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Ballet

Meet the Trainer: Brynn Jinnett

Written on January 29, 2013 at 9:18 am , by

Train smart, train hard. Brynn’s highly sought-after Refine Method is a total-body workout with custom equipment to help you sculpt muscles you didn’t know you had! (Photo courtesy of Lululemon Athletica)

There’s a reason why The Refine Method is known to be “New York’s Smartest Workout.” The intense circuit-style technique, Metabolic Resistance Training, was created by former New York City Ballet dancer Brynn Jinnett to exercise not only your body, but your mind to think differently about the overall approach to fitness and heath. Instead of a fad-based approach, Refine is founded on principles of facts and a constantly evolving education to help take clients to a whole new, metabolism-boosting level.

In our February Express Workout, Brynn tossed dumbbells for resistance bands in an arm workout fit for the red carpet. Firm and sculpted in six moves? Count us in! Read on to find out Brynn’s best strengthening moves, her favorite workout tunes and the one person Brynn believes could outdo her in a push-up competition.

Most of us are NYC transplants, so tell me how you made your way and landed in the Big Apple?
I am actually a native New Yorker! It’s a little embarrassing, but I still live about 10 blocks from where I was born and raised in! I love the city.

How did you fall in love with ballet and know that you wanted to pursue it professionally? Tell me about your ballet career?
I used to dance around in my diapers, so my Mom put me in ballet class at age 3! I enjoyed my dance classes, so I entered the School of American Ballet (the pre-professional division of New York City Ballet) at age 7. At 16, I was then fortunate to be offered a position with New York City Ballet, where I danced until heading off to Harvard for college. I continued to dance while at school and then returned to dancing professionally after college for another 3 years before retiring. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have performed on some of the world’s greatest stages in the most beautiful ballets and also for ballet giving me the discipline and drive that have helped me in all aspects of my life.

How did you transition from ballet to running your fitness method?
I taught fitness throughout my career part-time and only began to consider it as a full-time profession when I decided to retire. I foolishly thought that as a professional dancer I must know a lot about how the body works, but so many of my clients were working so hard and not seeing significant results which left me questioning things I held as “fact.” I realized that many of the smartest thinkers in fitness worked with professional athletes, so I spent over a year traveling the country learning from professors, athletic trainers and successful business owners. Refine is a product of that journey. I continue to spend a significant amount of my time learning, reading journal articles, attending conferences and speaking with other athletic professionals. We will always adapt our methods to fit the information we know today. Read more

Groundbreaking Dancer Misty Copeland on Ballet Bodies and Black Swan

Written on May 25, 2012 at 9:23 am , by

Copeland is an ideal example of flexibility and elegance. (Photo by Gregg Delman)

She didn’t slip on ballerina flats until age 13, but soon after that, Misty Copeland knew her calling. “I was never told that I was too old, but I did have an extremely late start compared to most ballet dancers. It takes a lot of training to do classical ballet,” Copeland says. “I loved it immediately, though, and the first time I stepped on stage, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.”

Within three months, Copeland was en pointe (dancing on the tips of her toes, as you might think of when you picture a ballerina). By age 17, just four years after she first began training, Copeland was accepted into the prestigious American Ballet Theatre (ABT). She was just the third African American female soloist to join the group.

Copeland, who has now been with ABT for 12 years, is now a part of another selective group: the groundbreaking women highlighted in the PBS/AOL partnership MAKERS. We spoke with the dancer to learn more about her training, whether she feels pressure to look a certain way and how she feels about that recent Oscar-nominated wild ballet film.

  • On the demographics of ballet dancing… “Not many black women succeed in the ballet world because it’s not a big part of American culture. In Europe, people go to ballet or opera like we go to movies. Ballet hasn’t been exposed to the urban community, plus it’s hard for dance companies to accept what they don’t usually see. I’ve had periods when I struggled to get promoted as a soloist.”
  • A typical day of training includes… “My training never ends. Even when we have time off, I take classes daily. Spring is the most intense period, so for six days a week, I train from 10:15 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and perform in the show from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. And on Wednesday and Saturday, we have two shows a day with rehearsals in between.”
  • How I feel about the ballet body pressure… “Our bodies are our instruments. In an elite company, you have to look a certain way. In football, you wouldn’t have a tiny defender. I’ve learned how to take care of myself by eating right and seeing a physical therapist and massage therapist.”
  • The move that will help you get a ballet body… “To strengthen your legs and work your calf muscles, bring your feet in first position [a 'v' position with heels together and toes apart]. Bend knees into a demi-plie, then straighten legs and lift up to toes.”
  • My reaction to Black Swan “I tried to find the positives in it and similarities to our lives, but it’s just entertainment. In a company, you are a family.”

To hear more from Copeland, check out her videos on makers.com.

Meet The Trainer: Tae Bo Creator Billy Blanks

Written on January 30, 2012 at 11:47 am , by

When Tao Bo master and creator, Billy Blanks, stopped by the FITNESS offices a few months ago he created quite a stir! Women were popping out of their offices and cubicles to get a sneak peak of the man himself, as Billy and I tried out moves from his hit new workout, PT 24/7 in our conference room. Not only was Billy super-fun to hang with, but we have a shared passion for martial arts, and anybody with a butt-kicking background will always be on the top of my list. (I spent 10 years practicing Shotokan karate growing up!) After our February Express Workout shoot, I sat down with Billy for a little one-on-one.

With Billy Blanks when he stopped by the FITNESS office!

Why did you decide to create the PT 24/7 DVDs?

I wanted a 30-minute workout with strength and cardio combined. People complain they don’t have time for both, so we put them together. The plan includes a rotation calendar for when to do the workouts and an eating plan too. We called it 24/7 because within 24 hours you’ll feel the difference and within seven days, your body starts to change.

For someone who is unfamiliar, how would you describe them and how they are different from other DVDs?
Tae Bo as a whole is a basic workout that will help you recognize your true self, change your body and your attitude. PT 24/7 will teach you how to put together a physical fitness program and make healthy living a lifestyle, not just something you do for 60 or 90 days. It builds you up mentally and physically.

Do you have any tips for readers trying this Express workout?
Pick out basic moves first. I really recommend the gloves that come with the PT 24/7 kit because they help you feel like a fighter and give you confidence. The gloves that come with the system, with bands attached, are easy to pick up. It’s really interactive with the bands. The moves in this workout and the DVDs will test and challenge you, but you’ll quit if you’re not engaged.

What do you do to exercise when you have just 15 minutes?
I take the gloves with bands and do punches. I use them for push-ups (with bands looped behind your back, hands in triangle position), military press, squats and lunges. You can really do everything with them and combine moves together, like a military press with a side lunge. Your core gets involved when you work multiple muscles.

Read more

Barre Crazy!

Written on May 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm , by

Lately, I’ve been checking out all the barre classes available here in NYC. I have to admit it though, it’s a love-hate relationship I’ve got between me and that darn barre. I actually can’t recall thinking barre work was that difficult back when I was a little one in ballet class, but then again, I wasn’t working muscles to the level of exhaustion at the age of five either. But it’s no wonder dancers have an AMAZING body. A weekly date at the barre will guarantee to you definite body perfection.

Here's Kate in a 2006 issue of FITNESS!

Last week I stopped by Pure Yoga in Manhattan’s Upper West Side to take Kate Albarelli’s new Figure 4 class. Kate’s focus in Figure 4 is on “the graceful moves of ballet, the flexibility of yoga, and the energetic beats of contemporary dance.”

Like most barre classes that are so popular right now, this style of working out avoids building muscle bulk and helps women achieve that long, lean physique of a dancer (I say, “sign me up” every time, then the love-hate relationship hits me when I line up at the barre). Because whoa, I was hit with a definite body shock in the beginning of Kate’s class as I stood at the barre and attacked my leg and butt muscles. Other classes I’ve taken save the legs for last, but I kind of liked doing the hardest part first (and getting it over with!). However, Kate’s class was even better than I had suspected it could be. I knew I’d get an awesome workout, but I didn’t know that Kate would slip in so many helpful—and important—reminders about working out and using proper form.

Here are a few form pointers that I picked up (along with my derriére muscles!) during my sweat-session with Kate. Read more

March DVD Review: Xtend Barre Lean & Chiseled

Written on March 8, 2011 at 10:10 am , by

Tone like a dancer with Xtend Barre. (Image from Acacia)

Tone like a dancer with Pilates and dance. (Image from Acacia)

March’s Top Workout DVD: Xtend Barre Lean & Chiseled

Best for: Those who enjoy dancing; at-home fitness fiends who don’t have a room full of free weights.

Why it’s a star: The 55-minute routine, designed and instructed by Xtend Barre founder Andrea Rogers, hits all of the major “trouble zones.” You only need light dumbbells for the upper body segment and a chair for the barre workout. But don’t think this DVD is a breeze because it doesn’t require much equipment—the quick pace and challenging moves kept us from getting bored and made the time fly by.

Where to get it: acacialifestyle.com, $16.99

Now tell us: Do you prefer to tone up with heavy weights or body weight exercises (such as push-ups, planks or attitudes—like the one Andrea is performing on the cover)?

Meet the Trainer Behind Natalie Portman’s Oscar-Winning Workout

Written on March 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm , by

If you saw the movie Black Swan you knew Natalie Portman was a shoe-in for the Best Actress Oscar. What you didn’t see was the intense ballet lessons and training that Natalie went through to prepare to play the perfect Swan Queen. I caught up with Natalie’s high-in-demand trainer, Mary Helen Bowers, to talk ballet, pliés, and the big win!

Mary Helen Bowers, founder of Ballet Beautiful

What are some misconceptions about ballerinas? So many people think they’re too thin, but they do have that sleek, strong body we all try to achieve!

I think the biggest misconception about a ballerina is that you have to be on an extreme diet or training regimen to sculpt that toned, graceful shape. But a ballerina’s body is an incredible combination of strength and artistry—it’s not about how thin you are. Ballerinas have a very specific, unique body shape because of the way in which we train and build muscle. This elegant yet powerful body shape is attainable for all women though! You do not have to spend hours a day in a gym or ballet studio to achieve it.

How has ballet helped shape your life?

Ballet has been a HUGE part of my life from a very young age. I just always loved dancing and when I was really young I made up my mind that I just had to dance in New York City—so I left my family in Charlotte, North Carolina when I was just 15 years old to attend the School of American Ballet in New York. The following year I was invited to join the New York City Ballet! I was just starting my junior year in high school, so it was a really exciting time. I danced with the NYCB for 10 years and then founded Ballet Beautiful, an online global studio. My first studio location opens this spring down in Soho, NYC.

Read on for Bowers’s favorite sculpting moves — plus behind-the-scenes stories from Natalie’s training! Read more

February DVD Review: Aerobarre

Written on February 15, 2011 at 10:20 am , by

Try something new this month with a boxing/ballet fusion workout! (Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

Try something new this month with a boxing/ballet fusion workout! (Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

February’s Top Workout DVD: Aerobarre

Best for: Wannabe boxers inspired by The Fighter or Million Dollar Baby that aren’t afraid to be light on their feet.

Why it’s a star: This knockout of a workout will tone you up from head to toe with a routine that fuses ballet and boxing. Each “round,” 11 in total, will keep your heart pumping with moves like punches with light dumbbells and graceful ballet jumps. Plus, having the DVD split into so many short bits makes time fly! It takes a try or two to keep up with the quick-moving choreography, but once you nail it, the workout only gets more fun.

Where to get it: aerospacenyc.com, $20

More from FITNESS: Our testers chose this as one of the Top 10 Workout DVDs of 2011! Pick up a copy of our March issue—on newsstands today!—to see what else made our list and enter here for a chance to win all 10 of our favorites!