Coast women of all ages are getting stronger with barre workouts

A new fitness trend has made its way to South Mississippi, and the low-impact classes are helping women of all ages get in a good workout in about an hour.

Mandie French said people from ages 17 to 76 take barre classes at her Gulfport and Bay St. Louis studios, and they find it helps them lose inches, tone muscles or build a strong core.

The secret behind the success of a barre workout? Well, there are two.

First, French said people who want to try classes don’t have to have a background in dance. Many people get confused because the barre most commonly seen in ballet studios is a key component of the workout.

“You don’t have to be a dancer,” French said, adding that she quit dancing for soccer when she was 8 years old. “A lot of people think that when they call.”

The barre is used for stretching to help elongate muscles, which helps tone and strengthen the body.

Second, French said, the low-impact workout makes it easy for women of all ages to enjoy a class and see results.

“We only use one-, two- or three-pound weights,” French said. “We are moving isometrically, which is slow movements until you exhaust those inner muscles, and then we stretch. The barre gets you those elongated muscles.”

The classes last an hour, and the songs and movements change quickly, with French coaching the class from the floor and checking form as she moves along. French stays with her members every step of the way and calls out movements and times throughout the class.

She opened The Body Barre Studio in Bay St. Louis in September 2015. She shares that space with her grandmother, who uses it to teach adult dance classes. In November 2016, French opened BarreTheory on Cowan Road in Gulfport.

It’s a move that has increased business and also has allowed her to offer unlimited classes to her members.

“When it comes to fitness, you need be able to to any day, any time and twice a day if you want,” French said.

Members can take classes at either location, and French also offers yoga classes in Bay St. Louis and total body resistance (TRX) core workouts at both places.

TRX involves using suspension straps for a core workout that lasts 25 to 45 minutes.

“Whether you’re trying to lose weight or tone or get more flexible, everyone leaves stronger after taking barre,” French said.

French said a few men have tried taking a class with her, too, and she welcomes men to join as well. So far, though, she said the inner-muscle workout is more than what they bargained for.

“The men can not handle it,” she said. “We have had a few guys try barre and they left drenched in sweat.”

French offers various membership packages and one-time drop-in rates.

Members use an app to pay their memberships and to schedule or cancel participation in a class. People can also book classes on BarreTheory’s Facebook page.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @Journalism_J