Run to the Barre: Benefits of Barre for Runners
Updated: Sep 4, 2018
Post by Lizzy Pepper, originally posted on Pep In Your Step
Running is always about more than the run. All the little things you do when you’re not hitting the pavement add up, making you stronger, faster and keeping you healthy. Cross training and strengthening are important parts of ensuring you stay injury free while preparing for a race. There are quite a few benefits of barre for runners. Barre is a low impact, highly effective way to do just that, plus you'll gain muscle strength and length as you feel the barre burn.
What is Barre?
Before we dig into reasons why you barre can benefit you as a runner, you may be wondering what barre actually is. Not to be confused with bar (although barre to bar – yes please!), barre is a combination of ballet, pilates, functional training, low impact cardio and yoga centered around the ballet barre (hence the name). You can expect to use a variety of tools depending on the class – low weights (think 2-3 pounds), resistance bands, yoga mats, gliders, yoga blocks, and mini exercise balls. Your focus will be on small movements that create a big burn! It's crazy how teeny tiny movements can create such a big shake in your muscles.
In terms of your outfit - throw on your comfortable leggings with a tank or short sleeve shirt. As for your feet, hang up the shoes, and either go barefoot, or more recommended, wear grip socks with grips on the bottom.
Why Should Runners take Barre?
OK – here’s what you came for! Here are the benefits of barre for runners, and why it’s worth it to step out of your running shoes and into a barre studio.
As runners, we all want to stay healthy, right? Thus, it’s super important to take days off from running and rest or at least, move your body in different ways to prevent overuse injuries. I know I am horrible about taking days off – I don’t feel like myself unless I’ve gotten in a good sweat in. That's where barre comes in. Taking a barre class on my off day for the week helps keep me sane without risking injury from running and moving my body in the same repetitive way every single day.
During your first few classes there's a learning curve. Take the opportunity to focus on listening and watching the teacher’s cues to ensure you performing each move correctly. With the help of your instructor, you will work to move and complete the workout correctly while protecting your joints and muscles. This will set you up for success in future classes and ensure you are getting the desired outcomes from all of your hard work.
Due to the low-impact nature of the exercises, I never feel worried that I’m going to hurt myself during barre class. Your joints will stay protected and although you’ll most likely feel sore afterwards, you won’t be risking injury during your training cycle.
Strengthen Complementary Muscles
As runners, we are constantly engaging larger muscles like our quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and core. Barre helps to strengthen the smaller muscles supporting those larger ones, to make us stronger runners. Trust me – when you get into a barre class, you will soon discover muscles you didn’t know existed. You'll know when those under-utilized muscles are activated - this is what we call the barre burn and shake!
I suffered four hamstring strains over a span of four years, in part because my quads have always been stronger than my hamstrings (a common issue for many runners). This imbalance causes the quads to pull my hamstrings as I run, leading to injury and setbacks. Barre helps balance out my muscles – in class you will definitely engage the hamstrings and surrounding muscles like the glutes and hips to help strengthen the back of the legs.
Overall, barre is a great workout to lengthen and tone your muscles. Taking a class once or twice a week will make you feel longer, stronger, leaner and more confident with your running training and overall fitness.
Challenge Your Mind
Just like your arms, legs, glutes, and core, your mind muscles are developed as you challenge yourself with new forms of movement. Barre will challenge your mind and make you that much tougher as you teach your body to breathe through the burn. As you fatigue during class, your mind will take over – just like when you get tired during a race. At that point, you can only rely on your mental strength.
As your muscle strengthen, as does your mind. You’ll prove yourself that you can push out a few more chair pulses, sink another inch lower in your lunge or hold your plank for a few more seconds. With every new challenge, you’ll realize that you can push yourself past your physical limitations by staying mentally sharp. It's important to keep your mind engaged by switching up your routine and allowing your brain to focus on more than just miles.
Barre also presents the chance to practice positive self-talk. Through classes, you gain confidence as you realize the potential of your mind-power. You truly are stronger than you think. Running is an extremely mental sport, so it's just as important to strengthen your mind as it is to strengthen your legs. Realizing that you are able to tackle new exercises and moves will give you the confidence that you can mentally coach yourself through obstacles.