The Benefits of Barre for Runners

An expert explains why this ballet-inspired workout is a great form of cross training for runners

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By now, we bet you’ve heard about barre workouts.

Studios that host this ballet-inspired form of fitness have been gaining steam in pretty much every city across the U.S. ever since Pure Barre launched about 10 years ago.

In case you haven’t heard of it yet, barre classes mainly involve performing ballet-based strength exercises—some literally utilizing the “ballet bar” and others that are mat-based or involve free weights.

Whether you’re familiar with it or not, what you might not have realized is that for runners, it’s a great form of cross training.

Curious about how it can support and improve your performance as a runner?

Below, Amber Hirsch, director of fitness at Local Barre, NASM and AFAA certified personal trainer, and Spin and Schwinn certified spin instructor, explains why every runner needs a little bit of Barre in their lives.   

The Active Times: First, why do runners need cross training?
Hirsch: Cross training is very important for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it's crucial for preventing injuries. Many runners are plagued by nagging injuries that are brought on by the repetitive motions of running. The addition of low-impact exercises like spinning or barre to a runner's routine will strengthen lower-body muscles and joints and increase flexibility.

For runners, what specific benefits are associated with barre workouts?
Running works mostly in the sagittal plane, so the movements we incorporate at barre help to open the hips and balance the body.  Since running is high-impact it's ideal to find a strength training program that is gentle and low-impact on the joints. Additionally, strengthening the core and other accessory muscle will likely result in better posture, better form, improved speed and will also help to prevent injury

What are some specific muscles that barre targets and is this helpful for runners? 
Our barre program incorporates the core muscles through the entire class.  These are the muscles that are responsible for proper posture and protecting the spine which translates into alleviating the majority of back discomfort. For a runner, a strong core will also help stabilize the torso and make for a much more efficient stride. Runners are also notorious for skipping stretching. In our program, stretching is incorporated into each section of our class. It's important that the muscles learn to contract and release so that they can work in a more balanced manner. We also focus a lot on hip and glute strengthening which can eliminate a lot of common injuries for runners such as "runner's knee."

Personally, what’s your favorite aspect of a barre workout? 
I love that I always feel really challenged and stronger leaving the class than I did entering it. Also, because the workout is so balanced and works the entire body, my body feels longer, more mobile and tighter after each class.

What advice would you give to someone trying a barre workout for the first time?
Just to go in knowing you are doing something great for your overall well-being and take the class at your own pace. In barre we work based off of isometric movements so it is very common for your muscles to actually shake while in the positions. I always let new clients know that this is absolutely normal and to push through the shakes if they feel up to it.

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