Meet and Greet: Ashley Cramer of The Barre Studio

Ashley Cramer, owner of The Barre Studio in Capitola, Calif., recently joined our team of contributors.

What’s in my bag?

I firmly believe that you can learn everything about a woman by looking in her bag. As the owner of The Barre Studio in Capitola, Calif., my bag is full of things that help me go from the studio to a meeting, date night or errands around town. Since I’ll be writing a monthly column for The Penny Rose, I’m dumping out my bag so that you can get to know me better.

1. Clothing Layers. Living in Northern California means I don’t leave home without a pullover and scarf to keep me warm and help me go stylishly from studio to street.*

2. My favorite water bottle. S'well bottles look great and support charities that bring water to the world’s poorest communities. (Tip: If you need to keep your chardonnay cold for 24 hours, the large holds a full bottle of wine. Yes, I've tried it.) 

3. Bobby pins. I recently cut my hair short, so I'm obsessed with good, old-fashioned bobby pins. I also learned from Pinterest that the wavy side is supposed to go toward your head. Now my bobby pins actually stay in place! 

4. Makeup bag. I like to refresh after a workout with Burt's Bees Cucumber & Sage Facial Cleansing Towelettes, Kiehl’s Lip Balm No. 1 and a swipe of fresh mascara. There’s no need for blush with a post-workout glow.

5. My iPhone. It may be cliché in 2015, but my iPhone is my most necessary and favorite accessory. I am constantly writing emails, taking pictures, catching up on the news or checking my Instagram feed. I feel lost without it.

*Both items are available for purchase at The Barre Studio

Raising the Barre: Why I Now Love Exercise

The Barre Studio in Capitola, Calif., where I've been exercising for the last three months. All photos by Tommy Parker of Ginger Built Design.

We do an arms section with weights during the hour in class and your arms will be shaking.

Can you hold a two-minute plank? In barre, you'll do so. 

Heels up. The higher you go, the more you will shake and burn.

One inch higher and hold. This might look easy, but it's not at all. 

Stretching at the end of class.

I used to hate exercise. So much so that I hadn't been to a gym (even though I have a membership) in nearly five years. Hence, a 20-pound weight gain (no exercise and eating out a lot). I shook off 12 pounds of that last year by changing how I ate, but there was a remaining eight pounds that just wouldn't quit. I knew the only answer was exercise, the last thing in the world I wanted to do: it takes time, it's hard, I never see results quickly so I quit (before the results ever have a chance to show up). And it's boring. I needed something different that would inspire, motivate and discipline me, and maybe get me excited, too. And just maybe, I'd see some changes to my body. 

So, when I heard that The Barre Studio was opening not far from my home in the Santa Cruz area, I was intrigued. The ballet-inspired/yoga-influenced whole body workout has been gaining major steam across the nation with models and actors taking note. During opening weekend in October, I took a class and was wowed: it was hard, no doubt, and I was sore the next day. But it was also fun, something I hadn't experienced with exercise in a really long time. Plus, the staff was unbelievably sweet and the fellow students cheered one another on, unlike many group exercise classes which promote competition, this is a place where people support one another. For me, it was revolutionary. 

In November, I started taking regular classes and attend five to seven times a week. And it's never hard for me to go to class. I actually look forward to it. It's one of the hardest workouts I've ever done: you do isolated exercises on the arms, thighs, glutes, and abs, until you reach muscle exhaustion, and then you move on. But really, you can do anything for a short time, right? Plus, with catchy music and motivating instructors, there's an urge to press through it. An hour is over before you know it. 

The results? After three months of being in class, I have been humbled by the feedback I'm receiving. I've dropped pounds and my clothes fit differently. I have biceps and deltoids and my rather substantial butt is still there, but it's taken on a new shape. I like to call it "the barre butt"—a lifted, firm tush. My legs are thinner and my muffin top is almost gone. 

While I started seeing results at about week two, it's now at the end of my third month that I can really tell the difference, and so do others. In the last three weeks I've had several people come up to me to say, "you're tiny," which was a compliment I gladly received. I've never heard anyone say that to me before. 

For me, The Barre Studio has changed my life in many ways. I move my body everyday and I'm thrilled to be doing so. I've lost weight, shed fat and gained muscle. And I have confidence now, something I haven't had in five years. 

If you're in the Bay Area, check out The Barre Studio in Capitola. You won't regret it. 

Behind the Barre

Photos by David Turek. 1. At the barre / 2. In a plank, Christa Martin is seen second from the left / 3. Arm exercises.

They say time flies. So does weight gain. Over the last five years I have gained 23 pounds. It was obvious how it happened—no big surprise—I stopped exercising and started eating more. This year I was able to ditch 10 pounds by changing my eating habits. But shedding the remaining 13 pounds requires exercise.

When I heard that a barre studio was opening up in town, I was intrigued. I’d been reading about the exercise phenomenon that’s burgeoning in big cities and is acclaimed by models and actors. In an effort to finally get healthy and start exercising, I talked to Ashley Cramer, owner of The Barre Studio in Capitola, Calif., to learn about the ballet-inspired, resistance training work, and I enrolled to take barre classes. I’ve been going strong for two-and-a-half weeks so far and in early January, I’ll report my findings.

Below is an interview with Cramer about barre and why you just might want to try it out, too.

Why were you drawn to barre?

I call barre curiously addictive. When I took my first barre class, I couldn't wait to go back despite being sore for days. Barre changed the shape of my body over the next few months. I was stronger and thinner than I had been with other workouts, and I looked forward to my barre classes. Exercising wasn’t a chore. I've since become certified to teach multiple barre workout formats. I use my knowledge from those certifications and experience from several years of taking barre classes to create the workouts that we do at The Barre Studio.

Why did you decide to open a barre studio in Santa Cruz?

It was the perfect meeting of interest and opportunity for me. When I moved to Santa Cruz, the closest barre studio was about 25 miles away. I ran and did other forms of fitness training including yoga and group fitness classes, but I missed barre workouts. I started driving over the hill to take barre classes, and I joked that someone should open a barre studio in Santa Cruz so that I didn’t have to drive so far. I got serious about a year ago and created a business plan to open Santa Cruz County's first barre studio. Now, I get to work in a beautiful studio space and share something I love with my community.

What is barre?

Barre is a total-body workout that uses a ballet barre for body-weight resistance and incorporates exercises you'll recognize from sport training, yoga and Pilates. We use small, isometric exercises to fatigue muscles, getting to the point that muscles actually shake. Barre is an anaerobic workout, which means we use high intensity for a short period of time. We balance out strength exercises with focused stretching to improve flexibility and sculpt long, lean muscles.

Why are the fashion and beauty set falling in love with this exercise?

Although the strength and flexibility exercises can benefit both men and women, barre is designed to target women's problem areas and create the body shape that most women want—lean legs, toned arms, flat stomachs, and a trim waist. And, it's especially good at carving out a round, lifted butt.

How long does it take to see results?

Most people see results in their first 10 classes. After just three to five classes, clients typically tell me that they feel stronger, that they notice better posture and their arms and legs feel firmer. In the next few classes, I hear that their stomachs are flatter, butts are rounder and that they're losing pounds. With other workouts, people can become discouraged when it's too hard, too easy or they don't see a change. Barre is not a quick fix, but I believe people come back to barre classes because they can see visible results quickly and incremental improvement with each class.

Why is it so effective?

Barre uses muscles that are often neglected in other forms of strength training, which leads to a greater range of motion and overall strength. It’s cross training for every day activities. Aesthetically, barre workouts target large muscle groups, particularly the glutes and quadriceps, that burn lots of calories and raise overall metabolic rate (also known as "afterburn"). We also focus on the transverse abdominis throughout the class, which is important because a strong transverse abdominis flattens the stomach. Overall, barre can help people to lose weight and inches and is effective at reshaping problem areas.

To learn more about The Barre Studio in Capitola, Calif., visit thebarrecapitola.com. In early January on The Penny Rose, read about Christa Martin’s results from taking barre classes.