New and expecting moms look no further when searching for a workout that is fun, challenging and keeps you feeling fit no matter what stage of the journey you are on.
I will admit, having never taken one before, I was intimidated to attend a barre class. So the thought of attending one while eight months pregnant seemed a little scary..until I did. Not only was the instructor incredibly kind (shout out to Amber!), but the class got my blood flowing and my heart racing in a way that made me feel human again. With so much of the pre and post natal focus being on the baby’s impact on the mother’s body, it was refreshing to experience a workout where I felt like I was taking care of me – the mom.
Kristine Storie, Owner & Instructor of Xtend Barre in Brooklyn Heights, tells us about her wide assortment of perinatal classes that she offers at her studio and why staying fit pre and post birth is so important.
For those who have never taken a barre class, how would you describe the workout? And what are the high-level benefits of practicing barre routinely?
Xtend Barre is an upbeat, total body workout with equal emphasis on toning and cardio, and a strong focus on core. Xtend Barre is inspired by ballet and Pilates, but no prior experience is required in either discipline to participate and reap the benefits of a stronger, more balanced physique, increased endurance, better posture and more graceful movement patterns.
Between the studio’s babysitting services, Babies on Board (barre with babes) and pre/post natal classes offered, it’s clear that Xtend supports moms in a big way. Why were these services so important to the studio and the Brooklyn Heights location in-particular?
Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Heights in particular, is loaded with new moms who care tremendously about health and fitness, but struggle to find the time to fit in consistent workout classes. Our Babies on Board class gives new moms the opportunity to take fun and challenging classes immediately after being cleared by their physicians to resume exercise, without having to find a sitter. Because the baby is worn in the carrier for the majority of class, there is no chance that your baby will distract you from your workout, while simultaneously allowing for bonding time with your newborn and the opportunity to connect with other local moms.
It’s so nice to have the option (to bring baby with) because finding time truly is a struggle. And what type of experience can a mom expect when joining any one of the above mentioned classes?
While our pre and postnatal class offerings are geared towards the pre and postnatal body, meaning they do not include any movements that are unsafe for this population, these classes are definitely challenging! Expect to move, sweat, and have a blast doing it!
I recently took one of your pre/post natal barre classes and absolutely loved it, but would be lying if I didn’t recognize how challenging (in the best way) it still was – baby weight or not! How do these classes differ from a regular barre class and what are the benefits for moms to continue this type of workout pre and post birth?
All of our classes are challenging, but they are designed in such a way that they can be easily modified to make the movements that seem out of reach more accessible. The main difference is that the pre/postnatal and Babies on Board class lesson plans do not include any movements that are unsafe for the pre and postnatal body (according to guidelines established by the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists aka ACOG).
Additionally, the class is taught at a slightly slower pace (125 beats per minute vs 132-136 bpms for a standard class), with more scheduled breaks. The benefits to any exercise/movement program pre and post birth are innumerable, and include increased energy, improved mood and the chance to rebuild strength and endurance in a fun and supportive environment.
Babies on Board is such a unique and wonderful opportunity for moms to bring baby to class with them. At what age do you recommend these babes begin attending and how involved are they in class?
Babies can attend as soon as mom is ready/medically cleared. This is typically around 6 weeks, longer for C-sections (10-12 weeks). The babies are quite passive participants in class, since they are strapped into the baby carrier for the large majority of the hour, with the exception of a 10-15 minute post-natal friendly core section done on the mat at the end of class. The younger babies will face in, and they typically fall asleep. Older babies who have the ability to support their heads will face outwards and they have an absolute blast staring into the mirror while mom works out.
What can a mom do or bring to prepare for their first Babies on Board class? And what benefits do you find this type of bonding provides for both mom and baby?
No preparation required, but you do need to bring your own baby carrier. Make sure it’s a supportive carrier (such as the Ergo or Bjorn brand, or anything with buckles and straps). No flimsy slings, you want to be able to reach those arms out, though we do give the option to keep 1 arm wrapped around the baby in the carrier for moms who feel more secure doing so.
Another offering that is particularly special is the babysitting services available during select regular class times. What type of care will the baby receive when mom is in class and is there a specific age range that is welcomed for this type of service?
We offer babysitting during our 9:30am Barre class on Mondays and Fridays. There is a maximum of 4 kids per session, and it takes place in Studio 2, which is located right next to Studio 1 where mom will be working out. All of our sitters are experienced child care providers and are child and infant CPR certified. Babies are welcome if mom feels like they would be OK in that environment, but must arrive in a stroller so they can safely crash out while the sitter is playing with the older kids.
Tell us about the diastasis checks you offer in studio and why it’s so important for a women to be checked postnatal.
Surprisingly, a lot of moms don’t know if they have diastasis when they check into their first class. It’s really easy for us to check for you and we are always happy to do so. It’s super important to know if you have this condition because if there is a separation, you will want to avoid any movements that can worsen it such as “crunching” and twisting, and instead focus your core work on connecting to and strengthening the deepest layer of abdominals first, specifically the transverse abs (the low ab muscles located between your pubic bone and your belly button). These muscles support the spine and enable lumbopelvic stability. All new moms should ensure they are connected to those deep ab muscles before attempting to tone the superficial layer of abs such as the rectus abs (aka “6 pack”). Most of our core work in pre and postnatal classes focuses on transverse activation and strengthening, with a sprinkling of upper ab work offered as an option for those moms who either don’t have diastasis or who have successfully reconnected with the deep core.
That’s really great to know and so vital for recovery.
How often can new and expecting moms come see you at Xtend (i.e. class schedule/days offered)?
Pre & postnatal barre is offered 2x per week: Weds at 6:45pm and Sat at 9:45am. We recommend waiting until after 18 weeks prenatal to attend this class, it will be more meaningful. Our standard barre class is also very safe for expectant and new moms, since much of the workout is done in a vertical position in a neutral pelvic/spinal shape. Only the last 10-15 minutes of class (the core section) will need to be slightly modified, and all of our instructors are trained to guide you through that section by offering alternative movements.
We encourage you to attend pre and postnatal barre class to learn more about your pregnant or post-partum body, and apply what you learn in standard class. Babies on Board is offered 4x per week: Tu/Th at 1:15pm and Wed/Fri at 11am.
Classes to avoid beyond 18 weeks or pregnancy and for newly postpartum moms: Pilates Mat & Pilates Fusion.
So I am hearing that there are classes available nearly every day of the week!? Amazing.
Lastly, what makes the Xtend experience different from other studios who provide similar workouts in the area?
1) Cardio! Our barre class provides equal parts toning and dance-inspired cardio sequences, which get your heart rate up and allow for a more functional class experience.
2) Ballet! Our classes incorporate actual ballet moves such as tendu, passe, arabesque, etc., which other programs oddly do not. Don’t worry though, absolutely no ballet experience is required, it’s easy to catch on.
3) Pelvic positioning: we work in a neutral pelvic position, meaning we don’t sustain a “tuck” throughout class, which erases the natural curve in your lumbar. This is a Pilates principle we feel really strongly about. We don’t walk around in daily life with our pelvis tucked, so why would we fortify that position at the barre? There are some tucking exercises such as the Pilates roll up, pelvic tilts, etc, but your home base is neutral and that’s where we are for most of class.
Further, we do not recommend women who are 35+ weeks pregnant to tuck at all. Orienting the pelvis in neutral, which is perfectly vertical with the floor, will help prepare your baby for a smoother exit.