Shawna Baker Xtends Her World
For Warrior Goddesses hoping to find their barre fitness match, the options can be dizzying—and often unsatisfying. Enter Xtend Barre. Founded by Andrea Rogers, Xtend emphasizes alignment, Pilates basics and modifications for every fitness level. Fun-loving WGs, rejoice, too: The rigorous technique is balanced by a fast-flowing approach to transitions, jamming music and encouraging instructors for a blend of cardio and toning that results in a killer workout. For Charlotte, NC, Xtend Barre franchise owner Shawna Baker, these aspects popped her right out of her barre doldrums. Once unhappy with other options that only seemed to bulk her body, when she found Xtend, she was instantly converted. Read on to learn more about her connection to the brand, her advice for franchise newbies and her favorite, fierce exercises.
SBS: What attracted you to the Xtend approach?
Shawna Baker: I took Xtend for two years as a client, and I loved the cardio element, which I had been looking for all along. Plus, since I had danced, I was able to pick up the choreography quickly, and I loved that every single class is different and challenging. Most importantly for me, the instructors are so friendly and welcoming. You walk into an Xtend studio and everybody greets you, and that doesn’t happen everywhere else. I was seeing results, toning and getting cardio: I didn’t have to go running outside!
SBS: Xtend uses Pilates basics heavily. How did this affect you?
SB: Before I got licensed, the only Pilates I had done was a basic mat class. And to be honest, I don’t really like being on the mat for a whole hour. But, when I went through the Xtend training, the first day is all Pilates. That’s when I connected the dots and saw the benefit of that foundation.
Xtend is fast-moving, though, so when you use Pilates concepts during the core section, it’s challenging to get clients to slow down! We use tons of body cues and constant corrections to help them understand the benefit of moving slowly and effectively.
SBS: What did you think about the Xtend certification course?
SB: The training was extremely thorough, and as an instructor, that helps you feel confident. You truly understand the exercises, modifications and advancements, so you can instruct any level. It’s not quick: It’s five whole days and then a test out. But we tell our instructors, getting certified is a huge accomplishment. It’s time, effort and teaching hours, so you have that knowledge that you can pass on to your clients.
SBS: What are your favorite aspects of Xtend?
SB: Since every class is different, there’s a creative freedom instructors have. It’s challenging and we need longer to prepare for classes, but it keeps it fun and interesting. Once out of training, I had the chance to pick from a whole slew of different exercises, putting them together how I wanted, instead of someone telling me how to make a lesson plan.
In our studio specifically, that means I like to include a lot of cardio. So maybe we start with a basic bicep curl, but then we add a lower body segment, like a plié relevé, to make it a unique, full body exercises. Or we complete a curtsy, starting in plié with the legs in a diamond shape, and then extend the foot to tendú.
SBS: Xtend focuses a lot on advancements and modifications. Why are these important?
SB: Xtend is for everyone: Each class is multilevel and can cater to a student looking for a challenge or someone who is recovering from an injury. We tell our clients, listen to your body today. Maybe today you modify, tomorrow you advance. You might have someone cross training for an ultra marathon next to someone new to barre. That lends itself to all fitness levels, and doing your best is all that matters.
And, it gives clients that are doing modifications something to work toward. Maybe your goal is to advance one exercise in the next class: Build that strength and hold that plank with your knees up, or battement your leg up all the way versus staying in tendú. But either way, you’re working the same muscles, so do what you need.
Also, because Xtend studios are welcoming and non-judgmental, remember, people could care less if you’re modifying or advancing! They’re focused on themselves and their own best workout that day.
SBS: What’s your advice for prospective franchise owners?
SB: It’s hard, but research before you open, know your market, your competitors and your franchise in general. Get all the knowledge that you possibly can beforehand. You need to think your studio is open before it is. What’s the price point? What’s your target market? What other fitness centers are in area? Think all of these things through.
To help us, we went to small business counseling at a local college. They helped us develop our business plan, and it was great to have that third party ask the difficult questions and have eyes on it. They brought up things we didn’t think of initially.
I also took the free training MindBody offered. Any opportunity you have like this, jump on it and learn from it. You never know where you’re going to find that helpful nugget of information.
SBS: What are your favorite areas of the Xtend workouts?
BS: I love the glute work and abs. Barre really hits areas that a lot of other classes don’t. Also, in Xtend, there are a lot of ways to work the glutes, but it’s not the same every class. And, there’s hidden glute work in fourth position jumps or ballet lunges, where we hold the barre with an underhand grip and lunge one foot back behind us in a deep lunge.
The Foldover is by far my favorite. It focuses on the glute and it just allows you to slow down and center in on working. As you fold over the barre, your hips are over your heels, your toes stand underneath your belly and your arms are in a genie position with the forehead resting atop. With a soft bend in your knees, your working leg can be bent in a hamstring curl and stamp the ceiling. If it’s done correctly it hits all the area of the glutes for that lift that you want. Or, you can lift the leg straight out to the side with your toes and knee pointed to the mirror. Lift up and down or pulse. It’s super challenging and works a place that’s difficult to zone in on.
In the ab section, I have a love-hate relationship with our yoga strap. It adds in an extra element of resistance for great feedback, and it also helps people who need a modification. While seated on the floor facing the barre with feet on the floor and your belly pressed toward the spine in a C-curve, grab the strap, one loop in each hand. Then place your hands in a bicep curl position and pulse, working the abs and the arms. The yoga strap allows for a fresh perspective.
SBS: What’s your advice for barre clients?
SB: If you take class often, don’t get comfortable. It’s easy to decide, ‘Oh, this is how high my legs go.’ But, can you actually lift higher or get lower in that plié? Try it!
Also, make sure you focus on your form. Don’t zone out in exercises that seem familiar. You can always find more in your challenge zone or by getting your heels higher. Try new challenges like moving from a forearm plank to a straight-arm plank or use a heavier set of weights if you need to amp it up. Pick something to improve on in each class to keep your workout fresh. Finally, try new classes like our Circuit 7. Changing it up is helpful and a great compliment to barre.
If you’re new to Xtend, have fun! Be kind to yourself in the first class especially. If you need to take a second to look around, do so! It’s your workout: Take the modifications you need, and enjoy.
SBS: What are some common problems you see?
SB: Push-ups and planks are problematic because the shoulders often move up by the ears instead of staying in correct alignment. Or, people take advancements they’re not ready for or use too-heavy weights. It’s much more beneficial to stay with the basic exercise in perfect form.
SBS: What’s your advice for instructors?
SB: Don’t get into any sort of routine, especially with the vast repertoire Xtend supplies. And, don’t be afraid to give hands-on corrections. To get the maximum results, clients need to be in great form, so help them find that. Sometimes it might be intimidating to do so, but it’s so essential for the clients to feel how each exercise should feel in the body.
Finally, keep an eye on the level of the class at that moment. Don’t teach a super advanced class to a room full of new clients. Xtend is so unique because of the quick transitions, so sometimes you might need to demonstrate a few times to make sure clients stay with you and feel welcome and confident.
Shawna’s Charlotte Faves:
Healthy restaurant: Chopt
Splurge Meals: Pasta at Mama Ricotta’s or Pad Thai with shrimp at Basil Thai Restaurant
Fitness Studios: Y2 Yoga or NC YogaBar pop-ups
Coffeeshops: Rush Espresso and Central Coffee Co.
Shawna’s SBS Mantra: Everyone is so different, and if we were all the same it would be boring. So I love “Be You.” It sounds cliché, but that is especially important for instructors, classes and fitness in general. We all bring our personality into the class, and that keeps it interesting for our clients.