I am a Barre addict. There I said it. If I still could I would go each and every single day. Now that I am a Stay At Home Mom have to go at least once or twice a week or else I don’t feel that my week is complete. It’s true what the shirt says! Barre keeps the Cray at Bay!
I started going to Barre in March 2011. I was looking for a low impact class near my apartment that I could walk to and Barre was what kept popping up on my google searches. I was particularity looking for a low impact class because I have a herniated disk and did not want to injure it going to the gym. Barre is based on the Lotte Berk Method which is an exercise program built on a combination of ballet bar routines and rehabilitation therapy exercises the founder was using to help rehabilitate her back. When I read that in my research I knew I had to try it.
That first class was so hard. I could barely do any of the exercises especially the infamous pretzel. The day after the first class my friend picked me up for lunch and I was walking like I had a beach ball in between my legs. It was that inner thigh burn. She thought I got hit by a bus or something. I felt like I did.
Even though I was so sore I still went back the next day and the next and the next and the next. I went to Barre every single day. I actually started blocking out my work calendar to make sure I had time to walk to Barre and back. I would not take meetings at all during that time or go to dinner. I HAD TO GO TO BARRE. My calendar said blocked for night classes. My colleagues thought I was going to night school. I loved my walk from AT&T Park to the Embarcadero along the water to get to the studio. My job at the time was getting so crazy that going to class also helped me mentally.
What I love about Barre is that it is low impact, yet high intensity. You get a nice slow burn from slow isolated movements that totally fatigue your muscles. When you go to class the teacher always mentions the shakes. That is what you want to get to. It really changes your body.
When I moved to Walnut Creek I went back to the same Barre studio chain I was going to in San Francisco. This time I could only go during the weekends as my new commute from my office to my new home was now two hours. I would go when I could, but the studio wasn’t the same. The teachers didn’t have the same vibe as my original studio. Suddenly I was okay not going. Then out of the blue I saw a Facebook ad pop up in my feed. It was a brand new Barre Studio opening just a 15 minute walk from my house. I started getting memories of the good old days of being able to walk to the studio.
I walked in and two young women were at the front and were very welcoming. Nicole and Andrea showed me around the brand new studio and helped me get set up and then class started. It was so different. Different in a very good way. In my previous studio we would sweat for may-be 5 minutes during the duration of the whole class, at Open Barre you sweat for the whole hour. I would recognize the exercise and the positions, but the pace was so much faster and the sequencing was different. The choreography was different. It felt so young and fresh and the change that I needed to get back into fitness.
When I found them I was getting close to being one year postpartum and was ready to start taking care of myself. I am so grateful to Nicole and Andrea for opening this studio. It has truly been an integral part of my fitness journey. I still remember not being able to do a plank for the first few months and now I can do plank variations for 5 minutes and even more.
They help me build up the strength to do other exercises like HIIT, spining and lifting.
I had a chance to spend a moment with one of the Co-Owners – Andrea Holbert and I hope her insight into fitness and working out wisdom inspires you like she does with me.
Rezel: There are so many nationwide barre studios already. Why did you open your own?
Andrea: When I fell in love with barre, I was working an admin office job and feeling very unfulfilled. Sounds cheesy, but I wanted to feel like my life had more of a purpose. I have always been interested in health and fitness and anatomy/ physiology (which I studied in college), and grew up dancing which kept me in shape, but could never get myself excited about going to the gym. When I first tried barre, I almost immediately started to dream of having my own studio to help other people find a safe, effective, and fun way to improve their health and fitness, just like I once again had! I looked into some of the big barre franchises, and even began to write my business plan around one in particular, but later decided to do it without a big brand name. When opening a franchise, you have to play by their rules- some of which I didn’t agree with.
We wanted to have the freedom to use my own choreography, playlists, pricing structure, and overall- have the flexibility to cater to our clients’ needs. For example, when I saw that our clients could benefit from more cardio, I added HIIT classes and partnered with a spin studio. When I feel our clients are getting stronger and have the proper alignment down, it’s time to throw a new prop into the mix to keep things interesting and avoid plateau. I also had noticed that while so many of our clients were seeing incredible results, there were also many who would just pop into class a couple times per month and to no surprise, they didn’t seem to be improving. They needed extra help with motivation, setting a strategy, and diet help. To make sure we could help those women reach their goals as well, we began to offer a 12 week program, personalized to the client’s individual needs, including a mix of diet help, strategy setting, accountability, progress tracking, and mindset coaching, etc. and it’s been incredible! If we had opened as a franchise, we wouldn’t be free to make those kinds of decisions, and our clients wouldn’t be getting a personalized experience based on their needs.
We also wanted to create a barre studio where each instructor could use her individual fitness background expertise to put a spin on barre for a unique and constantly evolving experience, and not be stuck to a script or the same exercises each time. I’m not bad-talking other barre studios- a big name franchise is what made me fall in love with barre in the first place! Nothing wrong with consistent routines- there is definitely something to be said about muscle memory, and I know some people prefer it that way- but we wanted to create a studio for the other half of the barre loving population who may get bored with that consistency, or fall into a plateau. It was also important to us to create a space where everyone feels welcomed- not intimidated or judged, which is why we don’t have a lot of studio rules or strict policies. In a way, we want people to feel like they are coming into our home and not a business.
Rezel: What I love about Open Barre is how often you change the choreography. How do you come up with so many new moves so often?
Andrea: Thank you!! It always makes me happy when people acknowledge that because it is a lot of hard work (although it is a lot of fun!) The choreography and planning process here differs from instructor to instructor. To plan my classes, I mostly stick to traditional barre exercises and structure, but I get bored repeating the same combinations and exercises that I learned in my initial training, so I like to get creative. I think the 15 years+ of dance experience (primarily ballet) helps me to come up with different flows and variations. I’m constantly researching new exercises and alignment safety/ effectiveness too! An online subscription to an ongoing barre training program called Barre Intensity helps me when I have a mental block and need some inspiration. Other than that, it’s just a matter of mixing up the props and the variations to focus engaging the working muscle group in a slightly different way that makes all the difference. I draw elements of Pilates, yoga, ballet, and even physical therapy into the mix- so there’s plenty to work with!
Rezel: Any advice to all the barre newbies out there? I know the most common question is how soon will they see results. How many classes a week should a new person take?
Andrea: Newbies should never feel intimidated or nervous to try! Everyone starts somewhere and there are always modifications to take it down a notch when needed. 99% of people (pretty much everyone but you, Rezel- hehe) take breaks throughout the class as needed. So I’d like newcomers to keep that in mind. They will need to take breaks, and that’s a good thing! It means there is plenty of room for growth. I’d also like to say, don’t be hard on yourself. Think positive, have fun with it, and take breaks when your body (not your mind) is telling you to! There is a small learning curve, but staying focused on your body and listening to the specific cues given by the instructor will make the hour fly by. Don’t give up after one class- try a few more times and you’ll start to crave it! Also-it really is for everyone. Among our regular clients we have women who had never worked out a day in their life, to fitness addicts. We have a 15 year old, two 80-somethings- (and every age in between, of course), former dancers, pregnant women, overweight women, underweight women, and plenty of injured clients needing a safer low-impact way to exercise… I’d like to note, not injured from us, obviously. So don’t be scared to give it a try!
As far as results, with consistency and effort in the classes, you can expect to see lean toned muscle, better posture, reduced back pain, increased flexibility and strength, weight loss (if you don’t increase your diet or even better, if you start eating healthier), and mental benefits- such as reduced stress levels, increased confidence and energy, better coordination, etc. Consistency is key- generally coming 3-5 times per week is ideal, but it all depends on your current fitness level and lifestyle as well as your goals. I’ve had clients see results not doing any other form of exercise and coming only twice per week for a month (hey-something’s better than nothing!) but the more frequent you come, the faster you’ll see results and the greater the results will be. I’m always up to talk to our clients about their specific goals, fitness level, and lifestyles to help determine how often they should be coming. For most women, a safe bet would be to say 3-4 times per week is good enough though, and 5 times per week would be ideal!
Rezel: With some barre studios cardio is a taboo topic. What is your opinion on it and how often should it be incorporated into a persons workout routine?
Andrea: I’m a big believer in cross training. I don’t exactly practice what I preach though- My exercise routine is strictly barre for the most part, and it works for me! I do try to throw in a spin class or a HIIT class here and there- which are the only ways I can stand cardio. With my schedule (and all of the classes I teach) it’s difficult to fit that in without over training. I DO think cardio is important- not so much for weight loss, but for your heart-health and overall fitness. That’s why we incorporate cardio blasts into our classes- for people like me who do only barre, to make sure they get a more well-rounded workout. As far as how often you should be doing cardio, every body is different. If you’re trying to lose weight, cardio could potentially be doing you a disservice though. Be mindful of how you’re eating on days you do your cardio. If you’re eating much more than normal, you should consider decreasing your cardio sessions and increasing resistance training (like barre). Cardio’s place in weight-loss is burning calories, but if you end up eating more calories than you otherwise would have, you’re not making any progress. If you can lift weights or take a barre class, etc. and keep your diet relatively the same (and make sure you’re getting enough protein), you’re building muscle to increase your metabolism EVERYDAY, not just a one and done calorie burn like with cardio.
Another topic I’m passionate about is how important it is to make the majority of your workouts low-impact. Too much running or jumping, etc. is SO hard on your body, and overtime as all of that impact is absorbed by the joints, the cartilage starts to wear down and cause injuries and aches and pains. For most people, it’s just not sustainable. Exercise is supposed to keep us more fit, not run us into the ground. In my opinion, a healthy pain free, but average looking body, is more “fit” than an injured body that can no longer take a walk without being in pain- no matter how buff or in-shape they may appear. There are plenty of low-impact ways to get cardio in- like swimming or cycling. However, a little impact IS good for bone density and bone health, so throwing in a run or HIIT class here and there is a good thing, I just don’t think we should go overboard with the pounding on our joints. Walking is also great for the bones! I just believe we should be nice to our bodies.
Rezel: Lastly just for fun – What is your favorite dance move?
Andrea: My favorite dance move is a grand jete, which is a ballet split leap! You can see her do on Instagram!
If you want to come try this class with me you can do it for free! Just sign up here.
They are also on ClassPass if you wanted to add them to your studio rotation.
In addition they are offering a free consultation for the 12 week program that Andrea had mentioned above for people wanting to make a big change in their health- usually the programs are structured for weight loss and toning up, but they can also help women who want to gain weight or become more flexible! Depending on what the client needs, it can include a mix of diet planning and diet accountability, barre, spin, workout strategy setting, mindset coaching, progress tracking, and more. The application for a free consultation can be submitted here.
Walnut Creek Financial Plaza
675 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Suite B-106
Walnut Creek, CA 94596