Fitness Challenge: Power and poise

Each week Rachel Grunwell tries a new sport to bring you the lowdown.

Rachel Grunwell tries out Xtend Barre, a workout that fuses ballet on the barre and Pilates. Photo / Michael Craig
Rachel Grunwell tries out Xtend Barre, a workout that fuses ballet on the barre and Pilates. Photo / Michael Craig

Xtend Barre

What is it? A licensed workout from the US that fuses ballet on the barre and Pilates.

What's needed? Gym gear, bare feet, water.

The experience: I'm at Studio 3, a recently opened boutique studio at the top of a seven-storey building in the Auckland suburb of Newmarket. From here you can see the sea, and the Sky Tower and sun cast shadows over buildings while you sweat.

Owner Viv Gallagher says Studio 3 is named for the fact that she offers three disciplines, Pilates, barre and yoga, and she believes they're all you need for fitness and wellbeing.

Pilates is great for core strength and it improves posture, corrects imbalances and sculpts the body. Xtend Barre strengthens and tones too and Vinyasa yoga invigorates, stretches and helps promote good circulation.

Studio 3 also has a trio of trainers: Viv, who has 20 years' experience; inspirational yogi Sophie Rimmer (I love her blog bodypoised.com) and Xtend expert Katie Swift who comes from Liverpool where she danced, performed and was also a trainer.

When I meet her I can't help asking what lured a talent such as her to Aotearoa. She tells me a Kiwi firefighter is to blame. For 55 minutes in Katie's Xtend class she talks us through brisk and lively ballerina-type exercises. It looks so easy, but actually it makes your muscles screech.

Be warned - the horizontal waist-height barre is not for leaning on and relaxing, it is actually for holding on to while holding up your body weight and doing repeated movements that are merciless.

Katie gives non-stop guidance, saying things such as: "Pull in the tummy now, activate the core, reach up to the sky, now higher, flick your legs softly, take your arm to your head like you're checking your temperature, inch up the backs of your arms with little movements, but remember to breathe and smile."

She watches us like a hawk, which means I'm never left alone to blindly guess if I'm getting something right. And because the classes here are kept small, she's able to adjust any limbs pronto.

At one point I grimace, the workout is that mean. And Katie comments "Come on, you all look gorgeous!" I suspect she might read minds as she also says, "You may hate me now, but you'll love me tomorrow".

To finish, we use giant rubber band-like devices around our legs which makes for an effective resistance blast for butt and legs. I'm blitzed by the end but I want to come back. I'd also highly recommend Sophie's yoga sessions. I snuck into one of these, too and lapped up her swan diving session. Her breath-led movements made me feel revived.

How much? An introductory offer is two classes for $20. Casual class $20, or there are many pass options, including 12 classes for $200. Bookings are essential.

Worth it? I love this space and the people.

Try it: Studio 3 is on level 7, 5-7 Kingdon St, Newmarket, Auckland, ph (09) 522 3305 or 021 24555441, www.studiothree.co.nz

Rating: 10/10

Product profile: Rachel wears Lululemon Power Y Tank $79, www.lululemon.co.nz; adidas Originals 'W Zip Legging' $80, ph 0508 ADIDAS, adidas.co.nz/originals

- NZ Herald

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