City Living: Barreworks

Recently, a few of us were invited to try out the brand-new ballet inspired workout at Barreworks, which just opened down the street from our office at Queen and Bathurst (625 Queen St. W.). We were thrilled to be invited – not only do we enjoy keeping fit, but we also love trying any new type of workout. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Plus we posted about ballet style workouts way back when, so are pumped there’s a new dedicated spot in Toronto. 

We were a bit nervous about trying it, since none of us are dancers. We were worried about not being coordinated enough to execute tricky moves, or graceful enough to stand at the barre without falling over (seriously). Our worries were all for naught – as soon as we stepped into the beautiful, high-ceilinged space, we were made to feel completely at ease. 

Can’t do this? Not to worry! You’ll still feel welcome & have a lovely workout.

We were given a quick tour of the various studios and WOW! If working out in a pretty setting is integral to your commitment to an exercise routine, then this has got to be one of the best spots in the city. Cool, neutral tones, warm wooden floors and lots of mirrors and windows take you away from the hustle and bustle of Queen Street. 

Our teacher, the very energetic Paulina, introduced herself to us and explained her background in dance, including classical ballet training and modern dance experience, and her current quest to become a personal trainer. She has some enviable muscle definition and is definitely an inspirational instructor. 

Get gams like these.

Paulina told us that we’d be doing the mixed level class, which is perfect for beginners and people of all fitness levels. It’s an hour-long class, but they also offer a speedy 40 minute version and in both versions, you can increase or decrease the difficulty pretty easily. We were all pretty stoked – a 40 minute workout class that’s literally a 2 minute walk from our office? Just about perfect. 

Each students uses two weighted balls, a resistance band and a small exercise mat, and takes position at the barre in front of a long wall of mirrors. Paulina put on some fun dance music and took us through a dance-inspired warm-up. At first, we were all like, “oh yeah, we can do this. No problem”. Then the real work began, and the sweat started dripping down our faces. 

Tools to help tone and strengthen your way to a dancer-esque body.

The workout is a really accessible combination of yoga, Pilates, dance, body weight and other fitness class moves – think lunges, squats, leg lifts, bicep curls with weighted balls, etc. The lovely thing about Barreworks is that you’re always moving, your heart is pounding, and you exercise your entire body in steps. The emphasis is always on standing tall, staying square and in line, and focusing on small, tight, controlled movements. 

This move seriously burns your legs and shoulders.

By the end of it, everyone in the class felt tired and sore, but in an endorphins-pumping sort of way. We bounced down the three flights of stairs, feeling like a million bucks. It was a fun, non-intimidating workout that flew by – which is the best kind. We’ve already booked our next classes (easy to do online or by calling the studio). Now to choose between YogaBarre, SpinBarre and the Express class…

Barreworks is open now. Monthly memberships start at $199 for unlimited classes, while drop-in classes are $21 and packages start at $95 for five classes. If you’re new, you can try your first class for just $10. More info here.


Rave: Hot Pilates

After a busy couple of weeks packed solid with running around at events, eating at odd hours and pretty much living in heels, our bodies need a bit of TLC. Luckily, we’ve stumbled upon a new workout to whip us into shape – hot Pilates.

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One of the main goals of Pilates is to develop and strengthen your core, with the end result being a longer, leaner and more toned figure. Like the name suggests, hot Pilates integrates the basic principles of Pilates but is taught in a room between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius, just like hot yoga. It gets pretty toasty but is also kind of nice, especially as the temperature drops.

Turning up the heat promotes a deeper stretch and greater intensity, while simultaneously detoxifying your body. Not to mention that Pilates is a go-to workout for some of our favourite toned celeb bodies including Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Anna Paquin, to name a few.

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Moksha Yoga Uptown (1498 Yonge St., second floor) offers hot Pilates and is pretty much as green as it gets, for all you eco-philes out there. From bamboo flooring and VOC-free paints to filtered faucets and green cleaning products, the studio prides itself on being eco-conscious.

One of their hot Pilates instructors, Anna, throws in a little humour during the class, which is much appreciated when trying to hold a plank for an extended period of time. Moksha Yoga offers a one-month unlimited pass for studio newbies at $40 and individual classes for $17. 

Tula Hot Yoga (three locations, Duncan/Richmond, Liberty Village, Bloor/Ossington) offers a hot Pilates class and hot pricing; your first class is $10, second is free and they offer a variety of packages including early bird and lunch cards.

iam yoga (661 Yonge St., Suite 300) has a Core Flow Class which incorporates “sun salutations and poses that strengthen the core connected by downward dog flows, influenced by Pilates core work.”  For first-timers, one week of unlimited classes runs for $20, with class card options (10 for $160) and memberships (one month for $175).

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If you’re unsure about getting started with an intense hot Pilates class, but still want to introduce Pilates into your life, head to Body Harmonics. It’s a wonderful studio with two downtown locations (672 Dupont St. and 488 Eglinton St.), and has a wide variety of classes to make sure that you’re beginning comfortably and properly. The welcome package is a good option – you can try out an unlimited number of classes for two weeks, and you’ll shell out $49.99.

There are a few supplies you’ll need for class including: a yoga mat, two towels and a reusable water bottle. New to the Pilates or yoga game? No worries – most places offer all of the above for purchase or rent. 

One last thing – make sure you hydrate! We know it can be tough, but knock back a glass of water (or three) before the class.  Trust us, you’ll be glad you did. 

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With all the water consumption and detoxing, our skin will love us…and if we get some sculpted abs in the process, we’re okay with that too.

Rave: Ballet-Style Workouts

While it’s not yet technically the “New Year”, there’s something about September that urges us to make a resolution and start fresh. Perhaps it’s that we still haven’t shaken the feeling of going back to school and starting with a blank slate. Whatever the reason, our resolution this fall is to jump back on the workout wagon, because let’s face it, somewhere between burgers and beer at the cottage and many late, cocktail-filled nights on patios this summer, we fell off. 

Normally, this would sound like a drag, but we’ve found a cool new workout trend called The Bar Method that will get you sweating and feeling nostalgic for the good old days of pink tutus and ballet shoes (before they became a trendy alternative to heels).

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The Bar Method combines ballet, yoga and Pilates in an interval workout, and while new to us on the fourth floor, it’s actually been around since 1959! Now with over 60 locations all over the U.S and one in Vancouver, The Bar Method is quickly becoming the “it” workout. 

Drew Barrymore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Zooey Deschanel, Denise Richards and Anna Paquin are just a few of the celebrities that swear by this fat burning, muscle carving, body reshaping, arm sculpting, waist trimming, posture enhancing (shall we go on?) workout.

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Since we don’t plan on flying to Vancouver or New York to try out a class, we did our research and found a similar alternative in Toronto called The Extension Method. The studio, aptly named The Extension Room, is located at 530 Richmond St. W., and offers a variety of ballet-style workouts which include: Ballet Bootcamp, Ballet Sculpt and Classical Ballet Technique. 

Classes run for about the same price as Yoga ($17 for a drop-in and $170 for a month pass). The 267 Richmond St. location of Extreme Fitness also offers a selection of classes.

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You can also check out classes at the National Ballet of Canada, which offers seven progressive levels of classes, allowing you to advance at your own pace (we’re not Karen Kain after all). Classes run through the year in three terms of 15 weeks each and prices run from $350 to $1,285 per term, depending on the number of classes you take.

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For those who crave variety in their workout menu, City Dance Corps might be the one for you with Ballet, Ballet Boot Camp and Power Barre classes. All three are offered with a variety of drop-in rates and options ranging from $15.25 per class to $152 per month, allowing even the most commitment-phobic to lace up their pointe shoes.
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Here’s hoping our first resolution of fall sticks. If not, at least we’ll have a little fun stretching, sweating and pretending we’re prima ballerinas for the day.