I’m considering November and December my “off season.” I want to continue to train harder, get faster and run well, which means that my body need some down time. I’ve been training and racing hard since the spring. I enjoy the hard work and love the racing, but I need a break physically and mentally. [FOr a great article on why an off season is necessary, check out Lindsay's post HERE.] While I’m not taking a break from running completely I have reduced my mileage quite a bit: since my last race on November 3rd, I’ve been running every other day. Which has given me the chance to branch out. I’ve incorporating cross training into my weekly routine in the form of Jillian Michael’s “30 Day Shred” and this weekend I had the chance to try something completely new to me: Barre.
If you’re unfamiliar with Barre it is a fitness class that combines elements from ballet, Pilates, Yoga and strength training. It seems that each instructor and studio has a slightly different concept of what that looks like, and classes can be very different. The class that I attended at BarreLogic in Portsmouth, NH was exactly as described on their website:
Barre is a 75 minute, open level method of fitness and strength training that encourages length and flexibility while getting stronger. Originally created in the 1950′s by German dancer Lotte Berk, Barre has taken on many varying forms and has since evolved and been perfected by her disciples. The class incorporates Yoga, Pilates, free weights, stretch and a hint of traditional Ballet. Unlike traditional workouts, Barre pushes the body to its threshold while fighting to maintain proper alignment and freeing the joints from additional stress. Barre is a challenging, results oriented, core based workout set to great music and will have you looking and feeling stronger while avoiding injury.
That part about the pushing the body to its “threshold.” Yeeeah. That part. That’s the point when you’re legs start shaking uncontrollably, despite every attempt to hold them steady and “contract deeper” into the movement as instructed. That’s the part where my butt got a good, solid and swift kick. Everything about the class was challenging, which I absolutely loved.
We started in the middle of the room with a brief warm up that involved sweeping arm and leg movements to get the heart rate elevated. We moved on to strengthening the upper body. The movements were small and deliberate and despite only using 2lb weights my arms were worked to fatigue. About half way through the upper body segment I had to put my weights down and continue without them. After working our upper body standing we moved to the floor and carried out a series of plank holds and push-ups and more. Each variation of the movement worked a new group of muscles.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly do anymore with my arms we moved to the barre, where a strap, theraband, ball and mat waited. The work at the barre was a complex mix of pulling, pushing, stretching and contracting all targeting muscles in the legs and core. At one point we were laying flat on our backs with our feet against the wall, our belly rounded all while pulling the strap with our arms down towards our belly. Somehow the pulling of the strap intensified the contraction of the muscles in the abdomen and made the move THAT much more difficult. After spending sometime with the core we moved on to the lower body and a combination of leg circles and raises had every muscle in my leg quivering. And in between each major section we spent time stretching and lengthening the body, which is exactly what these tired runner muscles needed.
The class, taught by Jocelyn Carey, co-owner of BarreLogic, was slightly over 75 minutes and from start to finish she had us engaged. Her verbal cues and personal attention to each person in the class made it easy for a newbie like me to fit right in to the swiftly moving workout. At no point did I feel lost or confused, I felt continually encouraged and pushed to do more if my body was capable, which is the sign in my opinion of a great instructor. She was also careful to correct form and her frequent suggestions ensured that I got the best workout possible.
By the end of the class I was sufficiently exhausted in the most satisfying way. Every part of my body felt worked. I don’t have much experience with group fitness classes, but I have to same I’m hooked and will be returning to her class in the near future.
Have you tried barre? What do you like about it?
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