Don’t let the ballet roots of barre classes fool you. These dance-inspired workouts are a terrific avenue for 50+ athletes to increase flexibility and joint strength in a fun and motivating environment. The best part about barre class is no dance experience is needed. Just bring a water bottle, sticky socks and a desire to get a full-body workout in 55 minutes.
Tena Sprenger, who discovered barre classes at Pure Barre in Gilbert, Arizona, is a big fan. Pure Barre is the largest barre franchise in the United States.
“As a 50-something woman, my metabolism is way different than it was five years ago,” Sprenger explains. “The things I was doing at the gym weren’t working any more.” So Sprenger tried something new. She now attends classes four to five times weekly. “I love it. I can’t wait to get there!”
While a ballet barre is front and center stage, the workout is most definitely not ballet. Barre classes incorporate small, isometric muscle movements designed to create long, sculpted muscles on lean bodies.
“I was shocked at how hard this is. It’s definitely a total body workout,” Sprenger says. “Before I started, I was at a plateau in terms of weight gain. I’ve always been active, but I found that the same exercises I was doing were not working the same. Since I’ve been going to barre, I’ve lost almost 15 pounds and 30 inches.”
Sprenger, who has been a tap dancer for 30 years, insists barre requires no rhythm. “The most challenging thing is you use muscles that will allow you to become more flexible than you’ve ever been.”
She adds that the isometric movements of barre have made a difference in her muscle tone, as well. “My arms actually look better than they looked when I was lifting heavy weights. When your body is shaking, it’s changing. They say, ‘embrace the shake.’’
The small movements done in barre classes reduce pressure on joints, tendons, ligaments and spine and improve core strength and posture. “I am so much stronger everywhere and feel like I’m taller,” Sprenger says. “I’m beyond hooked.”
More Than a Workout
Barre is very much a community-driven exercise experience. The camaraderie, friendships and support among class members are evident just from attending one class.
“So many people in my age range are doing barre, and we get so much out of it, so much more than a workout,” says Sprenger. “I have a whole new group of friends, and I have reconnected with seven or eight people in just the few months I’ve been going.”
Pure Barre owner Christine Pacheco would agree. Pacheco encourages the community atmosphere by hosting events like Wine Day Wednesday or Happy Hour at the Barre. “As women, it’s hard to make friends as you get older. Over the years, my good friends have either moved away or moved on,” she says. “It’s so neat to see people connect through barre.”
Pacheco invested in the Pure Barre franchise after working much of her career in higher education. She combined her desire to be a business owner with her degree in business management and love of fitness and found Pure Barre to be a perfect match. “I took my first barre class in Denver and fell in love with it immediately,” she says. Pacheco’s franchise opened just over a year ago.
Inspired Healthy Aging
Pacheco, who is in her early 40s, knows the benefits barre can have on the aging body and sees value in supplementing any fitness regimen with barre classes. Having flexibility and strength allows you to enjoy a longer, active life free of injuries.
“It not only builds confidence through a new challenge, but it also builds a stronger body,” she says. “It’s just safer for the joints, and there are so many modifications we can offer to clients depending on their fitness levels, that anyone can do barre and see results.”
Asked for her top tips for getting started, Pacheco recommends:
- Go for it! Take a class. Come early and talk to the instructor about any concerns you might have.
- Have fun! Barre is a musically driven workout, and the time passes very quickly. Ever-changing choreography and the encouragement of instructors guarantee you won’t experience the exact same class twice.
- Ask questions! Because barre is a smaller setting than larger group classes at the gym, you’ll get a more personalized experience and access to instructors and staff.