Raising the barre: A workout a world away from the gym

By Stefanie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Holidays usually mean indulging in those sugar cookies, candy canes, and all kinds of delicious cake. But come New Year's Day, many people get back down to business in getting their bodies back in shape.

New Year's resolutions often involve losing weight and getting fit. Luckily, our cosmopolitan city has a growing exercise trend in the market that puts the bounce in body, and fab in fit.

It's called barre, and if you haven't heard of this exercise phenomena yet then now is the time to know. Especially with two new barre studios opening their doors with Pure Barre in downtown Charleston and Barre Evolution in West Ashley.

A Ballerina Body For Everyone

Barre (pronounced bar) is referred to the ballerina barre used in the work-out class. The origins of the barre method date back to a former German dancer, Lottie Berk, who opened her first studio in the 1970s.

Here at home, Pure Barre studio co-owner Jen Leitch says the method creates a dancer's body without any dance experience.

"You don't even have to have ever been to a fitness class. As long as you can hold onto a ballet barre you can do it," Leitch says. "So we use the science that is used to create a dancer's body and make it available to everybody.

That science involves a 55-minute workout at Pure Barre that focuses on arms, abdomen, seat muscles and thighs - known trouble spots for many women's bodies.

"You see the results so you are motivated to keep coming," Margaret Ward, an instructor at Pure Barre says. "You can see results after 10 classes; 55 minutes and you get what you came for."

And what you come for is to get a lean, mean tight body in working the muscles of your body by tiny movements and help from the ballet barre and floor.

"What we do is we exhaust each muscle group, we work it to fatigue, and then we immediately stretch that muscle out while it's hot and malleable so the muscle at that point is changeable and creates a long lean muscle instead of a bulky muscle," Leitch says.

Seriously, is this a spa or studio?

Walking into a barre studio you almost forget that you came there to exercise. That's because the boutique studio atmosphere makes you feel like you're almost at a spa. And that's the point, because barre addicts will tell you-- it's not all about the sweat.

"It really is more than a physical technique," Jen Leitch says. "It is but one of the best benefits about it is you will change your body, but we have mental, spiritual and emotional benefits as well. "

That same sentiment is echoed over at the first barre studio to open in Charleston two years ago, Barre Evolution.

"It's not just a class, it's a community supporting women, " Barre Evolution Co-Owner, Nicole Wallen says. "Being able to be a woman, to support other women, and help other women find their personal best is extremely rewarding."

It's true, one can't help but feel the endorphins pumping throughout the studio and all the smiles and hugs between the girls after the workout.

"Hard to put it into words unless you are taking the classes but it connects women across the country," Leitch says. "Pure Barre has 100 locations and 100,000 women clients across the country--it's truly like a family, we create relationships here."

And the hips don't lie. When you walk into a barre studio get prepared to have the receptionist and instructors greet you like family, as most barre studios know every client by name. But aside from the supporting sorority feel, it's also all about you.

"It's you time, you get to focus on you," Instructor Margaret Ward says. "That is why our very busy mothers who have very busy lives and careers they come here for one hour a day and it's the one hour of the day they get to focus on themselves."

Barre is Booming

If you're looking to raise the bar for your health and body it just got a whole lot easier with two new barre locations in the Holy City. Barre Evolution opened its second studio doors on December 15th at 70 Folly Road in the South Windemere Shopping Plaza.

Pure Barre will celebrate the grand opening of their second studio in Downtown Charleston at 164 Market Street Suite C that is set to be open the third week of January,

Both original barre studio locations are located in Mount Pleasant at the following addresses:

Pure Barre 919 Houston Northcutt Blvd.

Barre Evolution 320 West Coleman Blvd.

Class prices range from a single class visit of $15 to $23 dollars. Several options of special deals and discount packages are available and loyalists will tell you buying in the classes in bulk is better.

So hold on to that coveted spot on the barre, because this exercise experience is booming and not leaving the Lowcountry anytime soon.