This article was written before COVID-19 fitness studio restrictions were implemented around the world.
Physical activity increases your mental health and makes you a happier person, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Without a doubt, this sentiment proved true when I embarked on a new challenge in February: 30 days of Pure Barre at Union Square in New York City.
I’m a big fan of taking a deep dive into specific exercise regimens for a month at a time and seeing what results they yield — whether it’s building muscle, losing weight, or breathing easier. If there’s a proven benefit, I’m game to try it for 30 days.
Pure Barre is a low-impact full-body workout with high-intensity movements. There are a few types of classes — foundations (an intro class), classic (50 min., the original), pure empower (45 min., more cardio) and pure reform (50 min., inspired by resistance training) — that lift and tone muscles while increasing flexibility and agility. In short: class segments vary, but at one point or another, I was using wrist and ankle weights, 2-5 lb. hand weights, a step, a red resistance band and a rubber ball to challenge my body. Movements such as pulsing, tucking my hips, crunching, and squatting was also included.
For 30 days, I vowed to take an in-studio at least every other day. Truth be told, I really wanted to complete 30 sessions in 30 days, but I missed a few here and there due to personal and professional schedule conflicts. As it happens: life, work, travel and personal responsibilities kept me from sweat sessions, but I didn’t give up!
Because this challenge wasn’t too hard on my body (read: it didn’t involve running several miles every day or lifting super challenging amounts of weight), I added another element to my challenge to make things a little more interesting. From the start: I pledged to participate in morning workouts, only (i.e. classes that began at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. on weekends).
According to the National Sleep Foundation, working out in the morning encourages deeper sleep at night. And, “good sleepers” are more likely to succeed within their careers (and secure a promotion).
Although I wasn’t up for a promotion, at the end of my 30-day challenge I felt infinitely more successful — even if I wasn’t ranking in a higher salary.
- My Habits Unexpectedly Changed: Each (early) morning helped me establish a quick, efficient and easy-to-follow routine. Knowing I had to get up at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., and immediately take on the rest of my day: I prepared the night before by laying out my clothes, eating breakfast and drinking my coffee in a timely manner (i.e. not dilly-dallying around). Instead of wasting time laying in bed, I got up as soon as my alarm went off and left the house on time, too. I noticed that the patterns I established during the start of my day often lead to a more productive schedule later on.
- My Diet Shifted: I can’t say that I was a super healthy eater for 30 days, but I certainly did make small changes, adding in more fruits and vegetables while laying off cupcakes. I will admit, though, instead of feeling guilty (and stressed) over a few scoops of ice cream or a chocolate bar, I mentally felt more relaxed about indulging in my favorite things.
- My Energy Felt More Positive: As mentioned, exercise is great for mental health and it can make you a happier person. I felt infinitely more upbeat during my barre challenge compared to periods of time when I’ve been inactive. My friends noticed I was smiling more often, too.
- My Work Product Was Better: All of the above day-to-day modifications contributed to a greater focus on work. Because I wasn’t consumed by other factors — like wasting time in the morning, or letting negative thoughts fester — I was able to channel that energy into projects that needed my attention.
Overall, I’d highly recommend a morning workout challenge to anyone who is looking to reap the benefit from a myriad of results. For one, I’m going to continue to workout at least every day, and surely in the early hours! Will I be getting promoted soon? Only time will tell, but in any case: the results are priceless.