Born, bred and still buzzing in Grosse Pointe Park, MI, instructor and trainer Rebecca "Bee" VanBrienen’s expansive energy has captivated her entire community. With a grandmother who was a nurse and a mother who nurtured her life-long vegetarianism, eating healthy was a lifestyle since day one.
While she worked in development for a while, eventually she was able to combine her years of music training and love of healthy living into a career in fitness. Now, she brings her cheerful attitude and focus on form to her clients in barre classes and personal training sessions. Read on to learn more about how she blends her passions, favorite on-the-go exercises and trends she loves.
SBS: What has your professional path been?
Rebecca "Bee" VanBrienen: I am a classically (and jazz) trained pianist, since the age of eight. I had lessons throughout my youth; I completed theoretical training and then passed my guild exams. I love music and movement, which I believe is one of my strengths in teaching barre. However, I did not pursue this at university. Instead, I completed my Bachelor’s in Business.
Then, I worked in non-profit for nine years in development for the National Association of Women Business Owners Detroit Chapter, as well as for the Neighborhood Club of Grosse Pointe. NAWBO works to help women business owners gain more stake in the corporate world, especially in this automotive capital of Detroit, while The Neighborhood Club is a fitness-based, local non-profit that gives children the skills of confidence and love of healthy living as they play community sports.
SBS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
RVB: Currently I volunteer on charitable boards in the area, and I am a master gardener, as well. My garden is a Monarch Butterfly Certified Habitat: Each year I protect and release 80-plus wild monarchs and some swallowtails in my yard.
SBS: How did your path lead you to becoming a trainer?
RVB: As with most trainers I've met, I began as a client. I fell in love with barre, and I was approached by the owner of my local Pure Barre to become a teacher because of my form and musicality. That hobby became a side job, which eventually led me to leave the business world to instruct full time.
SBS: What tools did you use, both practical and emotional, in manifesting your business?
RVB: I share my commitment to form and musicality with my clients to make them feel empowered. It is always my goal to help them create muscle memory and confidence, which they can use in any class or activity, even if it is not mine. I also love engaging via social media and sharing my health and lifestyle ideas with those far and wide. I love being in the studio teaching, and I think it makes people feel welcome and excited to grow.
SBS: What’s your style and approach as a trainer?
RVB: I’m attentive, passionate and fun. I'm 100 percent authentic and genuine.
SBS: What should clients look for in a trainer?
RVB: Look for a teacher who cultivates their class and music appropriately, as well as an instructor who asks you questions, offers clear explanations and sells it to you during class. They should help you understand: What are you working and why? Also making you feel stronger every second, every month, is a must!
SBS: What is a good, fast workout someone can do while traveling?
RVB: Squats, lunges and planks are your best bet! Try yoga stretches mixed with cardio sprints, then end in ab work on the back. Arms and legs are your weights against gravity...easy as that!
SBS: What are some underrated exercises? What about the most overrated ones?
RVB: Slower movements, especially with weights, are underrated and can be so effective. Controlling the push and pull of arm movements is so good.
On the other hand, I think burpees where you first land stomach-down are so overrated and dangerous. It's much better to slowly land in the plank and think more about the jump at the top instead of the arch of a push-up.
SBS: What are fitness trends you love? Hate?
RVB: I love the fitness trend of finding a workout buddy and the idea of being strong, not skinny. When a client says they feel strong, my heart sings and I know they get it. It is a true ‘lightbulb’ moment for them.
The trend I could do without is the sexualization of the clothing and Instagram posts. You should not look camera-ready while working out. Fitness apparel should be functional and not a costume.
Bee's SBS Mantra: This Virgo would have to say Be Brave! We are usually perfectionists and consider ourselves bulletproof, so the idea of being brave rings so true. I am also a textbook child of divorce, so I think I can do everything for myself. That's not true, of course. Plus, add in the fact that I am Norwegian and proud to come from a lineage of warrior women!
The best, zaniest part of being Bee:
My crazy dog mom life: My labs have their own Instagram. I could not imagine my life without them.
Bee's Michigan Faves:
Splurge Restaurant: Cafe Cortina
Healthy Restaurant: JHouse Juice
Fun Activity: Pool day in our backyard
Calming Activity: Taking a hot bath
Fitness Studio: Above the Barre X
Yoga Studio: Live Cycle Delight
Athletic Shoes: Nike
Books: Anything by Elin Hilderbrand