Getting In Shape the Ballerina Way

FTI Contributor Mahi Solomou finally gets her ballerina moment after the age of 40!

Total Barre

As a little girl, like most little girls, I dreamed of becoming a ballerina. I was naturally flexible and all my PE teachers encouraged me.  Yet, in the 1970’s, ballet was unheard of where I lived, so I watched ballet on TV instead, imagining myself in a pink leotard, tutu and pointes.

Who would’ve guessed that, four decades later, I would finally have my ballerina moment – or at least a taste of it?

When I heard about a Total Barre class, all I knew was that it involved a barre, and that was enough for me. Within an hour, I had signed up for a class led by certified Total Barre and Zenga instructor, Jennifer Dahl.

And there I was, standing at the barre (finally!) with tribal music as a backdrop.  Not classic, but close enough to my childhood dream. Fortunately, no previous dance experience was required.

After a warm-up for spinal and shoulder mobility, we warmed up legs, feet and hips.  The main routine is based on small isometric movements for muscle toning, with an endurance segment for major leg muscles. As we cycled through reps of tiny lifts, raises and squats, I could feel my legs working without stress to my joints, which are my weak spot.

The movements may be small but the intensity is deep!

This all sounds easy, let me just say now it’s not. The movements may be small, but the intensity is deep! Total Barre concentrates on the seat, abs, arms, thighs and hips. 24 hours later, I could still feel it. Dahl explained to me how Total Barre combines elements from Pilates, dance, cardio and strength training to focus on strength, flexibility, stamina and dynamic stability.  Because routines are music-driven, they increase both coordination and quality of movement.

We continued with a strength and endurance segment focusing on muscles of the mid-upper back and posterior shoulder ex-triceps.  It was then I understood why our instructor had such regal posture.

An endurance workout for the hips and legs followed by a cardio leg segment, to get the heart pumping – if, like me, you forget to think about breathing, a little reminder: breathing mindfully with each movement helps to stabilize you and harness power and strength for the more difficult segments. We cooled down with lengthening stretches.

Yes, I was sore the next day. But I signed up for more because flexibility and stamina are what I need to complement my marathon training. Three times a week is optimal, I’m told. Stay tuned!

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