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.

Incorporating Cardio at the Barre

HIIT exercise seems to be the buzz word in the fitness world this year, and for good reason. ‘Burst’ training, is typically a tabata-timed format of exercise, where you perform short bursts of high intensity moves with periods of quick rest.

It’s approach of working out at a very high intensity, through short intervals, promises to deliver more results in less time than other workouts. But there’s one big caveat, you have to nail the intensity.

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Although the work-to-rest ratio (i.e. tablet timer) is an important part of the cardio effect, reaching your own personal 80 – 95% range maximum heart rate makes all the difference. Your maximum heart rate can be ‘estimated’ by using the formula below.

Try wearing a heart rate monitor in class to keep track of where you want your heart rate to be, and calculate that range in advance. This way you’re also keeping track of when you may be overexerting yourself and when it may be time for you to slow down.

No heart rate monitor, no problem. You shouldn’t be able to complete an entire sentence after you’ve completed an interval. Check yourself by repeating a sentence after each series (plus, a little extra self-motivation goes a long way!

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Everyone’s ‘maximum’ is going to look different, so we’re equipping you with some tips to take it at your own (challenging) pace during your next HIIT class at the barre:

  1. Consider the ‘mid-level’ your baseline. This is typically what the instructor will demonstrate as the initial move. You won’t know what your body can do until you try!
  2. If you can’t finish a full sentence after your first series, try performing the move without the jump, or reducing your range of motion/slowing your pace down by 1 – 2 seconds to reduce your heart rate by 5 – 10%.
  3. If your heart rate isn’t within your high intensity range, try adding a piece of equipment. Typically grabbing your hand weights is a safe bet. If you are at the barre, try popping your heels, or increasing your pace by 1 – 2 seconds. If you’re jumping, try adding a ‘click’ of the heels at the top of your jump for an added challenge.
  4. Your instructor will be giving you options within each exercise, so listen to what your body needs in that very moment. And remember the next rep may be different. Just because you needed to lose a jump your second set, doesn’t mean you can’t add it back on your third!
  5. Constantly be checking in with your heart rate throughout class, and use the mirrors throughout the room to constantly tune into your form, and your range of motion. Proper form improves your results, and keeps you safe!

Summer Detox Drinks

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I don’t know about you, but my weekend following the 4th of July festivities wasn’t much better in the way of food choices. It’s easy to let one weekend of splurging lead you down the rabbit hole, so what’s better than a good old-fashioned detox?!

I personally rotate all four of these drinks, depending on my mood, and have experienced REAL results and benefits. Many of the ingredients are linked in case you have trouble finding them in your local store!

  1. ACV. The all-powerful Apple Cider Vinegar drink comes in many forms, but have you ever tried cutting it with pineapple juice and lime?! Calling it ‘delicious’ might be a stretch, but hey – it doesn’t taste like salad dressing and if you dilute with sparkling water, it’s even better! We mix 1/8 C  ACV, 1/4 C pineapple juice, 1/4 -1/2 squeezed lime, top with water or sparkling water to dilute. Add honey to taste or more pineapple juice if you prefer more sweetness. IMG_9397.JPGBenefits: Apple Cider Vinegar has a multitude of health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. In fact, there is medical research to prove that it can help acid reflux, lower blood pressure, improve diabetes, and support weight loss. The benefits of apple cider vinegar come from its powerful healing compounds, which include acetic acid, potassium, magnesium, probiotics and enzymes. Be sure to choose one with ‘the mother’ vs. a filtered variety (I actually saw one at Aldi the other day for only $2.49).
  2. Beyonce-aid. A true Neighborhood Barre classic – this is one of our favorite detox drinks! You can make it in large batches – portion one large lemon per glass. To make, press 1 large lemon and mix with 8 oz. water and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper. If you prefer more of a ‘lemonade’ add pure maple syrup, honey, or agave nectarIMG_9409.JPGBenefits: Lemon has very high levels of Vitamin C (immunity booster) and appetite suppressing capabilities. Mix that with Cayenne Pepper, which not only boots your metabolism, but also aids in digestion and you get a super powerful, yet simple, detox drink!
  3. Ginger TeaHow did I not discover this sooner?! If you love hot tea, get some ASAP! It’s shocking at first, but you quickly adjust to the spice and it’s so soothing! I love it anytime I wake up feeling a little off (aka – hungover)! You can add peppermint oil or mint leaves for a more dynamic flavor profile!  IMG_9417-1.JPGBenefits: Ginger zaps any type of nausea, settles your stomach, and de-bloats like a mother. Ginger is an anti-inflammatory, has metabolism boosting properties, and is a natural appetite suppressant.
  4. Essential Oil Blend: *Disclaimer – make sure you are using oils that are safe to ingest! There are several companies who make ingestible oils, so please do your research before you purchase!* One great reason to use oils for your detox drink is the lack of acidity. The above detox drinks all have something in common – spice, citrus, etc. If you have an aversion to any of the above, then consider this milder option! You can also put one drop of each oil in an empty capsule vs. mixing in water!IMG_9420-1.JPGBenefits: The citrus oils are high in Vitamin C and promote both anti-inflmatory and appetite suppressing qualities. You are basically getting all of the benefits of the above-mentioned detox drinks in a concentrated form. They are easy for on-the-go or if you are in a hurry. Simply drop 1-2 drops of each in your stainless steel or glass water bottle (the citrus can eat through plastic with prolonged use) and voila – you have a perfectly balanced detox drink that also tastes great!

Top 5 Summer Beauty Must-Haves!

Whether you battle breakouts, frizz, or sleep deprivation, we have you covered for a flawless Summer! See below for our top 5 must-haves from some of our top 5 barre-bies!

Katy:

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Must-Have: Charcoal Soap.

“I never had an issue with break-outs until I entered the downward slope of my 30s. After trying countless products, I found that charcoal soap both calmed my skin and healed my breakouts faster than other cleansers. I’ve tried a few different brands at different price-points. So far, Beauty Counter is my fave because it’s not as harsh or drying as others”.

Click HERE to get a bar! They also make a mask!

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Hallie: 

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Must-Have: Dove Mousse For Curly Hair

“This is great for my curls. It doesn’t make them “crunchy” or greasy. And no frizz”!

Available at most drug stores and also HERE!

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Angela:

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Must-Have: Arbonne Cream Concealer

“I love this product because it hides the under eye circles and puffiness around my eyes from being up all night with a new baby, covers up any blemishes or spots on my face, and gives me consistent smooth coverage that doesn’t get shiny and lasts all day without needing touchups… Even through my workouts!”

Hide those puffy eyes by clicking HERE or asking your resident Arbonne Rep!

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Kim:

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Must-Have: Clarisonic Face Brush

“I love my Clarisonic brush because my skins feels so clean after I use it! It also is like getting a mini face massage in my shower! It helps to brighten and tone my skin – while also providing the deep clean I need, especially after my workouts”!

Get your mini spa experience HERE!BlueMiaLG-NEW2 (2)

Anna:

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Must-Have: Too-Faced ‘Better Than Sex’ Mascara

“I love this mascara because you don’t have to layer it on to get full eyelashes! You can add as much volume as you want, but one coat still gives you tons of volume! It’s the bomb”.

Va-voom those lashes HERE!

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What are some of your Must-Haves?! Let us know by commenting below!

Tucking For Two: Barre With Baby

Who better to to ask for mommy and mommy-to-be tips than NB Nashville’s Kelly Phillips? See her thoughts on tucking for two below..

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“Barre is one of the best methods of exercise during pregnancy. You can exercise safely right up until delivery (seriously)! It is low-impact and easy on the joints and the class can still be taken ‘in-full’ with a few minor modifications to ensure both you and your baby’s comfort and safety. Plus you’re using your own body weight primarily to create resistance so you can control the intensity of each exercise.

Listen to your body and remind yourself to slow down and take the modifications in class. Always talk to your instructor pre/post class about exercise modifications. Most any exercise that is done at the barre can be done on the mat and vice-versa. Try it both ways and see where you’re most comfortable as your body grows.

Eat a small snack before exercising, such as a banana or chia bar so you’re not exercising on an empty stomach, this will also aid in reducing light-headedness and potential nausea. And make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!

Barre exercise will keep you toned, healthy and fit pre-and-post pregnancy, as well as benefit labor and delivery. You’re strengthening not only your core and pelvic floor, but also increasing endurance, flexibility and even breath control in class.

We offer complimentary child care when you are cleared to return to exercise post-baby! Exercising releases necessary endorphins and provides that much needed energy boost when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed with a newborn. You need to take a little time for yourself daily and barre class is a perfect way to get some ‘me’ time in while also rebuilding your strength and toning your body post-baby. Plus there’s plenty of mama’s who have been there in class and it’s nice to have reassurance and advice from other clients and instructors who become fast friends at the barre!”

-Kelly Phillips

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Questions on tucking for two? Post below or email to info@neighborhoodbarre.com

Don’t forget that we offer specials on packages for new moms and those who are expecting. We also provide pregnancy modifications in our DVD workouts!

The Skinny on Snacking

Keeping your diet on track during the colder winter months can be a daunting task. A cold salad isn’t quite as tempting in 20 degree temps as it is on a summer afternoon, BUT one of the best tricks to keep you from derailing and grabbing Chick-fil-a is…snacking! It is so important to keep your blood sugar levels constant in order to keep you from getting too hungry and rationalizing a not-so-healthy food option because you are quote-on-quote ‘starving’ or ‘hangry’. Through trial and error (and multiple last minute Fresh Market runs) we have found quick, on the go snack options that are satisfying and flavorful. See below to get the skinny on snacking….

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-Bars: Admittedly, it can be really tricky to find a bar that is actually good for you. Sugars can be disguised as ‘sugar alcohols’ and many bars have a not so desirable calorie and fat content. Our favs are the Chia Warrior bars (only 110 calories), because these bars are super easy to throw in your purse or gym bag and eat on the run. We feel the same about Lara Bars..undoubtedly the most desirable ingredients of any bar. The sugar content is higher then some, but its derived from dates so its all natural and easier for your body to digest. Plus, with all of the yummy flavors they offer you really can never get bored. Personal Fav: coconut cream pie!RAU_1045

-La Croix: Pretty sure our obsession with these drinks are obvious, but you really can’t beat a zero calorie carbonated beverage. We realize chugging water all day can be boring and sometimes you just want a little fizz. These are a great soda fix and they actually hydrate you, double bonus.RAU_1050

-Nut Butters: While there is nothing wrong with peanut butter, we are partial to almond butter. We LOVE Justin’s brand because not only do they taste great, but they come in size portioned packages that help you not get out of control, but are also convenient to throw in a bag.RAU_1065

-Other mentionables include: apples (a great pairing for the almond butter), clementines, raw nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds are SO good for you), eggs (think protein), guac (pre-portioned packages are the best), green tea, avocado (cut in half,add salsa, sprinkle sunflower seeds,drizzle balsamic, viola!)

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Happy snacking barre-bies!

Comment below with your favorite healthful snacks!