Barre Fitness - What's it all about?
Barre class involves movements inspired by ballet technique. Unsurprisingly, Barre was first developed by a dancer, Lotte Berk. After injuring her back, Berk came up with the idea to combine her dance training with her rehabilitative therapy and thus Barre was born.
I, myself, have spent most of my life in dance studios. I performed as a lead soloist with the Monica Loughman Ballet company, with whom I performed the lead role in the company's production of the Nutcracker and was fortunate enough to travel to St Petersburg, Russia, to receive training from top ballet mentors.
I have taken my knowledge and love of ballet fitness, training and discipline and made it accessible to the public, explaining the technique and benefits of each exercise. You do not need any dance experience to feel the benefits of Powered Barre.
Barre Sculpt vs. Barre Sweat
What's the difference? In Powered Barre Sculpt class, we will move through isolated movements targeting specific muscle groups, we work on balance, posture, flexibility and strength. This class is all about the shake and the burn.
In Powered Barre Sweat class, our attention is on getting our hearts pumping and working up a sweat. The class runs like an aerobics dance class. Simple dance routines are demonstrated and class participants follow along with the help of mirrors. “Getting the moves right” is neither important nor the main focus. It’s about treating your inner child. Jump around and play. What do we want? To move, sweat & laugh with no judgement.
Long and Lean
The majority of the exercises in Powered Barre Sculpt are tiny one-inch increments known 'isometric movements'. When we increase the number of repetitions but decrease the weight and reduce the range of motion, we fatigue the muscles in a different way. This form of training targets our slow-twitch muscles to improve muscular endurance without adding bulk, working towards that lean, sculpted dancer's body that clients always ask me about. We always joke in class that the tiniest weights can feel like the heaviest dumbbells after we complete our reps!
Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)
This is also known as the "afterburn effect". Clients often ask me how many calories they'll burn during a class. I encourage them to think less about the 60 minute class as an isolated "erasure of cakes and biscuits" and more about their day-to-day life and activities. The good news is, the more regularly you participate in heart-pumping exercise sessions, the more calories your body will burn at rest. However, the word "regularly" is the key here. Our specific Powered Barre Sweat classes are designed to get you to 70-85% of your max heart rate in short bursts of movement with regular brief recovery periods, in a HIIT style. So even after your Powered Barre Sweat session, when you're at home in front of the TV, your body is using energy more efficiently than if you'd never gotten off the couch.
Heart Health and Stamina
The American Heart Association recommends a total of 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity a week. The Powered Barre Sweat workout continuously raises and lowers your heart rate, strengthening the muscles around your heart, improving vascular function, and training your body to clear fat and sugar from the bloodstream more efficiently. The arteries expand and contract increasing their elasticity. This means your heart doesn't have to work so hard, thus lowering your blood pressure. Who knew that bopping around to cheesy pop tunes could be so good for your inner health as well as your inner diva?
Releasing Endorphins, Reducing Stress
During exercise, our body naturally releases feel-good hormones called 'endorphins'. These endorphins make you feel energised during and after the workout, ensuring you bounce out of the studio with a pink, shiny grin. You will likely sleep better and wake up refreshed. Inactivity fuels inactivity, energy fuels more energy. In short, the more you give to your exercise sessions, the more benefits you will reap in your everyday life. Our catchy playlists and groovy moves and shakes will have you laughing and forgetting your stresses in minutes. Socks on. Music up. World off.
Banana bread was on everyone’s menu in lockdown. Banana bread, however, has been a firm favourite of mine since I was a child.
I remember when my mum used to bake it for me - the urge to eat the entire loaf in one sitting, not leaving a crumb for anyone else.
When I began eating vegan, I was determined to find a version that would bring me the same joy.
After a great deal of trial and error, I have landed on this recipe…
You will need:
Preheat the oven to 200C and grease the inside of your baking tin. I also like to line the bottom with grease-proof paper.
Mash three large black peeled bananas with a fork, and then mix in the margarine and sugar before adding a dash of vanilla essence.
Sieve in 225g plain flour, a little at a time. Once blended, add in the baking powder (with a pinch of salt to activate the aeration) along with the cinnamon and hazelnuts.
Bake for twenty minutes. Check and cover with foil if the cake is browning.
Pop it back in the oven for another twenty minutes. Dip a knife into the centre of the loaf - if it come out clean, you’re done, if it comes out gooey, bake for a further ten minutes.
By now, the negative effects, on both our physical and mental wellbeing, of spending long periods of time sitting at a desk are no secret. You only have to spend a day or two at a desk job to feel it for yourself. According to The Irish Times '21 "data suggests that many of us are more inactive now than in 2019."
What can we do about it? We've got to work!
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or unattainable. The smallest of actions can create huge changes. There are so many simple actions you can take to improve how you feel.
1. Get some fresh air
Take a stroll around your neighbourhood on your lunch break. Just twenty minutes can totally boost your mood and your energy levels. If this is not possible, try to have a fresh air source, such as an open window, in the room.
2. Achy legs
Our bodies don't like to be stuck in any one position for too long. At your desk, you may feel the blood "pool" in your feet. Take ten minutes to lie on your back with your legs up the wall, at a 90 degree angle from you. Let gravity do its thing.
3. Tingling in your fingers
Take a moment, at regular intervals throughout the day, to open out your elbows, stretch your arms out, wriggle your fingers, and rotate your wrists.
4. Eye strain
Staring at the artificial light of a computer screen, straining to read, is exhausting for our eyes. Headaches, eye redness and blurred vision are just some of the unpleasant side effects. Dr. Jeff Anshell developed The 20-20-20 Rule. The rule advises that, for every twenty minutes you spend looking at a screen, you should look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds.
5. Stiff neck and shoulders
Hunched over a screen, our head is pulled forward and our shoulders become rounded. Our bodies are capable of great adaptation but, while no posture in particular can be labelled as "bad," it is once again the length of time we spend in this posture that becomes the issue. It's not long before we feel the strain on our necks and shoulders.
Take ten minute breaks to perform simple back-strengthening exercises that help open out your chest and draw tension away from your neck and shoulders. You can find simple video tutorials on my on-demand service.
6. Wake up your legs
In a seated position, our glutes and hamstrings are lengthened. This can lead to that sensation of your glutes "falling asleep". Take a ten minute break to perform some simple exercises that encourage the glutes and hamstrings to contract, and allow your hip flexors to lengthen and stretch open. You can find simple video tutorials on my on-demand service.
What is with this obsession to exercise for our outward appearance? Even as I was googling articles about breaking this cycle, the sponsored ads that popped up included How to get a bikini body at my age and New Japanese Weight-Loss Method.
I can't count the times I've had curious souls reach out to me to enquire about attending classes only to follow up with "but I'm so 'out of shape'" As an instructor, I wish I could shake that feeling off them and show them that we're all here to learn, to play, to challenge ourselves. We're all in the same boat together.
I do, however, understand the apprehension. Take me for example, I hold an EQF Level 4 PT certification. I have been awarded the National Qualification in Health, Exercise and Personal Training and yet I am often terrified to walk out onto a gym floor. It's easy to scoff "oh it's all in your head" but those feelings are very real for the person who is feeling them.
When I began my training as a fitness professional, I was so disheartened to see the huge focus that was placed on the "purpose" of each exercise being to change the outward appearance of the body. That was never the reason that I fell in love with exercise.
I was miserable in school and exercise (dancing, running) gave me an escape; a release. Exercise made me feel good.
I want to be clear that not all studios, gyms, instructors/PTs will place such a focus on physical appearance. This is also neither “good” nor “bad.” This is empowering for some and, if that's you, then please continue to enjoy what you do.
I merely want to show people that it doesn't always have to be the case.
"People should know that there are places where the teachers are more interested in showing someone who doesn't think they belong that they are capable of doing amazing things with their bodies" - Maiberg https://www.wellandgood.com/this-stunning-photo-project-will-make-you-rethink-what-a-pilates-body-looks-like/
There is more than one road to Rome. Heck, you don't even have to go to Rome if Ibiza is more your vibe. Play around with different approaches and, I promise, you can find a way to move that makes your mind and body feel absolutely fantastic.