Devotees Flock to New Fitness Programs like Barre and Orange Theory

Ann Elise Bouchard hasn’t skipped a day of Pure Barre in 345 days.

For 345 days without interruption, Greenville resident Ann Elise Bouchard has devoted herself to one daily hour of an exercise class called Pure Barre.

The intense, ballet-barre (pronounced “bar”) based workout has become an important addition to the lithe athlete’s training routine, who used to keep herself busy on the tennis court, playing several sets a day until she discovered “The Barre.”

“It’s my personal goal. I just can’t miss it! I was so sore when I first started Pure Barre classes, and I never wanted to feel that way again. So, I just don’t ever skip a class.”

January is peak sign-up month at Pure Barre in Greenville, where members “lift, tone and burn.”

Membership has grown steadily since Pure Barre Greenville opened its doors in 2013 – the first and only location in the state – and the site’s management expect that trend to continue with New Year’s resolutioners flocking to turn a new fitness leaf in this most frigid of Januaries.  

In fact, Pure Barre general manager Olivia Lonchi says they’ve already seen many new clients in the first few days of 2018 and are fast running out of the special sticky socks required for classes.

“In January, everyone is flooding in to start accomplishing their get-fit goals in the New Year,” said Lonchi.  And according to Lonchi, even veteran clients welcome the newbees.  “Here at Pure Barre, we build each other up; everyone is trying to motivate each other in class.”

Melissa Rice is not your average runner. She whizzes through the circuits at Orange Theory Talleyville.

Many local fitness buffs continue to get their workouts in at multi-purpose clubs, local YMCAs, and other gyms. But instructor-led barre classes and other location-specific programs – including the newest workout craze, Orange Theory Fitness – are surging in popularity in Delaware and across the country.

Enthusiasts of these programs rave about the quality of the personalized instruction, the ‘total-body’ nature of the workout, and being part of a community of individuals pushing themselves to the farthest reaches of their ability and endurance. Participants also say their one-hour studio visits are the most efficient and impactful workouts they’ve ever experienced.

High intensity workouts at Orange Theory Fitness

At Orange Theory, the goal is to reach 84% of your heart rate for at least 12 minutes in one 60-minute session

Just how popular is Orange Theory? The brand will be a principal sponsor for next seaon’s ABC’s reality hit “The Bachelorette.” And well-placed sources tell us the episode might be shot at an Orange Theory studio in the Northern Liberty section of Philadelphia!

Within the last year, three Orange Theory studios have opened in Delaware. Their pilot studio in Talleyville enjoyed a robust opening, signing up more than 500 customers in the first six months, which was in fact their goal for the entire year. The Pike Creek location opened three months ago, and the Newark location opened three weeks ago. Studios in Middletown and Christiana will open before summer.

Using the Orange Theory app, you can easily toggle between Talleyville, Pike Creek and Newark to sign up for the location and class time that suits your availability. Members can also sign up for classes at any of the 800 Orange Theory locations in the U.S.

Amanda Preciado (top left) and Romit Patel (top right), who opened Delaware’s first Orange Theory, with Talleyville instructors.

At Orange Theory, all memberships are month-to-month, with packages ranging from $59 for four sessions to $159 per month for unlimited classes. “Here you have the effectiveness of a personal trainer in every class, but you are only paying a fraction of the typical price of a personal training session,” said Romit Patel, Delaware franchise owner.

Patel, who also is an area developer for Orange Theory, was excited about breaking into this untapped market. “Typically, we see that Delaware is a little later in fitness trends. When New Jersey and Pennsylvania had seven, eight or more Orange Theory franchises, Delaware had none.” When we conducted this interview, their phone rang more than once, staff at the front desk were reviewing memberships with new clients, and two new customers were signing on the dotted line.

Instructors at Orange Theory Talleyville give step-by-step instructions for the treadmill, water rowers and floor exercises.

Orange Theory offers heart rate interval training in a 60-minute workout which includes running, rowing and floor workouts. Workouts are different every day. An appealing feature for clients is the special heart rate monitor worn on the wrist that enables them to see calories burned, heartbeats per minute, and minutes spent in the “orange zone” live on one of two monitors in the studio. Each heartbeat range is color coded.

The “orange theory” is based on the goal of every workout: getting the heartrate into the orange or red zones — 84% or greater of your maximum heartrate — for at least 12 minutes. Orange Theory says that by spending 12 minutes or more at 84% of your heartrate, you are guaranteed to burn an additional 15% – 20% more calories in the after burn during the next 24 to 36 hours.

Results of your workout are emailed to members at the conclusion of each class.

“Getting at least 12 minutes in that zone is the key,” said Amanda Preciado, the regional manager for the Orange Theory Delaware. “Members seem to respond really well to the heart rate monitors.”

Members receive an email immediately after each class with their “splat” points (the number of minutes spent in the orange or red zones) and total calories burned. “It’s like a game almost,” said Patel.  “People like to compete against their own data from the last class. Every time they come in, they progressively improve on what they did last time.”

Professional fitness coaches offer personal training in a group setting, calling out instructions to each of the two or three groups (treadmill, rowers, floor/weight area) about every two to four minutes, with reminders about pacing and other modifications based on one’s personal fitness level. Routines are different each day, but with a focus, like ‘run to row,’ ‘power workout,’ ‘strength workout,’ and ‘Orange Everest.’ You can probably guess how steep that challenge is.

Bobbie Atkins, left, with her aunt Sally Prendergast. Bobbie was also spotted at Pure Barre the day before this picture was taken!

In April Orange Theory will introduce small resistance bands for floor exercises as well as new data tracking devices for every piece of equipment. Each time a member signs in, iPads affixed to treadmills and rowing machines will show all of their saved stats (such as their fastest run), making it easier for people to achieve personal fitness goals. There will also be a leader board at the front of the studio indicating which member has improved the most.

Happy members: #OrangeTheoryRocks

“I joined Orange Theory because I was looking for something to break the monotony of the gym workout,” said Talleyville member Ankur Shah.

Honey Miller says Orange Theory takes the guesswork out of exercising on her own at gyms. “I don’t have to think about it. It’s structured and motivating. All I have to do is show up and try to be better than I was yesterday.”

Orange Theory Kelsey, with OTF shirt, celebrates her 25th birthday on Jan 6 with a few of her class participants.

Nine instructors at Orange Theory Talleyville direct a staggering 51 classes per week, with weekday classes starting at 5 am, and options as late as 7 pm on most weeknights. And they offer five classes each on Saturdays and Sundays.

Typical classes are capped at 25 people with one group assigned the treadmills for 25-30 minutes, while the second group splits their time between the rowers and the floor. But when the waitlist hits 10 people, Orange Theory will accept as many as 40 people, rotating participants by thirds into each of the stations. In January, this happens a lot.

Pike Creek offers 43 classes per week, and Orange Theory Newark hosts 34.

Always excited to try something new, Wilmington resident Stef Feder signed up for Orange Theory Talleyville before the studio even opened. Before Orange Theory, she had run half marathons, obstacle course races and even competed in an official NPC fitness competition. “It’s hard to name just one thing I love the most about Orange Theory Fitness. But I think the best thing for me is that each day presents new workouts. Thanks to the amazing coaches, I’ve learned a ton of new exercises, and I try to incorporate them in my own personal out-of-studio workouts.”

Barre-style studios at multiple locations

Weights, bands and small balls are integrated into the classes at Pure Barre in Greenville.

Currently, Pure Barre’s sole Delaware location is Greenville. However, there are other barre studios in the area, including Be Barre Fit in Hockessin and SkinnyBarre at Lovering Studio in Wilmington.

At each barre studio, the 45 and 55-minute classes take an athletic approach to Pilates and dance with a mix of musically-driven routines that push clients to lift, tone and burn. The low-impact workout utilizes the ballet barre, small weights and balls, tension bands, and floor exercises to get clients in shape.

Instructors at Pure Barre help you reach perfect form to do exercises like this, which are not easy.

“Pure Barre is the fastest, most effective, yet safest way to transform your body,” said franchise owner Maura Markley, whose enthusiasm is unparalleled and is adored by her clients. “Our classes will take you to the edge, lifting your seat, toning your body and burning fat and calories in record-breaking time.”

Despite going almost every day for a year, Bouchard says she’s never bored. “The music is loud, so there’s no time to think how hard it is. You just keep pushing yourself ‘til the end!”

Clients love the warm and inviting atmosphere at SkinnyBarre at Lovering Studio.

So just how does Bouchard manage to take Pure Barre every single day – even when she’s not in Wilmington? Like other clients who travel, are sick or just can’t make it into the studio, Bouchard makes use of Pure Barre on Demand, an online streaming service that the studio added last year. And when she’s out of Wi-Fi range, Bouchard pops in a DVD.

Greenville’s Pure Barre offers the most barre class options in greater Wilmington — 35 per week — and accommodates up to 25 people per class. Even with that capacity, only one of seven classes offered this past weekend did not have a waitlist. Weekends are the busiest times for all Barre studios and Orange Theory Fitness.

Hockessin’s Be Barre Fit, with eight instructors, offers 15 classes per week and takes up to 18 people per class.

SkinnyBarre X at Lovering Studio uses the TRX. Photo courtesy Dazzle Photography.

SkinnyBarre at Lovering Studio’s four instructors offer 6 – 7 classes of regular barre each week plus pop ups and a special “SkinnyBarre X,” 2 – 3 times/week. SkinnyBarre X is unique 6-person max class which takes the traditional Barre class and adds TRX as well as bands, balls and yoga blocks.  “It takes Barre to a whole new level,” said Danielle Stock, the studio owner of SkinnyBarre. “TRX itself is hard, but add the isometric small movements with only a TRX to stabilize you, and you have a killer workout.”

Because SkinnyBarre and Be Barre Fit are independently owned, their instructors have flexibility in creating new routines. SkinnyBarre and Be Barre Fit also do not charge cancellation fees. Pricing varies at each of the studios, but generally speaking, the studios with the greatest volume of classes charge more than the others.

Wilmington resident Annie Gallagher takes Pure Barre classes six days per week.

Annie Gallagher has been going to Pure Barre on average six days a week for about three years, and like Bouchard, she also keeps track of the more than 600 classes she has attended. “I have never loved an exercise as much as Pure Barre, and I have never seen changes to my body like I have gotten at Pure Barre. I am totally convinced that working on one’s core is the best way to go. The women who teach there are the best.”

If you’re traveling to Delaware’s beaches, you might check out Sea Barre Fitness in Lewes. Owner Ellen Spell moved from Kennett Square to Lewes in 2015 (her husband is the Lewes Chief of Police) and saw that there was no Barre studio. Because she has a bad back, and she herself was addicted to the Barre routine, she was inspired to open her own studio. The demand for her classes was so overwhelming that in six months she outgrew her space. So they moved to a new location in 2016 and expanded their offerings to include Slow Barre, Barre-lates, Co-ed Barre, and it’s newest addition… Cardio Barre.

Sea Barre Fitness owner Ellen Spell (center) and some of the gang at her studio in Lewes. Walk-ins are welcome.

Sea Barre Fitness was the first full time Barre studio at the beach, and Spell says they have drop-in classes and three-day packages (think Fri- Sat-Sun), and they will have special summer-only pricing. “A lot of our customers come to us from Pure Barre and other studios in the Wilmington area, so we would love to have them drop by our studio when they’re town.”

No one should assume that a fitness program centered around a ballet barre is a graceful walk in the park.

“We have some blokes who take classes with us,” said Be Barre Fit owner Trish Davidson, a native Australian. “Some of the guys tell us they have taken some of the most difficult exercise classes imaginable, but they say our Barre classes really put them to the test. The good thing is, they keep coming back!”

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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.

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