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Your brain is an amazing thing. It’s always working, and processing, and instructing. Even when you’re spending the day being lazy in front of the TV, even when you’re sleeping, and even when you aren’t thinking about much at all.
The brain is amazing, but it’s also somewhat outdated. Modern technology and lifestyles have evolved so fast that the brain hasn’t been able to keep up. And that means we’re left with a bunch of outdated survival mechanisms that used to help us, but now actually hurt us.
The “fight or flight” response is one such example. When we were defending ourselves from wild beasts, we needed to respond quickly to fear. But in today’s world, that response simply makes us anxious, stressed, and even sick.
Unfortunately, we can’t exchange our brain for one better suited for the 21st century, but we can understand what happens when these survival instincts kick in and there isn’t any actual surviving to do.
One important consequence to understand? What happens in our brains when we hear “no.”
The way our minds respond to negativity has a huge effect on our lives and how healthy and fulfilled we can be.
When you say “I can’t,” you set off a number of responses in your brain that reinforce the idea, and make you susceptible to even more negativity. Here’s why and how you can stop that negative feedback loop for good.
The Brain Loves Negativity
Back in the day, when humans confronted life-threatening danger every day, it was far more important for the brain to respond to negative stimuli than positive. If an animal charges toward you, you needed to fight or run, and you needed to make that decision in a split second. But if you received a gift or a hug, you didn’t need to react as quickly.
Our brains still work this way. The amygdala, which is the command center for our emotions and motivations, uses about two-thirds of its neurons to detect negative experiences, and when it does that, information gets stored in our long-term memory.
Conversely, a positive experience has to be held in our awareness for at least 12 seconds before it’s transferred to either short- or long-term memory. One scientist described the brain as Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. Most small, positive moments just slide off.
To make it worse, humans are natural worriers. That means not only do we react more to negative experiences and store them more readily, but we are actively looking for them all the time.
This makes it extremely easy for our minds to get into a negative feedback loop. You’re hyper aware of negativity, when it happens it impacts you more, and you remember it forever. When you say “I can’t,” you may think you’re only affecting that one thing, but really you’re feeding into a negativity cycle that becomes more and more difficult to escape.
The Problem with Positivity
When it comes to being positive, the cards are stacked against us. Not only are our brains more susceptible to negativity, but they have a harder time absorbing positivity.
Studies have found you need three positive instances for every one negative instance just to stay balanced. To actually improve upon business or personal relationships, you need five to one. An “instance” can include everything from words, to phrases, to body language. Even something as simple as a head shake or disappointed look can throw off your emotional balance.
Worse yet, the English language isn’t designed to be very positive. Sixty-two percent of the emotional words in English are negative as opposed to only 32 percent being positive. So, your chances of saying or doing something negative or experiencing something negative aren’t just increased by our brain’s natural tendencies, they’re almost double just because of our language.
But what this really means is we need to consciously work harder to get that essential positivity back into our lives. It’s going to take some effort to overcome those “can’ts,” but the benefits are absolutely worth it.
The Importance of Practicing Positivity
Negativity can hurt you in so many ways. It can deepen depression, causes stress and anxiety, disrupt your nervous system, lessen your immunity, and increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.
But it should be no surprise that positivity can do just the opposite. Thinking positively can help lessen the effects of depression, reduce stress and anxiety, boost your immune system, and stave off life-threatening conditions like heart disease.
You really can heal yourself and live longer, just by ridding your mind of “I can’ts” and including more “I cans!”
So, how you can rid your vocabulary of “can’t”?
Try these techniques:
Negativity and positivity are infectious. Choose to spread the happy virus, instead of a negative one, and be a positivity advocate for colleagues, friends, and family.
Practice mindfulness using meditation or yoga so you get comfortable listening to and responding to your own thoughts.
Get help from your support system. Turn positivity into a game where people have to sacrifice something for every negative instance and gain something for every positive instance. This will keep that 5:1 ratio at the forefront of your minds.
Exercise! Negativity comes from hormones in our brain like cortisol and adrenaline. Combat their gloomy effects by inducing happy hormones, like endorphins and dopamine, through exercise.
Rephrase “I can’t” into a more positive, active statement, such as “I choose not to,” “I will in the future,” or “I can if I get some help.”
It’s tough feeling like you can’t do something, but that feeling becomes maximized by your brain’s natural tendencies and negatively affects you and those around you way beyond that single instance.
When you realize that, it becomes incredibly important to change those “can’ts” into “cans.” And we know you CAN do it! Get some help from the support system at your local Cardio Barre and gain those positive benefits of exercise while you’re at it!
Injuries affect more than just our bodies. They affect our minds. From the moment you roll your ankle, every time you step out onto a dance floor, you can’t help but favor that ankle cautiously even if it’s completely healed.
Any doctors will tell you that, while physical therapy is very important, it’s even more important for you to put yourself through some mental therapy as well. Your mind controls what your body can do, so if you don’t believe in yourself, your physical recovery will go nowhere.
It can be scary to try and get back into your old workout habits after an injury. You’ll ask yourself questions like “Am I going to be able to do this still?” “What if I get hurt again?”
Don’t psych yourself out. There have been plenty of athletes, professional and amature, that have come back from serious injuries to be even better than they were before. Here are a few tips to get you through this period and on your way to working out again.
One thing that no one really expects after an injury is the feeling of depression that inevitably follows. You just aren’t physically capable of doing the things you used to do, and that hurts. Your mind and body used to have the same goals and now they’re conflicted.
Those aren’t easy feelings to deal with, and these feelings make it hard to get yourself to a fitness class.
After you consult your doctor and plan a physical therapy routine, you have to find a way to inspire yourself to achieve your recovery goals. A great way to do that is to look for examples of people that have had similar injuries to yours and see where they are now.
One inspiring story is the recovery of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. In 2011, Peterson suffered a torn ACL in his knee, which for a running back, usually means your career is over. Peterson chose not to see it that way. He remained positive, pushed his body to the limit, and set a goal to come back better than he was before he got hurt.
Because of his hard work and positive attitude, he not only came back the following season, but he led the NFL in rushing, came within 9 yards of breaking the single season rushing record (rushing for 2,097 yards) and was named the 2012 Offensive MVP.
The point is, find yourself some inspiration. Whether it’s the example of an athlete, encouragement from family and friends or the inspirational quotes all over Pinterest, you need to find a way to put some positive thoughts in your head so that your mind can let your body recover.
Listen to medical professionals
When I say listen, I don’t mean just letting your doctor’s advice go in one ear and out the other, nor do I mean taking that same advice and throwing it out the window because you think you know better.
Believe it or not, your doctor and physical therapist actually know what they are doing. Odds are they’ve seen countless injuries just like yours. They’ve spent their entire careers helping people recover from those injuries. So if your therapist tells you to do some exercises at home, do the exercises.
Following a structured therapy routine is not only good for your physical recovery, it helps you develop mental discipline. If you strictly follow your therapy routine without fail, you’re laying the mental framework to be able to follow a workout routine without fail as well.
While it’s important to push the limits of your mental discipline, it’s even more important to know what you’re boundaries are. If your therapist insists that you do two weeks of stretching before you start working with weights, don’t just do a few days of stretching and then move right to weights because you think you’re ready.
Remember, your body still needs to physically recover. Even though you may be excited to get back into shape, pace yourself and listen to the professional advice of your therapist or doctor.
Pain is more than a symptom
Speaking of being aware of your physical boundaries, your body has this particularly cool ability to notify you when an activity is getting too strenuous. It’s called pain. Pain, unfairly, has a bad reputation.
Think of pain as the subconscious voice of your body. Pain tells you exactly where an injury has taken place, what kind of injury you’ve sustained and it can tell you how bad the injury is. There’s a reason why doctors ask you questions like “Where does it hurt?” or “Can you describe the type of pain?”
Pain doesn’t lie, and describing it to your doctor/therapist will give them a more clear picture of how they can help you recover. During your recovery process, your body will communicate with you about your limits via pain. If you’re pushing just a little too hard, your body will say “OK, send her a jolt of pain to let her know to lighten up a little.”
Listen to your body. You’ll know the difference between the muscle soreness you get from working out and injury pain. If you start to experience injury pain during your recovery, stop and consult your doctor or therapist. The last thing you want to do during injury recovery is get injured even more.
While we can’t guarantee that your recovery process will be flawless, what we can guarantee is that you can do it. Think about all the things you’ve gone through in your life. Relationships, school, work, family. You’ve survived. You’re alive. Because you’ve made it through your personal trials to be here now, you should have confidence in yourself that you can overcome this injury.
So relax. Take a deep breathe, and start your journey toward recovery. If you think of your recovery process as an opportunity to become better than you were before, you’ll gain the power you need to overcome any trial you may face in the future.
Trying to shed some winter weight before the summer sun comes out? Check out these tricks celebrities have used to drop some unwanted pounds.
These beautiful celebrities worked very hard to achieve their weight loss goals, and it’s easy to see how well their work paid off. If you’re struggling to manage your weight, take a few tips from these queens who have mastered the art of getting fit.
For a long time, Jennifer Hudson was the face of Weight Watchers. Hudson signed on in 2010, and in just four years had lost 80 pounds. According to Hollywood Life, Hudson credits all her success to Weight Watchers, saying that it taught her how to eat healthily.
The singer and actress said, “It taught me how to eat, how to measure my portions and know what I was putting in my body.” Becoming more aware of the food she was eating helped Hudson slim down and live a healthier lifestyle.
Melissa Joan Hart
Cardio Barre regular, Melissa Joan Hart, had Nutrisystem to help her with her dramatic weight loss. According to People Magazine, she lost 40 pounds on the Nutrisystem diet. But, a healthy diet wasn’t the only thing that helped Hart on her weight loss journey. She made exercise part of her daily routine and relied heavily on her support system: her husband.
In addition to taking a variety of cardio classes, Hart spends a few days a week weight training with her husband. The combination of regular exercise and a balanced diet has put her on the path to healthy, successful weight loss.
Another Cardio Barre fan, Nia Vardalos, lost 40 pounds by starting off slow. Vardalos didn’t jump straight into a hardcore workout routine, she started by walking every day to get her daily dose of exercise.
Eventually, Vardalos bumped up the intensity of her workouts, but she, like Hart, had help on her journey. According to Fitness Magazine, Vardalos claims her secret to success is working out in a group fitness setting rather than working with a personal trainer, providing her with a much bigger support system.
Kelly Osbourne committed to a healthy diet and exercise while making her 70-pound weight loss fun. In an interview with Self Magazine, Kelly admitted that one of her favorite fat-burning routines is to hula hoop every day.
Another secret she revealed: eating her most fatty meal early in the day. “If I’m craving pizza, I’ll have it for breakfast, salad for lunch, and oatmeal for dinner,” claimed the young star in the same interview. These lifestyle tricks helped her lose 70 pounds, leaving Osbourne looking and feeling great.
It’s no secret that Kirstie Alley has struggled with her weight. A long-time Jenny Craig spokesperson, Alley has been very open about her weight issues with her fans.
Alley used a nutrition plan to lose weight in the past, and once again turned toward Jenny Craig to lose another 50 pounds. Along with the diet, Alley appeared on Dancing with the Stars, which provided the opportunity to dance away her unwanted weight.
Alley’s next weight loss goal? To simply maintain her healthy lifestyle. In an interview with Today, Alley told Matt Lauer that her “goal is to keep this and maintain this throughout my life.”
Whether it’s through daily exercise, or learning healthy nutrition habits, these celebrities are an inspiration to anyone looking to live a healthier lifestyle. All these women show us that combining nutrition, fun fitness, and an awesome support system is key to success.
We all know on some level how important posture is. If you ever participated in an activity that required good posture (like dancing or playing a musical instrument), you know how much better you feel when your spine is straight, your shoulders are back, and your eyes face forward.
And yet, even though we know how positively good posture affects our lives (physically, emotionally, and mentally), we are all still guilty of slouching into our work chair or couch and letting our spine and shoulders curve into unnatural positions.
How did we get this bad?
Technology and luxury have something to do with it. Although the human body isn’t designed for so much sitting, we have developed lifestyles that involve hours at a desk and in front of the TV. Walking and standing—important cures to bad posture—just aren’t large parts of our culture any more.
Another reason, perhaps, is that we don’t know the true negative and positive effects of posture. Because if people knew the power of sitting up straight, their attitude toward slouching would surely change.
In the spirit of enlightenment, here are just a few of the effects of posture—good and bad—and a few sure fire ways to get your alignment back.
Effects of Good Posture
Elicit Positive Memories – Some studies have shown that we think more positively when we sit up straight. Those with good posture in one particular experiment were more likely to remember positive memories or think about something positive in general.
Improve Energy Levels – Other studies have shown that a slow, slumped walk can drain us of energy while skipping significantly increased energy levels. Skipping encourages you to move and straighten your spine in order to jump, so try skipping back to the office after your lunch break to get a much-needed energy boost.
Encourage Decision Making – Researchers from Columbia and Harvard universities found that powerful body language, like upright posture, affected decision making. One study found that those in powerful poses not only felt more in control, but were 45 percent more likely to take risky bet.
Hormone Effect – A Harvard study also showed that those in powerful poses had a 20 percent increase in testosterone levels and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol levels. Why care? Because high testosterone and low cortisol have consistently been linked to disease resistance and leadership abilities. Conversely, those with bad posture received the opposite effect.
Align Bones, Ligaments, and Muscles – How often do you feel pain in your lower back, shoulder, neck, or wrist after sitting for a long time? Good posture and frequently moving and standing can help greatly in relieving some of these common pain points.
Protect Organs – When you slouch, your vital organs can become squished. Good posture keeps your organs in the right position and allows them to work better and more efficiently.
Support Nervous System – Proper posture helps your nervous system work more efficiently, which is why posture can affect everything from bodily functions (such as digestion, breathing, and joints) to mood.
Effects of Bad Posture
Fatigue – When your muscles have to work extra hard to support your body, you waste energy. This can leave you feeling exhausted and even sick at times.
Deepen Depression – A study from San Francisco State University found that students who walked in a slouched position reported increased feelings of depression. This is one of many studies that have shown a link between depression and bad posture.
Appear Non-Vital at Work – Slouching can also affect how people see you. When you are slouching or bent over at work, people may not perceive you as vital and you can lose face with the company.
Increase Risk of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease – English researchers cross-referenced sitting time with health outcomes and found that those who sat the most more than doubled their risk of developing diabetes and had a 147 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease, even if they exercised.
Look Fatter – It may be silly, but it’s true. When you sit and slouch, you push your organs down and out, giving you the appearance of being a heavier weight.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Posture
Luckily, it’s easier than you think to improve your posture. If you’re ready to see big changes in your life with minimal effort, try these simple tricks for perfecting your posture.
There’s a saying among posture experts that “the best posture is the next posture.” Basically, you should always keep moving. Walking around helps your body reset itself into a healthy posture, so make an effort to get up from your desk or the couch at least twice an hour.
Similar to walking around, standing helps reset your body and keep your spine aligned. Standing desks are often recommended for those who work at a desk for eight hours a day or those who have back pain.
If you can’t get a standing desk, try making one using boxes or crates and see if a new position alleviates some of your pain. Also, keep in mind that standing burns 20 percent more calories than sitting and can strengthen your muscles, boost your metabolism, and increase bone density.
3. Yoga, Pilates, and Dance
Back pain and slouching can be remedied by strengthening your core. Exercises like yoga, pilates, and dance also help you get moving and rev up sluggish organs.
Try mixing these workouts together with a program like Cardio Barre. There, you get all the health and mental benefits of these exercises in just one class.
4. Posture Sensor
Use technology to help you get your posture in gear. Simple movement reminders like a FitBit can get you out of your chair and into alignment, but more complex sensors like LUMOback will also vibrate to remind you to sit up straight when you start slouching.
5. The Superman
Imagine you have a giant “S” on your chest like Superman. The “S” should always face proudly forward, so when you notice your chest start to collapse inward, remember to push it back out. Roll your shoulders back, keep your chin up, and lengthen your spine up toward the ceiling.
Good posture is not only better for your health, it’s better for your whole life. Use this simple habit change to greatly improve your life today.
Need more serenity in your life?
This lovely Cardio Barre infographic has all sorts of factoids and tips about how to breathe your way to serenity.
But before you skip to the pretty pictures, here’s some of what you’ll find in the graphic:
Benefits of Deep Breathing
Deep breathing motivates the immune system so tissues can generate and heal more efficiently
Breathing Can Help You Fall Asleep
Focus on calming your nervous system, increasing focus and reducing stress
Breathing Increases Awareness and Boosts Energy Levels
Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose
Breathing Helps Relieve Tension
Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound
Breathing can help you wake up in a good mood
Inhale slowly through your nose
Breathing Helps You Focus
Start in a comfortable, meditative position
Before Any Stressful Event
Aim for 10 slow, deep breaths lasting one minute each
Controlled breathing helps your body and mind function at optimal capacity. It can also help manage blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and help you de-stress.
Experts suggest using breathing exercises as a means of increasing awareness and mindfulness.
Make mindful breathing a regular practice so you prevent stress, not just treat it.
Let’s face it, sometimes it seems like your life will never slow down long enough for you to fit in a good workout.
But, whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or you work every day, there are ways for you to fit in some quick exercise that will not only help you feel better, but get you on track to living a healthy lifestyle.
Set Your Alarm Clock 10 Minutes Earlier
We know those 10 extra minutes of sleep are precious, but instead of hitting that snooze button try to fit in a quick workout.
If you find yourself having a hard time getting up, try slowly making your way out of bed with some simple yoga poses. Your body will thank you for taking the time to slowly wake up and stretch out those tired muscles.
If you’re a bit more ambitious in the mornings then do intervals of squats, pushups, and situps. Ten minutes of doing 10 to 20 reps of each exercise will definitely get you up and moving in the morning with the added bonus of getting an invigorating workout.
Take a Walk at Lunch
Use your lunch break as an opportunity to squeeze in a bit of cardio. Taking a walk might not be the most vigorous exercise, but it’s a simple one that will help you feel better throughout the day.
Walk in spurts of brisk and slow paces to get your heart rate up so you can enjoy those heart-healthy benefits of walking. Additionally, the fresh air and sunshine will help you de-stress before the rest of your busy workday.
Take Advantage of Naptime
This one is for you stay-at-home parents. Instead of taking a quick nap for yourself during naptime, why not take advantage of your kids’ down time and fit in a workout? Naptime is the perfect opportunity for any parent to hop on the treadmill or try a new yoga routine.
With the kids asleep you will be able to work out without worrying about where the little ones are, or what they’re doing. Completing an exercise routine in the middle of your day will also put you in a better mood, allowing you to take on the rest of your busy day with confidence and ease.
Don’t Forget the Dog
We know that it can be hard to think about exercise at the end of the day, but you should take your pup for a walk so you both get a little workout in. Especially in warmer weather, evening is the perfect time to take your dog out on a stroll. You can walk to the park, go for a run, or even take a bike ride.
This is a great opportunity for you to get your daily dose of exercise while bonding with your furry family. Plus, it gives them a chance to burn off extra energy before bedtime and keeps them healthy as well.
Ditch the Commute
Turn your commute into something productive by using exercise as a way to get to and from work. You can ride a bike to get back and forth, or take public transportation and then run or walk home at the end of the day.
Running at the end of a long workday will help you decompress, providing you the opportunity to relax as soon as you get home. This option will not only help you get in shape, but also allow you to minimize your own carbon footprint.
Clean the House
Cleaning around the house is a great way to maximize your productivity. Since you clean anyway, next time add interval training to your routine. Between cleaning each bathroom you could do 50 jumping jacks to get your heart rate up. Before you vacuum those stairs, run up and down them three times.
You can add any workout you like in between cleaning rooms. This is a great way to multitask and get two things done at once. Plus, you don’t have to worry about getting too sweaty, so push yourself to the limit!
Work Out in the Office
If you spend a lot of time in a cubicle, it’s worth trying to find exercises you can fit into your daily work routine.
Next time you wait for documents to print, instead of standing around, do calf raises while the printer is doing its job. If you feel like you’ve been sitting at your desk for too long, try doing chair dips to strengthen your arms and give your back a break.
Do you have a favorite show you watch every week? Or are you the type to binge on something on Netflix? If you’re a TV addict, try working out during your favorite shows. Many popular TV shows already have workout routines created for them, it just takes a quick Google search to find them.
These routines involve a certain workout every time a character says a catchphrase, or a guest character makes an appearance. For example, if your two favorite characters kiss, you must do 10 pushups. Or, every time you hear the theme song you must do 20 burpees. This is a great way to work out and catch up on your favorite shows at the same time!
Bonus Tip: Make working out fun by competing with friends. Challenge each other to reach your goals within a certain timeframe and reward each other for hitting those benchmarks. Instead of going to the movies each weekend, plan a day at the park playing football or softball.
It’s important to remember you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, the more the merrier! Find a support system that needs motivation to work out just as much as you do, and go on this journey together.
A busy schedule shouldn’t prevent you from living the healthy lifestyle you deserve. By sneaking in a workout while your kids are asleep or taking a quick walk around the park, you can still work your way toward a happier, healthier you.
San Francisco is looking for energetic, bright, and exciting new instructors!
If you feel like you have that spark, send us your resume, headshot, and cover letter.
All applications will be for the San Francisco location.
Ballet performers have some of the best legs in the world. We’re not even kidding. They’re the perfect blend of flexibility, strength, power, and beauty that normal human beings can only dream about. Well, your dream is about to come true.
Each and every leg movement in a ballet performance is designed to look like poetry in motion. These men and women perform these movements with such grace and skill that it looks effortless. In reality however, it takes a lot of hard work and sweat to get their legs to the point that it can look effortless.
What you may being wondering is “OK, what’s their secret then?” The answer is that there is no secret. Ballet dancers get those amazing legs by performing ballet. Ballet-inspired exercises help sculpt every major muscle in the legs and we’re here to show you how!
We’ve gone inside the world of a ballet dancer to show you how all those movements and positions contribute to getting perfect legs. Before we show you though, you first have to know a few different ballet starting positions.
Now, you’re ready to start sculpting! With these insights as your guide, perfect ballet legs can be yours.
Inner Thigh Lift
There are very few exercises that are designed to isolate the inner thigh, but a standard ballet thigh lift is one of them. This movement is great because while one thigh muscle is being worked, the other is getting stretched like you see above.
As you get down into your position, make sure that you are fully extending your leg and that you’re tightening your core. While raising your leg, focus on keeping your knee as straight as possible. Also, make sure you are keeping your toe pointed.
Outer Thigh Lift
Now that you’ve worked your inner thigh, it’s time for you to hit the other side and work your outer thigh. This exercise may look simple, but we promise you that your thighs will be burning by the time you’re done. Again, there are a few things that you have to remember if you want to get the most out of the movement.
First, you have to keep your leg straight. If you don’t, you won’t get as much out of the movement. Second, keep your toe pointed. It will keep you in a ballet mindset. It’s easy to get lazy with this movement, but if you focus on keeping everything straight and your core tight, you’ll be just fine.
Rond de Jambe Par Terre
You’ve hit both sides of your thigh, now it’s time to bring everything full circle. Well, not full circle, more like half. A “rond de jambe” means that you are bringing your leg around. “Par terre” means on the ground. So in this movement, you are bringing your leg around and on the ground.
Start with your feet in first position, extend the pointed toe out in front of you and bring it around behind you. Always make sure that your toe stays pointed and that it’s always touching the ground. If keeping your leg straight was important for the first two movements, it’s even more important for this one. Without a straight leg, your thigh muscles won’t get worked very hard.
Grand Plié (1st Position)
Let’s see. Is there a single movement that combines focused flexibility, precision strength and perfect posture all in one? Yes, and it’s called a grande plié. The key to this movement is to not do it too fast. Slow, concentrated pliés will have your quads screaming for mercy by the time you’re through with your workout.
Start in first position and make sure your toes don’t leave their mark. As you squat, keep your back straight and press your knees outward. Your heel will naturally rise to allow for the movement, which will also work your balancing skills.
This is another quad screamer. All of us have a tendency to put more weight on our dominant leg when we squat. As a result, one leg tends to get stronger than the other. Parallel pliés eliminate that tendency. All your weight is focused on one leg at a time, making everything balance out. Ballet dancers do these so that they can have just as much power on one leg as they do on the other.
As you perform the movement, focus on keeping your foot flat on the box and make sure your knee extends over your toe. Again, keep your core tight and your head up. In addition to your quads getting worked, parallel pliés will also help perfect your balance.
Plié pulses will definitely get your pulse pumping (wow, say that five times fast). This movement will test the strength and endurance of your quads like no other exercise can. If you aren’t comfortable with your flexibility yet, this will make you comfortable really quick.
Start the exercise in second position and make sure your feet stay flat to the ground. As you squat, push your knees outward. The key thing to remember is to not come all the way up when you squat. Stay in a flexed position going from 90 degrees, to 120 degrees and back down to 90 degrees. That constant state of flex is what makes plié pulses so hard yet effective.
Relevé (1st Position)
Like every well built house needs a solid foundation, every ballet dancer’s leg needs a strong calf muscle. Your calf muscle is really two muscles, one in the back of the leg (the gastrocnemius) and one in the front of the leg (the soleus). This first position relevé works the back part of the calf.
From first position, slowly bring your heels up to the point where you are standing on the balls of your feet. Hold that position for a few seconds and then slowly come back down. Make sure that your toes don’t leave their mark throughout the entire movement.
Relevé (2nd Position)
This second position relevé places more emphasis on the front part of your calf. Ever had a shin splint? Many athletes have. It sounds like your shin bone is breaking, but it’s actually the front part of your calf muscle getting over strained. Unfortunately, that part of your calf doesn’t get worked out too often. But with this movement, it will.
Many of the same factors from the first position relevé apply here. Make sure your toes stay on their mark and that your legs and back are straight. The wider start from the second position is what allows you to focus on your front calf muscle. Just a small angle change can make a huge difference.
Ballet Calf Raises
Just like you tend to put more weight on one leg when you squat, you tend to put more weight on one calf during calf raises. This isolated ballet calf raise can help balance that inequality out. Balance is another key component to this movement so make sure you’re comfortable before you try it.
Bring one leg to the end position of rond de jambe but lift your tow about six inches off the ground. On the other leg, slowly bring your heel up to the point where you are standing on the ball of your foot. Again, slow movements are what make this movement so effective so don’t go too fast.
Your hamstrings are hard to isolate. Think of your hamstrings as the ultimate reserve muscle. Just like reserve troops in an army are used wherever they are needed, your hamstrings distribute their power to other leg muscles whenever they are needed. However, an attitude derrière is one way you can specifically target your hamstring.
With both hands on the barre for balance, bring one leg up, behind, and slightly away from you. Remember, the slightly away part. Bringing your leg straight back won’t isolate your hamstring. While keeping the leg flexed and toe pointed, bring your toe up and down with your hip. The weight of your leg will then be focused on your hamstring.
A reverence is essentially a bow at the end of a ballet performance. How many other athletes can say that even their crowd acknowledgement is a legitimate workout? Not many. This may look like it’s more of an exercise for your quad, but your hamstring plays a vital role in the movement.
From fourth position, extent your back leg and point your back toe. Slowly start the squat with your front leg until your back knee lightly touches the ground. Then slowly come back up using your back leg and toe for support throughout the whole movement.
Your hamstring is the bicep muscle of the leg. The only way to work out a bicep is to curl it or keep it flexed. A battement derrière is the perfect combination of both.
Starting from first position and holding onto the barre for stability, extend one leg back behind you. Make sure you keep the extended leg straight and that your toe remains pointed. Remember, at all times, keep your back straight and your head up so that your posture remains intact. Nothing should move but your leg.
The booty. Let’s face it, our culture is obsessed with it. It just so happens that ballet dancers are obsessed with it too. Only for them, the glutes are an important tool to help maintain balance. A standing arabesque is a great way for you to give your butt a workout and put it on display at the same time.
From third position, slowly bring your front leg up, running your heel up your leg as far as it will go until you’re forced to extend it behind you. Focus on trying to keep your head up and in the same place as you extend your leg behind you, keeping your toe pointed at all times.
Your hip and glutes are closely aligned in almost everything they do. A kneeling arabesque extension is a great way for you to use your hip flexor to help work the middle part of your glute. It may look a little Jane Fonda-ish, but it really does work.
From a kneeling position being supported by your hands, bring your leg up to a straight position making sure that your toe remains pointed at all times. Be careful not to bring your knee to your chest when you come back down. Controlled movements are the key to getting the most out of this exercise.
You’ve flexed your glute and hip muscles together. Now it’s time to completely isolate your glute. An attitude scoop is a great way to build up your glute muscles so that your butt develops that nice round shape we all like.
From the same kneeling position as before, bring one leg up making a 90 degree angle with your calf and hamstring. Point your toe and push it upwards to turn that 90 degrees into 120 degrees. Then, bring it back down to 90 degrees. Keep your back straight and head up, and you’ll definitely feel the burn.
There you have it! Now you know a few tricks to get more out of your barre workout. Want the ultimate ballet dancer leg challenge? Do all 15 of these movements and exercises 10 times each for three sets. Giving all 15 their individual 10 repetitions one time will equal one set.
Good luck and keep on dancing!
Do your workouts properly target your most pesky trouble spots?
The areas that are difficult to reach… the spots that often get missed in your regular exercise routine?
Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be a solution for love handles, bra bulge and those ugly saddle bags. But the dreaded muffin top will be no more if you follow this handy guide. This infographic has all sorts of tricks to help you get more out of your workout.
- For Love Handles: Plank Ups
- For Muffin Tops: V Ups
- For Cankles: Calf Raises
- For Saddle Bags: Hip Raises
- For Bra Bulge: Deltoid Raises
- For Thutt: Side Lunges
Does Your Workout Target Your Trouble Spots… the Ones that are Difficult to Reach?
Just beyond the hills of the rich and famous lies Simi Valley, a “mom and pop community” that is home to one of the original Cardio Barre franchises outside of Los Angeles.
The studio opened in April 2008 and will have its eight-year anniversary in just a few short months. Franchise owner and instructor Melissa Collins spoke with us about the studio environment she’s worked so hard to create and the tactics she’s developed to help everyone who walks through the door get the results they want.
At the End of a Long Hallway…
The Simi Valley studio requires attendees walk through a long hallway. At the end of that hallway is a bright, open lobby and smiling staff at the front desk, but getting from one end to the other “can be a little intimidating,” Collins says.
The hallway, although intimidating, can be seen as a metaphor for one’s journey to wellness, with Cardio Barre being the light at the end of the dark tunnel. Collins reinforces this notion by requiring smiling faces as staff greet brave patrons entering the studio.
Down the hallway, through double glass doors, attendees see a buzzing front desk, a free childcare room to the right, and a window full of colorful sticky notes to the left. These notes get pinned to the window of Collins’ office each year and come from the studio’s “gratitude jar,” into which patrons and staff can toss grateful mentions and warm thoughts throughout the year.
It’s acts like this that create the environment that helped Simi Valley find its bearing as the flagship studio of a young and still-developing program, an environment Collins is very proud of curating.
“Everybody knows everybody’s name,” says Collins. This is partially due to the check-in system at the front desk that instructors sit at before every class. “It makes it a very personal environment,” Collins explains, which is why knowing each client’s name is a priority at the Simi Valley studio.
“Our Business is a Results Business”
Collins knows that Cardio Barre is here to help you reach your goals, which is why she puts a huge emphasis on technique.
“Quality of form is key in our studio,” she says, “not necessarily how many reps you do.”
This pairs nicely with Collins’ well-rounded approach to fitness. Her experience as a health coach has taught her that the nutritional and emotional elements of wellness have to be mixed with exercise to get the results you want.
“Our approach [at Cardio Barre] is more well-rounded than just going to a studio or a gym and working out, and then having a bunch of products you can buy,” Collins says. She likes to connect with clients personally and answer their questions about all aspects of health before and after class.
“As a woman, this business is deeply personal for me,” remarks Collins. “I know the struggles and the challenges of women and getting older.”
Collins notes that the Simi Valley studio might not be what you expect from a Southern California workout environment. “It’s not a place where people’s bodies are their business,” Collins says.
Instead, Simi Valley is often populated with married and single moms who enjoy the “family environment” that Collins has fostered by encouraging her kids to come to the studio, maintaining a free childcare program, and fostering a Cheers-like atmosphere where everybody knows your name.
The poster above the entrance to the studio reads “Defying Gravity.” For Collins, this simple statement holds many meanings.
“As you get older, gravity is not your friend,” Collins laughs. “We lift up everything, and lift people’s spirits, too.”
As it is for many, Cardio Barre for Collins is more than just a workout. It’s the opportunity to find one’s self and grow emotionally and mentally while getting in shape.
“[At Cardio Barre] we get to fly and be free for an hour, do something that makes us feel good physically and mentally. It’s just a great place to be.”
Collins and the other Simi Valley instructors foster this environment by putting a lot of emphasis on personal growth and motivation.
At their studio, instructors give struggling clients a little extra help during class and touch base afterwards, patrons become advocates for new attendees who may feel intimidated during their first few classes, and a series of motivational mantras regularly fill Simi Valley’s space.
“We’re not striving for perfect, we’re striving for progress.”
“Why are you here; what is your goal?”
“Do the work that will equal what you want your results to be.”
These are a few of the purpose-driven statements that shape the Simi Valley studio. By focusing on consistency, form, and purpose, Simi Valley is truly able to help clients defy gravity. And that weightlessness, physically and mentally, makes the long, dark tunnels in life feel like a walk in the park.
Admit it, there’s a segment of your Cardio Barre low-impact workout that you dread every class. Maybe you loath the core section or cringe when it’s time for arms. Chances are, you tend to phone it in during this segment because it’s tough to get through.
The problem is you short change yourself when you don’t give 110 percent to the whole workout. The reason those segments are a struggle is because your body isn’t strong there, and when you half commit to the workout, those areas of your body stay weak.
When you are struggling to get through a set, don’t give yourself a get-out-of-jail-free card. Use these techniques to push through the pain and overcome the physical and mental blocks that are holding you back.
Did You Check In?
Before jumping to push yourself, check in with your body to make sure you aren’t overlooking a signal it’s trying to send. Ask, “Am I dehydrated, hungry, injured, or sleep deprived?”
If the answer is no, it’s time to get motivated!
1. Master a Mantra
Find a short saying you can repeat to yourself when you need extra inspiration. Tell yourself, “No pain, no gain!” or “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” (from Eleanor Roosevelt) and push through those last few reps.
2. Make a Deal
Sometimes you need to negotiate with yourself to get through a difficult set. Offer yourself an extra hour of guilty-pleasure television or a bubble bath at the end of the day if you get through a particularly tiresome segment. That extra incentive can motivate you to go the distance.
3. Put on a Show
Decide to be an example for the class by showing off excellent form and unwavering stamina. Even if you don’t believe you’re nailing it, you can convince your classmates by modeling the best posture you can muster.
If you know you aren’t the star of the show, find the performer who is and make a goal to keep up with them. You’ll find yourself exceeding their perfection in no time.
4. Focus on Results
It might seem vain, but there’s nothing wrong with checking yourself out in the mirror during a difficult set. Notice how the muscles contract and release and envision the toned results after dedicated practice. Picturing your tight, toned bod is sure to give you the boost you need to get through the workout.
5. Count It Out
For some people, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is what they need to keep going. If that sounds like you, try counting backwards during sets. The closer you get to one, the more motivated you’ll be to push harder for those last few reps.
6. Say “Ahh”
You hear bodybuilders do this all the time, but they aren’t yelling “ahh” because it sounds tough. Vocally releasing air helps you breathe when you may be holding your breath during a difficult segment. Plus, audibly acknowledging a taxing workout can pump up the class. Chances are you’re not the only one struggling to finish.
7. Get Caught in the Beats
Cardio Barre classes keep you pumped up with constant, uplifting beats from your favorite songs. When a segment feels to hard to finish, switch your focus to the tunes. Those catchy harmonies will get your mind off the pain and energize you to finish strong.
These tricks of the trade aren’t well-kept secrets. In fact, instructors want you to know these tools so you can use them to get even more out of your workout.
Practice looking forward to your most challenging segment, instead of dreading it. When you see you can overcome adversity in the Cardio Barre studio, you’ll realize how capable you are in all other aspects of your life to exceed others’ and your own expectations.