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barre break

Five ways to bounce back to the barre after a break

Words: Melanie Dimmitt

Life has a way of hitting pause on even the most meticulously laid plans, so breaks from your exercise routine (be they welcome or not) are inevitable, as Sydney-based Barre Body instructor Alexandra Cook will tell you. “I love to run, and one day I pushed myself too hard and ended up tearing a muscle in my hip which required me to take time off barre practice”. And then there are the countless injuries she’s sustained from dancing since she was a tot: “I definitely do encourage clients to take breaks when they come to me and speak about persisting issues or recurring injuries,” says Alex, adding that changes in energy levels and increased fatigue might also be telling you it’s time to take a rest. “There are so many benefits to taking a break when your body needs it. Our bodies are incredibly intelligent and often signal to us when they are exhausted or under pressure or just need a timeout. Resting the body when it is asking for it allows muscles to repair, restores energy levels that are drained and allows your mind to reset, refresh and come back into the barre studio feeling ready to take on the information that we give you in a class.”

As the saying goes, it doesn’t matter how far you fall – what matters is how high you bounce back. Ready for your revival? Alex takes us through five ways to ensure a successful re-entry.

  1. BOUNCE BACK FROM FEELING CROOK

Returning to the barre after a bout of illness can come as a shock to your system, says Alex. “Although our muscles have muscle memory, sometimes when we aren’t activating them in certain ways, they temporarily switch off. If you know this before you get in there you can prepare yourself mentally a little better.” Physically speaking, Alex recommends a decent warm up and cool down, “so make sure you’re on time to class and really listen to any cues that the teacher is giving throughout. If you feel a bit weaker than the last time you were at the barre, listen for modifications and take them on board until you notice your strength building back up.”

2. BOUNCE BACK POST-BUB

New mums should get the all clear from their doctor before coming back (typically six weeks post-partum) according to Alex, who says that every mother’s return to the barre will be different. “Modifications in the first few weeks may be quite similar to modifications during pregnancy, and often because strength has diminished – particularly in the abdominal and pelvic region – exercises will change slightly to accommodate for this.” Now is not the time to challenge yourself, she adds. “Going slowly and ensuring not to overstretch is important, as well as really taking the time to make your instructor aware of where you’re at and if anything doesn’t feel right at any stage during the class.”

3. BOUNCE BACK FROM AN INJURY

Make this kind of comeback with caution, says Alex. “Taking it slow and modifying accordingly is important. Sometimes people can overdo it and give too much too soon when their bodies aren’t ready for it. Start off with one class a week that is a slower-paced class that allows room for you to consistently check in with your body and what it’s doing. Advise the instructor of injury and let them know how your recovery is going.” The good news? Barre can actually be beneficial to your recovery. “From core work to stabilising work, it can definitely be advantageous if you’re going through rehabilitation form an injury or just coming back from having a break.”

4. BOUNCE BACK FROM A SLUMP

“There’s a difference between lacking motivation and actually needing a break,” Alex points out, and lists a few tips to get your barre mojo back: letting your instructor know how you’re feeling, bringing along a friend to keep you accountable and mixing up your classes. “If you get stuck into routine too rigidly, it can sometimes have an adverse affect. Try some new classes with different teachers and maybe even try a different location. Keeping things fresh and experiencing a different style of teaching with different exercises might be exactly what you need to get you going again.”

5. BOUNCE BACK FROM… ANYTHING

“Always be kind to yourself,” says Alex. “It can take time for our bodies to develop, to learn and to strengthen” – so those with specific goals in mind should focus more on the small changes. “I like to encourage clients to inform me of any personal goals they might have so I know what they’re looking for in a class and what they want to get out of it – which also means I can check in with them and provide them with extra tips and advice to utilise outside of the studio if relevant. The most important mindset to try and have is one that is positive, open and willing to be challenged. If you can adopt that outlook in each of your classes – and even when you’re not in the studio – then anything is possible.”