Raising the Barre

A new approach to women’s fitness

By Bonny Osterhage

Hitting the bar after work is not a good way to get in shape. But hitting the barre? Well, that’s another story! Located in the Sunset Ridge shopping center, Smart Barre is raising the bar for women’s fitness facilities. Not only is it changing the way women view exercise, it is changing their bodies at the same time.
Turning to dance moves to get fit is nothing new.

Many gyms offer Pilates and “booty barre” style classes that are designed to lift, shape and tone in a way that weight training alone does not. Smart Barre, however, is the first facility in San Antonio to be devoted solely to this type of workout, and as is evidenced by the number of women who line up at the barre on a regular basis, it’s garnered a devoted following.
“I started going to Smart Barre when it opened, and I was instantly hooked,” says Michelle Shetler. “I loved the class because it was a different kind of workout than I had ever experienced.”

According to owners Mallory Moorman and Kourtney Kanaly, that’s the point of this female-friendly facility. Grounded in the purpose of changing women’s bodies, the classes combine elements of Pilates, ballet and yoga to create a highly effective workout. Exercises consisting of small, intense movements and “pulses” that target what many women consider the “problem areas” — i.e., arms, abs and derriere — are interspersed with intervals of stretching. The result is a long, lean, lifted and toned physique.

“You get into very specific positions during class and then perform isometric movements to sculpt and carve out muscles,” explains Moorman, adding that resistance bands, light weights and resistance balls are incorporated into the workout. “It gives you a lot of bang for your buck.”

A smart concept

Moorman and Kanaly attended Texas Christian University together, and it was in Fort Worth that Kanaly attended her first Smart Barre class. She immediately introduced Moorman to the innovative class, and the two decided that it was just what San Antonio needed. They approached Allison Poston, owner of the Fort Worth Smart Barre, and together the three women turned the concept into a franchise with two San Antonio locations and a second one opening in Ft. Worth. “We wanted to be a part of offering new and healthy things to do here in San Antonio, rather than people feeling like they have to travel to Austin or Dallas for those opportunities,” says Moorman.

Rather than hiring instructors and sending them off to be certified at their own expense, Poston and master trainer Natalie Henry train all of the instructors themselves, and at their own cost. This is done in order to ensure that every instructor understands the Smart Barre methodology. It’s a different approach to hiring that adds to the uniqueness of the facility.

“We hand-pick people that we think would be good instructors, and then we organize their training,” explains Moorman. “Our only stipulation is that they teach exclusively for us for a specified amount of time.”

Instructors can customize their own classes using hundreds of exercises, then tweak and tailor their classes weekly based on the needs of the students. Rather than classical or New Age music, which you might expect, instructors get women moving to upbeat, popular tunes for the more intense portions of class and use slower tracks for the stretching intervals. “The instructors like the creative freedom we provide,” says Moorman.

At the barre

The ambience at Smart Barre enhances the experience and is nothing like your average gym. In fact, it evokes an almost spa-like tranquility with a soothing color palette of blue, white and gray that offsets the beautiful accessories and feminine fixtures. In one corner, students can shop a selection of stylish tops and leggings, the preferred uniform for a class, as well as socks, which are a requirement. It is an atmosphere that is intentionally designed to make women feel comfortable.

“This is their time, their hour away from schedules, husbands, jobs, kids, etcetera,” explains Moorman, adding that the minimum age to attend a class is 16, and there is no on-site child care. “Here, women can recharge their batteries and become mentally as well as physically stronger.” Mental and physical strength are attractive to the many Smart Barre students who regularly attend classes, and the results speak for themselves. “We’ve seen women’s bodies change like crazy,” she says happily. “They tell us it changes their lives too, and that’s so rewarding.”

Moorman says that Smart Barre is the ideal activity to do with a group of friends after work as a healthy alternative to happy hour. It facilitates female bonding and support and allows women to encourage betterment in one another rather than competing with one another. “It’s not about being the best in the class,” she says. “It’s about knowing YOUR body and working hard to make YOUR body the best it can be.”

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