Raising the barre: ways to get in shape

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  • Fitness team: Owain Johnston-Barnes with, from left, Lindsey Steinhoff, Alexis Richens, Alanah Bacon and Mary Faulkenberry at Exhale Spa

(Photograph by Sian Blackmore)

    Fitness team: Owain Johnston-Barnes with, from left, Lindsey Steinhoff, Alexis Richens, Alanah Bacon and Mary Faulkenberry at Exhale Spa (Photograph by Sian Blackmore)


When I was invited to the Exhale Spa at the Hamilton Princess, I imagined a bit of pampering.

I was a little less pleased when I was told it was for a fitness class rather than a relaxing poolside massage.

But as a chubby fellow who could be in better shape, I decided to follow Nike’s, no doubt, sound advice and just do it.

Mary Faulkenberry, a Pilates and barre instructor, did offer some reassurance.

She said: “We are very good about being flexible and customising so that people are not left behind.

“We like to make sure the programmes can be adjusted to everyone’s level.”

The theory was put to the test when they put me through a “sampler” of four different fitness classes offered at the spa.

Mrs Faulkenberry kicked off with Pilates — an exercise system that uses special equipment to improve strength, flexibility and posture.

Then Alanah Bacon announced a barre session.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief and was halfway to the hotel’s Crown and Anchor pub when she broke the bad news that barre was a tough workout based on ballet dancers’ exercises.

Alexis Richens continued the sampler with a brief but brutal bout of cardio and Lindsey Steinhoff guided me through a session of yoga to cool down.

As a former gym member whose exercise regime has degraded to an occasional walk, I expected that a one-hour workout might put me through the wringer more than most.

On the other hand, it could not be worse than my experience working out with professional wrestlers in the North East of England — an experience that wore me out so badly that even my eyebrows hurt.

The four trainers remained upbeat even when my legs decided enough was enough and offered me entry-level alternatives when needed.

Pilates started comfortably enough, but it wasn’t long before I could feel the acid building up in my muscles.

Barre continued the trend and made even small movements a challenge, even without the use of additional weights.

Cardio also started well, but soon left me sore and gasping for air. But yoga was a relative relief.

While no doubt my form was not spot-on, I got all the assistance I needed to get through it and even managed to catch my breath a bit. But after an hour, soaked in sweat and with my thighs still shaking, I admit I was relieved to be told my time was up.

I still had a few aches and pains the next day — but put that down to a job well done.

Ms Richens said the spa’s location, which has views of Hamilton Harbour, added to the attraction of a workout.

She said: “Its in the heart of town, which makes it great for people who want to come from work.

“And it’s hard to beat the view.”

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Published Jul 6, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 6, 2018 at 8:25 am)

Raising the barre: ways to get in shape

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