Trans Day of Visibility: Celebrating our place in this world
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Well, here we are—a couple of months into 2021. A year that we all (still) hope will be much better than the last. This past year was nothing short of a dumpster fire—between the pandemic, ongoing racial injustice, and the most dramatic election ever, 2020 was riddled with anxiety, grief, anger, and was just downright exhausting.
Heck—if somebody even dared to ask me how I was doing last year, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and say, “Omg I can’t even.” I mean, what other year can you think of that became its own expression? When something would go horribly awry, we would literally blame it on the year by saying, “2020, am I right?” complete with a sheepish chuckle —and eventually some tears when you realized just how many times you’ve said those words. Seriously, I lost count a long time ago. It was not healthy.
Sorry, tangent—where was I? Ah yes, 2021. The good news is there’s still hope that this year won’t make us want to roll into a tiny little ball on the floor and cry. Well, at least not as much as its predecessor—I’m not a miracle worker, you guys. However, I do have some wellness tips to help you stay just a little bit cooler, calmer, and collected-er this year.
If there’s one thing we learned last year, it’s that wellness is always here for us. Maybe at this time last year, your goal of going to Pilates five days a week came to a screeching halt as fitness studios were required to shut down to protect the community. For a time, we were all frazzled because our usual workouts and wellness routines were turned upside practically overnight. I think I speak for us all when I say that our favorite fitness class, and the community that comes with it, plays a huge role in our overall happiness. The good news is the wellness industry has come a long way in just under a year.
While it is true that some areas still aren’t allowing the in-studio experience for their workout classes due to the pandemic, we have more options to practice wellness safely than ever before. Right now, some studios are allowed to operate with in-person, socially distanced classes—and pretty much every studio broke into the virtual space to provide fitness classes you could participate in from the comfort of your own home. Not to mention, at-home virtual options are typically cheaper and allow you to try our studios from all over the country. With online gym memberships like Mindbody Flex, you can have access to thousands of live stream classes at your fingertips for less than $5 per class.
Look, 2020 was scary. After a year like that, it’s can be hard to tap into a positive mindset. But it’s more important now than ever before to let go of assumptions and focus on the good that 2021 can bring. This shift to acceptance will ultimately help you put your best foot forward in any situation that arises.
Take a step back and try to focus on the things we can be grateful for in this moment. Like what? Well, for starters more and more people are receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, which means things are slowly, but surely, getting back to normal. I, for one, am grateful that my at-risk family members have already received their first rounds of vaccinations and are on the path of staying healthy since they are protected from the coronavirus.
The best thing we can do right now for our mental health is to learn to give ourselves some grace through practicing self-care. And this can look different for everyone. Maybe your version of self-care comes in the form of daily journaling, getting a workout session in, curling up with a good book, or having that glass of wine while taking a bubble bath. Whatever makes YOU feel good—keep doing it.
To keep my mental health in check, something that I’ve started incorporating into my daily self-care routine is practicing mindfulness. Some days that means I focus on my breathwork practice—other days I may scroll through the Mindbody app to find a virtual meditation class or Yoga Nidra class. I’ve also embraced the motto there’s an app for that. Right now, I’m really loving the Headway app because it helps me set daily intentions from the moment I wake up with a morning survey and then checks in with me at the end of the day with an evening survey. Having the ability to write down my goals and hold myself accountable for them has really taken my self-care routine to the next level.
Some days we fall a little short of our goals—and guess what? THAT’S OKAY. Honestly, I think we should all just focus on being okay for the rest of the year. The past year caused us to be tough on ourselves and I encourage you to make this year kinder. Any new goals you set that involve changing habits or overhauling your lifestyle will likely have some setbacks. So, when that happens, remember to be compassionate with yourself.
If there’s anything I want you to take away from this blog post is to let go of the illusion that perfection is always the end goal. When in doubt I always remind myself of something my favorite spin instructor (hey Steph!) says: “If you look for perfection, you'll never be content. Just focus on your growth.” Allow that to sink in and make it a goal to remind yourself of this every single day.
And remember: You don’t have to—and really shouldn’t—give up hope that things will get better this year, even if you feel overwhelmed now. Having a positive mindset is never a silly thing. In fact, it is actually quite admirable; you’re an admirable badass.
Barre is becoming all the rage in the fitness world. But what exactly is it? Although barre originated from dance, you don’t need to have a dance background to participate—it’s a low-impact fitness workout that anyone can do. The exercises develop long, lean muscles (similar to a ballerina’s) as well as increase flexibility and improve balance. Barre is a great way to work muscles you may not normally focus on—and to earn that drink at the other bar later on.
Barre is all about micro movements—the smaller the better. The point is to fatigue the muscles quickly and break them down so they grow back leaner. That’s why your starting position will be something like a deep bend, from which you’ll pulse, lift and tuck slightly to really hit those muscles. You might shake like crazy, but the more you shake the faster your muscles will fatigue. Don’t be alarmed, that means it’s working. The best thing to do? Breathe, embrace it and try to stay in the position as long as you can.
Just because barre is low-impact doesn’t mean it’s any less of a workout. Expect to burn anywhere between 200 and 600 calories in one class—and your muscles will continue working and burning them even after you’ve left the studio. It’s a total body workout, so you’re always working multiple areas at once. Plus, you can constantly push your limits by increasing your weights.
Like many workouts, your breath is crucial for getting through the tough parts of barre. Consistently exhaling sharply will not only send strength to where you need it, but will also help you focus on something other than giving up. The more you breathe, the more you tell your body that you’ve got this (smiling helps, too).
Nothing lifts your spirits higher during a tough sequence than turning to a friend and exchanging that “What have we gotten ourselves into?” look. Feed off the energy of the class, groove to the music and maybe make a new friend in the process. Don’t forget to high five them at the end and celebrate what you’ve accomplished together.
Barre classes share a similar foundation of movements, so after a few you’ll have a general idea of what to expect and the target areas you’ll hit (though the actual moves will always change). Depending on your studio and instructor, the order of movements varies, too. To give you an idea, here is one example of how a class may flow.
You’ll start with a warmup that gets you familiar with lifting to a beat. From there, your instructor may throw in some light bicep curls or squats. Next is a push-up and plank series, followed by arm sequences using weights (shoulders and biceps and triceps, oh my).
At this point, you may be eyeing the door and planning your escape, but hold tight! The best part about a barre class is that it follows a pattern: after every challenging portion of class you’ll take a rewarding stretch.
Once your work on arms is over, you’ll move to the barre for some stretches that boost your flexibility. Then, it’s right back to work with a lengthy sequence focused on your thighs, typically using a resistance band or ball. This can be one of the most difficult parts of the class, but afterwards you’ll balance it out by stretching your hamstrings and hip flexors.
You may feel tired but you’re not done yet—glutes are next. Push through these last sets, and you’ll surely feel it the next day. Last on the list are your abs (as if you haven’t been using them this whole time) and some back-building exercises.
Whew! You made it. Now enjoy some relaxing final stretches and cleansing breaths—you’ve earned them. If you find a studio you like and return frequently, you’ll get to know their sequence better and better. Or, if you’re the type who likes to explore different places around you (on the MINDBODY app), your experience could be something new every time!