Michigan barre and Pilates expert Stephanie Lyons was a dancer all her life, even performing with the Detroit Pistons dance team. She found barre while working in digital advertising and loved it so much she became certified, teaching for seven years. When she wanted a change, she not only purchased a studio, but also the rights to Barre Intensity, a technique focusing on musicality, form and fun.
While she enjoyed the studio, she realized educating and certifying other teachers was her true passion. Now, after selling her studio, her clients are those exact fitness instructors looking to get certified and teach—and she couldn’t be happier. Read on to learn how Lyons found her new niche.
SBS: How did you find Barre Intensity originally?
Stephanie Lyons: A lot of people outside of Pilates and yoga think barre is brand new, but I started taking barre classes 10 years ago. My area in Michigan is an early adaptor in a lot of ways, and a friend introduced me to the upbeat, challenging workout. I loved it because it made me strong and also incorporated my dance background. I felt comfortable in that fitness environment.
Then, I saw a certification program, and since there weren’t many at that time, I jumped on board. That was Barre Intensity! I loved it because it gave me flexibility. With Barre Intensity, you aren’t tied down to one studio. Once certified, you can teach it anywhere, and it’s more like a yoga or Pilates certification in that way. It’s a tool instructors can take with them anywhere, without restriction.
SBS: You purchased the Barre Intensity brand two years ago. What did you change?
SL: I made it my own. I stepped it up out of the barre mold. It’s not just for dance and Pilates enthusiasts. We make sure you enjoy that barre burn and shake, but your heart rate elevates too. A lot of times you think you take barre and then need to run on the treadmill. But with Barre Intensity, you’re done for the day. Your time is limited, and Barre Intensity helps you get the most out of your time and money. Now, I’ve taken that format and approach, and I teach it to new instructors to take with them wherever they go.
SBS: What’s the structure of a Barre Intensity class?
SL: We think music is the backbone of barre class. It’s not background music. For example, we encourage instructors to use mics so the music can be loud. It’s also not choreographed, so instructors learn our outline, and then they create their own progression for each of the sections: warm up, upper body, plank/push up series, upper body stretch, thighs, glute series, abs and final stretch. We provide the instructors with tools to mix and match exercises to create a different routine every time they teach. That keeps instructors fresh and clients wanting to come back.
SBS: What’s unique about the Barre Intensity training program?
SL: A lot of certifications usually have requirements of group fitness or teaching experience. But we offer our program up to everyone. People who have group fitness teaching experience can retain it more. But if you have a passion to learn, we welcome everyone.
But, I’ve noticed, one thing that throws people off is the musicality. You’re not just teaching moves, you’re doing it to the beat of music. So, if you’re a yoga or weight training teacher, it can be challenging to pay attention to music while teaching.
SBS: Since the music is so important, how do you help teachers who don’t instinctually have good rhythm? What about for cueing?
SL: There’s a tool called a metronome that keeps a steady beat. You can set the beats per minute (BPM) to 128 to 134, which is the rate for Barre Intensity. Then, practice a simple move like squats, and start and end the exercise on the beat, not in between.
For cueing, in our manual, not only do we set up the exercise, but we also have a portion for verbal cueing. Instructors learn this during the week of training and then also when they take it home. Our tips in the manual make it more manageable. One idea I find really helpful is advertising your next move. While you are still instructing one move, give the information for what’s coming next. That maintains the flow verbally and physically.
SBS: What tips do you have for newbies attending a training?
SL: Most importantly, come well rested and with an open mind! Be prepared to be challenged mentally and physically. A lot of people who come in do have experience with other types of fitness. If you are a yoga instructor, you are taught to do things in a certain way. But remember, you might learn to move in a different way here, and we have different reasons to teach differently. Be open to that.
SBS: What are the challenges that pop up as a teacher trainer?
SL: People come in with all different backgrounds, so someone will ask us a question or challenge us on why we teach in a certain way. We have to be well educated in not barre, yoga and personal training, etc., so we can answer confidently. It’s also long days, and sometimes you wonder if they are integrating the information. But when they’re done and you get grateful e-mails, it’s extremely rewarding.
SBS: What traits do think create successful barre teachers?
SL: You need musicality, form and personality. You also need to tackle a ton of choreography, but Barre Intensity offers an online resource with more than 30 classes. With each video there is a downloadable video, a playlist to follow and a written out format. So if you struggle with that, we have you covered!
SBS: What are common problems you see with barre instructors?
SL: When instructors are off the music, demo incorrectly or fail to make it a fun experience, I’m frustrated. Speaking in a monotone voice or forgetting to introduce yourself doesn’t allow the client to feel welcome.
Also, I’ve noticed some teachers don’t walk the room. It’s not about your workout. It’s about demonstrating and then making sure everyone else is doing it properly.
Teachers also must prep their classes. If you use the same choreography and playlist over and over, it’s not a great class. Remember: Teaching isn’t just the 60 minutes of class. It’s also the 60 or more minutes you spend planning and creating a fun, effective workout, plus time chatting with your students afterward.
Stephanie’s SBS Mantra:
My favorite mantra is Be You. I've experienced firsthand that you can never make everyone happy. As long as you are "you" then your chances of being happy are significantly increased. Yes, Barre Intensity does have our own customized SBS sock which we sell on our website and at all trainings we host. Our SBS Barre Intensity mantra is Intense Shape. Intense You. which is the Barre Intensity tagline.
Favorite splurge restaurant: Dairy Queen, I could eat ice cream for dinner.
Other favorite fitness studios: RPM where I'm always challenged and soon to be Center Stage where I will be teaching the Barre Intensity technique, and CYCLEBAR Royal Oak, such a fun way to get in my cardio!
Favorite fun activity: Working out in a group fitness setting and I promise I'm not just saying that.
Favorite peaceful place: My house, when my girls are sleeping or at daycare ;). Dorothy had it right when she said "There's no place like home".