Workout of the week: Essentrics Barre

Elevate Fit Club, 1010 Carbon Court, Erie,

Instructor: Heather Corey, of Frederick, who has been a dancer her whole life. She is certified as a Level 4 Essentrics instructor — the only in the state and one of two in the nation. Corey is also a certified yoga teacher and Irish step dancer. She’s been teaching in Boulder County for more than a decade.

She began training with Essentrics four years ago, to help her body heal from an injury.

She teaches Essentrics at several different fitness studios, as well as to pre-collegiate ballerinas at the Longmont Dance Theater. She also taught Essentrics at Dance Dimensions in Longmont.

What is the workout? Essentrics combines non-impact lengthening the muscle with building its strength, a sort of combo of ballet, Tai Chi, Pilates and yoga. Essentrics uses continuous movements and dynamic stretching and strength training to improve flexibility, functional strength and muscle tone.

Essentrics’ moves have transformed over the past few years, and Corey now teaches the newest evolution, Essentrics Barre. This class brings Essentrics moves to the ballet barre, which can help you maintain alignment, deepen your stretch and enhance your strength-building moves.

Essentrics has three divisions of offerings: for athletes and Olympians; for everyday fitness enthusiasts of all levels; and the PBS show, “Classical Stretch,” which targets older, retired participants.

What’s different: This is the only Essentrics barre class in Colorado.

Unlike Gyrokinesis, which also uses multi-dimensional, circular movements, Essentrics focuses more on toning. The spinal movements are more fluid and it’s more dancey than Pilates. Unlike yoga, the moves are dynamic, so you never hold a posture for long.

Sometimes when you hold a pose for long, it can have the opposite effect than intended, Corey says; instead of moving deeper into the muscle, people can tighten up and contract.

Although Essentrics Barre uses some of the same principles as popular barre-based classes — primarily lengthening combined with toning — it does not aim to burn out muscles to the point of fatigue, it has a much more extensive warm-up off the barre and is more rotational/multi-planar than the barre classes I’ve taken.

“That’s the way the body moves naturally,” Corey says. “We don’t just move in one plane. We have this rotational movement, rather than holding a stretch, that allows the joints to open up, get more flexibility and unlock the body.”

Essentrics Barre aims to pull every joint apart, so the fluid can move, and then rotate the joint to release scar tissue and muscle tension.

Unlike a ballet class, Essentrics Barre does not move across the floor or emphasize technique and turns. There’s minimal choreography, so you don’t need a dance background or even good coordination to do it.

In addition, the core work in this class was done standing up, which was pretty unique.

What does it cost? First class is free. After than, a drop-in is $14. Get a five-class card for $75.

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday nights for 55 minutes. Bonus: After class, join Corey for a complimentary glass of wine for a social hour.

Level: All levels. For the barre class, you need to be able to stand on one leg and put one leg on the barre. If you have an injury or balance issues, try a regular Essentrics class first.

My class was a good size, women of all levels of fitness, from triathletes to someone recovering from a shoulder injury. Other people like Essentrics to ease back and joint pain.

Olympians, NHL hockey players and other pro athletes train with Essentrics because it stretches, strengthens and rebalances the muscular structure, giving you better rapid muscle control and a full range of motion, Corey says.

I felt like the barre class was a six on a 10-point scale of intensity — harder than the regular Essentrics class.

What to prepare: No shoes or socks. Wear comfortable clothes, but nothing that’s too hot or loose. Bring a water bottle. Towels provided.

Muscles worked: Full body, including spine, joints, hips, shoulders, core, the sides of your body and even feet. We did a highly challenging arm exercise that I barely made it through.

Although Essentrics looks easy because it’s slow and non-impact, we worked surprisingly hard.

“If you want to see a grown man cry, make him do those arm exercises for three minutes,” Corey says with a laugh.

Who needs weights?

What I loved: Twisting. Rotating. Getting deep into my joints and wringing them out. It felt so good and released a lot of my mental and emotional stress, as well.

Corey is an upbeat, personable teacher who makes class fun. And the studio — upstairs in the “loft,” decorated with white holiday lights and serene wall paintings — feels like a private slice of heaven in the middle of Erie. It’s a beautiful space to go to get away and take care of your body.

Oh, and any exercise that rewards participants with wine and a social hour afterward will automatically get my endorsement. Judge me; it’s true.

What I didn’t like: After the flood, the roads to get in and out of Erie during rush hour are obscene. It took me an hour to get there from east Boulder. It is worth the drive (and you can’t get it anywhere else), but I imagine this class will attract more Erie residents.

Also, I am an oddly tactile person, and I didn’t like the rough feeling of the ballet barre we used.

Although I did sweat, this class didn’t get my heart rate up high enough to qualify as cardio, so I think Essentrics Barre would be most effective paired with another form of cardio activity.

How I felt after the class: My joints felt (I hate this word, but I’m going to use it) juicy. My muscles were tired, but I still had energy. I continued to feel the benefits of the class deep in my joints (especially hips and shoulders) for four days after class. That’s pretty impressive.

— Reported by Aimee Heckel.

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