You’re a barre regular. You know the drill so well, you could probably teach a class. Experts say you should keep your body guessing to sustain maximum peak performance, so now that you’re a barre aficionado, what can you do to push yourself a little harder?

Tips for veteran barre clients via lifeofblyss.com

1. Now that you’ve got your form down, focus on the following:

        • BREATHING – Focus on your breaths in class from start to finish. The more and deeper you breathe, the higher your heart rate gets, and the more calories you will burn. Plus, a lot of people tend to hold their breath in a hard position, which is never a good idea. Your brain and your muscles need that oxygen to work, so breathe deeply and breathe loudly.
        • POSTURE – Think about your shoulders over your hips, a flat back (or rounded, if cued), and your shoulders squeezed together. Especially if you are pulling off the barre, always pull your chest forward and really squeeze your shoulder blades together. You will feel a huge difference in your form.
          • Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 5.28.45 PMRANGE OF MOTION – Watch your teacher’s demo and mimic her full range of motion. Maybe even take it up a notch. If you’re lowering down for 2 counts, make that range of motion a full 6 inches. Your legs will start to shake immediately.

VideoToGif-1

See the difference between Leigh (fellow teacher) and my ranges of motion here? These small changes make a HUGE difference. And YEAH, we’re a GIF!

 

          • MUSCLE TENSION – In every single exercise, think about keeping your muscles tight. Abs are always pulled in, so can you flex them harder? You’re doing bicep curls, so are you squeezing as hard as humanly possible from there? You should be squeezing so hard that the “shake” is easy to achieve.

2. Stay precisely on pace with your teacher.
Make your water breaks fast, snag your mat and your space at the ball quickly, and move throughout the room like you’re in a hurry. This ensures you keep your heart rate up and you hear the full set-up for the next exercise. More often than not, most clients lag behind here. Even though you’re tired, push through to keep your heart rate up. This ensures max calorie burn and increases your stamina.

3. Think about every single movement becoming quicker, sharper, and higher/lower, and deeper.
As a teacher, every single time I insert a “higher” cue into a final 10 count, I see toes raise up an entire inch. Think to yourself, “I can get my leg just a centimeter higher” or “I can round back an inch farther” (in abs). You will be amazed at the difference if you really push yourself to do this in every exercise.

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4. Always try the split stretch(if you’re safe and uninjured). As long as your muscles are warmed up from thigh work, even if you are comically far from reaching a full split, always try it. Practice makes perfect, and the more you do it, the more flexible you will become. My split stretch differs by the day. If I’ve been running, I’m pretty high off the ground. If I’ve cooled it off on cardio and focused on barre class, I can get there. And remember, this is coming from a chick who could just reach “attainment” most years for the sit-and-reach in the Presidential Fitness Test.

**Let it be known that the greatest day of my life was when I finally reached “excellent” my Senior year so I could earn that stupid T-Shirt. I still have it, if you were wondering.**

And if the split stretch is child’s play to you and you’re sliding down to the floor like the flexible cheer/dance goddess you are, lift your hands to your hips and point your toes.

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And if you’re in my class, maybe do some jazz hands to rub in my face how very jealous I am of your skillz.

5. Always take the challenge option. As long as you are uninjured and listening to your body, take the extra option if it’s given. Rise to your highest tippie toes, extend your leg all the way straight, extend your arms up to the ceiling, bring your hands behind your head. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much harder that small option can make you work and get you to that “shake” zone.

6. Never come out of position. Ever. Make it your own personal rule for yourself. No matter how difficult something is, stay in it. If you’ve never felt your muscles shake with fatigue, you’re probably coming out of position. SO much of this is mental drive, so remember, you are so much stronger than you think. You CAN stay in position for the entirety of class.

Obviously, these tips are geared to veteran clients looking for a way to deepen their technique or for an extra challenge. Always listen to your body and move throughout your barre class carefully when pushing yourself to the next level.


And probably don’t do as Patrick does. At the end of class, if you’re doing all of the above, you should feel toned, tired, and in need of a nap/cocktail.

Looking for past Barre technique posts? Check out some past posts below:

And maybe share this with your boyfriend (but warn him the “not drenched in sweat” part is a lie).

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Who else placed about 7 different orders between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and is still Christmas shopping?

Insert blonde emoji chick with her arm in the air. I am!

I really shouldn’t be that stressed with Christmas gifts this year. My family is doing a no-presents Christmas and instead taking a trip to Mexico for the week. Honestly, the older I get, the more excited I get for experiences rather than gifts, so I’m really excited. This is also a “Yay, Amy’s almost done chemo” trip of sorts. I’m ready for sunny relaxation with my fam.

ANYWAY. Christmas is still happening here in the U.S., and with that, I’ve compiled a holiday gift guide from one of my favorite local shops. Elements, duh. To sweeten the deal, I have a 20% off code for you to use if any of this fits your fancy. Through 12/10, use code “lifeofblyss” to earn 20% off your entire purchase when you check out.

Elements Holiday Gift Guide via lifeofblyss.com

Go nuts!

STOCKING STUFFERS

Stocking Stuffers Holiday Gift Guide via lifeofblyss.com2

…because I’m always scrambling for cute things like these to add to stockings!

  1. Juara Rose and WillowBark Blemish Free Mask – This is a natural clay mask treatment that is super gentle for sensitive skin. It smells awesome, and it clears blemishes surprisingly well.
  2. AHAVA Travel Size Hibiscus & Fig Mineral Botanic Cream Wash – The traveling professional in me loves this baby body wash. It’s cruelty free, hypoallergenic, and produced without parabens, suflate (SLS/SLES), petroleum, GMOs, or other harsh synthetics, and I love the fig scent with a hint of florals! I’m always looking for travel-sized items that smell nice for my work trips.
  3. FarmHouse Fresh Splendid Dirt Mud Mask – FarmHouse Fresh makes the BEST smelling products. It blows my mind. I have two of their masks, and I love them both. I guarantee anyone you gift this to will rave over how awesome it smells. Just warn them to put it on their face, not eat it.
  4. FarmHouse Fresh Ginger Sorbet Body Milk Travel Lotion – This is a perfect in-your-purse moisturizer. Every time I pull it out, someone compliments the way it smells.
  5. Deborah Lippmann All About That Base – Deborah Lippman has made a great formula to brighten, prime and fill ridges. I like this because it looks like a nice, light neutral pink while moisturizing, hardening, and conditioning your nails.
  6. beautyblender original – I never would have tried beautyblender had it not been for Elements letting me try one free in the shop. I don’t even wear foundation on the reg (I’m a simple light powder girl for everyday wear), but when I put on foundation for a special occasion, I always use my beautyblender. It gives your face a light, airbrushed finish I haven’t been able to achieve with any other tool. And that’s my using it with cheap Almay foundation from Target. 😉 I absolutely recommend the beautyblender for anyone who wears foundation.
  7. FarmHouse Fresh One Fine Day Shea Sugar Flawless Face Polish – Another winner from FHF! This everyday exfoliating cleanser is a great gift for anyone with dry, sensitive skin or rosacea.
  8. Tokyo Milk Let Them Eat Cake No. 11 Parfum – I never buy perfume for others because I am so, so picky about the perfume I wear myself. THIS perfume, however, is something that I can pretty much guarantee anyone will enjoy. It smells like cake batter, and it’s divine. You might remember that one of the two perfumes I wear is Tokyo Milk Honey and the Moon, and I like that one even better, but I think the listed perfume is a little more universal to taste. No one could dislike this sweet cake smell.

 

And if you’re looking for a great main gift for someone in your life who likes all things beauty and skincare, I’ve got a few recs for you here, as well.

THE GIFT Holiday Gift Guide via lifeofblyss.com2

  1. Caswell-Massey Almond Shave Try Me Set – I love getting a gift set of small bottles when trying a new line. That way, I can try it for a lesser price, and if it works for me, I’ll use it for my travels before dropping bigger bucks on the full line. This Casewell-Massey Almond Shave “Try Me” Set is perfect for this. And men and women alike will love the almond scent.
  2. Tocca Eau de Parfum – Stella – I really like Stella. So much that I think I might buy her for myself. Tocca makes a lot of great scents, and Stella is my favorite of them all. If you’re unable to try them all in person, however, I’d recommend the travel fragrance spray sampler. For only $34, you can try a bunch in smaller bottles!
  3. REN Rose Duo – If this adorable gift set doesn’t sell you on looks alone, the rose scent will seal the deal. The REN Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash and Moroccan Rose Otto Body Lotion have won awards for hydrating, reducing inflammation, and deeply hydrating to soften skin and replenish the skin’s moisture barrier.
  4. Topganic Design & Sculpture Hair Styling Lotion with Obliphica Oil – Is it just me, or is it nearly impossible to find a hair product that volumizes and moisturizes? Well, FOUND IT, and it doesn’t leave your hair sticky nor greasy.
  5. COOLA Signature Travel Kit – I’ve said before how obsessed I am with COOLA’s sun care line. This little sampler is an awesome gift for anyone who enjoys spending time in the sun. COOLA smells amazing, and I love the way it doesn’t leave me feeling greasy. This set includes Sport SPF 30 Piña Colada Sunscreen Spray, Environmental Repair Plus Radical Recovery After-Sun Lotion, Classic Face SPF 30 Cucumber Moisturizer (LOVE this stuff), and Liplux SPF 30 Original. I kind of want to buy it for everyone I know.
  6. Deborah Lippmann Roses in the Snow Nail Lacquer Duo – My bestie Brittany just got the cutest sparkly manicure from our local salon, and this nail polish duo reminds me of it. Deborah Lippmann wins again with a cute, trendy gift idea!
  7. REN Radiance Gift Set – The REN Radiance line does wonders for a clearer, brighter complexion. This gift set includes a Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask, a Micro Polish Cleanser, BB Cream Sunscreen, and a Resurfacing AHA Concentrate. Complete with a cute, reusable tin, it makes a perfect gift.

I have personally sampled everything you see here, and I fully endorse each of the items in my gift guide. Obviously, some of the stocking stuffers/gifts can be mixed and matched for great gift ideas.

If you have any questions about any items listed, please ask away! Elements is a great local business with wonderful owners I really like to support.

Don’t forget to check out with code “lifeofblyss” to earn 20% off your entire purchase until December 10!

What is on YOUR beauty/skincare Christmas wishlist? AKA… what should I be buying for you? 😉

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5 ways to take your barre form to the next level via lifeofblyss.com

It’s so easy to simply go through the motions of any fitness class. Many clients don’t realize that they can up their results by over 60% by simply adjusting form and intensity.

How much you put into a workout might be a case of personal preference, understanding of technique, or a case of just “not really feelin’ it.” That’s totally fine; we’ve all been there. Every client should always listen to his/her body and work at his/her own level and pace.

As a Pure Barre teacher, I believe some clients don’t even realize they could be upping their form, calorie burn, and muscle tone with a just a few tweaks. This could lead to better results at the barre. Here, I’m breaking down a few.

AND. I’ve enlisted the help of my studio owner, Gracie, and my fellow teacher friend, Elizabeth, to pose for some pictures for you so you don’t have to suffer though staring at me over and over again. 😉

1. Flex your muscles all through warmup. From the moment your teacher has you pull your arms down in wide, sweeping motions, you should be flexing your biceps and your abs. Just try it — you’ll see how much harder your muscles work and how much faster your heart rate rises.

barre warmup form via lifeofblyss.com

2. Challenge yourself: Two inches higher/lower.

In warmup, the second you hit the ground, keep your shoulder blades as high as you possibly can while pulling your navel to your spine. This will keep your abs working to their greatest potential.

barre warmup form via lifeofblyss.com2
In thigh work, try sinking an inch lower with every single change in choreography. It will make a HUGE difference in how tough thigh work is for you, and it’ll make your legs that much stronger for next class.

barre thigh form via lifeofblyss.com 2

In ab work, round down an inch lower with every change (but if your hip flexors kick in, you’re too low and no longer working your abs — stay aware of this).

3. Literally aim for the “shake.” These days, I never make it through thighs without getting to that uncomfortable, quivering shake. Although it feels weird and uncontrolled, it’s the very best goal to set for yourself. If you’re shaking, you’re bringing your muscles to fatigue and truly challenging your body. That means you’re getting stronger.

4. All your focus is in the working muscle — squeeze harder, lift higher. Your teacher should always tell you what muscle you are targeting through each exercise. Literally put all your focus right there, and find the form that works that muscle the hardest.

targeted muscles in barre via lifeofblyss.com

In thigh work on your knees, flex from the top of the thigh and think about leaning back rather than forward (your shoulders should always be above your hips). You should put all your focus on lifting from the top of your thigh.

barre thigh form via lifeofblyss.com
Is everything on your body turned off so you can focus on squeezing from your side seat? Ask yourself these questions as you move throughout class.

5. Make it difficult. If you aim to make a certain exercise really hard, it will prevent you from using momentum. Always think to yourself, “How can I make this harder? How can I really feel this?”

Ultimately, the responsibility is yours to make each class a challenge. Use these tips to make your work at the barre effective and to achieve the results you’re craving. And remember, always ask your teacher questions if you’re confused or wondering how you can make certain exercises more effective.

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Training & refueling with a heart rate monitor

October 26, 2015

When I was training for my Marine Corps Marathon, an expert recommended heart rate training to me. At the time, I was a stranger to using a heart rate monitor. I was all about keeping running enjoyable, and on top of a regimented schedule of how I’d tackle the high mileage, I ended up ditching […]

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How new shoes made me run faster (& New running tools!)

October 21, 2015

Last month, I was running very frequently in addition to my Pure Barre schedule. My body was craving cardio, and I was going after it about 5 times each week. Then, all of a sudden, my knees rebelled. I’ve never really had knee issues (shin splits and IT band tightness, sure). I was feeling slight […]

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Learning to be “Passively Active” with The Polar Loop 2

October 12, 2015

I’m an all or nothing person. I always have been. All in. All out. I have a hard time taking it easy in my workouts, because I want to train harder and get better. On the other end of the “fit” spectrum, I have a hard time getting up off the couch once I’m there. […]

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Work Travels for the Win

October 7, 2015

It’s been a hot minute, I know. I feel like it’s been weeks since I have had the time to do anything but travel, work, run, or barre. Since we last chatted, I’ve been to four Pure Barre studios across the country, traveled to five different cities, and ate a whole lot of food on […]

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Ten things for Tuesday

September 15, 2015

I’m throwing a lot of information at you at once. Buuuut I kinda love these random listy posts. Happy Tuesday, y’all. Punch today in the gut. PRESENTING: Ten Things for Tuesday. I pre-ordered the iPhone 6s, and I am SO EXCITED to finally have a phone I don’t need to charge 4 times a day! […]

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The Glamorous Life of A Dog Mom

September 3, 2015

If you’ve been wondering what Chloe’s been up to lately amidst my work travel… She was livin’ the good life at Camp Grandparents. I’m lucky my mom really, really wants a dog. Every time I need to travel, she quickly comes to Richmond to scoop her up and take her back to North Carolina. I […]

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Pure Barre Technique Spotlight: Abs Under The Barre

August 31, 2015

Abs under the barre is one of the tougher exercises for new and old Pure Barre clients to understand and conquer. It’s the part of class that is so easy so sail through without fatiguing the muscles you’re intending to work. Here, I’ve highlighted a few tips to get to your best work in abs […]

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