For two and a half years, Sarah Pachetti has been refining her fitness studio to make it exactly what she wants. What began as a boutique fitness studio, offering everything from yoga to Zumba to piloxing, has now evolved into a barre-focused studio. Firefly Barre | Fitness, formerly called Studio on Third, offers a wide range of barre-style classes, along with Pound and some yoga.
But what is barre?
Many people think barre is ballerina torture—you stand at a barre and do pliés and squats with your hair in a tight bun until you drop.
Not the case.
“It’s a body weight strengthening class that has elements of positioning of dance,” explains Sarah. “It incorporates small little isometric holds and pulses and really digs deep into muscles that you might not get if you’re doing the full range of stuff all the time. It also has orthopedic stretching.”
So what does that look like, exactly?
At Firefly Barre | Fitness, barres are installed on two parallel walls, one mirrored and one not. Each person has an allotted amount of barre space, wide enough for a yoga mat to be positioned beneath to add some cushion to your workout. The specific exercises are determined by the style and the teacher; the barre is used mainly for stability during specific exercises. During squats, for example, you use the barre for leverage so you can lean back and squat down farther. Then, you may pulse the squat, making small movements.
Sarah has spent a long time deciding what style of barre to bring to Rochester. Firefly is currently the only studio in town offering barre, despite immense popularity on both coasts and in the Twin Cities. During her first two years of business, she was verycognizant of what her clients wanted and adapted the schedule to fit their desires. What she found was that “people wanted barre, they were coming for barre,” so she dedicated more time slots to this popular program.
If you’re not in the world of fitness, you may not be aware that there are many styles and types of barre workouts. Sarah weeded through many options before having instructors get certified, but last year she found one that put more emphasis on teaching proper form and adding corrections and modifications and currently offers that style, called Barre Amped.
Barre Amped is unique because there are many offshoots of classes. Barre Cardio, for example, adds cardio elements to the workout, while Barre Flow combines barre with vinyasa yoga, giving clients a wider range of exercise options.
As a fitness style, barre works well as a crosstraining option, though it stands on its own perfectly fine. “Barre is best if done a minimum of three times a week,” says Sarah, “that’s really where you see the true benefits.” Firefly has classes all throughout the day, including an express class over the lunch hour for those that can’t make it before or after work.
In the spirit of journalism, I signed up for one of the lunchtime classes. Cristin was my instructor. A former Division 1 hockey player, she is well used to hard workouts. As the students rolled in, there was a palpable feeling of community; people were greeting each other by name and chatting before class.
And then we began.
Thankfully, I had asked Sarah her tips for beginners before the class:
Only worry about what’s happening on your own mat. Don’t try to compare yourself to people next to you, because they might have been coming forever.
Listen to the instructor when they’re giving modifications.
We started with arm and shoulder exercises, and by the time we moved to glutes, quads and hamstrings, I was shaking like a Polaroid picture. And I wasn’t the only one. Cristin kept saying if you’re shaking, you’re doing it right. For the rest of the class, I shook and shook, but I kept going and followed Sarah’s advice, taking modifications where I needed them and doing as much as I was able to do.
I will readily admit I was quite sore for a few days after class. Sarah was right—I was using muscles deeper than I do in my daily workout routine, but was not so sore that it scared me off.