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Barre fitness makes its mark in the Back Bay

Posted by Christina Jedra  March 28, 2013 03:33 PM

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Zayna Gold, founder and co-owner of Boston Body Pilates, works with Kaley Parsons in the one of the barre fitness classes she teaches at her Newbury Street studio.

Photo courtesy of Boston Body Pilates

2013 is the year of the barre. The desire to have a long, lean dancer’s body is nothing new, but it seems there is finally a way for those of us who aren’t principal dancers in the Boston Ballet to achieve it.

The barre fitness regimen is quickly becoming the fitness junkies’ routine of choice for 2013, and in the Back Bay Boston Body Pilates is spearheading the trend with an adaptation of its own.

Zayna Gold, founder and co-owner of Boston Body Pilates, has been teaching and practicing the barre method for years but only introduced barre classes into her studios about two and a half years ago.

“Like a lot of things in fitness, it’s old and now new,” Gold said.“I started doing the Lotte Berk method in my twenties. It’s now had a real resurgence.”

Barre fitness is a work out that combines techniques from Pilates, yoga, dance and ballet-based strength training to tone and sculpt muscles without bulking up.

What makes the barre method effective is the focus on repetitive movements rather than on increasing weight while working different muscle groups.

“It’s not traditional ballet, it’s quasi-ballet, as I like to call it” said Gold. “It makes dancers feel like they’re back at the barre, it makes non-dancers feel like they’re dancers, and at the same time it’s so highly repetitive that you don’t even need to think while you’re doing it.”

Another advantage to the barre method is that it targets muscles in the entire body rather than zoning in on a certain area.

“You go down to the mat and you do killer push up-like movements, buttock movements, killer abs that are awesome,” Gold said. “And really a lot of focus on the lower abs in the barre workout, you do stretches after you fatigue each muscle group, again you’re long and lean like a dancer, really promoting the grace with the strength.”

The highly repetitious nature of barre fitness focuses on strengthening each muscle group without packing on a bulky muscle mass.

“Everything is like,y’know, pulsing or full range of motion and very isolated so you’re targeting very specific muscle groups, very precise movements. Then within each of those ballet positions you work the muscle group to complete the fatigue with really beautiful form like a dancer,” Gold said.

Gold runs five of her own studios and has also created her own variation of the barre fitness program, Balanced Body Barre.

When Gold started practicing the barre fitness method again about three years ago, she recognized the flaws in her original fitness training.

“The only problem I had was a lot of the barre workout you’re supposed to lift your heels way up high and unfortunately that can cause foot damage, so I really got a lot of damage in my feet after like seven years,”she said.

This tendency toward causing long-term injury prompted Gold to create her own adaptation of the barre method to help prevent injury.

“In our barre method we keep the heels much lower than most people. I call it a low relevé instead of a high relevé,and it actually works your buttock more and works your thighs more,” Gold said. “We base it on biomechanical safe technique and Balanced Body is all about that.”

Balanced Body Barre draws a variety of age groups, from women in their twenties to women in their sixties, and from all fitness levels and body types. It is this adaptability that makes the barre method so appealing. The  workout has its roots in dance but does not require any prior dance experience to be effective. Gold recommends anyone start the routine for a month averaging four hours a week.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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