What Really Happens When You Skip Out On Stretching

We know we know, you’ve got lots of places to go, and lots and lots of things to do. But is skipping out on that final five minutes of stretching after class costing you precious workout results, and potential pain later?

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This may seem like a no-brainer, but without stretching, your muscles begin to contract and tighten after a long workout. Sometimes, achy knees or painful hips are caused by muscular contractions surrounding the joint. Stretching loosens the muscle, which aids in a quick recovery and the prevention of pain.

Similar to the initial effect, the contracted muscles will remain in their shortened state if not sufficiently stretched. Certain movements within workouts keep specific muscles in a contracted state while others are kept in a lengthened position which, over time, can result in muscle imbalances. This tightness increases the wear and tear on your joints and decreases your range of motion due to the reduced extensibility, making future injuries more likely.

When you skip a stretch after your workout the tissue remains in the position in which you left it, which can also add density, or bulk, which is why we always find time for a quick stretch in-between exercises during class to lengthen your muscle back out.

Taking time for your cool down can also increase your flexibility and mobility over time, which is thought to help avoid muscle tears, back pain, and joint issues. The 30 minutes directly after your workout are prime time to get the most out of your stretch, and ultimately see the most progress. So although skipping a stretch here and there won’t offset your entire workout, investing a little more time to loosen hard-working muscles, will set you up to be a better, pain-free barre babe over time.

If you absolutely must duck out of class early (hey at least you came right!!), here’s our top five, dynamic stretches you should perform at home. Think about holding each stretch for 30 seconds, or perform the reps listed, then repeat the entire sequence on the other side.

Low Lunge:

  1. Lunge forward with left leg until thigh is parallel to floor, and place hands on floor on either side of left foot, or on the left knee.
  2. Raise right arm straight up toward ceiling as you rotate left shoulder back. Lower hand to starting position.

Down-Dog Extension:

  1. Start in a tabletop position with shoulders under wrists and knees under hips. Press into both hands and lift your knees off the floor.
  2. Push hips up as you extend left leg behind you and press right heel down.
  3. Pull left knee in toward chest and lower into a lunge again to complete 1 rep. Do 8 reps of the entire sequence.

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Active Pigeon:

  1. Start in a straight arm plank. Pull left knee in toward outside of your left wrist, then lower left leg to floor so foot is near your right hip.
  2. Lower hips as you push through hands, lifting head and chest.
  3. Option to lower chest and forward fold for a deeper stretch. Alternately you may use a prop such as an exercise ball or pillow under your left glue for more support.

Butterfly Pose:

  1. Sit up tall with the soles of your feet pressed together and your knees dropped to the sides as far as they will comfortably go.

  2. Pull your abdominals gently inward and lean forward from your hips, being careful  not to round down from your shoulders.

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Seated Head Roll:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and clasp your hands behind your back. Lower your chin toward your chest slowly.
  2. Rotate your head to the right so that your ear is directly over your right shoulder. Hold the position for five seconds.
  3. Roll your head back down toward your chest and then to the left. Bend your neck so your head is over your left shoulder. Hold the position for five seconds. Repeat for up to 8 reps.
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Coping With Stress, Starting Today

1.) Reduce Your Intake Of Stimulants. 

Eliminating our most common vices simply isn’t realistic, and especially not all at once. So try starting small. Can you replace your second, or afternoon, cup of coffee with herbal tea? If you need wine or a cocktail to unwind after work each day, pick 1 or 2 weekdays to make a mocktail instead, drink flavored sparkling water (add fruit or herbs!), or even kombucha for a similar placebo effect. Bonus: Keeping yourself better hydrated will enable your body to cope better with stress.

You should also aim to avoid or reduce your consumption of refined sugars – they aren’t only in desserts, they’re in most manufactured foods (even salad dressings and bread), and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. Make sure to check the labels of all processed foods, and try to find an alternate brand, or better yet pick something up from your neighborhood farmer’s market to avoid all the additives!

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2.) Get Moving To Burn Off Your Stress.

Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. These are the “fight or flight” hormones that are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.

When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air (check out our previous post about the benefits of walking!).  Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. (Pro tip: make your workouts *non-negotiable* with yourself and your schedule, and pick a consistent class time to attend regularly).  Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep!

3.) Go To Sleep.

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep (stop thinking about your to-do list at 2 am!!).

Rather than relying on medication, try maximizing your relaxation before going to sleep.  Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as alcohol if you know that leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Stop multi-tasking! Quit scrolling stories on your phone with the TV on. Pick one or the other, to help your brain slow down. Try reading a calming book for a few minutes to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you. Aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

4. Try A Relaxation Technique.

Meditation isn’t for everyone. But literally anyone can do this, anywhere, even at your desk or in the car. One very simple relaxation technique is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Words such as “calm” “love” and “peace” work well, or you could think of one self-affirming mantra such as “I deserve calm in my life” or “Grant me serenity”.  Focus on your chosen word or phrase and return to the chosen word or phrase even when your mind wanders. If you find yourself becoming tense again later, simply silently repeat your word or phrase.

Don’t worry if you find it difficult to relax at first. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and will improve with practice, like anything in life! So make sure to try this technique more than once to get the hang of it.

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5. Keep A Stress Diary.

Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks is an effective stress management tool, to help you become more aware of the situations which cause you to become stressed.

Note the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally.  Give each stressful episode a stress rating (on, say, a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers your stress and how effective you are in stressful situations.  This will enable you to avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanisms.

Not a dear diary type? Just talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful.

Talking can work by either distracting you from your stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it. Stress can cloud your judgement and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective.

6. Take Control: Just Say No.

At times, we all feel overburdened by our ‘To Do’ list, and this is a common cause of stress. Accept that you can not do everything at once. (repeat this out loud three times right now because we are serious, sister!) Start to prioritize, and ultimately organize, your tasks.

Make a list of all the things that you need to do and list them in order of genuine priority, and over a longer timeframe. Remember to create buffer times to deal with unexpected tasks, and most importantly schedule time for YOURSELF, whether that’s exercise, a pedicure, or even a walk or phone call with a friend.

Take some things off your plate! Note what tasks you need to do personally and what can be delegated to others to do. See what you may even be able to completely eliminate, or move a task or two to a ‘when time allows’ bucket with no deadline.

Lastly, just say N-O. A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it.  And yet most of us will still agree to take on additional responsibility.  Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce your level of stress, and may also help you develop more self-confidence. Think about practicing some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently, so you feel more comfortable saying no more often.

Which tip do you find will be easiest for you to work on today? Any other tips you’ve found personally helpful that aren’t on this list? Let us know!

Warming Up To Burn It Out At The Barre

No matter the workout of choice, it’s important to set your body up for success with a proper pre-exercise warm-up. Experts agree a warm-up should heat and loosen the body, and prepare the mind for action. But there’s also some moves to actually avoid.

BandT_20160611_0135 Green Ball Ab WarmupAlthough most of your barre class is developed to be performed by focusing on a singular muscle group, your warm-up is different. Think of your warm-up as a dynamic approach of getting your joints moving one at a time, then all together, to take the body through progressive movements that loosen and stretch your muscles.

If you are habitually running late to class, perform a quick set of knee lifts with arm presses by your car or in the lobby, or give yourself a goal of 25 jumping jacks. It’s important to wake up and warm-up the joints before you really get moving.

Next up is immediately warming the midsection. Your core actually contracts first in every exercise you do in class. We like to say you’re working your core for 55 minutes in class, not just the final 10! All the energy you exert starts in your midsection, and is then transferred to your limbs, which is why the first exercises performed in our warm-ups are centered around your core.

Follow this up with dynamic stretching exercises that focus on stability and mobility, like push ups and planks. You want to focus on getting your body ‘practicing’ positions you may perform later at a more intense state. (For barre, translate this into proper posture and alignment in each warm-up exercise, so that you’ll be able to perform the same posture and alignment in other sections of class later.) The added focus on strengthening the core with these specific exercises performed in the warm-up first, allows you to perform the other moves in your workout later with more intensity and better attention to form, to get more out of them.

Full Arm Plank float legDynamic stretching is also focused on continual movement to begin to  loosen the muscles, so you can improve your range of motion during your workout (See, you really can sink another inch lower in thighs!)

Lastly, focus on building up your heart rate throughout your warm-up. Getting your heart pumping warms up your muscles, and switches on your nervous system for peak output during class. Just make sure the warm-up doesn’t fatigue you, so listen to your own body’s cues and remember every day is different.

So what not to do? Reserve your static stretching for the cool down (holding a pose for 10 seconds or longer, without movement). This can actually hinder your performance and increase your risk for injury. Research shows static stretching will likely leave you less able to move quickly and on command come workout time, impairing your strength performance.

What’s your favorite dynamic warm-up move? Let us know here, or comment on our social media posts about this warm-up blog post, through your local Neighborhood Barre’s social media handles. You never know when your requested move may make the cut next warm-up!

 

Cross-Train Terrain. How Walking Will Change Your Life

walking imageOnce of the most common questions we get asked is how often to attend class, as well as what else clients should potentially be doing in addition to their barre routine. Our studios offer a variety of moderate to vigorous activity level exercise classes to help you feel your best (we suggest 3 to 5 classes weekly). But what does the rest of your day look like outside of the studio?

12 hours is the amount of time the average person is sitting a day. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems, even if you achieve the recommended amount of daily physical activity.

Low intensity, ‘non-exercise’ activities like standing and walking are much more important than you realize. In fact, low level activities play a crucial metabolic role and account for more of our daily energy expenditure than moderate-to-high intensity activities. From helping you lose weight and de-stress to lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk of many chronic diseases—going for regular walks is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health. Here’s the top benefits of why you should be walking to the studio from now on!

1. Improve Your Mood – We know how sometimes it takes a glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate to decompress from the day. Well, going for a walk is a zero-calorie strategy with the same benefits. Research shows that regularly walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility. Walk with a friend (like your barre buddy!) for added interaction to help you feel connected, which boosts your mood. And summertime is the perfect time to start! Walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight, which can help stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—making it a potential antidote for your seasonal blues.

Girls-Night-Out-1 Trio2. Boost Your Creativity – Feeling stuck at work? Troubleshooting a tricky relationship? Get the creative juices flowing by hitting the pavement! According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, going for a walk can spark creativity. Researchers administered creative-thinking tests to subjects while seated and while walking and found that the walkers thought more creatively than the sitters.

3. Looser Jeans – Not that you’re wearing them these days anyways (yoga pants are always acceptable for any occasion in our book). But regular walking can help improve your body’s response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat. Daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and by preventing muscle loss, which is particularly important as we get older.

4. You’ll Keep Your Legs Looking Great – We’re not talking about those curvy gams you’ve been carving out at barre, we’re talking about veins – varicose veins to be exact (eww, we know.) Walking strengthens the secondary circulatory system (a collection of muscles, veins, and valves in our calf and foot) by strengthening and preserving leg muscle, which boosts healthy blood flow.

5. You’ll Slash The Risk Of Chronic Disease –  The statistics are impressive. The American Diabetes Association says walking lowers your blood sugar levels and your overall risk for diabetes. Researchers at the University of Boulder Colorado and the University of Tennessee found that regular walking lowered blood pressureby as much as 11 points and may reduce the risk of stroke by 20% to 40%. One of the most cited studies on walking and health, published in theNew England Journal of Medicine in 2002, found that those who walked enough to meet physical activity guidelines (30 or more minutes of moderate activity on 5 or more days per week) had a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with those who did not walk regularly.

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of walking every day.  Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bouts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. Even making simple changes like parking at the back of the parking lot add up throughout the day!

For the apple watch and fitbit fanatics, a common steps goal is a minimum of 10,000 steps daily. Once you hit that goal consistently, try adding on an additional 1,000 steps at a time. Want to turn your walk into even more of a workout? Go for a hike and add uphill elevations, try interval walking (walk for one minute as fast as you can, then at a moderate pace for 2 minutes, and repeat), or add equipment such as a resistance band or ankle or hand weights for more of a challenge.

Simple Summer Swaps To See Results All Year Long

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, with pools officially open, and most of us panicking by slathering on self tanner and buying the latest on-trend black bathing suit from Target. It’s disappointing that you can’t lose weight as quickly as it may feel like you may have gained it (I swear that one-week vacation really did me in those last 5 pounds!)

But the rules of weight loss are simple, burn off more than you consume. In addition to regular exercise, here are some simple swaps for you to start incorporating now, to see your efforts add up year-round. Good news, it doesn’t involve salads!

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1) Replace one beverage daily with water. Duh right? But seriously, one soft drink can have 140 calories, plus a scary amount of sugar. Even if you’ve given up sodas for years now, think about what other recreational beverages you may be partaking in over the summer? Try to swap out one alcoholic drink for some sparkling water with a little fruit, or even better, a glass of kombucha! Pour it in your favorite wine or cocktail glass, and you may be surprised how much you don’t miss that second (or third) drink.

2) Skip the bun. The warm weather has us firing up the grill weekly. Consider swapping out your bun for a healthier option. A sturdy crisp lettuce like romaine works well for either a hot dog or a hamburger, or try a portbello bun for more nutritional value.

3) Drink more H20. Yes it’s summer time, and you sweat more and should rehydrate. But increasing your intake before you eat has been linked to curbing your appetite and preventing overeating. Aim for about 16 oz of water before you sit down to eat. On average, people eat 88 calories less when they’re hydrated before eating.

Cauli Rice Dish

4) Try cauliflower. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this trend. Try it riced to sub out your favorite asian dish or chipotle-themed bowl, or as a pizza crust. If you can’t turn down tortilla chips like us, try using roasted cauliflower florets to make nachos – it still feels as satisfying as a bar food snack, but saves you empty calories.

5) Choose mustard over mayo. Not all condiments are created equal. Mayonnaise is loaded with fat and calories, and sometimes unnecessary sugars (spoiler – aoli is just a fancy word for mayo). Get creative with your mustard – there’s dijon, which works for everything from chicken and salmon to your homemade salad dressings – and even horseradish to add some heat for hamburgers and hot dogs.

6) Chew slower. When you’re hungry, or distracted, it’s easy to shovel your food in and finish in record time. But chewing more slowly – and generally being more mindful of your eating – allows the body to better realize when it’s full. So put the phone down, or step outside to eat your lunch tomorrow, and take your time with your food (plan on 20 – 30 minutes for each meal).

Remember, you don’t need to make every change in one day, or all at once. Choosing to do any one of the above options saves you about 100 calories on average, per day. Aiming for 100 calories/less daily, adds up to an average of 10 pounds of weight loss over the course of a year. Let us know what swap was the easiest for you to incorporate next time you’re at the studio, or tag us if you share any of your swaps on social media!

4 Tips To Improve Posture – From The Barre To Your Bed

You’ve been hearing it since you were a little girl, “Sit up! Quit slouching!” But now that our bodies are getting, err more ‘settled’, it’s literally becoming a pain not to have better posture. Your posture can help you look and feel better, inside and outside of the studio, so let’s break down 4 quick tips, with checkpoints, for you to try during class, sitting at home or the office, and even sleeping!

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1) Standing Posture Test: Stand up with your back against a door or wall. Your head, shoulders and seat should be touching the wall, but your heels should be roughly two inches in front of the wall. Now place one hand on your belly and press in, drawing your navel in tight towards your spine and feeling your tailbone stretch down. Holding it there, try sliding your other hand behind your back against the wall. It should feel like you can barely slide your hand through, only getting your fingers behind you. This is what we consider proper alignment, and a ‘tucked’ position at Neighborhood Barre. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and you want to think about a string lifting your upper body higher, while your tailbone (and core) is rooting you back down to the ground, keeping your lower back in line

2) Next you want to find (and maintain) your center by tuning into your head-to-toe alignment. This is particularly important when it comes to exercising, to protect your joints, and in the case of barre, target the proper muscle group.  You want shoulders, hips, and heels stacked when standing.  Think about keeping your chin level with the ground, your shoulders back, and your belly drawn in. It should feel like your body is being stretched apart, in opposite directions. This takes more practice with seat exercises, since you are typically working one side at a time and your body wants to put all your weight in the standing, or stabilizing side.

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This principle holds true even when we’re on all 4’s, seated, or on your back in class! Think of your body as right angles, when the legs are bent. Your head, your neck, your back, through the seat, should all be aligned, in any of these positions. Make sure your knees, or feet stay hips-width apart so you keep your posture and your weight evenly distributed throughout your body.

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3) Seated Posture test: Sit on the floor and put your hands under your sits bones with palms facing down. Adjust your position until you can feel your weight centered between both palms.  (Again consider a string lifting your head up, chin level, shoulders back, abs tight!) When exercising, if you start to favor one hip over the other, it’s time to take an adjustment to realign your posture, and re-center your body weight. It should feel just like if you were sitting on your hands!

4) Lastly, your body needs sleep to recover, and the last thing you want is to potentially wake up with a sore neck or back, not from exercise, but from poor posture during sleep! If you sleep on your stomach (spoiler alert, the WORST position for posture), use a pillow under your belly, or lose the pillow under your head. If you sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees. If you’re a side-sleeper, place a pillow between the knees and pull them in towards your chest. All of these options allow you to sleep in essentially a ‘NB tucked’ position, who knew? (Now try not to dream about barre!)

Photo credits: Wikihow.com

You Are What You Eat – How to fuel, and refuel, your workout

Leggings – check, sports bra – check, water bottle – check, but wait – did you pack food? Are you fueling, and recovering with nutrition as part of your exercise routine? We all know the saying ‘abs are made in the kitchen’, and your entire diet should be just as important as which exercise class you choose. But proper nutrition pre-and-post workout can truly maximize all the effort you’re putting into class – and who doesn’t want that, right?

There are the more obvious reasons that you shouldn’t opt-out of your pre-workout snack or meal, like dizziness, lethargy, nausea, and even the potential to be more prone to injury. But even if these things don’t plague you, skipping out on food can reduce your performance, and ultimately reduce your exercise gains. So, where do you start?

Repeat after me. Carbs are OK. Especially before you break a sweat. Carbs break down into glucose, providing you the energy and endurance you need to exercise at your maximum capacity. Opt for simple carbs that break down quickly to give you that energy boost. Great options include: a piece of fruit, oatmeal, greek yogurt, a handful of dried fruit or crackers, or toast. When you perform resistance or strength training, like Neighborhood Barre classes, adding a little bit of protein is important for muscle recovery. Again choose easily digestible protein so you don’t feel weighed down (no pun intended), during your workout. Solid choices are a handful of nuts, again greek yogurt (hint hint), a hard-boiled egg, or protein-rich milk.

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So when should you eat before, and after your workout? Shoot for anywhere between 30 minutes to three hours before you exercise. You may have to experiment to see what amount of time works best for your body. For example, if you’re an early-bird exerciser, you may not want to (or have the time to) eat a whole meal before you hit the studio. Try a mini-snack, or shoot for a protein-packed smoothie, where you drink half before class, and half after. If you exercise later in the day, either 1) have a 150 calorie snack pre-workout, or 2) you may be ok to power through if you’ve had a well-balanced meal within 2-3 hours of your workout.

Lastly, hydration is of course key to your workout performance, and recovery. Aim to drink about one cup of water 10-20 minutes pre-workout, to avoid low energy and muscle cramps or spasms. Consider drinking another cup during your workout to stay properly fueled, especially if you’re sweating profusely. And lastly, drink two cups post-workout to replenish the fluids you lost.

So you’re done – now what? You need to eat after your workout. Period. You’re not only inhibiting your body’s ability to repair itself, but if you skip eating after your workout routinely, it will be harder for you to reach your fitness goals. Ideally, refuel within 30 minutes of your workout. Your post-workout food of choice should be high in complex carbohydrates, and more importantly loaded with healthy protein. Here’s the issue – it’s really easy to over-compensate on the calorie count. You don’t want to necessarily eat more calories than you just burned! So skip the energy drinks, bars, or sugary smoothies.   Again think about 150 calories if it’s a snack, or under 500 calories if you’re headed straight to meal time. Snack-wise, think whole-grain crackers or toast with nut butter, 2 hard-boiled eggs and toast, or a cup of chocolate milk.

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We’d love for you to share your fave healthy snacks with us! Tag us in your social posts where you’re fueling or hydrating pre/post barre class, or use the hashtag #nbbarrefuel.

Isotonic Vs. Isometric – Why We Do Both

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There’s a reason why a plank is arguably one of the most difficult exercises to perform. So you’re holding a plank in class, and you’re starting to feel like someone just shut off the AC. You’re building heat throughout your body, and finding it increasingly difficult to hold the position much longer. You think, is blood still reaching my head? Will someone please get up and adjust air already?! And then you drop your knees and find a child’s pose stretch. Aaahhh, relief.

This is considered an isometric exercise. Isometric exercises are strength exercises where you hold a position to keep a muscle contracted without moving the joint. This is the core principle of our barre method – to ultimately hold a position for an extended period of time until your muscles exhaust (and ideally shake).

Isotonic exercises involve movement at the joint, at a full range of motion to contract the muscle. Then, you eccentrically move it back to the starting position. Think about when we perform a full-range move in class, such as a ‘tap lift’ in seat work, or a full-range drop to your heels then lift back up in thigh exercises.

The Neighborhood Barre technique carefully intermixes full range moves with isometric moves. Also the placement, or order in which we perform the moves, is very intentional. The timing of each move performed allows you to build more heat with a full range move, and then use the isometric to carve and shape the muscle. Each move complements the other, while engaging your muscles in a slightly different way. The result is a more targeted and defined toning, and specific shaping, of your muscle, while increasing endurance.

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So which is better for you? Both are important! Isotonic exercise is credited with increased muscle endurance and working a broader range of the muscle, while also engaging your major muscle groups.

The benefits of isometric exercise are endless in our book. Weight-bearing resistance training not only builds strength, but improves mobility and flexibility. It also allows you to create a lifetime habit of fitness, meaning you can safely perform these exercises at any season of life. Speaking of seasons of life, did you know your barre class can even lower cholesterol, improve bone density, and reduce arthritis?

At the end of the day, your results will likely depend less on the type of exercise (isometric vs. isotonic) and more on the effort you put in it. After all, we like to say flexing your mind is your greatest tool in class!

The Neighborhood Approach To Barre

“I don’t think I’m flexible enough.” “I’ve never danced before.” “I’m terrified to try HIIT!” “I’m in PT for my sciatica right now.” “I’m pregnant.” “No way, my friend said barre is too hard.”

Guess what? Clients that are age 12 to age 80 take class here. Clients that are injured, pregnant, beginners, or as they sometimes put it ‘out of shape,’ take class here. And some clients have taken 1,000 classes here.

Yes our studio separates itself through through laid-back, friendly, and welcoming staff in an unassuming, judgement-free zone (that is our namesake after all – to make you feel at home!!), but it’s more than that.

Not all barre classes are created equal, but ours are. It’s an even playing field for everyone in the room, for every class that we offer. From beginner to instructor status, here are ways to take your next class with us at your own pace.

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  1. During warm-up, try doing an entire weights series with no weights. Do you still feel your muscles flex and contract? Can you effectively build heat, and still exhaust your muscles, without your hand weights? You’d be surprised how much we let the weights control the moves, versus the other way around. Once you pass this test, see if you can handle one size up in poundage. Maybe you start with swapping out the heavier weights just for biceps, and slowly pick up the heavier weights earlier, and earlier in class. Don’t shy away from the weights ladies!
  2.  In thigh exercises, prioritize posture. Your shoulders should align with your hips, and typically hips are aligned with heels. If you can’t prevent yourself from tipping forward, or keep your seat under your shoulders, try taking yourself 1 – 2 inches higher out of the position to adjust your posture. Once you’ve nailed posture, take it up a notch by lengthening out your body another inch. Focus on growing your head up another inch taller, while simultaneously pushing more weight down into your feet, creating a more intense pull through the target muscle.
  3.  In seat exercises, stabilize your weight by staying centered. It’s a common misconception that boxing or seat-belting yourself in during standing exercises, and lowering yourself onto the forearms during hands and knees exercises, is a ‘cop-out’ or a sign of ‘weakness’. It’s actually a check-point to redistribute your body weight, and serves as a fail-proof way to force your body to shift focus on the working side of your body. Want more? Add in a popped heel when standing, to add more dynamics to the exercise, or even better – a balance check. Lifting the opposing arm reinstates stabilization, increases isolation of the target muscle, and also adds more core engagement.
  4. For your ab work, soften the neck and shoulders, and constantly focus on the lower back – basically keep your spine long. When we’re seated, we tend to shorten our base – consider the alternate. Pull your rib cage out of your hips, and scoop out underneath the belly button – both of which elongates your spine. Rely less on your hips by keeping the rest of your body engaged – pressing into the tops of your feet and again focus on posture – lift through the head, chin out of your chest. If you cannot maintain this posture, you should not be using hand equipment. When using a ball for support – make sure an air pocket remains between your ball and lower back – if you see your reflection in the mirror and it looks like the ball is going to pop, sit up. Lastly, connect your breathing to increase the contraction. This may also add a slight increase in calorie burn – bonus!

Our instructors are specifically trained to cue you to the highest level of a position, and then give you modifications to take the intensity down, or add just a little more. Listen to the details of the exercise setups, and listen for the cues to modify if something doesn’t feel right. Still unsure? Just ask! There are endless ways we can provide you with how to achieve the best result for your body. We’re here to help you find your strength, and strength looks different on every body.

 

Increase Your Calorie Burn At The Barre

You have probably heard us telling you to “embrace the shake”, more than once in class, and for good reason. When you hold a muscle contraction for an extended period of time, like you do at Neighborhood Barre, this causes your muscles to tire. The sustained stress causes the muscles to burn through its reserve fuels. Once it’s nearly depleted, the muscle starts relaxing and contracting at a higher pace to reserve the remaining energy, and hence starts to shake. Like a LOT.
Producing higher levels of lactic acid (the chemical reaction that’s responsible for the ‘burn’ you feel in class), causes damage to your muscle tissue at the microscopic level that needs to be repaired. Rebuilding your muscles back raises your total energy expenditure – at rest. And after all, who doesn’t want to continue to burn calories after their workout? Sounds like a dream come true, right?
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First off, what exactly is the afterburn effect? The afterburn effect is formally called EPOC, meaning excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. After an intense exercise, your body has to work twice as hard to replenish its oxygen stores than it does after steady-state exercise. This requires the body and metabolism to work at a higher rate, so it continues to burn calories. Simply put, the afterburn effect is the calories you continue to burn after intense exercise to recover. EPOC can burn anywhere from 6 to 15% more calories at a ‘resting/recovery’ state, and last for up to 48 hours, dependent upon the intensity of the workout.
Sound too good to be true? Spoiler alert, it’s take *a lot* of exertion. We recommend wearing a heart rate monitor in class (especially during our Barre HIIT class!). But we also want you to really tune into the literal burn you feel within your muscles during an exercise. Remember those first couple barre classes where your legs where spaghetti noodles, and your glutes spasmed out of control? Is that still happening in class? When muscle memory builds, you have to push past your plateau to continue to reach muscle fatigue, then stay in the burn until you feel like you literally cannot bear another second.
Ready to increase the (calorie) burn? Here’s our top 5 tips, covering peak performance in every Neighborhood Barre class.
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Increase Your Afterburn At The Barre:
  • When taking our Barre HIIT class, push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds to stay in your maximum heart rate zone (80% – 100%). Your personal best may be different from your neighbor’s – ask us for modifications to both increase or decrease the intensity when needed!
  • In Barre HIIT, reduce your recovery time in-between exercises by trying to get your body ready to go and in position for the next sprint, as well as running in place or performing jumping jacks during demo times in class.
  • During Barre All Levels, focus on endurance. Stay in each exercise as long as you can. Once you can make it throughout the entire exercise without a break, start focusing on deepening the muscle contraction by sinking lower in thighs, extending your leg longer in seat, connecting your breathing in abs, and adding equipment to find the burn.
  • Maximize your resistance training by reducing your rest time in-between exercises (Think about how fatigued your muscles are when we do super-sets!) Even when we’re not performing a super-set, focus on getting into the next exercise right away and staying mentally connected throughout class to master your opposing resistance.
  • In Barre FLOW, focus on engaging the entire body (i.e. functional movement) to increase your energy output and deepen the muscle burn. The more you can center your weight throughout class, the more dynamic,  and effective each move becomes.