Fitness

A Ballet-Inspired Workout in Bristol

Sculpting our bodies and minds at Fitness Fusion's Barre class

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I’m always intrigued about the latest fitness craze. From cardio kickboxing to Zumba, I’ve tried it all. But – and this is a big but – I’ve never stuck with a single routine. Be it the type of instruction or the myriad excuses we all make when it comes to not working out, none have panned out for more than a class or two. With my ‘but’ having a cause and effect on my actual butt, I was determined to make barre work for me.

If you haven’t heard about barre, it’s a type of exercise that incorporates a ballet-type handrail for balance and resistance. The discipline has been crazy popular in New York for years and, like most trends, is just recently catching on locally. When I saw that Fitness Fusion in Bristol offered a Saturday morning class, I jumped at the opportunity to try it. Taught by owner-instructor Danielle Rogers, Bristol Barre Blender promised “an intense feel good workout that leaves you feeling sweaty and exhilarated.”

But… let me be upfront about my agility before you conjure up a mental picture. I don’t possess any. Or grace, for that matter. Let me paint a better picture: I’m extremely clumsy and uncoordinated. There’s nothing about me that says dancer. The more I think about it, it’s my lack of nimbleness that has led to my big ‘but.’ So when I entered the lofty studio on a crisp fall morning, I eyed a corner spot in the last row where I hoped I could blend in.

The class was fairly small – about eight barefooted women – with a few newcomers like me. Danielle, petite and positively perky in every way, comes over to welcome me. Beaming with energy at 8am on a Saturday, she happily guides me to pick out weights (she suggests three or five pounds to start) and a small exercise ball. As I look around the room, I’m reminded why I love to take fitness classes: the enthusiasm of my peers and instructor motivates me. Danielle faces us and lets us know that the class is designed for different skill levels, and that she’ll point out modifications throughout the hour. “Let’s do this!” she says as the music gets louder.

With Rihanna and Beyonce as our soundtrack, we begin by stretching. We quickly move into some heart-pumping movement. A fusion of sculpting, yoga, Pilates and barre, we transition from exercise to exercise all the while working our upper, mid and lower bodies. We squat. We plank. We lunge. We use weights for more intensity. We get on a yoga mat and position the ball between our thighs for some core work. We line up like ballerinas at the barre and use the waist-high rail to literally raise the bar on our workout. Up on our toes, we squat, stretch and move our bodies to work every last muscle. And all the while, Danielle is a source of physical and verbal inspiration. “You’ve got this!” she tells us, as she leads the way. I’ve got sweat and a load of endorphins, I think to myself. As the class winds down, we incorporate yoga stretches to calm our minds and bodies. It’s a perfect way to end an otherwise physical challenge.

After class, I sit down with Danielle to learn more about her and her studio. A Bristol resident with a background in musical theatre, Danielle had been working as a personal trainer in Providence four years prior to branching out on her own six months ago. “As a personal trainer, I was drawn to different methods of helping people get healthier, like yoga, Pilates, weight training and TRX,” she says. Danielle explains that by incorporating various disciplines, it’s allowed her to work with a range of people. When an opportunity came up to open up her own studio in her hometown (in a gorgeous spot on the Bristol Harbor, to boot), she made the leap. “I knew that I wanted to offer fusion. I wanted to offer the whole picture to my clients, 360 degrees,” she says. She brought in a small team of mostly personal trainers to teach private and small group classes, aiming to keep a high level of instruction on a one-on-one basis.

I’m so moved by her contagious energy and my own ability to keep up with such an intense workout that I vow to sign up for ten more classes. “My motto is feel better than ever,” Danielle says. “I want you to move better, have more energy, be stronger, feel empowered. If I can do that in a few classes, I’ve done my job.” As I drive home, I have an epiphany. Maybe I didn’t follow through with heated yoga, cardio step or reformer Pilates because I was bored with just one discipline. By blending elements of different methods, Fitness Fusion maximizes the benefits of each without the monotony. And as for my butt, well, I felt muscles I didn’t know existed for days. And there’s no ‘but’ about that.

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