Last March, Gina Drake opened a new Barre3 fitness studio in Edmonds, only to close it 10 days later due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It was hard — I had spent years trying to open a studio and then immediately had to close,” said Drake of the former hardware store she helped transform into a 2,500-square-foot space with changing rooms, shower facilities and a play area for children.
Classes continued, however, livestreamed first from home, then the studio, a deck and, lately, a barn.
“We’ve decked it out with lights,” Drake said of the barn. “It’s all open, we’re spread out, we all wear masks. People need to keep moving and this is a way to get together safely.”
It was a quick pivot — or, in the language of dance, a quick détourné — shifting from in-person classes to online, Drake said. Classes livestreamed from instructors’ homes included moments in which the family dog rolled on the floor, children popped into view or grabbed Mom’s leg.
By June, instructors were allowed to return to the studio and, one at a time, livestream from there. “The sound was better, it was better lit, and you didn’t have the kids and the dogs,” said Drake, who assembled a blooper video of the home classes.
The name Barre3 refers to the ballet barre, a standard studio feature that helps with balance but isn’t a workout requirement. “’Three’ is a symbol for balance and stability, like a triangle,” Drake said.
In 2008, Sadie and Chris Lincoln of Portland, Oregon, co-founded the Barre3 franchise. Two years later, Barre3 got a major publicity boost when Madonna became a devotee. Today, there are two Barre3 studios in Snohomish County — the new Edmonds business, and another in Mill Creek.
Sadie Lincoln describes the Barre3 fitness routine as a full-body workout that combines strength-conditioning, cardio and mindfulness. That last feature is open to interpretation. Drake envisions mindfulness as connecting with your body.
“Say your knees are feeling tension that day, or you’re tired,” she said. “We encourage clients to make modifications.”
For Barre3 aficionado Andrea Chaplin, mindfulness is about regulating the pace and intensity of your workouts.
“Instructors do a good job to push you harder, but at the same time, they encourage you to listen to your body,” said Chaplin, a Bothell resident and mother of two. “There is always a way to dial back the workout if you’re not feeling good or you have pain. You can make it as high intensity or low intensity as you want with modifications.”
Instructors regularly offer advice on how to modify a routine, Chaplin said.
“It doesn’t feel like boot camp. You can go at your own pace — a pace that’s comfortable,” she said.
Chaplin, who admits to not “being big into aerobics, being on a treadmill or going to the gym,” was drawn to Barre3 because of that flexibility. Other classes and regimens failed to motivate her.
“It offers a consistent workout — you know what to expect going in, but how instructors do the class every time is different,” Chaplin said. “The choreography, the warm-up might be different. There is consistency, but it feels fresh and new every day.”
For Drake, making the online classes fresh and engaging was a challenge. She realized the classes needed to be shorter.
Thus was born the 30-minute burst, geared toward clients working from home or tending to the kids. The burst is an up-from-your desk, away-from-your-keyboard class that packs a full workout into a half-hour livestream.
Drake doesn’t recommend the burst for beginners. “It moves really fast,” she said. Instead, they should opt for a traditional 45- or 60-minute classes until they get the hang of it.
Drake discovered Barre3 several years ago when a friend mentioned that a Seattle studio offered free child care. The mother of a 2-year-old at the time, the freebie was the selling point, Drake said. What hooked her was a welcoming community of young and old, and a philosophy that wasn’t hung up on six-pack abs.
“I knew right away I wanted to open a studio,” Drake said.
Marne Whitney opened a Barre3 studio in the Mill Creek Town Center in 2014. Before becoming a owner, Whitney, a competitive tennis player, faced a second surgery on her spine. Her sister recommended she give Barre3 a try.
The workouts were “easy on the joints,” like physical therapy, but fun and set to music, she said.
“I just kind of fell in love with the workout and I loved the brand,” said Whitney, a part-time criminal defense lawyer. The need for a second surgery went by the wayside, she said.
“I have not had a problem with my neck since then,” Whitney said.
Whitney’s approach to mindfulness at her Mill Creek studio includes 10 minutes of slow stretching and mindful breathing.
“It’s a great way to end class … it really resets your brain and body,” said Whitney, whose clients range from 18 to 70.
Like her Edmonds counterpart, Whitney had to shift gears when the pandemic struck.
The Mill Creek studio closed in March, and livestream virtual classes commenced. Members logged in through a private Facebook page for access.
In the fall, Whitney reopened the studio and began offering a handful of limited-capacity classes. Instructors and students wore masks and complied with strict protocols, including temperature checks, she said. Virtual classes continued for those who weren’t comfortable with in-person workouts. “We were like a hybrid fitness facility,” Whitney said.
But when Gov. Jay Inslee barred indoor services at restaurants, bars and gyms in November, the studio returned to an all-virtual format. “We stream all of our classes live through the Facebook page, daily at noon,” Whitney said.
Chaplin was one of Whitney’s first clients when the Mill Creek studio opened.
Chaplin, 39, says she’s in better shape than she was 10 years ago.
“I just feel stronger overall,” she said. “It’s not so much about losing weight or being thin. You always come out of your class in a good headspace for the rest of the day.”
Chaplin looks forward to the day when in-person classes can safely resume. But virtual classes have been a saving grace.
“I can still have 45 minutes or an hour to take time for myself,” she said. “It’s felt like a lifeline during COVID.”
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods
If you go
Barre3 Edmonds, 2012 Fifth Ave. S., Edmonds. Find class schedules at online.barre3.com/studio-locations/edmonds. Call 425-361-1317 or email email@example.com for more information.
Barre3 Mill Creek, 15021 Main St., Mill Creek. Find class schedules at online.barre3.com/studio-locations/mill-creek. Call 425-585-0308 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Washington North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the spring issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www. washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.