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The V-Fit studio in Ventura is not a gym. You won't find weights or Nautilus equipment here, or see a bunch of men with big muscles doing biceps curls.
V-Fit owners Kathy Lopez and Jami Klein of Ventura are personal trainers who teach yoga and Pilates, strength training and other fitness classes at their studio. Over the past year, the women have noticed that their barre classes - as in ballet barre - have grown in popularity and are filling up every week.
Welcome to the barre, the latest "in thing" in the fitness world. Barre classes have been embraced by girls and women of all ages (and some men), from Hollywood celebrities to middle-aged moms to women in their 70s.
Several barre studios have opened throughout the region in the past two to five years since barre fitness programs exploded on the workout scene. Some barre classes incorporate intense cardio workouts with ballet moves, depending on the instructor, the studio and the particular barre program. Others focus on body sculpting and muscle toning.
Instructors say barre classes tone all areas of the body, without stressing joints or knees. The ballet barre gives the person something to hold on to while stretching, toning the muscles and burning fat.
"The barre methods are similar to Pilates and yoga. Now you add music and get your heart rate up and you are standing. It's not a craze. It's barely hitting its peak with the mainstream because it's more available now," Lopez said.
V-Fit offers two different barre classes throughout the week: its original "Barre Fit" class, which combines ballet techniques with free weights, Pilates and yoga; and "Booty Barre," a high-energy barre exercise program developed by celebrity fitness and lifestyle expert Tracey Mallett, a former professional dancer and master Pilates instructor.
In eastern Ventura County, franchises of Cardio Barre have opened in Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, and there are the Barre 101 studios in Agoura Hills and Santa Barbara. There's yet another barre studio in Calabasas called the Dailey Method studio, and some traditional gyms also offer barre classes.
The number of women taking these classes is on the rise, studio owners say.
"We had a Booty Barre challenge in 2013 and had like 30 people participate. In 2014 we had about 75 people. We had sold-out classes and waiting lists and we had to add classes to accommodate people," Lopez said.
"It's a good way to cross train the body. It really hits your muscles differently. You do a lot of standing and balance work at the barre and you have to use your core. We make sure we sculpt the arms and legs and focus on posture," said Lopez, whose studio began offering barre classes in September 2012.
Using a ballet barre to work out is an exercise option for people who want to focus on strength, body sculpting, flexibility, stamina, posture and balance, Lopez said. Barre workouts are a good option for middle-aged and older women also, and are low impact, she added. "It's really for everyone. You can work at your own pace."
Erin Shachory of Agoura Hills has taken barre classes every week for more than three years at the Barre 101 studio in Agoura Hills. She said it's the first fitness program she has been able to stick with, and after a major weight loss recently, she really sees muscle definition in her body because of the barre classes.
"People see that it works," said Shachory, 42. "You do have that dancer's body. I have that body I never expected to have. It's a very attractive, lean-muscle body you are helping to create. Once I lost weight, I could see all those muscles with barre. In other people who are new to barre, I can see results in a month."
Shachory said the barre classes are also fun and social at Barre 101 in Agoura Hills. "I see all the women all the time and it's nice. It's like a modern-day knitting circle."
Barre 101 owner Jodi Conroy became aware of the barre fitness trend when she took a barre class years ago while living in San Francisco. She loved it and decided to become a certified instructor. After Conroy moved to Camarillo, she opened her Agoura Hills studio in 2008, then opened a second Barre 101 studio in Santa Barbara in 2011. Conroy teaches 12-15 barre classes a week at her two studios.
Conroy said she doesn't see barre classes as a temporary fitness craze that will pass any time soon.
"I do think it's here for good. You're working large muscle groups and you're working these muscles in a different way. It's great for cross training or toning. People see results from it," Conroy said.
"It's another option out there for people. Barre fills a void that there is with all the other things that have been around for a long time. Pilates and yoga have great benefits but they work the muscles differently. Barre is also therapeutic. You strengthen all the muscles around your joints and it helps people who have injuries get better."
Lili Surkin of Chatsworth owns Cardio Barre in Thousand Oaks, a franchise she opened in 2012. When she opened her studio in Thousand Oaks, Surkin said, there were nine Cardio Barre studios nationwide. Today there are 16, including a studio in Simi Valley, according to the Cardio Barre website. Of the 16 studios, 13 are in California.
The Cardio Barre program is a high-energy barre workout developed by Richard Giorla, formerly a professional dancer. He suffered a major hip injury which ended his dancing career and went on to develop the high-energy, low-impact routine that would be less likely to cause injuries than other workouts.
"So many people are so addicted to it because the extra workout is amazing. You tend to really see the inches disappear if you are doing it consistently. Clients say they can let go of their stress and 'be in the moment,'" Surkin said.
"You don't need any dance experience. The youngest student we take is 14 and I have a customer in her 70s who comes religiously and she looks amazing. It's truly something everyone can do."
On the Net: http://cardiobarre.com/studios/thousand-oaks-ca/