Ballet-inspired barre workout trend grows
Movements said to boost injury recovery, mental well-being
Katie RossJune 5th, 2014
The ballet-inspired barre workout, a recent craze in women’s fitness, has made a home and grown in Spokane during the last several years with both franchised and independent studios.
Barre workouts, Spokane Barre studio co-owner Courtney Wick says, mostly involve body weight, with minimal props used.
The workout, which lasts about an hour, uses a ballet barre and a few ballet poses, mixed with some cardiovascular activity, a few weights exercises, and resistance movements, Wick says.
“Essentially, we work in isometric contraction to fatigue using body weight, then stretch the muscles back out,” she says. “We work one muscle group at a time, and the whole body is still except for the muscle group working—that’s kind of the secret to barre.”
Wick has co-owned Spokane Barre, located on the second floor at 201 W. Riverside downtown, with fiancé Kevin Tavares for about three months, she says.
The studio, which currently has four employees, was founded by Emily Rodgers about two years ago, Wick says.
Rodgers, who moved to the western Washington, decided not to go into a barre franchise, Wick says, because she wanted the studio to have a local feel.
“She wanted it to be more of a local Spokane business,” Wick says.
The physical benefits of barre, she says, range from improved posture, balance, and strength to higher metabolism.
“I’ve heard repeatedly from clients, ‘This is the one exercise I’ve actually stuck with,’” Wick says.
She adds, “Part of it is the en-vironment—it’s fun.”
Many of the physical benefits of barre result from the low-impact nature of the exercises, she says.
“It’s good for joints, back pain, and knee pain,” she says. “It’s low impact but high intensity; you choose the level.”
In addition to owning and operating Spokane Barre, Wick has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and works full time as a mental health therapist who works with students at Gonzaga University.
She says the mental benefits of barre workouts are as relevant as the physical benefits, and can help women improve their mental well-being as well as physical well-being.
Katie Wood, owner of the Pure Barre franchise outlet just west of the Spokane Valley Mall at 13910 E. Indiana, in Spokane Valley, says that the workout’s intensity helps clients improve focus and stress levels.
“It’s considered intelligent exercise; it requires as much mental focus as physical,” she says. “You’re able to completely block out life and stress, anything going on, and just focus. It’s a little bit like therapy almost.”
Spartanburg, S.C.-based franchisor Pure Barre, which has more 200 studios nationwide, regularly tests and reviews its instructors, Wood contends.
She opened the studio here last October and has six instructors. Wood estimates Pure Barre sees an average of 100 clients a day.
Mary Conklin, co-owner of The Bar Method franchise studio at 2023 E. 29th on Spokane’s South Hill, says she’s witnessed women experiencing mental health benefits from the workouts at that studio.
“One of the things with Bar Method is they just feel better inside; it’s a confidence booster,” she says. “Women will talk to me crying about it. They don’t know what’s changed, but they feel better.”
She adds, “And plus it’s not an easy workout, so when you accomplish it, you’re pretty stoked … they say there’s a runner’s high, I’m sure there’s something in barre.”
Conklin says The Bar Method’s six instructors, including the owners, had to go through about 200 hours of training to become certified in The Bar Method.
Founded in 2001, San Francisco, Calif.-based Bar Method has more than 80 certified franchise studios around the U.S., she says.
The studio here has been open since 2012, Conklin says, and uses gymnastic-grade carpet to help protect client’s joints during workouts.
“All of our movement is very small—we’re all about protecting the body,” she says. “Clients can come with a doctor’s note and we can modify for most things.”
Wick says physical therapists often recommend barre workouts as part of a patient’s rehabilitation process.
She says she’s seen clients attend barre classes to help aid in recovery from rotator cuff, knee, and abdominal injuries, as well as to ease conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and surgeries.
“We’re also big on form,” she says. “We work on safety to protect knees, backs, necks.”
Pregnant women can also benefit from keeping up their fitness during pregnancy, Wick says, and to get back in shape after delivery.
“Ab work is so good for you when you’re pregnant,” Wick says. “Recovery after baby is also faster. We get a lot of new moms.”
All the instructors at Spokane Barre are independent contractors, who took at least eight months of barre classes before being trained.
Wick says she estimates Spokane Barre sees between 300 and 400 clients a week in its classes. Participants in barre classes have the option to pick their intensity, Wick says; but, they’re probably still going to work hard.
“I love it because you can pick your own fitness level and go from there,” she says. “Our motto is to ‘embrace the shake.’ Once you fatigue a muscle, it’ll start to shake—once you’re shaking, it’s working.”
Conklin, of The Bar Method, says that the popularity of the workout has picked up significantly in the last few years.
“When we opened, people got really excited,” she says. “Now that the word is spreading, barre is like this little craze.”
Wick says she believes the barre workout industry has been up and coming for about five years.
When Spokane Barre first opened two years ago, she says it averaged 12 students a class. Now, almost every class is full with 20 students, she says.
Spokane Barre does occasionally have male clients, Wick says. She says about four or five men attend Spokane Barre classes regularly.
Wood, of Pure Barre, says she thinks part of the surge in barre popularity has to do with general fitness trending more toward studios than large, generic health clubs.
“People are tending to turn toward that community aspect of fitness now,” she says.