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As a runner I both love and loathe cross-training, often having a feeling that I am the worst in the class—especially with anything that requires flexibility (I have none).
I’ve written before about not loving yoga, however this post might as well be a love letter to my favorite cross training class: Barre.
As someone with weak glutes, barre classes are a killer—but so worth it. You’ve got to embrace the burn! Barre classes (or online videos) are brilliant for helping you see how important small movements are to your workouts, and realizing that they really add up to get those muscles shaking—in the same way that small gains in your running add up to big improvements.
Here’s why I recommend barre workouts to all runners:
- It’s a full body workout, with specific moves targeting each area of your body. Runners can often neglect full body and arm workouts when we are marathon training, forgetting how much we use our arms to power us through the last few miles.
- It’s mostly low impact (with the exception of some sections of HIIT in certain classes). This gives your joints a break. It focuses on strengthening core muscles, an area that is crucial yet often overlooked by runners when training for distance events.
- Foot strength—probably not something I’ve ever thought about before, but I noticed how much I was using my feet strength to stay balanced in some of the poses during a Barre workout. Gaining strength in your feet, toes and ankles can only improve your running, and potentially even your gait.
- Stretching is a major part of each class, another area that many runners skip over! Barre is ideal for runners who need to lengthen their hamstrings, open their hips and increase shoulder mobility.
- It helps improve balance, and let’s face it, you spend all of your time running on only one leg!
- Two words: hip opening. Barre workouts focus a lot on opening the hips, as a runner with incredibly tight hip flexors, this is painful yet necessary. As well as hip openers, you’ll also spend time strengthening those pesky little inner thigh muscles.
- Classes can help prevent injuries. Runners that are also barre devotees have credited barre for eliminating shin splints, as well as reducing IT band issues thanks to improved muscle balance and strength.
- Barre workouts will test and improve your mental strength. Marathon runner Tere Zacher likened the focus it takes to stick with sections at the barre and the determination to finish long runs. “When you’re at the barre, after 40 seconds it hurts like crazy, it’s the same kind of pain as when you’re racing.” It pushes you out of your comfort zone when your body is telling you to stop!
In London I love Barrecore classes, and even used Barre as my only cross-training method during my Chicago Marathon training two years ago. I have now added in twice-weekly classes to my Boston training (follow along on my vlog here).
Give your local barre studio a go, or try one of the online barre workouts and feel the burn!