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The Perfect Pair: Barre + Running

If you’re a runner, you’ve probably learned that cross-training is the key achieving an injury-free PR. That means you’ve probably tried a handful of classes at gyms; maybe a few different styles of yoga; and perhaps something completely different- such as rock climbing or water aerobics. If you’re like me, you have fun exploring new and different options for “off days.”

When choosing your next complimentary fitness modality, consider what it is specifically doing to improve your stride. I look for three things: what muscles a fitness modality targets; how it is impacting those muscles; and how I can use it to improve injury prone areas to yield a better, safer run.

I’ve always loved yoga for it’s ability to loosen muscles and improve balance. I have to say, there is something really amazing about a well-deserved Yin class after a long run. That said, my favorite compliment to running is, and has always been, barre fitness. The very premise of barre is crucial to running: target areas with low impact movements to build lean muscle. Here are five reasons that you and you your running group should be running to the barre before the bar on your next pub run.

  1. Barre is low-impact, meaning that you are less likely to injure yourself and void your dreams of making it to the Boston Marathon. To be clear- low-impact does not mean easy. Small movements and isometric holds allow you to work muscles with more reps, and to the point of fatigue (aka finding your edge, aka finding that shake). This type of controlled movement allows you to strengthen muscles without straining the tendons or ligaments that power your run. Supplementing high-impact running with barre helps you achieve balance in your fitness routine.
  1. Lean Muscle is Power. Barre classes help you build lean muscle mass. Not only will this offer a host of benefits resulting from a sustained metabolic burn (aka weight loss), but it will help condition your body to avoid injury during your runs.
  1. Core strength will do wonders for your run.  Think about what powers your arms, legs, and feet. Your core is your running powerhouse, and it’s a necessary component of a healthy run. Barre classes require you to mindfully engage your core for the duration of class, and further target your upper/lower abdominals and obliques in each ab section. A strong core will improve your posture and reduce the need for other muscles to compensate, thereby improving your form and preventing injury.
  1. Body Awareness and Balance. There are a handful of fitness modalities that promise to help you find balance. A great deal of balance comes from strengthening the muscles that you don’t use in day-to-day life. These are the muscles that you don’t even know you have, until they became surprisingly sore in a barre class. Achieving better balance also comes from improved alignment, which is a pillar of safe barre practice. This is all to say that your feet and shins will thank you for the opportunity to avoid a painful stress fracture.
  1. Mind-body connection may sound cliché, but it’s important. Because barre classes challenge you to focus on specific muscles/muscle groups, you will find yourself in a trance, of sorts. Your instructor is telling you “only eight more,” but your muscles are telling you that they’re ready to melt into a puddle on the floor. But you know you can make it, so you push. In this moment, that mental to-do list you arrived with is properly filed away for it’s designated time and place. That moment, which becomes an hour, is all your own. It gives you the much needed opportunity to have a heart-to-heart with your body. Any runner can attest to loving the rhythmic feeling of the “runner’s high,” but it’s not always something that comes easily if you have a lot on your mind. The beauty of barre is its tendency to quickly push you into the mind-body mental space that you need to cut through the noise and find that connection.