Before Stephanie Firenze opened up her branch of The Dailey Method more than five years ago in San Diego she worked in the stoic world of finance. Commercial underwriting and financial analysis filled her time, but she had always been a health and fitness fanatic. Her mom even joked she had once loved to follow along with Jane Fonda workout videos when she was little.
When she was in college at UC Davis, she became a spin instructor and also ran marathons competitively. But it was barre classes that helped her feel truly stronger, leaner, and better able to maintain good posture. The workout helped soothe her running pains and also eventually served as the homebase for her passion for wellness. Finally, she decided to leave banking for barre. Read on to hear about her journey, favorite glute exercises, and how she builds a nurturing environment at her studio.
SBS: Why did you choose The Dailey Method out of all the barre brands?
Stephanie Firenze: I thought Dailey had a lot of variety, and I love how we really use the music. Plus, the childcare aspect was huge for me. I wanted to have kids at the time I was deciding, and Jill has three. I saw her teach while her kids were in childcare, and I wanted that too.
SBS: You’re a runner. How does barre compliment that intense type of work out?
SF: Anyone who’s a runner can benefit since it’s so much core work. I wasn't doing any planks or pushups before or after running, and I also wasn’t stretching. So now with all the core stabilization, 20 minutes of ab work, and tons of glute work, my body has been refreshed. I had no glutes when I was a runner, and I was starting to get knee and hip issues. I had to find something new, and since barre is for all levels and ages, whether pregnant or older, it worked for me like it works for everyone.
SBS: What would you say to a runner who is a newbie to barre?
SF: It’s a whole new format. It’s challenging, and it doesn't matter if you're already doing CrossFit or kickboxing. You’re working in a different manner. But please remember, it’s a judgment-free zone, so take it at your level. Don't compete, and listen to the modifications that the instructor offers. Barre is great for runners, though, because it offers neutral spine work and help with the IT band through glute work.
SBS: What are your favorite glute exercises?
SF: I love the seated pretzel, both under the barre and in profile. I also love using the resistance band while standing parallel and lifting the leg out to the side.
SBS: What are your thoughts on cross training?
SF: You can do it all at Dailey. We have a variety of classes including Dailey Interval, so if you want to focus on cardio you can. I’d encourage doing two barre classes and two cardio classes a week!
SBS: What is the biggest challenge to opening a franchise?
SF: In the beginning, it was to not compare myself to others. In the franchise world, everyone talks. You’re connecting with other women and there are retreats, and so on. I was getting down on myself because I was not performing as well as other studios.
It takes time to gain momentum! When I opened, nobody knew about The Dailey Method; they thought it was birth control! So building the brand was a challenge, and there were days I cried in the bathroom as a class only had two people in it. But now business is booming with over 200 members. I love my staff and clients, and it’s amazing to watch everyone support each other.
SBS: How do you create a nurturing environment?
SF: It’s a team effort. If I’m not there, my teachers are warmly welcoming everyone. And our clients are great. We call one client the mayor: She will introduce herself to anyone new, and she’s just one of many genuinely sweet students. It all goes back to the studio being a judgment-free zone where everyone can work at her own level. Nobody is competing.
SBS: What do you look for in barre teachers?
SF: I look for people who are passionate and who can connect with clients. The best teachers are great at empowering students, helping them feel good and supported. They’re always smiling and making eye contact with each person during and after class. We want our clients to feel strong, balanced, healthy, and ready to take on the rest of the day, which then sets the tone for their week. The best instructors make sure the class reflects that.
SBS: Since there are so many different brands of barre now, what should a client look for to find their match?
SF: I’m so happy there are a lot of barre classes. They are effective and safe. I think it goes back to connection and how you interact with the other clients and teachers. A variety of classes help, so we added Dailey Baby and gentle classes for older clients and those with injuries. Find a place that has different styles.
SBS: What are your favorite abs and arm exercises?
SF: For abs, I like planks, high C-curve and low C-curve. For arms, I love all different types of push-ups: traditional, chaturanga, triangle, and reverse.
SBS: What are common mistakes in barre?
SF: First is not trying something new, whether it is coming up to your toes in push-ups or trying a new class like interval sessions. We encourage clients to step outside their comfort zone and try something new. That’s how we all grow.
Second is listening to self-defeating thoughts. Your body hears everything your mind says, so choose positive and uplifting thoughts. You will be able to accomplish a lot more with a positive mindset. Let go of perfection and find satisfaction with the effort!
Also, not knowing your ‘why’ is a problem. Setting an intention or knowing why you are there will help you stay focused and motivated, especially when the class gets challenging.
SBS: What are your overall body awareness tips?
SF: First, use the warm-up to set physical and mental alignment. Take time to connect mind and body so you get more from your workout.
Next, listen to your body and don’t compete with others in class. We encourage clients to honor where their body is at that day because every day is so different.
Finally, close your eyes. I find that when I remove this sense, I can hone in on what my body is doing and what it needs much better. Then I am able to make better choices for myself.
Stephanie’s Cali Favorites:
Healthy Restaurant: Flower Child
Splurge Restaurant: Rancho Bernardo Inn
Fun Activity: Lunch and wine tasting at Milagro Winery in Ramona
Calming Activity: Hiking Lake Poway
Athleticwear: Alo Yoga
Stephanie’s SBS Mantra: Be Kind! It doesn't cost you a thing but it makes the world a better place.
The zaniest thing about being Stephanie: My husband says it's that I place my pajamas under my pillow every night. I say I still have a terrible nail biting habit at 33 years old.