Catie Miller of Xtend Barre

Catie Miller of Xtend Barre Marylebone on a form of exercise inspired by the ballet barre

Interview: Donna Earrey

What is your background?
I am originally from Scottsdale, Arizona and I have danced since the age of three. I specialised in jazz and modern dance and travelled around the US competing nationally. I was fortunate enough to train with the likes of Gregory Hines and Mia Michaels, a few of my dance inspirations!

I left my dancing behind and went to Arizona State University to receive my degree in design studies, with a focus on interior design and architecture: something completely different to dance. While there I joined the salsa club team, which I loved—it took me back to my dancing days, reigniting that feeling in my heart that, as a dancer, I realised I’d been missing.

How did you end up opening an Xtend Barre studio?
My husband-to-be asked me to move to London in 2009 and it felt like the right time to do it. I was working for Selfridges when I found out I was pregnant. During my pregnancy, I walked into a fitness studio and tried Xtend Barre, and in that moment something clicked: my love of fitness and dance was the catalyst for opening the studio in June this year.

What makes Xtend Barre different to other barre-based workouts?
I get asked this a lot and my answer is pure and simple: at the end of the day, it is a personal preference. I have tried every barre method out there—barre is huge in America—and for me the main difference is that there is a large emphasis on dance as well as cardio in every Xtend Barre class: you can burn anything from 250 calories to 600 calories in a 55-minute session.

Do you need any ballet training or a particular fitness level to start these classes?
No, not at all: our oldest client is 78 and our youngest is just 16, so it’s a large range. We never have specific classes for beginners or advanced—classes are for everybody, whatever your fitness level. We talk a lot about modifications within the classes, so you progress in your own time and the instructors are there to guide you.

It is all about community and morale—we encourage everybody to keep going, but within a very safe environment. The world class instructors who take the classes are the heart and soul of the brand—they are trained in-house and are constantly supported with further training and development. 

What can a complete novice expect?
I always start by giving a little briefing on what Xtend Barre is all about. We begin with the warm up, then upper body, barre, abs and a final stretch at the end. At first, a newcomer may feel a little overwhelmed at the speed of the class and at the new terminology—they aren’t used to hearing terms like ‘plie’, ‘first position’, ‘second position’, ‘port de bras’—but they soon get used to it. It’s almost like learning a new language.

So not only do we work the body, we are getting the mind active as well! We focus on working from the inside out, working on your core and then strengthening everything else, so you walk out of the class feeling evenly worked.

Is this one for the guys?
Men are beginning to understand that as they get older, they need to do something that is safe. Going into the gym environment with younger men and the competitive atmosphere that exists there, they do need to be careful if they want their joints to last.

A lot of guys are kicking their gym membership to the kerb and coming to us for a complete workout: they tend to go for the TRX, circuits and yoga at first, but the more familiar they become with their instructors and the Xtend method, the more comfortable they are trying our other class offerings. For the record, Arnold Schwarzenegger used to do ballet!

Classes with babies—how does that work?
We have pregnant clients that come to classes up to their 40th week of pregnancy. I did the classes up to this time as well and it is totally safe. After the mums have their babies, they come back with a different body shape and we want to get them back to the way they want to be. All of our instructors are pre- and post-natal trained, and the two instructors that teach the Babies on Board class are pre- and post-natal specialised, which means they can provide a specialised experience for our clients.

It gets mums back into a routine—they bring their babies along to class as soon as they are signed off from their doctor after their six-week check-up. It starts very slowly, with the babies in carriers on their mums. We have to get to know their new body: are their abs coming back together, is posture a problem? It is important that they don’t injure themselves and that we support them on this new journey to health and wellness. The babies love the music, they love the instructors and when they see themselves in the mirror it is just great. 

 
 
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