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. 

Studio to Street Style

Ashley Cramer is the owner of The Barre Studio in Capitola, Calif. Photos by Tommy Parker.

Crazy schedules during the holidays mean we often squeeze in a workout between other plans like a holiday happy hour, date night, or last-minute shopping. Lucky for us, activewear is now functional and fashionable. As owner of The Barre Studio, I have learned some tips and tricks to stylishly transition my workout wear from the studio to the street. No time to change? No problem.

Step 1: Start with a great base layer. Leggings paired with a fitted tank in neutral colors like black, gray or white will be the foundation of your post-workout outfit. The Kym from Splits 59 is my personal favorite basic black legging because it does wonders for the butt. To be extra stylish, try leggings with patterns, textures or mesh details. Whether you choose a traditional racerback tank or a cami with memorable details, a neutral color makes it a solid building block.

Step 2: Layer on street wear. You could be fancy, comfy, and casual or whatever else is required for your event. Try a sparkly top for a holiday party, oversized sweater for dinner with friends or a chambray shirt and vest for happy hour at the local pub. Just remember that your top should have enough volume to balance the tight leggings. 

Step 3: Accessorize. Accessories tie the look together and help convey your overall style. Accessorize with earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces to show whether you are bold, classic, minimalist, eclectic or anywhere between. Don’t forget to switch your gym bag for a fabulous purse or clutch. A long cashmere scarf is typically my final touch, and I have this one in several colors.

Step 4: Wear appropriately fabulous shoes. Shoes can make or break the outfit. Since it’s winter in Santa Cruz, tall boots and booties are my go-to for a stylish move from the studio to street. You can also try heels if you’re feeling fancy or funky sneakers like these for a casual look. Reserve your running shoes and UGGS for the studio only.

Step 6: Do a quick beauty touchup. Before you’re ready to go, swipe your face, neck and armpits (yes, armpits) with a cleansing towelette. Give your face a quick freshen with a BB Cream to moisturize and even skin tone, add a layer of mascara and swipe on lipstick.

Studio outfit: Mesh Trim Cami from Beyond Yoga, $77 / Spacedye Essential Long Legging in Black/White by Beyond Yoga, $88. All items are available to purchase at The Barre Studio.