Monday, February 20, 2017

I did 17 Xtend barre classes in 16 days and here's what happened...

Xtend Barre is a newer boutique fitness studio that opened last Fall in the new 3rd Ave area in Burlington. The global brand brings in elements of " Dance, ballet, Pilates, to create an adrenaline fueled workout that strengthens, lengthens and chisels the body."

Currently Xtend Barre Burlington offers a variety of classes to keep the workouts amplified and changing so members have different options to choose from.

There is the signature Xtend Barre class that features an "Elegant yet energetic combination of movements that enhance flexibility, improve balance, and challenge the core."

I love the Xtend Suspend that uses the TRX suspension straps for a great upper and body workout.

I feel accomplished after completing the Xtend Circuit 7, which is a "boot camp" / "Tabata" like high intensity class with plies and burpees all in one class.  Christina F. definitely kicks our a** but makes it fun and go by quick with her high upbeat coaching.

The newly launched Xtend Stick uses a Pilates stick/hand loops/bungee cord to add resistance and different techniques to the barre fusion class.

Since the gym opened, I got my "feet wet" and took a handful of classes last year. I wasn't a regular but just popped in when I got a chance too. In early January, Xtend Barre Burlington offered a special hot promo rate that I couldn't resist.

Xtend Barre Burlington
launched a 2017 challenge for members to complete 17 classes before Feb. 15th. Members who finished would be rewarded with a DJ class party followed by champagne and bites.

Since I signed up late January after vacation, I only had 17 days to complete the challenge. I didn't think I was able to do it since that would have involved me coming EVERY SINGLE DAY.  One of the girls that I met mentioned that some of the members do double sessions to squeeze in the classes. The Challenge was on!

I am happy to say that I finished it and here's what happened

My perspective on barre has changed
Before taking Xtend barre classes, I was apprehensive that I wouldn't fit in.  I always thought the ideal barre-class member was skinny, tall and beautiful. I imagined the classes would have girls in color coordinated high-end athletic wear.  This was not the case.  In each class, there were members of all ages, shapes and sizes. Some taller and some even shorter than myself! Although the classes seems to be pretty much female dominant, I've actually taken a handful with men participants. Everyone is so nice and welcoming. The owner Christina Z. is always full of smiles and hugs.

The Barre/Dance Lingo
My parents made us take Tae Kwon Do growing up and we weren't allowed to take any dance classes, therefore I didn't know any terminology used in class (First Position, 2nd position, plie, tendu, releve, curtsy, etc).

It took me a few classes to finally understand the cues without having to look around the room aimlessly to see what everyone else was doing.  For a long time, I even thought "Attitude" was really "Altitude since you were bringing your legs up high.

Heavy Tailbone
What the F*** does that even mean? Having a "Heavy tailbone" or "Tuck your tailbone" is probably one of the most important posture to maintain in barre.  I had no idea what they were referring to.   I would go about my workout until Mary W. came to correct my spine. I finally got it! My ass was sticking out to much and my lower back was curved.  To maintain a "heavy tailbone" I had to bring my pelvis forward and lengthen my spine and torso. During class, I always have to look at the mirror to make sure my posture is in check and my tailbone is heavy.

Headlight Hips
I actually signed up for barre because I was told I had really tight hips from sitting 12+ a day between commuting, working in an office environment and binge watching Game of Thrones.  In the first few classes, I would do my best at the barre for the "glute" sets. I kept hearing "Squared Hips" but I didn't know what that meant until Christina F. came to fix my position so my hips were like "headlights" facing the mirror or floor and not turned at any weird angles.  She explained, every time I would extend my leg backwards, I'd rotate my hip to compensate.  That made sense! Now I'm more mindful to keep in straight.

Engaging Core
For a while, I tried to get my legs up backwards as highest I could in the barre position. After a few sets, my lower back would fatigue and I would get lower back pain in class. I didn't understand why since I was working out my glutes and not my back.  Jess S. told me to engage my core and breathe while doing the exercises.  She told me not to focus too much on the height but on little movements while stabilizing my core muscles.

It's hard to explain but it took some time to fully understand "engaging my core."  For a long time, I thought it was like that moment holding in your stomach and breathe before getting your picture taken.  Clearly, you can't hold this position for minutes and not breathe.  After practice, I became better at it and realized it was not what I thought it was.

I still hate doing ab workouts but I'm starting to get a little better. I can almost complete Kayla's "smiley" face routine without stopping.

Straight Back
Along with engaging abs in class, participants are also told to keep a "straight back".  I am guilty of "rounding" my back having a curve in my back in some positions which probably also contributes to the prior lower back pain in class. During an exercise, I was focused on keeping my hips squared, my abs engaged and forgot about my back. Alyson came over and touched my back and pointed towards the curve in my lower back and told me to straighten in to keep the pressure off.

It take a lot of effort and mindfulness to coordinate the hips, core, legs and back so it's all still work in progress for me.  My lower back pain improved and I'm confident that it will gradually disappear as I continue to come.

Practice makes perfect or you just modify
I really do give my best but sometimes, modifications is just better for me. I can do most exercise with the mini rubber ball but sometimes it's a hinder for me. I'm too focused trying to keep the ball in place or chasing after it when it falls so I just put it aside and still perform the same routine as the rest of the class.

Small Adjustments= Significant Changes
In the Xtend Suspend class, we had to get in the seated position. I didn't understand what I was doing wrong because it seemed way to easy for me and I didn't get it. After class, I talked to Malia and she explained that my quad muscles were strong and it was dominant. After she had me shift my body weight to the back a little, it felt like a completely new exercise and I had to engage my core and glutes and hamstrings which made it a much harder exercise than I thought it was.

My glutes, hamstrings and hip abductors fired up
I always hated doing any hip bridges because my hamstrings and glutes would give up after 4-5 reps and it just felt very uncomfortable and tight, like I was going to pull a muscle and get a charlie horse. Now I look forward to doing them on the floor, on the barre and even in the TRX straps.

The gray rubber band is a killer workout whether we are doing lateral shuffles or "clamshell" on the floor.  I definitely feel improved hip mobility and my glutes are definitely getting a workout,.

I wish I took measurements before because I have noticed my hips getting a little smaller and my butt getting more toned and defined.

I got shown on the upper body portion of my first class
I can do a full push up, I can do a single arm row with 30 pounds and bench press 100 pounds.  When I walked into my first class and the instructor told me to grab 1 lb. weights, I was dumbfounded. Clearly, my ego got the best of me and was like, "Yeah, OK", I can handle much more than a single pound weight.

Midway through the arm portion, I was fatigued and had to stop a few times using the single pound weights.  The small isometric movements worked parts of my arms and upper body that I never knew existed.  The small pulses really works the muscle fibers and paves the way to sleek sexy tank top arms.  Since my first class, I've "graduated" to 2 pound weights but I still like to keep the 1 pounds nearby as a "crutch."

In one of Mary's classes, we incorporated the gray rubber band with our upper body set. I went back down to 1 pound to say the least. KILLER workout.

My running has improved
When I run, I usually have to stop a few times to stretch my tight calves and hamstrings during the workout. Since taking barre, I stop less (or sometimes don't even need to stop at all!) to stretch my calves. I credit this to the hundreds of "releves" we do in class where we stand on a "high heel" and our calves are lengthened.  I read that some runners actually do calve exercises similar to "releve" position. My ankles also feel stronger and more stable.

The rubber band exercises and numerous lunges also helped with my hip stability and I sway less from side to side.

Just as I do in barre class, I  also try to maintain a good posture and keep my pelvis forward, hips squared and shoulders down. (I have to also give credit to my OTF trainers b/c they tell us to do the same as well) but everything is so fast paced that its often overlooked.

I'm mindful of my posture outside of class
It sounds corny but now I'm mindful of my posture outside of class as well. When I'm sitting at the office, brushing my teeth or washing dishes, I try to keep my torso long and straight and practice engaging my core.

I met amazing people
The best part of attending 17 classes is meeting and learning about the members and staff. I met so many amazing people and it makes the classes more fun to attend. Now, I'm part of a little group text with ladies to keep the camaraderie going and coordinate attending classes together.

I motivated people 
Since starting barre, I've been posting regularly.  Many people reached out to me inquiring about the 55 minute workout. The classes are low impact and intended for all fitness levels. I've had a few friends take classes with me and others that are interested.  They just need to get their ass in the studio and sign up!

I love Xtend Barre! The owner. Christina,  seems like she really cares about her staff and members and the energy is definitely apparent in the studio.  There's a lot of effort to engage members and keep the studio happening with different events such as a Master class with the founder or a DJ class.

Now that the 17 class challenge is over, I intend to keep up with Xtend Barre. The goal is to attend 3 days a week. I think it's a great complement to my workouts at Orangtheory.  People always ask, which one is better? It's like comparing apples and oranges (no pun intended :)). I think they are both great workouts and I LOVE them both! As always, diet is important too since you can't work off a bad diet (I know, I'm the biggest culprit).

The best workout is the one you actually do!

Some tips

Let the instructor know if it's your first time (or first few times). Try to find a time slot that isn't as busy.

Bring grip socks, they are cheap on amazon or you can buy them at the studio.

Don't over stretch during class, I pulled a hip flexor, trying to stretch on the barre.

If you sweat a lot (like me), bring a towel. 

If you are trying to lose a lot of weight, I would recommend incorporating a couple of the Xtend Circuit 7 into the mix if you don't do any other cardio