Small Moves Make Big Changes

Ready to shake off the post-holiday doldrums with a fresh workout routine? Fitness aficionados across the country rave about barre studios: the positive atmosphere and community, the personal attention, and most of all, the results.

Barre fitness studios combine ballet, yoga and Pilates, with an emphasis on proper alignment from head to toes. The exercises involve a ballet barre, resistance bands or light weights, and every session works both small and large muscles groups. The precise, isometric movements are usually more challenging than they appear.

The goals? Longer, sculpted muscles, improved posture supported by a stronger core, and balance that carries over into other sports and recreation.

Kris Pursel, owner of The Dailey Method barre studio in Bend, views barre workouts as essential to supporting the active lifestyle in Central Oregon. “This is how we create the foundation for all the outdoor activities we love, from kayaking to skiing,” she says. “Building strength and stability here enhances other sports, and reduces risk of injury out there.”

Barre fitness classes can be found at the Athletic Club of Bend, Barre3, The Dailey Method, Juniper Swim & Fitness, and Move Pilates. Low-impact and joint-friendly, barre workouts provide a perfect option for fitness in 2019.

 

+ GOAL: POWER

How do small movements result in big changes? According to the Mayo Clinic, isometric exercise (which simply means holding a pose for an extended period) is incredibly effective for maintaining strength. Add in pulsing lifts, and the muscles start to quiver, then burn, break down—and rebuild stronger for the next session.

Toning the small, deep muscles is critical for core conditioning, but more visible changes happen in the large muscle groups on the arms, seat, and thighs. As isometric movements build strength and endurance, they also burn fat and sculpt muscles into a longer, more defined silhouette.

Attention to form while holding poses until muscles shake requires a strong mind-body connection, as well. Building the mental endurance and capacity to work muscles to the limit is part of the program, and part of what keeps students coming back to the barre, again and again.

 + GOAL: GRACE 

At the heart of a barre workout is attention to alignment. Picture a ballet-toned body: long, neutral spine, shoulders back and down, pelvis tucked. As this posture becomes the norm in barre class, students learn to move more naturally through their day outside of class.

A ballet dancer’s physique requires more than alignment. Long, lean muscles move more gracefully, and barre exercises specifically sculpt the arms, seat, and legs to be less bulky. Holding postures to fatigue, followed by deep stretching is the barre secret to creating graceful, lengthened muscles.

Modern living exacerbates poor posture, whether from stress or screen time. Barre’s intentional movements counter the slouch by keeping shoulders down and back, abs engaged, and neck upright. 

Barre workouts can be especially effective for post-baby recovery, says Pursel. Reactivating those small, supportive muscles that surround the core helps new moms bounce back. On-site childcare at many local studios help get new mothers to class regularly.

+ GOAL: STABILITY

Lifting heavy weights may impress some folks but staying upright on a paddle board might actually require more muscle control. Stability and balance are key components for most Central Oregon sports, and barre exercises develop the muscles needed to succeed.

The small, precise movements target deep muscles that often get neglected during other forms of training. These muscles create a girdle of sorts around the spine and pelvis, keeping the body stable. Much of the standing barre work involves graceful lifts of one leg, while the standing leg supports and stabilizes the pelvis. Without this sturdy foundation, Pursel explains, chronic injuries are more likely.

Single-sport athletes benefit from head-to-toe cross training at barre studios. Skiers gain the endurance needed to stay low and centered, runners increase their range of motion and flexibility, and those paddle boarders? Core stability is the key to staying on the board and out of the water.