The problem with finding an exercise you enjoy is that you tend to continue doing it.
Or, let me rephrase: You tend to continue doing it, and thus unintentionally develop some muscles at the expense of others.
Runners in particular are prone to this. And it’s well known that running often breeds a decrease in flexibility.
Being tight is something that I’m always aware of, and as a result I’m constantly on the lookout for classes that improve strength in areas where running fails. Mat classes like Pilates and yoga work well in general, but I prefer finding a class that combines their strengthening aspects with cardio—something that allows me to leave class feeling like I’ve gotten an actual workout.
Invited to try the newly opened Elements Fitness Studio in East Hampton, I was excited at the prospect of adding a new class to my repertoire. The sessions are crafted by and conducted under the instruction of fitness guru Andrea Fornarola Hunsberger.
As Elements advertises: “Go from barre to beach looking lighter, leaner, sculpted and toned!” I happily learned that this translates into the kind of workout I was looking for—something that combined the slow, soothing movements of mat classes with the high intensity of cardio.
Though the East Hampton location is Elements’ first brick-and-mortar studio, Hunsberger founded Elements in January 2010. Her signature 60-minute barre fitness class incorporates isometric exercises with elements of ballet, cardio, yoga and Pilates.
We began with stretching and strengthening, using resistance bands to build up our arm muscles. Then we moved over to the barre, where we stretched before using it to do a number of squats and quad-strengthening exercises. To that point, Hunsberger instructed us to use a red rubber ball—the kind you would find on the playground—to use for various routines, balances and—when we placed it between our legs—squats.
Throughout the entire session, Hunsberger encouraged and corrected, striking a balance between being both motivating and welcoming. Her high energy was matched by the accompanying music.
Unlike a number of other strengthening classes, Elements—and barre classes in general—rely on body weight. No heavy free weights needed. There are a number of perks to body-weight training, including building endurance and toning muscles, whereas weight lifting is associated with becoming more buff.
The other upside of body weight lifting is that you’re generally more conscious of your movements, and you tend to be cleaner in your exercising. Taking the perks of body-weight lifting further, the Elements Fitness method—and barre classes overall—are low impact, making it accessible to people of all fitness levels.
Hunsberger incorporated stretching into her class as various intervals as well, ensuring that we were properly recovering from the exercises.
We ended the class with an ab attack, doing a variety of crunches and sit-ups to sculpt.
I woke up the next morning more sore than I would have expected, considering I run four or fives times a week. But they say that soreness is a sign of doing something properly, and it has made me realize that I need to work on shaping muscles as an antidote to all of the pounding that comes with running.
The studio will also offer Dance Cardio—a high-energy 60-minute class focusing on cardio-based interval training—and one-on-one training. Private sessions and small group training is available upon request.
Elements Fitness Studio is located at 66 Newtown Lane, Suite 11 in East Hampton. Call 631-604-5445 or visit elementsfitnessstudio.com.