I’m usually pretty frazzled on Mondays, and I’ve listened to enough songs written about this day of the week to assure me I’m not alone. One recent Monday was particularly manic for me – but I was thrown for a loop when I went to Barbelle Fitness in Swansea to take a Les Mills Bodyflow class. (The studio is licensed to offer three popular Les Mills group exercise programs: Bodyflow, Bodypump and Bodycombat.) I had driven by the allwomen’s fitness studio a number of times, and I had heard members rave about its classes, but this was my first chance to check it out for myself.
The gym doesn’t look big from the street, but it’s quite spacious inside: the 6,000 square foot facility boasts three floors and accommodates a group exercise room, a spin studio, cardio equipment, circuit machines, free weights and more. There’s a gathering area with tables and a stone fireplace to the left of the entrance, giving the studio a welcoming vibe. When I walked in I felt like I was in a house that happened to have a full-service fitness center. I told this to the gym’s owner, Kerry McElroy, and she said she had heard others describe it as having the atmosphere of a cozy ski lodge. Ultimately, she explained, when she opened Barbelle seven years ago, her goal was to offer a space where women could feel at home at the gym; a place that would foster a senseof community among its members.
That was the feeling I got when I went upstairs to the group exercise room. The 10 other ladies in my Bodyflow class were on their mats, chatting with each other. The two instructors, Shawn and Suzann, introduced themselves to me, made sure I knew to go at my own pace, and generally made me feel less like “the new girl” and more like I was just part of the class. The women were friendly. They were smiling. I felt like I was among a group of my own girlfriends. This is Monday? I thought.
Class started with some Tai Chi to get us loose, then continued with yoga and Pilates moves that worked on balance, flexibility and strength. We did a lot of core exercises, too – hello, soreness! The class was fairly fast-paced, not in that I had a hard time following along, but in that keeping up with the beat of the music and the flow of the class made the hour go by quickly. Instructors can make or break a class and in this case, they made it. Shawn and Suzann knew everyone by name, so they were very attentive, personally encouraging and motivating each of us throughout the routine.
It surprised me that Bodyflow worked every part of my body, but still made me feel relaxed and loose afterward. Even more surprising? I felt relaxed and loose on a Monday.
1707 GAR Highway, Swansea. 508-674-5220