Why barre is East Anglia's hottest fitness class
- Credit: Sylvaine Poitau Photography
If you’re looking for a great all-round exercise which will improve your fitness and strength then barre might just be it.
With moves inspired by ballet, Pilates and yoga, it’s low impact, high intensity, toning and will build strength and improve your flexibility.
So there’s little wonder that in the last few years barre has soared in popularity.
Millie Dobie runs Pilates Studio Suffolk at The New Cut in Halesworth.
She trained as a gymnast as a child, but had a bad horse riding accident when she was 15.
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She had intense physiotherapy during her recovery and went on to become a fitness instructor and personal trainer.
“People started asking me about Pilates and I really didn’t know much about it, so I went to do some training in it and I realised that those were the exercises I’d been doing for years, so I absolutely knew how brilliant it was because I’d had first-hand experience of it," she says.
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“So that’s why I took it further.”
Millie trained in teaching Booty Barre 10 years ago.
“As with all classes that start to become popular, there are different styles,” says Millie.
“The one that I originally trained in was one called Booty Barre.
"I come from a fitness background originally and then moved into Pilates and I chose Booty Barre because it’s a complete combination of the two.
“It’s a really fun class,” she continues. “It’s an upbeat class, so it does your whole body sculpting, which is really nice, it has a little arm sculpting section, and it has a very Pilates-based core section at the end.
“But it also includes yoga and dance, so it’s a really nice fusion of all those different things which I think is why it’s so popular.”
Barre workouts are divided up into sections, focusing on the major muscle groups – the arms, legs, glutes and core – one at a time.
As Millie explains, although barre incorporates ballet moves, no previous dance experience is necessary.
“It’s really joyful,” she says. “Although you are doing some basic ballet moves with a barre, there’s really no requirement to have done it before.”
With barre, movements tend to be small, but with lots of repetitions, reminiscent of calisthenics, which was popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s all what we call laterally turned out,” says Millie. “That means that you go into first position, and you’re turning out from your thighs, and when you turn your thighs out, immediately you get work in your glutes, so that is starting to create that strength work and that conditioning work that you want.
“There’s a little bit of calisthenics in there. It came from the Jane Fonda days where you used to say things like ‘feel the burn’, and it’s where you do teeny tiny movements, but lots and lots of them, so you really get that intense burning feeling in the muscles.
“You do things like turn outs, you do plies, so you’d be up on your toes to make it a little bit harder, down to make it a little bit easier."
Barre can also incorporate equipment such as exercise balls and weights.
“I think the physical benefits of barre itself are also really worth noting because it’s so toning. I don’t think I’ve ever taught a class that is as effective for legs, inner thighs, glutes, your main lower body,” says Millie.
“With Booty Barre you do an arm sculpting section so we use light dumbbells and again high repetitions so you get that nice toning work, but not bulk building,” she says.
“With CrossFit or high weight work you sort of get a bit of size, if you like that.
"With barre you don’t. You get the same kind of benefits that you get from Pilates which is long, lean, tight muscles. The idea is that you look like a ballet dancer,” says Millie.
Another variation is Barre Body.
“There really are different styles which I think is what’s so nice about it. And they are quite different," says Millie.
"Mine will be quite upbeat music and quite tempo orientated so you really get hot and sweaty, whereas Barre Body would be a little bit slower, a bit more technical, a bit more focused on the actual ballet side of it. “
If you’re new to barre, Millie recommends in person classes or live online classes, rather than pre-recorded ones.
While there are mixed ability barre classes, it is better to choose one that is tailored to your fitness level, she says.
“The exercises become, not necessarily more complex, but they become more challenging,” says Millie.
“So, for example, for a beginner we would do much more simple moves, we’d keep the heels down and we’d probably do more of the same moves, whereas once you become more familiar with it and stronger we just start to increase the intensity and make the moves a little bit more complex.
“If you’re really starting to exercise from scratch you would want a beginner class,” she advises.
Millie recommends wearing the same comfortable kind of clothes you would wear for yoga, such as leggings and a T-shirt or vest and toe socks, which will help prevent slipping on hard floors.
Exercise and movement is something we could all benefit from adding more of into our lives, with benefits for body and mind.
But to make the habit stick and become a permanent part of your life, the key is to find an exercise that you find fun.
“It’s so essential to find something that you actually enjoy and that’s not too challenging for you,” says Millie.
Visit Pilatesstudiosuffolk.co.uk to find out more.