What is the Ideal Exercise?

I get asked this question all of the time…

My answer is, “barre, obviously…” No, but in all seriousness, I do feel that the type of barre classes I teach do come pretty close to hitting the three key components of fitness that I believe are necessary to being fit and healthy. The goal is also to keep people healthy in order to complete every day activities: Cardiovascular health, resistance training and flexibility.
How you combine these three components may vary depending on your health and fitness goals, the time you have, and the intensity at which you workout. So after being asked this question “what is the best workout,” I decided to do more research to support my answer that barre comes pretty close.
We all are always looking to find the “perfect workout” that helps us reach our goals as fast as possible. It is important in this quest that we think about how we can be exercising as “smartly” and effectively as possible, as well as staying in that balance between over-exercising and what is good for our bodies. For example, for runners, a recent finding published in an article in the Journal of Physiology showed that just three 30 minute sessions of SIT (spring interval training) were as effective as five hours worth of steady-state exercise. That is a huge time saver! However, the study also shows that doing too much SIT and too intensely, becoming over demanding on your body, can actually slow your progress. So finding the balance is key, and determining that balance can take some time – which requires the ability to pay attention to your body. My gauge for myself, is post workout. I want to feel challenged, but still energized and not depleted, and eventually want to see results (sooner rather than later). If you have a workout that you love, but seems to wipe you out, look for ways to cut down the intensity and duration, or reduce the number of times per week you do it.

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Now getting back to the barre and why it’s a great full body workout that checks off my three boxes: Cardiovascular workouts, resistance and strength training, as well as flexibility. It is the combination of these focus areas that really make barre so effective and why so many of my students have seen such big transformations.
Cardio: Cardiovascular fitness is really defined as any activity that increases your heart rate. Do you get in a cardio workout in class? Yes! Think thigh work. Bring your mind to the end of the third set and you will know, oh yes, my heart has been pumping. The intensity at which you complete this is very individual (another thing to love about barre). If you are pushing yourself harder each class, you are going to feel that increase in heart rate. We are also bringing our heart rate up during our warms-ups, planks, push-ups, seat work and back dancing. And, as a Spokersperson for the American Stroke Association, I am also a huge fan of getting the heart pumping because it helps keep your heart healthy and reduces your risk of developing certain types of cardiovascular diseases.
Strength and Resistance Training: Big yes! If you have taken my class you know it doesn’t take a lot of heavy weights to really work and sculpt your arm muscles. Think of how heavy 2 or 3 pound weights start to feel after 3-5 minutes of targeted arm work. Or our tricep-dips that never seem to get easier and effectively tone the back of the arms. I use resistance bands and ones own body weight throughout my classes to add in strength and resistance training. The barre has long been known for improving muscle tone and increasing lean muscles. Lean muscle helps keep our metabolism going strong. Individuals with more lean muscles have a higher resting metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories. And that’s always a great thing!
Flexibility: There is a lot of stretching in my barre classes. Stretching not only feels good but also is important for reducing risk of injury, for joint health and to maintain the ability to move through your joints’ full range of motion. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, flexibility is critical for improving overall performance and reducing your risk of injury while doing any activity, from strenuous (lifting a heavy box), to the mundane (bending down to tie your shoe). I also think stretching and maintaining your body’s flexibility keeps you feeling and looking youthful.
According to the American Council on Exercise, staying limber alleviates stress, improves your coordination and balance, and can protect you from postural issues, particularly if you are already only doing cardio and resistance training exercises. There are so many important reasons and benefits to stretching. And it is important to point out because stretching often gets less attention when we are focusing on our fitness goals. If you have been taking my class you know that I use the method of strengthen, then stretch. We work a muscle group and then we stretch it right after. And for all the above reasons, I often advise my students to focus as much attention on the stretching portion of class as the strengthening.

There is one more important factor not listed above, and it’s the “happiness” factor. One thing that seems to top all the reasons one chooses one particular workout over another is because you love it and it makes you feel great. The reasons a person loves one workout over another can vary greatly and maybe hits other “check boxes” that are important for them personally: being in a group, learning a new skill, rehabilitating a particular injury, etc. So, if it’s not barre you love, no worries. You can find many ways to incorporate the cardiovascular training, strength training and stretching into your fitness routine. And if you do love my “ideal workout,” then great, I will see you at the barre!

My Life Under the Big Top – A Mom’s Happy Balancing Act

As a mom of two boys, two dogs and as a wife, I feel like I have an insanely close personal connection with circus performers. I truly do live under the big top. I’m a clown, I’m a juggler, I have been the 300 lb. woman before (while pregnant), I wrangle wild animals, I do breathe fire (only on my really bad days), I can be a contortionist (as far as my planning skills go), I can’t say I’ve been shot out of a cannon, yet, but some days, I really do wish I had one, I’ve gone around and around and around in a circular steal trap  (not on a motorbike, but with my emotional state) and, I pounce from platform to platform with some fear and uncertainty, but always with a smile, and I really do have some awesome costumes and props that help me tame my life under the big top.

 

My days aren’t any longer than any one else’s, I haven’t won the megamillions (yet) and my kiddos are just as ________ (fill in the blank) as your kiddos, but I chug through everyday with a purpose.  My kids and husband come first, and everything else is a balancing act. I love my hobbies, one of which is gardening and writing, I love my friends and social life, I love spending time with my family, I love to travel (New York, LA and Paris are my favorite cities), I love fashion, I love hanging out with my husband, just the two of us, I love to read and of course, I absolutely love my job as a stylist and my new venture as a blogger of all things fashion and fitness.

 

As this career has taken off, it has opened my eyes to the difficulty of not only balancing work and family life but also the difficulty in maintaining a high level of self purpose and the belief that what I’m doing is right, what I’m doing makes me happy, which in turn makes my family happy. I’ve come to the realization that my happiness and self worth is what’s going to make this big top operate on a daily basis.

 

Fortunately and unfortunately, mine and my business partner, Jessica’s new venture as MsFits has thrown us into a whirlwind of events and parties and meetings and art shows. They’re last-minute invites, they’re “come have a drink and discuss bla bla bla”, they’re Tuesday late night meetings with a 5am wakeup from a one-year old, they’re write that blog post or do our 7 foot load of laundry, they’re have a conference call in the 2o minute window our kiddos are distracted by Sesame Street, they’re post everything and anything you can on Instagram because your PR expert told you to, they’re phone calls about gossip that we’re always out and never home with our kids.

 

I’m pretty sure that every mom out there knows exactly how hard it is to be a mom, I’m pretty sure every mom out there would hate to hear criticism on what she’s doing to balance it all, and I’m pretty sure every mom out there can agree that we’re just trying to do our best. Other mom’s “best” might not be your definition of best, but I guess, “best” is in the eyes of the beholder.

 

And so is happiness. If our happiness is maintaining our careers as a stylist and barre instructor, if our happiness is being on a conference call while sorting that 7 foot pile of laundry, if our happiness is taking our kids to fashion events, if our happiness is going out to events and parties a few times a week, then that’s the best we can do.

 

Ms Fit for Society started as a simple idea about supporting women whether they’re moms or entrepreneurs or financiers or artists or whatever. It was a simple idea about feeling good about yourself as a woman through fitness and fashion and it has taken us on a ride that has only just begun. After a little over 6 months into our venture, we have had so much fun, have met so many amazing people, have taken so many great pictures and have hopefully inspired some people as well. We have shot out of cannons (our ideas at least), we’ve been the Incredible Four-Armed women (how else can we Instagram and shake hands and hold our clutches?), we have swung on the trapeze from event to event with the greatest of ease (thanks to Uber) and with all of that, we love that our lives have come full circle to the middle of the circus ring. Our happiness is the reward at the end of the day, our reward is that our happiness is contagious and if we can infect our kids, our families and our friends, then how much better can it get?

Welcome to the big top ladies… now find your happy !

 

This is me on my way to a black tie event... Little did I know that that naked baby of mine left a nice poop stain on my Alexander Wang gown...

This is me on my way to a black tie event… Little did I know that that naked baby of mine left a nice poop stain on my Alexander Wang gown…