating another indoor space for Evanston residents and Northwestern students to get their sweat on this winter. The new workout studio, which is located at 1890 Maple Avenue – connected to the ground floor of the apartment complex E2 – features a sleek hardwood-floored classroom complete with mirror and ballet bar-lined walls. Additionally the front entrance features a small wellbeing boutique, characterizing Exhale as what it calls a “boutique fitness studio”.

Exhale, which has locations across the country and abroad, is a company founded by Northwestern alumna Annbeth Eschbach in 2002. Eschbach decided to create Exhale after spending the entirety of her career thus far in the fitness and spa industry. 

“I realized that there was this burning need for an experience that was all about well-being that included both spa and fitness in an authentic high quality way,” said Eschbach. “I put a business plan together, trademarked the name Exhale, pulled a really incredible team together and birthed this company.”

The company has now expanded to 2000 employees with 28 properties, Evanston being the most recent. While most locations consist of spas, healing centers and built-in fitness studios, in the last few years the company has begun launching boutique fitness studios, like Evanston location, that solely focus on their specialized classes.

Exhale Evanston offers hour-long barre, barre cardio fusion, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and yoga classes ranging in difficulty and intensity. The company focuses a lot on the mind-body connection and how this can be taken into consideration to create the most beneficial workout.

So how does Exhale measure up to Northwestern’s other fitness options? For students various factors come into play including price, time, location, quality and style.

If price is your largest concern, the classes at Henry Crown would be the more economical choice, since they are free of charge with your WildCARD.

Weinberg freshman Carina Kaplan says that the convenience and no cost factor of Henry Crown has made the classes there appealing to her. She has tried both spinning and yoga classes at Northwestern’s facility.

In addition to spin and yoga, Henry Crown offers pilates, HIIT, core conditioning, zumba, and dance aerobics.

“I feel like [a class] forces me to work out because it is sometimes hard to motivate myself. So it is nice to know that I am going to be somewhere for an hour doing something,” Kaplan said.

Henry Crown is also ideally located for those living on North Campus, especially students in Bobb or Sargent.

However, Weinberg freshman Avery Wallace thinks that Henry Crown classes can feel less intense than those offered at a fitness studio. She recalls an instance when she took a yoga class there and people came in late, disrupting her yoga practice.

“I feel like a lot of the places off-campus are a little more serious and you can get into the zone a little more,” Wallace said.

So, if you’re looking for more of a serious workout, it sounds like venturing outside the close comforts of Henry Crown might be key. 

Pure Barre used to be the primary option for those looking to get off campus or a more intense environment than Henry Crown, with student groups like STITCH holding events there and sororities attending classes together. But now there’s a new barre buddy in town. How do Pure Barre and Exhale compare?

Both studios are located about a 5 to 10 minute walk from south campus with Pure Barre situated across the street from Urban Outfitters and Exhale right next door to E2 (so both are a little bit of a trek for North Campus folk). 

Classes are priced at both studios at $25 a session, with membership options available. While this may sounds little steep for student budget, keep mind these studios typically seem to offer a much more intense workout than your typical Henry Crown class. 

Amber Cline, STITCH magazine’s director of events, recalls how hard the barre class she took at the magazine’s fall event at Pure Barre was. Barre classes are essentially ballet-inspired fitness classes that utilize ballet moves like pliés along with elements of pilates and yoga to create a full-body workout.

“You use a lot of muscles you don't normally use and the movements are very small, so it was hard sometimes to see what the instructor was doing. But I left feeling great,” Cline said.

I’d have to agree that the barre class I tried at Exhale left me feeling a splendid combination of extra energized and wonderfully sore.

While they both seem to offer worthwhile, grueling barre classes, Exhale has the added benefit of additional types of classes that give you more options with regards to intensity or style.

For those who want to tone and stretch, and perhaps give sore butt muscles from barre a break, Exhale offers hour-long flow style yoga classes.

Or for those who want to get their heart rate pumping, especially in those dark months when outdoor runs aren’t an option and treadmills aren’t your friend, the new fitness studio offers their version of a HIIT that incorporates core work, heavy weights, suspension training and cardio all into one class.

Cline, the STITCH director, said she would definitely be interested in checking out Exhale, especially if it helped her mix up her workout.

“I'm always looking for a new workout routine that I love because otherwise it's hard for me to stick with it,” she said.

Exhale CEO Eschbach hopes that in addition providing some new and entertaining classes for students to try, the fitness studio can help them maintain mental health and well-being.

“The Northwestern community consists of really driven kids who I think more than anything else in the world would value well-being and something that is hugely efficient like a one hour class,” said Eschbach. “ I know if I had had this experience when I was going to school, not only would I have thrived but it would have helped me survive.”


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