So lately in an effort to fix some of the ongoing issues and imbalances that I have within my own body, I’ve been calling on some extra expert advice by taking 1:1 Pilates sessions with Ireland’s Master Teacher Trainer up in Dublin. I have to say that something that continues to amaze me is how often (in virtually every aspect of life) there is such a leap between good and outstanding. And when it comes to an eye for detail and understanding of body mechanics, she is outstanding. However, although her insight is invaluable and there have been several things which I hadn’t considered previously, I am particularly struck by the number of recommendations that she has provided which I did “already know,” but had failed to incorporate into my regular routine or execution of the exercises. Especially when we do the same or similar workouts regularly over time it’s all too easy to pick up some bad habits without noticing. Barre is pretty tough when you’re a newbie so often people are very focused on learning the proper set up, positioning and movements. And the beauty of barre is that as you gain understanding and perfect those basics, you can continue to progress and make things more difficult by working a bit deeper or higher, etc. depending on the exercise. It’s a workout which should be “plateau proof.” However, as time goes by, you may (either consciously or subconsciously) be doing yourself a disservice if you’ve picked up some bad habits at the barre.
Of course, as with just about everything, results take time, sweat, hard work and consistency. However if you feel you are no longer getting that same “barre burn,” you may need to take hard look in the mirror and work to break some of those bad habits at the barre.
Bad Habits at the Barre #1 : Zoning Out
You may have noticed that in general, your teachers (perhaps especially me….) talk A LOT. And when you were new to barre, you probably paid close attention, trying to figure out what in the world you were being asked to do. But as you get more experienced in the flow of class and types of exercises, you may notice your mind starts to wander or you think you already know what we’re going to say. And to be fair, sometimes we are just saying the same thing in a different way, but if you really pay attention, it might hit you just a bit differently so you can gain some further insight into the exercise or pick up on clues to help you work that little bit harder/deeper. Sometimes it’ll just be a reminder of something you already know, but will prompt you to check in and make sure you’re there. Sometimes it will be the motivation you need to work that little bit harder. And sometimes it will be a lightbulb moment in which you have a barre epiphany and understand the technique or work that much better.
Bad Habits at the Barre #2: Going Through the Motions
Aside from not really listening to the cues being provided, there is also the possibility that you are not really listening to your body. It’s very common once you have some classes under your high waisted leggings to just phone in and go through the motions on autopilot as opposed to actually connecting into the targeted muscles. As we say, burning is good, but shaking is better! There is a BIG difference between working in the burn zone where you experience some minor discomfort and pushing yourself to work hard. It’s important to be aware of the specific muscles that you should be firing from and focus your energy and efforts there. Everyone and everyday is different, but you should always try to find your shake as quickly as possible and STAY there.
Bad Habits at the Barre #3: Settling for a A- or B+
Try to stop stopping! It’s better to come up an inch higher or come down to a flat foot rather keeping your heels lifted as opposed to coming all the way out of the exercise. There is no shame in taking a modification which suits you, but it is important to really make those “final 10, best 10” your very best. Try not to stop on even 8 or 9 (a bad habit I caught myself doing there for awhile!) – you build strength, physically and mentally, as you push to the very end.
Bad Habits at the Barre #4: Slow Transitions
I know things move fast. I know you just gave it your all on those last 10 of that thigh sprint, but try not to take too long to transition to the next exercise. It’s important to move as quickly as possible from the center of the room to the barre and vice versa so try to move with intention. And rather than watching and waiting to get set up, try to follow along with the step-by-step instructions so that you an focus on all the small details that make sure you start off on the right foot (sometimes literally!). If you are too close or too far away from the barre for example, your alignment will be dramatically different.
Bad Habits at the Barre #5: Gripping onto the Barre for Dear Life
By keeping a relaxed hand or arm on the barre, you improve your strength and stability over time. Clutching it or white knuckling can take your body out of alignment or reduce the amount of work that you get out of the exercise with a negative cumulative effect in terms of imbalances and underdeveloped muscles. It’s usually a good idea to periodically take your hand off the barre briefly to test your balance and ensure you’re not leaning on it for support.
Bad Habits at the Barre #6: The Comparison Trap
You don’t know anyone’s story aside from your own. You don’t know how long they’ve been at this, how often they do it, what kind of injuries they might have, what other cross-training they might be doing, what their nutrition looks like, or even what else they have going on in their life outside of barre which may be impacting what you see. So stop comparing yourself to others. The best thing you can do, not only at the barre, but in life, is to stay committed to and focused on what you are doing – comparing yourself to yourself. It’s the best way to monitor your progress and growth and keeps you from getting discouraged or bent out of shape about something by jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.