Thighs burning, abs shaking, face a sweaty mess – working for a toned ballerina body is harder than I thought. I’m at Barrecore in Mayfair, London, road-testing the ballet-inspired workout craze that’s got the nation pirouetting with glee at its body-shaping power. ‘It’ll be fine,’ I convince myself as I walk into the studio, recalling my dance training of days gone by. But this is not the toes-pointed, tutu-wearing Swan Lake style of ballet I remember. Ballet shoes and experience are not required for this exercise class – just a willingness to work your body hard.
‘This will hurt – your muscles will shake, they’re supposed to,’ the instructor warns at the beginning of the session. And she’s not kidding. The 60-minute workout is a blend of high repetition pilates and barre exercises that use your body weight and small equipment (light weights, Pilates ball, resistance band) to exhaust every muscle group, alternated with stretching – and boy do you need to stretch! It’s these isometric movements (static holds with small contractions) that shape and hone the muscles, improving your posture and alignment – and burn up to 500 calories.
In spite of the pain, I leave the class feeling a few inches taller, tauter and buzzing with endorphins – I even book myself in for the same time next week. An exercise class that tones the whole body and burns calories, all under the pretence of gracefulness… I’m hooked.
The next day, I catch up with Barrecore founder Niki Rein and ask her to share her ballet-body tips:
What’s so good about the Barrecore way of exercising?
We work the body like dancers do – targeting every muscle in the body, especially the small stabilisers (the muscles that hold the body in place so a desired movement can be performed) to create long, lean lines.
What’s your favourite exercise?
I love our thigh exercise, V Waterski. Stand at the barre, heels together with toes turned out, then lean back and pulse towards the barre. It’s a thigh killer that shapes the inner and outer muscles, stretching and elongating them at the same time. Plus, it lifts the seat, flattens the abdominal wall and sculpts the back.
When is the best time of day to exercise?
Before 10am is the best time as our cortisol (stress response hormone) levels are highest. The amount of cortisol in our bodies naturally reduces throughout the day so we are relaxed by bedtime, but exercise – a stressor – results in the release of extra cortisol from the adrenal gland. By working out in the morning when cortisol levels are already elevated, it gives the body plenty of time to reach the relaxed state needed for deep restorative sleep. Exercising later in the day may disrupt the natural cortisol rhythm. Plus, studies show people who work out in the morning are more consistent exercisers than those who exercise in the evening.
How long should you wait after eating before working out?
Two hours after a large meal, but it’s fine to have a light snack just before exercise. Great light snack choices include a handful of nuts, a raw energy bar such as LoveRaw, or even a couple of bites of chicken will help you burn fat and sustain your energy levels during the workout.
What is your favourite post-workout snack?
I love a green vegetable and apple juice after exercising. Workouts cause acidity in the body, so the greens help increase alkalinity, while the sugar in the apple helps improve insulin uptake after exercise. I always aim to get a little bit of protein shortly after my juice, too, for muscle recovery.
What’s your best piece of fitness advice?
Stay mentally connected to what you are doing – try to visualise your muscles working and changing. This will get you working harder and burning more calories.
Fancy trying it for yourself? Barrecore has studios in London’s Mayfair and Chelsea, or you can download one of the online classes and work out in the comfort of your own home.