Moving Through Winter

by Sara Scinto

Do you dread winter because it keeps you from engaging in exercise that you love? Are you looking for new ways to move your body that don’t involve the gym? Are you interested in making the best of what this cold season has to offer? Then read further for thoughts and ideas on how to move through winter with more enjoyment.

If you were anywhere in the Northeast during this holiday season, you likely experienced at least one major winter storm, cold spell, or both. Living in Northeastern Ohio where the lake effect snow regularly comes down by the foot, I encountered multiple while I was home for break. If you are an active biker, walker, or runner, snow and ice can really throw a wrench in your usual physical activity schedule. This is especially true if the mere thought of a treadmill (known to many as the “dreadmill”), stationary bike, or indoor pool makes you cringe. But instead of lamenting about these seasonal limitations, you can change your perspective on winter; it actually is an excellent time to try alternative types of movement, both indoors and outside.

Attending group workout classes is one way to build up body heat, fight frigid temperatures, and experience new forms of exercise during the chilly stretch between November and March. For me, hot yoga is the most effective remedy for the constant cold and low energy I often experience during winter. It leaves me feeling warm and relaxed for the rest of the day, as long as I make sure to take a shower and put on dry clothes before walking back into the brisk air (wearing sweaty clothes in the cold is a recipe for disaster). As Friedman students, we are fortunate enough to have multiple studios within walking distance of our school; just minutes down Harrison Avenue, there is both a Turnstyle (cycling) and a Corepower (varying levels of hot yoga) studio. If you’re looking for a nearby studio that offers something really different, check out Swet Studio, which has rowing, aerial yoga, and other antigravity activities! And if none of those get you excited, check out this list of 10 local classes that get your body moving in creative ways.

Title Boxing Club Boston Nutrition Students

Me and my friend after trying out boxing together (Photo: Sara Scinto)

Admittedly, these classes are often outside a graduate student budget, but some studios offer student discounts or even a first class for free! Although you may realize at the end of the class that it’s not for you, the complimentary class allows you to determine that without having to pay for something you don’t end up liking.

Another more affordable option for Friedman students is the Wang YMCA, where there is a wide selection of classes like Tai Chi, Zumba, cycling, and high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T) classes, just to name a few. With the discounted membership rate information that was emailed to all Tufts Boston Health Sciences students before the start of the fall semester, you can purchase a monthly membership to the YMCA for the same (or lower) price as most single exercise studio classes. Although the Wang YMCA is the closest location to Friedman, a membership allows you to get into YMCA branches all over Boston. This gives you access to even more varieties of physical activity like power yoga, barre, and kickboxing.

Even though it may not seem like it, winter is also a terrific season to experience the outdoors in a way that does not involve running or biking. Despite living in the snow belt nearly my entire life, I’ve only just begun to explore snow sports. And while not every winter sport is for me, I’ve found activities like snowshoeing to be wonderful. Trekking through a forest while the snow clings to the bare trees like floating cotton balls is breathtaking in more ways than one! Although my hands were frozen for the first 20 minutes, the discomfort was worth being able to view winter and snow in a completely new and appreciative way.

Sara Scinto Snowshoeing Massachusetts

A beautiful winter forest while snowshoeing (Photo: Sara Scinto)

Lack of equipment may seem like a big barrier for engaging in winter sports, but many places offer rentals at a reasonable price. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are generally less expensive options compared to snowboarding and downhill skiing, although there are ways to save on ski lift tickets. Making a day trip with some friends to engage in snow sports can be a perfect opportunity to get outside of the city and breathe some crisp, fresh air. Here is a great resource on locations near Boston to snowshoe, ski, and snowboard (I can confirm the Weston Ski Track is great for beginners). And if you don’t have a mode of transportation out of town, don’t worry! There’s still plenty of outdoor fun to take advantage of in Boston, including something called “frost bite” sailing on the Charles River (for experienced sailors) and ice skating and sledding in the Boston Common. Because in case you needed a reminder, you’re never too old for sledding. And marching back up Beacon Hill over and over really gets your heart pumping!

Winter offers an abundance of ways to move your body, some of which wouldn’t even be possible in other seasons. Although the urge to stay snuggled underneath the covers is strong, I encourage you to try a new activity this year that will help you view winter as a season of opportunity and discovery, rather than a season of limitations.


Sara Scinto is a second-year NICBC student, avid coffee drinker, runner, triathlete, and yogi. She has a love for rainbows and all things food/nutrition related. During the winter, she enjoys staying warm and active with yoga and running outside in *almost* any weather conditions (to avoid the treadmill). You can find her on Instagram @saras_colorfull_life.

Stop, Circuit Time! Strength Training for Runners

by Micaela Young

Fall is the best season for running: The return of goldilocks temperatures, the crunch of leaves under our feet and the refreshing crispness of the air happily gets us outside. Whether you plan to take on new PR or distance goals this autumn, or just want to enjoy nature’s scenery, the simple strength training circuits below will help you go the distance.

 Strength training is an ambiguous topic for most runners. Are we supposed to lift? If we are, what do we do and how often? Scientists and coaches alike have flip-flopped on the topic, but new research shows that a little strength goes a long way. Plyometrics and strength training interventions, both of low and high intensity, greatly improve running economy—the amount of oxygen required to propel your muscles over a certain distance—according to a new systematic review and meta-analysis published this summer in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

So, how much should you do? Well this depends on many factors, including workout schedule (if you’re lacing up for an upcoming race) and personal recovery rates, but general guidelines recommend including at least two nonconsecutive strength days per week. Bodyweight circuits are a great way to fit in strength work anywhere, even on a time crunch. Use these two circuits to kick-start—or change up—your training week.

Happy Running!

Circuit #1: For After Easy Running Days

Time: Approximately 10 minutes

 1 min each

1- Pushups

 Modify this by carefully dropping to your knees.

2- Side Squats

30 seconds each side.

3- Forward Lunge Hold with Jumping

Do a front lunge, hold it, count to three and then jump into a forward lunge on the opposite leg.

4- Single Leg Deadlifts

Balance on one leg, lean forward until hands are near shins. Keep abs, butt and back engaged, and chest out. Keep eyes looking straight ahead. Knee are slightly bent. Alternate legs.

5- Knee-to-Outside Elbow Planks

Begin in a straight arm standard plank. Bring your right to knee to right elbow. Count to three. Repeat on opposite side.

6- Side Plank with Hip Raises – Left Side

7- Side Plank with Hip Raises – Right Side


Bridge Series

10 reps—bridge with both legs

10 reps on left leg with right leg extended out

10 reps on left leg with right leg extended up

10 reps on right leg with left leg extended out

10 reps on right leg with left leg extended up


Circuit #2: For After Short or Non-Running Days

Time: Approximately 20 minutes

50 Jumping Jacks

10/leg Shallow lunges with torso twist

20 Shallow squats

2 pushups

1 min each

Set your watch/phone to beep every minute on repeat.



Extra: Add a jump at the top

Military lunges

Form check: These are regular forward lunges (not letting knee go past toes) with hands placed behind your head, keeping your elbows out of sight and back engaged

Forearm Plank Hold

Extra: Alternate leg lifts


Form check: Knees in line with shins, not leaning forward past toes. Keep your head up and butt back as if you were sitting in a chair. Lower down as far as you comfortably can.

Jump Squats

Form check: Same form as regular squats, just add a small jump in between each

Left Side Plank

Form check: Keep elbow and shoulder in line with one another – to protect shoulder joint

Extra: Add a torso lift, or do reps of lifting your right leg up & down for a challenge

Matrix lunges-Left leg

Form check: Forward lunge, side lunge, backwards lunge, and forward again. Repeat.

Right Side Plank

Extra: Add a torso lift, or do reps of lifting your right leg up & down for a challenge

Burpees w/Pushup

Extra: Add a jump at the top

Matrix lunges – Right leg

Form check: Forward lunge, side lunge, backwards lunge, and forward again. Repeat.

Mountain Climbers

Extra: Bring knee to the opposite arm for an added twist

Left Leg Balance

Form check: Keep left foot planted on floor. Do reps of bringing right knee up to 90-degree angle with running arms.

Extra: (1) Do not let right leg touch floor. (2) Speed it up for an added challenge. (3) Straighten right leg after bringing it up to 90-degree angle.

Artwork by Nathan McElrath


Form check: These can be done with weights if you have them, but if not just focus on keeping abs, butt and back engaged, and chest out. Keep eyes looking straight ahead. Knees are slightly bent.

Extra: Try single leg deadlifts for an added balance challenge

Right Leg Balance

Form check: Keep right foot planted on floor. Do reps of bringing left knee up to 90-degree angle with running arms.

Extra: (1) Do not let right leg touch floor. (2) Speed it up for an added challenge. (3) Straighten right leg after bringing it up to 90-degree angle.

Forearm Plank Hold w/Hip Twists

Form check: Try getting your hip bone as close, and as comfortably, as you can to the floor. It is important to keep your abs engaged to avoid straining your back.

Other helpful Sprout links:

Top Boston Running Spots

Tips for Running in the Cold

Micaela Young is a second-year NUTCOM student and certified personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine. After four years of collegiate running, she knows a thing or twenty about using strength training to prevent injuries and get the most out of your running.


#TrainLikeAnAngel: Victoria’s Secret Models Box

by Katie Mark

Dim the lights. Cue the music. Turn it up. Stare down your opponent: a black, 100-pound bag hanging from a chain. Slip your wrapped hands into the gloves. Lift both hands up against your face. Jab, jab, cross. Hit. That. Shit.

Boxing. Who would’ve thought this traditionally masculine workout would become trendy among women? Despite its history, boxing is a heavy component to the exercise curriculum of this generation’s models who really work out—models who workout like athletes.

Boxing is the new exercise in the gym that’s challenging spinning, Pilates and, barre classes. It rapidly improves body composition because—guess what—skinny fat is out. A lean machine is the new cool.

Aside from allowing you to hit the shit out of something, boxing holistically improves health. Let’s explore how boxing enhances three important pillars of overall health: physical, mental, and emotional. Then we’ll look at which Victoria’s Secret models use boxing to #TrainLikeAnAngel.


Lean body composition. The goal of exercise shouldn’t just be weight loss because that can be due to fat, muscle, or water. Focus on a leaner body composition, meaning more muscle mass and less fat mass. Boxing combines muscle-building strength moves with calorie-crushing bouts of cardio, which is the left side to the equation of a leaner body composition.

Strengthen the ENTIRE body. You need strength to punch, kick, and jump. Yes, to beat the crap out of a 100-pound heavy bag. In one workout, you could kick and punch a bag at least 100 times. This engages your upper body, lower body, and core (hello, abs.). Strength training moves, such as kettlebell exercises, planks, mountain climbers, pushups, and burpees, between rounds will have you drenched in sweat in no time.

Enhance cardiovascular health. How boring is jumping on a treadmill to reduce your risk for heart disease, burn calories, and lose weight? The purpose of cardio is to put a moderate amount of stress on your heart and lungs to challenge them to make physiological adaptations. Boxing keeps your heart rate up in a fun way, unlike a monotonous treadmill. And boxing may be more strenuous than other cardio options. Can you have a conversation when spinning on the bike? Good luck finding your breath to do so while boxing.


Reduce negative psychological states. A study conducted in 2012 used participants with health difficulties and placed them in a six-week structured Boxercise program. The authors found positive physical and psychological benefits and observed increased levels of hedonic (pleasure) and eudaimonic (meaning/self-realization) well-being. Boxing brought “affective beneficence” – the enhanced levels of positive affect and well-being immediately following chronic and acute activity participation.

Increase confidence. Learning to throw punches can give you confidence in defending yourself, improve your primary sport performance, or increase overall confidence. If you’re willing to get in the ring to trade punches with someone, then the benefit only increases. Ability to take a punch gives you greater confidence not only as an athlete, but also with respect to what you’re capable of in life.

Increase concentration. Boxing gets you focusing on the ‘here and now.’ It pushes you to focus on concentration. You have to practice controlling your concentration when punching at a swinging, inanimate heavy bag, speed bag or partner in the ring. These will all force you to think and react quickly.


Decrease stress. Any moderate-to-intense physical activity can decrease stress. Physical activity increases endorphins, boosts mood, and serves as a meditation exercise. And like Elle Woods says in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” You need more than just a walk around the block. You need a place to “leave it all out on the field.” And that’s what boxing does: It gives you the heavy bag or the ring.

Reduce worry. In boxing, you transition through two periods: high intensity and moderate intensity (recovery) periods. During high intensity, there’s no time to worry about a deadline you have tomorrow or the mess in your kitchen. During rest periods, you’re focused more on breathing and the next high intensity period…not on your packed calendar.

Fighting spirit. Boxing and fighting go hand-in-hand. And it’s the spirit from fighting that gives you the strength to get back up. We’re constantly fighting small battles both consciously and subconsciously. We react to what’s thrown at us, and we might punch back with no sense of purpose. Boxing gives you the tools (self-confidence and strength) to fight these everyday battles.

Victoria’s Secret Models: Boxing to Angel Slim

Victoria’s Secret (VS) developed the “Train Like an Angel” series that provides insight into the VS models’ workout routines.

Adriana Lima has boxed for the past decade, but not only for the VS Fashion Show. She credits her body to boxing and has claimed that you get toned, but not bulky, from boxing. Lima describes boxing as her passion and enjoys training like a professional fighter through 90-minute workouts several times per week at Aerospace NYC with former middleweight boxing champion Michael Olajide, Jr. He also runs a “Supermodel Training Camp” in Tulum, Mexico, to help VS angels prepare for the VS Fashion Show.

Swedish VS model Elsa Hosk might not wear the same wings as Lima, but she also boxes every morning. Another VS angel Lindsay Ellingson also mixes up her workouts with boxing. And the newest VS angel, 23-year-old Australian Shanina Shaik hits the ring, too.

Lily Aldridge, VS angel and Sports Illustrated model, frequents the Gotham Gym, a boxing gym in the West Village of New York. Gotham Gym attracts many models who partake in body weight training with rounds of cardio, specifically three minutes of fighting with a one-minute rest. As new VS angel Gigi Hadid tweeted about the gym’s owner Rob Piela, “[he is] the guy who makes up for my love of burgers and pasta.”

VS angel Karlie Kloss does her ModelFIT, a downtown Manhattan fitness studio, workout and says she “treats” herself more as an athlete than a model.

Train Like an Angel for Better Health

If there’s one thing about VS angels that you should copy, it’s their workout routine. Boxing, as long as you do it consistently, can bring significant physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

I’m not promising you’ll end up looking like a VS angel—maybe you will—but you could end up feeling like one…minus the angel wing status.

Katie Mark is a second year MS/MPH student interested in a career as a registered dietitian focusing on sports nutrition. She attempts to #TrainLikeAnAngel in her free time.

The Seven Healthy Sins Circuit

by Justin Zabinski

The time has come again, where we catch up on how eventful our summers have been, share to our peers the type of work we did in the past three months, and start prepping for yet another stress-induced semester. But don’t fret; I have created a quick workout routine to manage your cortisol levels that I use for my cross training class I teach at Boston Sports Clubs. The class consists of a six-week program that challenges your strength, endurance, mobility, stability, and limits. Each week I implement a different circuit to confuse your muscles as well as grow my clients’ workout repertoire.

We will have limited time to set aside for exercise once school starts. The main circuit below is meant for 25-35 minutes, so you can easily complete it in between study sessions. Make sure to warm up each of the major muscle groups (glutes; hamstrings; calves; quadriceps; IT bands, which are located on each outer edge of your thigh; as well as your lower, middle, and upper back) for 5-10 seconds by foam rolling or with active stretches.

If you do not know how to properly do any of the exercises, please watch a tutorial on YouTube, or I can personally show you. Also, choose weights for each exercise that you believe you can manage without sacrificing proper technique.

Main Circuit:

  • Russian Twists x1 each side (kettlebell or dumbbell)
  • Goblet Squats x2 (kettlebell or dumbbell)
  • Overhead Shoulder Press x3 (dumbbells)
  • Bicep Curl x4 (dumbbells)
  • Triceps Dips x5 (elevated platform)
  • Lunges x6 each leg (dumbbells)
  • Jump Squats x7 (no weight) or Box Step-Ups x7 each leg (dumbbells)

As you can see, the circuit is essentially designed like a pyramid, BUT technically it is not! You first do ONE Russian Twist, and then you proceed to do TWO Goblet Squats and TWO Russian Twists. Then you do THREE Overhead Shoulder Presses, THREE Goblet Squats, and THREE Russian Twists. Instead of completing the exercises in a pyramid sequence, you do an extra repetition as you add another exercise until you finally reach the Jump Squats or Box Step-Ups, where you do SEVEN repetitions for each exercise.

After you have completed a cycle, rest for 60-90 seconds and continue doing cycles until you have reached between 25-35 minutes.

Coffee from Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts won’t be necessary to recharge your brain for the endless study sessions that are upon us! Work out hard—but more importantly—work out smart.

Hip-Hop Workout Mix for the Seven Healthy Sins Circuit:

Track List:

  • Kanye West – The New Workout Plan
  • Ying Yang Twins – Shake
  • Missy Elliott – Lose Control
  • OutKast – The Way You Move
  • Run DMC – It’s Tricky
  • Madcon – Beggin’
  • Tag Team – Whoomp! (There It Is)
  • Run DMC – It’s Like That
  • Sean Paul – Temperature
  • Quad City DJ’s – Space Jam
  • 69 Boyz – Tootsee Roll

Justin Zabinski is a BMN Masters candidate and a personal trainer who enjoys DJing.  His main aspiration is to become a leader in developing nutrition and exercise regimens for professional athletes.

Dr. Jaz and the Chiv: Magic and Music Summer Workout

by Rachel Chiaverelli and Justin Zabinski

As every magazine cover in the supermarket line reminds us, it’s almost that time of the year—BEACH SEASON! Rather than focusing on losing weight and toning up to transiently express some sort of seasonal variation of a six-pack for the beach (pun intended), let’s focus on making a long-term change to look good and feel great this summer and beyond!

This fast-paced, high-energy workout will challenge you, but produce some amazing results. Tunes courtesy of Friedman’s resident DJ, Dr. Jaz, will keep you PUMPED and moving! The goal here is to get your heart rate and fists pumping with some full-body moves for 30 seconds (or a 30-count if you don’t have a timer on hand) and to alternate with muscle building workouts during your recovery period while your heart rate AND the beat drops for 30 seconds!

Before and after you attempt this workout, make sure to stretch every major muscle group for at least 30 seconds—i.e. calves, quads, hamstrings, obliques, biceps, triceps, chest, and back.

The Chiv Workout

  1. BURPEES (Sequence: Jump while fully extending your arms above your head à 1 Push-up à Bring feet to chest after push-up à Repeat)
  2. Squats with shoulder press (Place large workout ball on a wall to assist if needed)
  3. Jumping Jacks
  4. Pushup with side plank extension (Reach towards the ceiling; interchange sides from left to right)
  5. Mountain climbers
  6. Step back lunge with bicep curl (Both arms at the same time)
  7. Plank jacks
  8. STAY IN PLANK and plank twist (Left knee to tap right elbow; alternate)

Do each exercise in the sequence for 30 seconds. Repeat this three times, resting for one minute in between each set. For more of a challenge, increase the time periods for each exercise to 45 seconds or a minute!

Dr. Jaz’s Playlist

  1. Lose Control – Missy Elliott
  2. Calling (Lose My Mind) – Sebastian Ingrosso
  3. Freak – Steve Aoki
  4. Miami 82 – Avicii/Syn Cole
  5. Hands Up – Vinai
  6. Language – Porter Robinson
  7. Hey Now (Arty Remix) – London Grammar
  8. Yee – Deorro
  9. Call On Me – Eric Prydz
  10. Boy Oh Boy – Diplo
  11. Follow You – Deniz Koyu
  12. Bad – David Guetta
  13. Summer (R3hab and Ummet Ozcan Remix) – Calvin Harris
  14. Collide (Afrojack Remix) – Afrojack
  15. In My Mind (Axwell Remix) – Ivan Gough
  16. Fancy Footwork – Chromeo

Justin Zabinski is a BMN Masters candidate and a personal trainer who enjoys DJing.  His main aspiration is to become a leader in developing nutrition and exercise regimens for professional athletes.

Rachel Chiaverelli is a BMN Doctoral candidate who aspires to run her own research examining the connection between nutrition and the prevention of disease.  In her free time, Rachel is constantly doing something active, whether it be in the gym or outdoors. 

A Look Behind the Bar: Can Barre Classes “Sculpt” Your Body?

by Katherine Pett

Barre is a fun, challenging, joint-friendly way to get a workout. But don’t buy into the hype; barre classes can’t make you look like a dancer.

If CrossFit was the workout of 2014, then surely 2015 is the season of “barre,” a workout women everywhere are flocking to. In Boston alone, you can take a barre class from PureBarre, FlyBarre, The Bar Method, and Exhale Core Fusion Barre. Not a member? Barre classes have been added to the schedules of yoga and dance studios all over the city.

The pricey classes draw ladies in by promising to “tone” problem areas and help participants develop a dancer’s lean physique—claims that have caused controversy. Having taken (and enjoyed!) a number of barre classes myself, I wanted to understand the science behind the advertisements.

Carrier_Belleuse_Pierre_At_The_BarreWhat Is Barre?

Barre is a strength-based workout focused on tiny, repetitive movements. Classes feature some traditional conditioning like push-ups and supported pull-ups, but most of the class is spent holding one body part very still and then moving it “up an inch, down an inch, up an inch, down an inch,” until your muscles are screaming. Participants may find themselves struggling to keep two or three-pound dumbbells at shoulder height, watching helplessly in the mirror as their arms start to sink to their sides.

The workout is challenging, but those who took ballet in childhood will recognize only the barre and the mirror. Barre is more like a Pilates class with extra equipment than a traditional ballet class.

However, clever marketing for the classes constantly references the coveted dancer “physique.” Exercises done in barre classes are meant to do things like “sculpt arms,” “tone thighs,” and “flatten abs.” While a Swan Lake body is not explicitly guaranteed, it is directly implied. For example, PureBarre’s site says:

“Each strength section of the workout is followed by a stretching section in order to create long, lean muscles without bulk. The technique works to defy gravity by tapering everything in and lifting it up!”

And a promotional article from The Bar Method states that the exercise “… Intensely stretches each muscle worked to make it look & feel longer & more graceful.”

Unfortunately, barre’s claims to create the dancer body are dubious. How does one promote lean over bulky muscles? How do tiny weights create long muscles? The answers are: you can’t, and they don’t.

How Does Barre Prevent “Bulk”? By Not Building Much Muscle

The idea of “bulky” muscles is a pervasive one, especially in the world of women’s fitness. Heavy weights are for men who want to build huge muscles whereas pink dumbbells and stretchy bands are for women who just want to “tone.” My mother, a medical doctor, advised me to avoid lifting weights a few weeks before my wedding to prevent my arms from looking too big.

But I learned that heavy weights do not create “bulky” muscles while light weights create “lean” muscles. As it turns out, muscle is muscle.

Donato Headshot 6x8 IMG_5596

Dr. Rivas Donato

To understand the science behind this, I spoke with Dr. Rivas Donato, an exercise scientist at the Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. He explained that as you get stronger, you build muscle, but you don’t control whether that muscle is “lean” or “bulky.” “Your genotype is going to determine what your muscle looks like,” he said.

In traditional resistance exercise, muscle is built by lifting uncomfortably heavy weights. This causes microscopic tears in the muscle as you contract it. Then, your body uses protein from your diet to repair these muscles and cause something called “hypertrophy,” or an enlargement of the muscle mass. During typical resistance training using a weight circuit, free weights or barbells, you build muscle and strength by progressively increasing the weights you use. If you wanted to “shape” any part of your body, building muscle mass is one way to do that (the other way is losing weight).

Increased muscle mass provides benefits in addition to strength Dr. Rivas explained, “Larger muscles mean you’re more insulin sensitive, so you allow your muscle to use fuels that you brought in from your diet more efficiently… [It] also increases your Basal Metabolic Rate (the energy your body burns at rest) which allows you to absorb fuel from your diet more effectively so you’re not storing fat subcutaneously and becoming obese.”

So women definitely can and should build muscle, but most women couldn’t look like professional body builders or Olympic weightlifters even if they tried. Putting on muscle that could be considered “bulky” is a lot of work; it’s almost insulting to assume it could be done by accident!

So what happens when you hold tiny weights in a class like barre? Because the weights are so small—only two to five pounds—they don’t cause much or any hypertrophy of the muscle. So while you’re working hard and burning some calories keeping your arms in place, you don’t form muscle that will keep burning calories even after the class ends.

At first, participants could make modest strength gains, especially if they are new to push-ups, pull-ups, or the deep squats used during class. But because the class doesn’t progressively get more challenging and the weights are too light to cause hypertrophy, once someone masters the movements, she is unlikely to create new muscle mass. Once that three to five pound weight is manageable, you won’t build any more strength, even if you’re sweating while you work. So the secret of barre classes’ “lean muscles” is to not build muscle at all.

But what about toning? Dr. Rivas weighed in: “To me, I think muscle toning is having less subcutaneous fat so you can see the muscle itself.” In order to do this, you have to watch what you eat in addition to working out.

So there you have it: toned thighs are made in the kitchen, not at the bar.

Can Barre Create “Longer” Muscles? Actually, No.

A repeated phrase in all barre class advertisements are that muscles will become longer through stretching. I asked Dr. Rivas for his opinion:

“No, that’s not true. I don’t think that would ever happen or could happen. The muscle doesn’t lengthen… the length of your muscles is determined by the length of your bones, by your height.”

Your muscles attach to your bones in set places, depending on their function. While they can become stronger or weaker, they don’t ever become “longer,” and you wouldn’t want them to; it would probably indicate that something was very wrong.

Fitness Is Not About Looking Like a Ballerina: Women’s Fitness Culture

As I delved deeper into the hype surrounding barre classes, I was lucky to meet Emily Socolinsky, a professional trainer and dancer and former barre class instructor. In 2012, Emily published a popular blog post that’s still getting comments. It’s called “Why I don’t believe in Barre classes.”

Emily, a long-time professional dancer, began her fitness career giving barre classes at her studio. She promoted the class as one that was easy on the joints, and she quickly realized she loved giving classes for adults.

“I marketed my class as a class to feel good, not a class to tone your thighs, not a class to develop ‘long,’ ‘lean,’ muscles, not a class to look like a ballerina.”


Emily Socolinsky has improved her health and dancing through strength training. Photo by Sarah Harper Photography.

As she continued on her journey as a fitness professional she decided to banish the barre class. She didn’t like the aura it had taken on. Instead, she wanted to focus on teaching women functional fitness. She now runs her own gym where she teaches strength and conditioning classes and despite her own experience as a dancer, she won’t bring back barre class.

“I don’t have a problem with barre classes; I don’t have a problem with any exercise class that gets people motivated or gets them moving because not everybody likes to lift weights, and I understand that… My problem with barre today is how it has become so popular through misleading advertisements and misleading marketing.”

She made the salient point that the women at barre classes are a self-selected group. This struck me as surprisingly true. I recalled the classes I attended in an upscale, spa-like gym and realized that most of the women I saw were of similar age and body type (and clad in similarly branded workout apparel).

“The women who are taking these classes already look like the teacher teaching the classes. And the teacher is a former dancer, and they are genetically gifted with certain bodies. That’s why prima ballerinas have those legs… That’s why weightlifters, the best weightlifters in the world, have really long torsos and really short legs… that’s why basketball players are gifted who are 6’5”.”

She’s had clients who take barre hoping they will see their bodies change to be more like the women they see in classes, but those other women “came in with those legs.”

In Emily’s opinion, it’s not productive to tell women it’s important to look like a dancer or to be “lean” like a dancer. This attitude is reductive and even offensive. Why does a woman need narrower thighs or tinier arms? To Emily, it’s important to empower women to love their bodies by building strength.

“I believe there are better ways to get a woman stronger and to make her feel better about her self… and it’s strength training because it does more than just give you a better body, it gives you confidence.”

Barre! What Is It Good For? Actually, Something!

No, barre is not going to make you look like a dancer, and no, it is not the fastest way to “sculpt” your body. But just because the ads are misleading, it doesn’t mean you should ditch your sticky socks and head for the hills.

For anyone reading who has tried barre, you know you’re working hard. If you’re not building muscle or strength, why is the class so challenging? When you hold your muscles static for so long, you probably build muscular endurance, Dr. Donato informed me. Also, the work will slightly raise your heart rate, so you’ll burn a more calories than you would if just stayed home!

More importantly, barre is less intense on the joints than many other forms of exercise, so it could be a good choice for people with previous injuries. And despite the lack of heavy weights, the push-ups and pull-ups in class are plenty challenging for most participants. Plus, any exercise can help participants lose some weight if they carefully monitor their diet at the same time.

At the end of the day, any workout that gets you to exercise is worthwhile. Just be wary of the hype.

Katherine Pett is a first year in the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition program.  She can be reached at or on twitter @smarfdoc

That Time I Tried Parkour

by Katherine Pett

If you’re still in the market for a New Year’s Resolution, consider trying a new type of exercise. Recently I tried out parkour and had a LOT of fun!

I am not an athletic person (read: picked second to last for dodgeball), and I’ve never developed great coordination (read: I bump into doorways as I walk through them). But in 2014, I joined ClassPass, a sort of exercise subscription service that lets you pick tons of workout classes in your area, and “parkour” caught my eye. So that’s how I ended up in a playground in Somerville about to learn to jump around.

What is parkour? According to Google definitions, parkour is “the activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.”

Prime examples of parkour from pop culture are this:

and this:

Which of the two do you imagine I resembled in my attempt?

What was the class like?

I was a complete beginner at this, and I always feel self-conscious at workout classes if it’s my first time there. A typical thought process goes something like: “How does the spin bike work? I can’t clip my shoes in. Ah! Everyone can see I can’t clip my shoes in! Panic.”

But this class had more of the atmosphere of a block party than a hardcore workout. I showed up with my husband, Carl, and immediately Blake, our super-friendly instructor, introduced himself as we signed our waivers. Music was blaring from a bluetooth speaker, and everyone was just, well, hanging out.

To my surprise, other people in the class started coming up to us and introducing themselves, shaking our hands, and telling us we were going to have a good time. In that way, it was a little like church. Then, we got started.

Warm Up

We warmed up by running in a large circle following directions like “Switch!” or “Jump!” which meant we should change directions or jump as we ran. As the warmup progressed, Blake added instructions to lay completely flat on the ground, complete a burpee, etc.

After that, we all gathered on one side of the circle, and Blake explained the rules to a game so simple even I played it in childhood: The Floor Is Lava. We were tasked with getting everyone across the circle with only a certain number of feet touching the ground.

As a short female, I played this game by getting onto other people’s backs as they hopped on one foot across the lava expanse. Not much of a workout for me, but it was a good way to get comfortable with everyone in the class really, really quickly.

It Starts

After warming up, Carl and I headed toward the play structure (yes, for children), and the class was split into groups of two and three. We then were tasked with getting one member of our group up the playground and to the slide without letting them touch the structure.

This may seem like a silly way to get a workout, but let me elaborate. Three separate times, I had to carry a very nice woman I had just met up a bunch of stairs on my back. And, after a couple of attempts, I did it! Step-ups can be difficult in an aerobics class, but going up stairs loaded with twice your weight? That’s a workout.


Then we switched to work on jumping; something parkour is famous for. We practiced “precisions,” or jumping directly to a specific spot. I was paired with a middle-aged woman who had been doing parkour for almost a year.  I asked her what got her into it, and she said, “I heard it was for everyone, so I tried it!”

That seemed to be the story for many of the people there. We met a middle-aged man who said he became a parkour instructor last year after having a long career in martial arts. At least three of the students in the class were in high school. Most were in their 20s or 30s. But everyone got along, and groups of all ages cooperated to accomplish whatever goal the instructor set up.

For the last activity, we lined up to run an obstacle course over the park’s picnic tables, over the fence and back. I watched as experienced parkour-ers rolled or hopped, or used one arm and one leg to propel themselves over the table. I could not do this, as it turns out; so I just ran over everything. It also took me a minute to get over the fence, but once I figured it out I was fine.


Not a strong fence-jumper, as it turns out.

Finally, we were split into pairs; Carl and I were finally paired up together and given a bunch of calisthenics – squats, lunges, pushups, etc. – to complete. By this point, I was tired but happy to recognize the exercises.

Parkour was a great workout, just as good or better than a bootcamp-style workout, but much, much more fun. I really enjoyed the social aspect and the “goal-oriented” style of the class, which kept me busy and not looking at the clock waiting for class to be over. Ultimately, I’m glad I tried something new!

If you’re interested in a parkour class in Boston, here is the link:


Katherine Pett is a first year in the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition program. Follow her on twitter @smarfdoc.