There are a lot more muscles in the human body than most workout programs will hit.
So a couple of local fitness entrepreneurs are building a business out of a full-body exercise program that activates some of those stragglers that often get overlooked.
BarreFlow is a program Schenectady resident Karli Taylor created and trademarked after years working as a personal trainer, yoga instructor and corrective exercise specialist. This latter specialty — helping people eliminate the specific weaknesses and imbalances they develop through years of sitting, poor posture or repetitive motion — is at the heart of BarreFlow.
How hard is BarreFlow?
Gazette Business Editor John Cropley gives BarreFlow a try
Barre workouts (pronounced “BAR,” not “BAR-y,” like Barre, Vermont) have been around for decades, merging ballet conditioning with core stability and posture improvement while making use of the barre, the horizontal handrail on the wall in dance studios. But Taylor said in recent years, barre training became trendy and evolved in a direction she didn’t like — too fast and not enough emphasis on form.
“Barre came into the fitness industry and it kind of got bastardized,” Taylor said, but she realized that “I can either hate on it or I can try to make it better.” This was the seed for her program.
BarreFlow incorporates elements of Barre, yoga and pilates to put heavier emphasis on posture and core stability. It flows smoothly from movement to movement without pause, but is not fast-paced like an aerobic workout. Some movements involve almost no motion and rely on isometric holds.
Joining Taylor in the business venture is Jodi Druzba, who with her husband, Joseph, owns Average Joe’s Fitness, a gym on West Campbell Road in Rotterdam that is one of the first places BarreFlow is being taught.
Druzba, whose background is in business, became a partner with Taylor after taking BarreFlow classes at Poise, the yoga studio Taylor operates in Slingerlands.
Druzba also became the first certified BarreFlow instructor.
Her ability to benefit from BarreFlow — and to teach it — is a telling detail in the short history of BarreFlow, because she was born with major spinal curvature that eventually required full vertebral fusion surgery. Her ability to smile while touching her toes or twisting from side to side — not as far as a normal spine would twist, but not in any pain, either — indicates the level of conditioning she has achieved, and how well she has been able to correct the muscle imbalance that results from severe scoliosis.
“That’s why I loved Karli’s program so much,” Druzba said, “because it was something I stuck with, and I got strong.”
Druzba, whose background before Average Joe’s was business rather than fitness, asked Taylor if she wanted a partner to create a business out of BarreFlow. She did.
In January, the two launched BarreFlow as a business venture with a written manual and a library of exercises, which cleared the way for ACE, AFAA and NASM accreditation. That’s American Council on Exercise, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and National Academy of Sports Medicine; their accreditation indicates that a program is both teachable and worth teaching, and it qualifies students for continuing education credit, an important component of the business model.
“A gym owner or studio owner can feel confident that if this person has certification, they have access to information from me, that exercise library,” Taylor said. “There’s quality control,” she added: The instructors must submit videos of their classes.
Revenue comes not just from classes but from certifying new instructors and teaching the technique to physical therapists and massage therapists looking for another tool to address their clients’ posture and alignment.
Fitness is nothing if not a crowded and highly competitive industry. There are myriad workout programs, each with its own passionate followers and promoters; commercial gyms big and small trying to carve out their own niche; a huge array of home fitness equipment and videos on how to use it; organized or casual outdoor fitness and recreation programs; a huge sports nutrition industry; and an athletic apparel industry selling everyone from toddlers to oldsters everything they need to participate in any athletic activity, or just look like they do.
So how does Taylor make her new variation on core/stability/flexibility workouts stand out in the crowd, and grow beyond Rotterdam and Slingerlands?
The model, Druzba says, is “try it and you’ll buy it.” To that end, they have concentrated on trade shows, free classes, social media and workshops in stores.
There’s also the accreditation and the slowly expanding instructor ranks (there are seven now) — each new person who signs on has his or her own roster of clients and students.
It’s a slow process, but Druzba and Taylor feel like they’ve begun to gain some traction in four months: BarreFlow classes have expanded from Rotterdam and Slingerlands to Buffalo. There is a new location for classes in New Jersey and there will be one in Pennsylvania next month.
“We’re breaking out of the Capital District,” Taylor said.
Among those who are trying and liking BarreFlow are some Schalmont High School athletes.
Joe Whipple, head coach of the football and softball varsity teams, said he and the Druzbas had been discussing the idea of doing some conditioning for the football team at Average Joe’s this summer when two team members said they’d tried and liked a BarreFlow class there.
The softball team was soon signed up for a BarreFlow class, and the girls have been coming back as a group or individually for this entire season — more often when games was canceled due to weather, less often when makeup games were scheduled.
“They loved it,” Whipple said. “It really gave them an opportunity to form a camaraderie, and find some fun doing fitness. They really have seen a dramatic difference in themselves.”
He said as a coach, his interest is also in the mental focus, core strength and stretching that the students can learn.
“Any kind of core strength and weightlifting program, I think the first objective is injury prevention,” he added.
NO IRONMAN WORKOUT
BarreFlow improves strength and cardiovascular conditioning, but not to the same level as workout programs specifically designed for strength, speed or stamina. So BarreFlow does not replace these workout programs, but it can complement them — it works to improve the body for specialized tasks like running or weightlifting as well as improving it for everyday life, beyond the gym.
The nagging hip pain on a five-mile run and the sharp back pain upon getting out of the car both can be addressed by stretching and/or strengthening the little muscle groups that are idle through hours of sitting or distorted through years of poor posture.
Taylor doesn’t see other workout programs — well-known or obscure — as competition.
“CrossFit? Great! Zumba? Great! Do BarreFlow, too,” she said. “Balance out some of that. I wouldn’t say ‘This is better than all those,’ I would say it’s a complement. And it’s something you can do forever.”
Ultimately, it’s up to the students to get maximum benefit from any fitness class — and not just in the studio, but in their entire lives.
“I’m the first person to say there is no quick fix,” Taylor said. “And this is not the end-all, be-all. Make this a part of your routine.”
Taylor, a New Jersey native, lives in Schenectady with her husband and their three dogs. She made fitness her career after an unlikely turn: While working toward a doctorate in criminal psychology at the University at Albany, she worked as a personal trainer to pay bills. After earning the degree, and working in her field a year and a half, she decided to give the fitness industry a one-year full-time trial in 2002.
She never went back.
Reach business editor John Cropley at 395-3104, [email protected] or @cropjohn on Twitter.