Brinn Strange is a serious triathlete, training diligently in the swimming, biking and running required of the intense type of race. But, she says her time at the barre is actually to thank for her new increased strength and stability on the track. As the owner of the one-year-old Barre Forte studio in Gainesville, Florida, her multi-tasking fitness routine is daily proof of the value barre technique provides within any larger approach. SBS chatted with the California native to learn more about cross-training and becoming an entrepreneur.
SBS: How did you first come across barre technique?
Brinn Strange: I’ve always been a fitness fanatic, and in college I fell in love with group fitness. I started adding certifications eight years ago, starting with Body Flow, a Tai Chi-Pilates-yoga class. Then, while I was working writing for magazines and teaching composition at the college level, I continued to add certifications like spinning and Body Pump. And, while I was living in Mississippi three years ago, I went to a wedding in Cleveland. I tried barre for the first time at a studio there, and it was a light bulb moment. I realized barre was a perfect fit for me because it combines moments of intensity with core work and stretching. Plus, the boutique studio space that catered to women (versus the larger gyms) created a community feel I loved instantly. After I worked at a spa in Mississippi and brought barre there, I was thrilled to bring it to Florida when we moved to Gainesville.
SBS: Why did you choose Barre Forte specifically?
BS: When I moved to Florida, there wasn’t a barre studio, and I felt it was my calling to bring it here. I reached out to the women at Barre Forte because they had certified me in barre in Albuquerque, NM. They had just started licensing, not franchising, locations. (Now they have licensed studios in the Denver area, but I was actually the first licensee.) I love this versus being a franchise: I get their support and they’re only a phone call or e-mail away, whether I need marketing help or otherwise, but I don’t have to go with a corporate feel of the brand. I can bring in different formats like Body Flow, I’m in charge of pricing and promotions and I can put my own stamp on it.
Then, it terms of the technique, Barre Forte has much more of a fun vibe. It’s challenging, but not robotic or strict, which I had experienced elsewhere. We demonstrate much more at BF, too, and while we are all about alignment, we’re less concerned with the ballet terms and criticism, and instead focus more on positive reinforcement. We are strong, but we say silly things like, ‘If you don’t squeeze your buns, nobody else will!’ We laugh in class, encourage community and whatever it takes to enjoy your time with us: If you’re a busy mom or nurse, and you need your phone by you in class, that’s ok. Life happens.
SBS: What do you include in your line-up currently?
BS: Right now we have four set-ups: We offer our signature, all-level barre class, plus Body Flow, which is calmer and includes more Pilates, which our clients love. Then we also have an advanced barre class that’s quicker, and finally Restorative Rolling, a sort of self-Myofacial release class with a ball. It’s guided with lovely music and candlelight, and while it can be painful to release in that way, at the end, it’s eye opening how helpful it is in lengthening your muscles.
SBS: For clients with different goals, how many classes of each format do you recommend?
BS: I always encourage all students to come in three to five times a week to develop a healthy habit. For people who are looking for more toning, try four barre classes and maybe two Body Flow classes for more core strength. For weight loss, you might push it even more with five barre classes and one Restorative Rolling class to stretch everything out. For maintenance and relaxation, switch the proportion and take two RR classes, two Body Flow classes and three barre classes. We often stack classes back to back, so it’s easy to take a few in a row!
SBS: How does barre work help your training as a tri-athlete?
BS: It’s easy to get injured in the tri-athlete cardio-heavy, but barre builds your core so you become more protected. My running has also improved as my upper body strength increases: I can power up with my arms more. Plus, since my glutes are so strong from barre, I haven’t had any IT band injuries. The stretching I should have always done is also now included in my barre classes. It all comes together and I’m so much stronger all around.
SBS: How is cross-training helpful in general?
BS: Cross-training is better than one modality because it challenges muscles in new ways so we don’t get stagnant. It also keeps your mind engaged and stimulated, whether you’re changing up something within a workout itself or switching activities completely. Sometimes cardio doesn’t give calm moments like Body Flow, and I’ve learned that my mind, as a tri-athlete, needs these quiet spaces. That transfers not only into other sports, but even into my whole life. If you get anxious about finances or an argument, you can come back to that breath.
SBS: What’s it like owning a studio in a college town?
BS: We’re about two and a half miles from campus, so while we encourage and invite students, we make sure our studio is about community for everyone. We focus on the working moms and young professionals, and we see more clients in that 28-to-68 category. We tap in by doing community events, including lots of donation based-classes, like those we did at a local brewery or classes for teacher appreciation day.
SBS: What advice would you give to someone considering opening a licensed studio?
BS: As we celebrate our one-year anniversary, I’m reflecting on that a lot. You need to have a go-getter attitude to do licensing, and since you’re constantly talking and e-mailing with clients, professionalism is essential. Also, you must, must, must have a willingness to work really hard: You will work around the clock. Since I have creative ideas I love to implement, I knew running it by ‘corporate’ every time wouldn’t work for me. But it’s not possible to execute everything I want without my amazing team of my staff, husband and family. You need these people who will contribute, and they do so because you have created a culture of community.
Brinn’s SBS Mantra: Be Fearless was the first pair of Sticky Be Socks I owned, and I also loved the vibrant purple they are: the color of Barre Forte! Whether my legs are shaking in class or I’m feeling overwhelmed as an owner, this mantra is key for me.
Also, my husband and I are having a baby, and we announced it by putting his SBS “Be Strong” socks next to my “Be Fearless” socks and a pair of baby socks in between: We want to pass on courage to our little son!