by Camilla Ridley
Looking for a brilliant and fun way to get fit in 2022? Our friend Jen is a champion of Barre, the kind new workout taking female fitness by storm. You can try her classes with our exclusive offer.
Lunging for style. Jen is pictured here in our Ridley London Cara shirt dress in the beautiful floral Standen Manor Wool Liberty print. And stretching out during one of her Barre classes
I hope you all had a brilliant Christmas and 2022 is going well for you so far. I can’t believe that we’re nearly in the middle of January. It’s true Christmas already feels like a distant memory, but it also feels like I’ve barely had time to even think about putting those resolutions into action. For many of us, the post Christmas Detox and new fitness regime is now as much a part of January as, well...endless cold, rain and …..I absolutely love the idea of starting the new year off by committing to a body and soul enhancing regime, but with endless pressures and distractions, not to mention left over Christmas cake and chocolates, a regular workout schedule already feels challenging. So if you’re thinking of making some fitness strides this month, it’s vital that you choose something that’s realistic, fun, but also right for your body. Particularly if like me you're well into the throws of mid life. My fabulous friend Jen started Barre classes in 2018 having originally trained as a PT fitness instructor and it was a complete revelation. She now runs 'Meet you at the Barre’ her on-line Barre classes which reached near cult status when the Mail made them the ‘best lockdown workout’. I met up with Jen to discuss New Years fitness and the benefits of Barre and how she’s built a lockdown success story.
So Jen, Is committing to fitness a good move for the New Year, particularly for women like me in the throws of mid life?
Well there’s only one answer to that question! What I really think is that regular exercise needs to become a non-negotiable for woman at this stage of our lives, regardless of the time of year. After the age of 35 women’s hormones start to shift resulting in the perimenopause, and culminating in the menopause, (which is, FYI, simply a moment in time. It’s the lead up to this moment that is the serious headache). The consequence of these shifting hormones, particularly the declining oestrogen levels, affect every part of your life.
On average, a woman gains 10kg in her perimenopausal years. Vanity metrics asides there are some serious medical reasons to start moving. By 40 many women experience changes in their bone density, and it’s worse if you are inactive. If you don’t exercise you lose between 3-5% of your muscles mass after the age of 40. This increases your risk of osteoporosis. You need exercise to challenge your skeletal system, the muscular system and boost your metabolic system.
Declining oestrogen can lead to widespread and persistent joint pain which makes exercise an unappealing prospect. Plus there is the rage or the mood swings – gosh I’m really selling this stage of life – but exercise can really help reduce or mitigate many of these effects, and finding a form of exercise that is as good for your mind as it is for your body can greatly help you navigate these tricky times. The key is finding something that works for you. If you enjoy something you are much, much more likely to be able to stick to it. Exercise should be, in and of itself, a source of joy.
Raising the Barre. Jen loves the easy flattering style of our Ridley London printed floral winter maxi skirts. The Samantha maxi skirt (pictured here) comes in a variety of wools and silks and can be tailored for your most flattering fit. It's worn with a Ridley London Polly handknit poloneck in green and orange merino
Why is Barre particularly good for women of our age?
As we enter a new life phase we need a new road map. Our bodies are different and we need to treat them with love and respect. You may have found you don’t enjoy your old workouts as much: they may leave you with joint pain, or more tired than when you started. To simplify, many forms of exercise are high impact, which involves jumping and raising your cortisol levels. This may still work for you, but you may find you are more susceptible to injuries, feel stressed out by exercise, or in pain.
Barre is especially brilliant for midlife women because it is low impact so it puts waaaaay less strain through your joints than more traditional workouts. It is high intensity so you are still getting the results you want. There is a serious strength training element to my classes designed to slow down the loss of bone-density, and a big emphasis on balance and co-ordination, both of which are skills that, as we age, either we use or we lose.
Equally important to me are the mental health benefits of barre. A kind of alchemy occurs in a barre class. The moves are quick and you need to be entirely focused, so a state of mindfulness descends. The music is selected to make you feel good, and the endorphin rush from the class releases a hefty dose of serotonin. There is a true mind, body and soul connection that takes place, and exercise becomes a pleasure rather than a chore.
Realistically how much exercise should we be aiming to do each week?
I think that entirely depends on the amount of time you have available. Movement is medicine so starting to think of yourself as some who exercises should help induce a shift your behaviour patterns. Taking the stairs instead of the lift and all that jazz. Every little helps. I offer 4 classes a week and with this you’ll notice a huge difference in terms of fitness and strength. You get a serious workout in only 30 minutes. The classes are pre-recorded so you can do them at any time. I always say “you do you” which means I want you to listen to your body and be attuned to what it’s telling you. Once you learn this skill you’ll know when and when not to push yourself.
Is exercise the only solution or should one be looking more holistically for a New Years regime?
Exercise is only one piece of the puzzle. If you are looking to lose weight then the biggest piece of that jigsaw is your diet. Exercise can and does help, but ultimately what you eat is where the answer usually lies. Crash diets are to be avoided, particularly at our age and stage of life as they interfere with your hormone levels and can end up doing far more harm than good.
We all want to live and age well. I am not a nutritionist but my advice is always the same: I recommend trying to reduce the amount of sugar you eat (again it plays havoc with your hormone levels), limiting, (or, whisper it, giving up) alcohol, keeping well hydrated and eating lots of real food including masses of fruit and veg. These are all things we know we should be doing. Try it and see how you feel: you’re definitely NOT going to feel worse for it. Also include protein at each and every meal, (e.g. fish, chicken, eggs, dairy, pulses), and complex carbohydrates are your friend. Healthy fats, (avocados, oily fish, seeds and nuts) will promote feelings of fullness for longer.
It’s hard to make changes so start with small goals and embed these changes before tackling the next one. This leads to sustainable change. For instance, put a full glass of water by your bed before you go to sleep and drink it when you wake. You are now hydrated before you day starts. Adding in these little changes over time leads to big differences, but you won’t achieve wholesale change overnight. Small and gradual leads to success.
All Barre none. Jen is pictured here (from top left) wearing her made to measure Madelena shirt dress in the beautiful chocolate and coral floral felda crepe silk print. And (top right) in the very popular Alicia midi dress in beautiful floral winter silk archive Liberty print. (Bottom) and kicking on in her barre studio at home
How have you seen the popularity of Barre and your business change and what are your goals for 2022?
Since starting Meet You at The Barre 3 years ago, barre has become more widely recognised. In part we have the global pandemic to thank (silver linings and all). The move online has meant it’s become more widely accessible - you used to only be able to find classes in big cities. With the help of the amazing publicity I received from the Mail, The Daily Telegraph and Womens Fitness I’ve been lucky enough to ride this wave and build a really fulfilling business while juggling bringing up four children.
Remember what I was saying about small goals? Well, my aim is to empower, educate and enliven mid-life women through the joy of barre. I’m aiming to build a community for the glorious yet consistently under-served women of peri- to post-menopausal age by being as inclusive, honest and supportive as possible. The focus is as much on the mental health benefits of barre as the physical gains. I want to revolutionise the way mid-life women feel about themselves, their bodies and their life stage. Very small!
You’ve kindly set up a special trial offer for our readers to try your Barre classes, how can they get involved?
Membership to MYATB usually costs £25 pcm for the four weekly classes: Arms and Abs, Cardio Barre, Express Barre (think of a modern day legs, bums and tums) and Ballet Barre. I’m delighted to be able to offer 50% off your first month click here to sign up or visit the meet you at the barre website for more information. (please note membership will automatically update at the end of your first month unless you cancel it beforehand)
Ridley London's collection of winter dresses, skirts, tops and coats for is available to purchase in the Ridley Winter Sale on-line and in Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality with a unique piece that's individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting:
Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 01730 823097