For the longest time I wanted to take a barre class. I’d read a few blog posts touting the benefits of barre and it just sounded like something I’d enjoy. I tried to get to a class early last year, knowing it would be good for my postpartum body but it never materialized. Then I ran all summer and fall and never had “time” to go. When my racing season ended in November my mind and body were ready for something different. A friend invited me to go with her and I jumped at the chance (it’s helpful to have a friend with you when you start something new). One class was all I needed to fall in love with barre. It was everything I’d hoped it would be: challenging and fun. The 75 minutes of that first class flew by and I was hooked. I went home and immediately signed up for ten more classes.
Part of the reason why that class was so good was the instructor, Jocelyn Carey, LMT. A powerhouse in the studio, she is able to find a perfect balance between instructing, encouraging and challenging participants regardless of their experience. Jocelyn (also a licensed massage therapist and experienced dancer) and her business partner, Chiropractor and barre instructor, Cassie McCracken, DC started BarreLogic with the intention of helping their clients increase strength, flexibility and an overall connection between the mind and body.
After signing up in November I’ve attended class once a week for the past few months. I’ve seen an increase in core strength that is especially noticeable when I am running hard, I feel like I have power that I’ve never had before. I’ve also noticed, thanks to the stretching we do in class that my muscles, specifically the areas that are chronically tight like my hips and back, are lose and move with ease. If I skip a week and don’t go to class I can tend to feel tight and restricted. Another happy by product is the tone in my arms (who doesn’t love toned arms??), which I’ve never had before because all I usually do is run, run, run.
I’ve seen the benefits of making barre a part of my fitness and cross training routine, but I wanted to sit down and talk with Jocelyn specifically about why barre is perfect for runners. I had a chance to chat with her recently and here’s what she had to say:
Q: Talk a little bit about what Barre is (or isn’t). It is relatively new on the mainstream fitness scene and many people have never heard of it or have misconceptions about what it is.
Barre came about in the 1970’s and is derived from a ballet and modern dance warm up. It has developed and evolved into lots of different versions. As a dancer I tend to pull from my dance background and incorporate that into my classes, but it also pulls from Yoga, Pilates and strength training. The priority for me is to be able to move, to understand how bodies function and to get from one movement to another seamlessly with strength. The class is designed to help you hone in on the muscles that help your joints function, to strengthen your joints, the small muscles that surround them and the larger muscles as well. All while keeping it fun. I love music, that that is a big part of it. I teach with the intention that you can dig in, you can get a little deeper, you can push yourself to an edge and still feel comfortable with the design of the class and the teacher who is focused on your best interest: that being your safety and then gaining strength.
Q: What led you to become an instructor and open your own studio? I was always a teacher, I started teaching dance classes when I was young and I kept teaching all through college and after. I was a personal trainer for a while in NYC and worked in aquatic physical therapy, which is what introduced me to postural and alignment work. It is very focused on how you bring your core into every movement. I kind of fell into barre, I went and took my first barre class about 8 years ago at a small studio. The instructor was highly trained and an excellent teacher, I took one class and she called a half hour later and asked if I was interested in teaching. She could tell I had a background in dance from the way I performed in class. From there I went through training and really fell in love with what barre was all about.
Q: Running is a linear motion and as a result runners often have tight hips (IT band issues, low back pain etc). It seems there’s a lot of hip opening work in barre. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that may help a runner especially when it comes to injury prevention?
From my personal perspective it is all about function and natural movement and heightening natural movement. Running is a very natural movement. How do you support that? You support that by doing things that are a little more movement or function based. The work in barre class also helps offset the repetitive motion of running. Anything that is repetitive in the same action will wear, become weakened and breakdown. In barre class we do a lot of motions that are opened in turnout [ feet turned out at a 45 degree angle as opposed to parallel facing forward]. Working in turnout will help support your running simply by helping to create strength all the way around instead of just working in a linear motion. You have to think of the muscles in a 360 degree picture. And how the muscles function in their full range of motion. The class pushes you in small movements, intricate musculature at the attachment point, strengthening from the joints out. Learning to isolate muscles and not over-fire muscles at the same time. The premise of the class is that it all comes from your center, it is learning how to pull the core into the all your other peripheral movements. So when you’re running, how can you draw from your core? Engage the intercostals, obliques and zipper up your line and broaden your shoulders and at the same time get your legs to do the work that they are supposed to.
Q: For many female runners who have given birth, leaking while running can be a big issue. What about barre work could help these “mother runners” curtail or even eliminate these issues?
As a mother I went through teaching and taking barre class pregnant and postpartum and experienced some of the things you are talking about. Barre class addresses the intricacies of how the body functions, especially the core. When you break it down and use small specific movements. For example a pelvic tilt, when you can isolate the muscles responsible, really hold them, and then engage them deeper it really brings the brain-body connection back. Which is one of the first things to go after having kids. This class teaches you how to re-associate those muscles, to learn to engage them and then intentionally deepen the engagement. Many people may not be able to preform a pelvic tilt properly and have it be effective, so we teach that. We explain it and teach the proper form, and if it’s not right we back track and reset until you can get it and the work becomes effective. Really the power is in your pelvis and core so once you have that, from there you can gain strength.
Q: Many runners neglect to stretch or strength train and simply run, run, run. How can barre be a great balancing activity for a runner?
Stretching is like breathing, it is how you break up all the “gunk” that gets in there after hard workouts. Stretching encourages the muscle to be functional and lose as opposed to overworked and tight. The whole other component to barre is the balance aspect; you can’t push, push, push and expect that nothing will happen. The stretching will make you stronger by allowing the muscle to have that flexibility and movement. Even if you start out inflexible you can gain flexibility. It is essential for the health of your muscles; they have to be able to release in order for them to expand and contract. If the muscle contracts and contracts and contracts eventually it gets stuck and starts to pull on something else. And then you’re dealing with a lot of opposition. Your hamstrings will get tight and then your back will go. Or you’ll get some tightness in your calves and it will go into your feet, or your quadriceps and knees. Something that is essential for an athlete is taking care of the muscles and barre class can be a big part of that. It is all about balance.
Have you ever taken barre? What was your experience?
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