It’s January. This means coming out of a food coma and drinking haze. This year, I visited my family in Mexico and went on an incredible skiing trip to Vail, CO. Safe to say, I put my ClassPass membership on hold.
As I am sure it is for many women, one of my New Year’s resolutions was getting into the best shape of my life. I know…cliché. However, this means something different to me now, than it did a few years ago. Being in the best shape of my life doesn’t mean just looking thin, but being healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually, which ultimately also means being fit not “thin.” And it has a lot to do with being healthy from the inside out. For me, this means taking an active approach to fitness and never coasting, or in other words not just trying to get a workout in, but letting a specific class or gym time provide an other type of nourishment. Transforming my fitness time into my oasis.
At this point of my life, exercise means something different to me than when I was in my early twenties and in my teenage years. Back then, I exercised only with the purpose to lose weight and because I needed to not because I wanted.
Now, it is something I want to be part of my life. Something that is part of what makes me me. I choose a particular class based on how my body and mind feels, which has made me be more in tune with my muscles, bones, thoughts, and feelings and what they are asking of me at that moment. Therefore I strive to never coast and I am mindfully participating in my fitness. That time becomes my oasis and the moment where I can lose myself, my problems, and my stress. Not to mention, that the days when I exercise I am happier and more confident.
One of my favorite classes, which is luckily on ClassPass, is FlyBarre. It is one of my favorite barre classes in the city and it was my first class coming back from too much eating, too much partying, and just letting go in a different way. My body and mind was screaming for a fun and energetic class that would work my muscles and get me back in the zone. FlyBarre is a high energy, athletic, and musical take on barre. The only thing missing is technique since it is not based on the real barre method stemming from Lotte Berk. It can be called a fitness class based on barre exercises. So the class is good for seasoned barre-goers that want a change. Isn’t that what is good about ClassPass? You tailor your schedule to your needs.
The first time I took FlyBarre was around three months ago and I immediately fell in love with it. I had been taking so many barre classes that some began to feel too easy. I mean, don’t get me wrong the thigh section is never easy, but the format, pace, and other exercises can sometimes feel a little too comfortable. At FlyBarre the pace is fast and motivating and the class always kicks my a**.
As I enter the Flywheel studio at Lincoln Center where FlyBarre is housed, I immediately feel a rush of energy and sense of calmness at the same time. Maybe it’s something feng shui like with the way the space is set up. Maybe it’s the white color of the walls? Or the “You can do it” motivational quotes all over the space, such as the “Never Coast” slogan I encounter as I head down the stairs towards the studio.
Being used to a crowded studio with even more crowded changing areas, the Flywheel establishment is a game-changer. A large lounge area greets you and features free fruit and water bottles among couches. The barre studio is small and in the lower level but never feels cramped. The only thing missing is separate men and women locker rooms. There are four rooms with showers and a communal locker area. This creates long shower lines in the morning since people take their time in these rooms getting ready for work.
The whole class is based upon music and is in line with the beat and song duration. Working at New York City Ballet and the company’s connection to music, it is easy to see how important music is. For anyone that appreciates athleticism, I would highly encourage them to attend a NYCB performance. But, that is a different post. As the founder of NYCB, George Balanchine says: “See the music, hear the dance.” In a different way, this can apply to FlyBarre, which to me feels like “See the music, hear the pulse.” As a person that misses dance class, FlyBarre provides a much needed outlet.
The class begins with an energetic warm-up involving shoulder rolls, breathing in and out with arms going up, flat-back down to stretch the hamstrings, and then a roll up. This is typical of a dance class and it always feels good on the body, especially in an 8:30 am class. Warm-up proceeds with lunges from side to side which is a good stretch AND a good butt teaser workout. To warm-up the oblique muscles, we keep the body stationary and move the waist side to side. This not only warms the muscles up but you can also feel waist definition.
Up next… the typical barre class plank warm up. The plank prepares the body for what comes next by instilling correct alignment and core engagement. The plank warm-up consists of leg lifts while doing push-ups and coming down to a forearm plank and jogging the knees while keeping the hips stable. Not just the hips, every other body part is stable. After this we continue working the core. We do Ab work on our backs with our feet up against the wall, using a resistance band and small 2lb weights while crunching and pulsing.
My favorite part comes next, which is gluteal work. Yay for a toned BUTT! One of the reasons I love FlyBarre is because almost every time we do gluteal work on the mat as opposed to the barre. At the barre, I always feel my standing leg WAY more than my working leg. I find myself concentrating on engaging the core to prevent this rather than focusing on the glute muscle. On the mat, the non-working leg is relaxed, which makes you focus on the working leg.
We start on the mat on our side, with legs bent and start raising the working leg, then straightening the working leg and raising it, up and down. Then move the leg to the back diagonal which works another part of the glute and do leg raises there. We conclude with moving the leg so that it goes in front of you and then back.
Let’s keep in mind that for the whole workout there is always the coordination of music. The beat matches the rhythm that the body is trying to create. Each pulse goes with the beat of the music and each leg lift matches the rhythm. This is clearly seen in the arm section. The dancer in me screams yay. My heartbeat is elevated and my arms move to the point of exhaustion. We use really light weights since we do a lot of repetitions. I usually start with 3lb weights and have to move to the 2lb weights. Also, a resistance band is used for a “rowing” type of exercise to seal the pain in the arms.
Up next…the dreaded thigh work! A typical exercise is Flatback Chair: one hand on the bar, legs together, bent knees and high heels. Holding that position we start doing small ups and downs. Having high heels is challenging since it requires effort coming from the whole leg and it requires stabilization while the whole muscle group is engaged. It gets worse as we lift one leg up and put all of the weight on the standing leg only. The other leg bends and pulses up and down. Then the raised leg pulses up and down while the standing leg remains still and then the raised leg straightens and bends which works out a completely different muscle group.
Something that I love as I reflect back on these exercises is the fact that since the leg position constantly changes it encourages you to finish the exercise as opposed to tiring yourself out while nothing changes. For example, here the raised leg changes from bent and pulsing up and down, to straightening and bending. You actually feel a shift and the engaged part of the leg changing.
After this section, I already feel like I can’t go on, and before working the other leg we face the barre and with high heels pulse up and down, at first it feels like a nice break but after a while it kills. After working the other leg, we finish with Roundback Chair with a playground ball between our legs which is the exact position as Flatback but with the upper body in a c-curve. This section includes pulsing up and down, going all the way down, and squeezing the ball to target the inner thighs, by this time I have to take breaks and needless to say am extremely happy when it’s over! We finish the class with a series of ab work with the ball on our lower back which after the thigh work is not that hard. Then the cool down…
The class flies by because of the fast pace and because you are working out different sections of the body with different exercises to target different muscles. All to the beat of the music.
The Class: Energetic, covers all muscle groups
The Music: Top forty
The Teacher: Motivational and energetic
The Space: Spacious
The Amenities: Everything you need
Good For: Intermediate to Advanced. You can adjust accordingly but should be aware of correct alignment and basic positions.