For many people, the coming of a new year means an attempt to live a healthier lifestyle, eat more sensibly and exercise more.
Statistically, most people won’t stick with it.
Anne Livengood, Avena Joyce and Katie Jennings-Campbell hope to improve the odds.
The women, owners of Soundbarre Studio in Asheville, have designed an eight-week boot camp that sets a goal of three to four classes a week for participants and engages local chefs to help them learn to eat well.
“We want people to commit to change, and if they can do three or four classes a week for eight weeks, they’re more likely to stick with it,” Livengood says.
About 40 women have signed on for the boot camp at the studio, which celebrated its first anniversary on Feb. 2nd.
Set to upbeat music, barre workouts combine ballet moves with yoga and Pilates. The combination helps strengthen the body’s core and increase flexibility. As a typical hour-long class progresses, Livengood paces across the studio, encouraging participants to hold positions for a few more seconds, reach a little higher and bend a little lower. She assures them that their flexibility will increase with each session.
The approach is low-impact, perfect for women like Cassie Dardenne, who is seven months pregnant. She only had to modify two moves that usually are performed while on the stomach.
Since the workouts are low-impact, Dardenne can continue taking classes until very late in her pregnancy.
Barre is also ideal for people who have arthritis or other joint problems. The program works the arms, legs, abdominal muscles and glutes in a succession of exercises and ends with focused relaxation and light stretches.
Although the routine uses some ballet moves, participants need no dance experience. In fact, although Livengood has worked in barre studios, she has no real dance training, and Jennings-Campbell took just a few classes as a child.
The workout pace moves somewhat faster than yoga and involves small stretching and strengthening movements — often just an inch or two once the women are in a position.
The exercises also strengthen core muscles, which helps relieve back problems. And, like yoga, the workouts can improve balance, reducing the chance of falls in older people.
One wall of the studio is a mirror, dotted with messages of encouragement from participants, such as “When women support each other, incredible things happen,” “Keep up the good work” and “I know you can do this!”
One focus of the boot camp is encouragement of other participants, Livengood says. “We believe it works well to have women encouraging each other and working in community,” she says.
“It’s amazing to see how supportive these women are,” Jennings-Campbell adds.
Balanced, healthy diets
But exercise is just half the battle. Livengood says she had wondered how to help women learn about eating healthy and enjoying it; then the idea of engaging local chefs and restaurants came to her.
“Asheville has some of the best food anywhere,” she says. “We have restaurants that serve local, organic foods. Who better to help women learn about healthy eating that some of these chefs?”
Balanced, healthier eating doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing, says Reza Setayesh, former owner of Rezaz and Piazza.
“When your goal is to get leaner, you need to make some adjustments,” he says. “Notice I didn’t say sacrifices. You don’t have to sacrifice. You can eat very, very well and have a balanced and healthy diet.”
Setayesh has offered participants a number of recipes that, he promises, are easy to prepare using fresh, healthy ingredients.
“It’s very simple, really,” he says. “High, high amounts of vegetables — mostly greens — and fruits, white meats and white fish. It’s up to us to select the right ingredients and technique. You’ll see really fast results if you do this.”
Other participating restaurants and chefs are Gan Shan Station (chef-owner Patrick O’Cain), Green Sage Cafe, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen (chef-owner Joe Scully) and Smashbox Mobile Kitchen (owner Ashley Teran).
“We live in Asheville,” Livengood says. “We can’t tell women it’s a bad idea to go out to eat. But they can make good choices when they do go out. We’re hoping to show them how to do it.”
Setayesh says chefs generally are happy to work with customers to make meals healthier.
“What we’re hoping is that the women who do this boot camp will keep up their workouts and sensible eating,” Livengood says. “We just want to help them kick-start their commitment.”