Fitness method uses ballet to get in shape
March 17, 2013 11:10 PM | 2593 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Instructor Katie Lowder works with students in her fitness class at Pure Barre in Montgomery, Ala. Pure Barre is a fusion workout that combines elements of several other methods, including yoga and Pilates. <br> The Associated Press
Instructor Katie Lowder works with students in her fitness class at Pure Barre in Montgomery, Ala. Pure Barre is a fusion workout that combines elements of several other methods, including yoga and Pilates.
The Associated Press
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By Allison Griffin

The Montgomery Advertiser

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The latest fitness trend in Montgomery has caught on so quickly that the instructors can barely keep up with the demand.

The area’s first Pure Barre studio, located in the A&P Lofts in Cloverdale, opened just a few weeks ago, promising to help participants “lift, tone and burn” in every 55-minute class.

Pure Barre is a fusion workout that combines elements of several other methods, including yoga and Pilates, with small hand weights, exercise balls, resistance bands and the familiar ballet barre. There is no bouncing or jumping around in a Pure Barre workout. The movements are small and isometric — strength training moves that keep tension on a muscle or a muscle group to the point of fatigue.

The concept works areas that most people struggle with — the backs of the arms, the core, the inner and outer thighs, the back of the seat and the sides of the seat.

Most of those are areas that traditional exercises, such as squats and lunges, can’t touch, owner Katie Lowder said. And it’s more challenging than people think.

“It’s intense, in a good way,” Lowder said after she instructed a recent morning class. Despite the challenge, it is doable and safe, she said, and can be modified for all fitness levels.

Despite the ballet reference in the name, you don’t have to be a dancer to benefit from the workout, Lowder said. “You just have to be able to hold on to the barre. We’ll walk you through anything that is challenging.”

Lauren Norris, a student in a recent class, likes the challenge. “I like that it’s creating long, lean muscles, and I like its target.” She said she’s already been able to tell a difference in her body just since she joined the studio.

The barre concept has caught on, with Pure Barre and another national franchise, The Bar Method, gaining popularity nationally. And gyms in large metro areas have started to offer barre-based classes. Pure Barre only started franchising in 2009 and already has 122 locations in 33 states. Montgomery’s location is the ninth in Alabama, Lowder said.

Kelly Waite started taking Pure Barre at a couple of studios in California. She took a class on a recent morning at the Montgomery location, and stopped to talk to Lowder after.

“It’s challenging, and it’s different,” Waite said. “You know your body, so if you need to come up, you come up. If you can go lower, you go lower.”

Lowder is a life-long workout buff and has instructed all kinds of classes, including spin and CrossFit. A visit to her sister’s home in Florida a couple of years ago led her to try a class at a Pure Barre studio there, and she was immediately hooked.

“I walked out of the class thinking, I have to do this. It was just an overwhelming passion and feeling of, I don’t know how to do it, but I need to do this.”

The studio heats up quickly on a chilly morning. After a brief warm up, Lowder tells them to “leave their cares at the door,” and the real work, set to up-tempo music, begins.

She leads them through exercises on the floor and at the barre, instructing them to continuously contract the different muscle groups. It’s not long before most of them are shaking as they hold poses and movements. “That’s your muscles changing,” Lowder said.

The class flows seamlessly from one exercise to the other, with very little pause in between. The instructor will insert stretches after some movements, and everyone is encouraged to take water breaks when needed. But there is no stopping; Lowder transitions quickly from exercise to exercise, which keeps heart rates up but also requires the class members to focus.

“You have to forget everything else that’s worrying you,” Lowder said after class. “That’s one of the biggest benefits of Pure Barre — it’s the mental benefit, besides the physical.”

Unlike traditional aerobics classes, the instructor does not take part in the class. Lowder said that’s by design; it’s supposed to be like having a personal trainer in a group setting. It allows her to walk around as she’s teaching and make small corrections in form and position.

Lowder likes to have at least one other instructor who actually takes part in the class, to provide a visual example of correct posture and form. Mirrors on every wall make such self-checks easier.

And each class is different. “Our goal is that every teacher changes it up every time,” Lowder said.
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