Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Talking to: Xtend Barre’s Viv Gallagher


I have loved watching the growth of ballet barre-inspired fitness classes in my neighbourhood of late, mainly because it’s something new that everyone can have a bash at, and it’s lots of fun whether you have a dance background or not. Having tried a few I have most definitely come to the conclusion that not all barre classes are created equal, and each offers their own benefits that may or may not work for you.
The latest to arrive is Xtend Barre, which brings in elements of dance, ballet and Pilates to create an adrenaline-fuelled workout that strengthens, lengthens and chisels the body. Each class features an elegant yet energetic combination of movements that enhance flexibility, improve balance, and challenge the core, and on the timetable at their boutique studio in Grey Lynn you’ll find all manner of class types for those that like to mix it up.
After meeting owner Viv Gallagher and hearing about what they offer, I’ve personally tried the traditional Xtend Barre class as well as Xtend Stick, which works a whole different set of muscles and was a lot harder than I imagined.  “We are the only place in New Zealand where you can take a Stick class,” explains the ex-dancer with the body (seriously) of a woman half her age, “and there are ten teaching programs available in the Xtend Barre stable so we are very much more than just about the barre.”
A class I am looking forward to trying when it’s up and running is Xtend Suspend, which utilises TRX Suspension Training, one of my favourite fitness tools to play with. There is also a Pilates Fusion Class and Xtend Yoga Flow, where traditional yoga is integrated with Xtend Barre creating a dynamic sounding class with just the right amount of strength and Zen.
Viv‘s own passion for dance started at age five when she began classical ballet, and developed over the years as she studied various styles of dance, gymnastics, yoga and pilates. Previously a key figure at some of the country’s most high profile gyms, she has more than 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry and is a fully certified Personal Trainer, Pilates Mat and Reformer Instructor, Group Fitness Instructor and former National Trainer in her previous role.
She discovered Xtend Barre whilst teaching in Dubai and saw straight away the possibilities of taking a dance inspired, strength workout home to New Zealand with her. After opening her first studio in Newmarket a couple of years ago she saw a gap in the Ponsonby/Grey Lynn/Herne Bay market for what Xtend Barre offers, and classes have been growing since they opened their doors a couple of months ago.
She says that she’s keen to emphasise that Xtend Barre isn’t just for the young, lithe and extremely bendy, saying: “I have women in their fifties like me and even older coming to class and absolutely loving what we do. I started teaching Barre at my Newmarket studio two years ago and have a very diverse clientele there, the oldest being a 74 year old woman who never ceases to amaze us.” Also an ex-dancer, the latter has studied Pilates for over twenty years to boot “and still has the flexibility and the strength to take on anything that we throw at her”.
She also cites an extremely lovely email from a 61 year old student at her Newmarket studio, who decided not to renew her gym membership, “which I was finding tedious and uninspiring”, and to try something new instead. “I have renewed my interest in Ballet Barre and Pilates and have renewed vigour and vitality,” she says. “After a fall five years ago I have a total hip replacement. Post recovery I had a limited range of movement and weakened muscles but now attend barre classes 3-4 times a week and have regained strength, balance and posture once again.”
“It really gets people moving again,” emphasises Gallagher, “and we’ve had great results with people who have disc issues and things like that. It improves core strength as well as posture, both of which can affect the lower back directly.”
Xtend has also just launched a Babies on Board class that is designed for up to ten new mothers at a time with their babies in frontpacks. “It’s designed as a class to ease new mums back into exercise after their six week check,” explains Viv, “and it’s an interactive class that goes at the pace of the mums and babies themselves. If a mum needs to stop and feed her baby she can, she can just come back in when she’s ready.”
“We are getting a whole cross section of the community through the doors in the Grey Lynn studio,” she says with a smile, “and we’re really proud of that. I have a great team of teachers and classes to choose from and offer something for all levels and ages.”
“We just want to see people come in and have a good time, and leave feeling good and with a feeling of success,” she adds, which sounds good to me.

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