By Joie Goh

Despite its popularity amongst women, barre classes aren’t exclusively for women. In fact, it can be especially beneficial for men as well, particularly for athletes! Just take it from Markus Gnirck, an ultra-marathoner whose WeBarre journey led to several personal best timings on the trail!

Tell us more about running!

I have been a runner pretty much all my life, starting out with middle distance track & field. Now, I do long distance trail running. I truly enjoy jumping up and down the trails, cruising through wide landscapes and digging in the pain cave when moving up a steep mountain. Having been based in Singapore the past years, I participated in various races across Southeast Asia & Hong Kong. I’m usually training around MacRitchie and Bukit Timah. Depending on the training plan and the race, I normally train 4-6 per week, plus additional strength and mobility training.

What led you to your first barre class?

I happened to have coffee with WeBarre co-founder Anabel, who introduced me to WeBarre. As I pretty much never heard of it before, I was intrigued and at the same time sceptical. How can standing at a barre, dipping up and down be useful for my running? I wondered. At the same time, I love trying new things. She convinced me that I should just give it a try and see how it complements my running.
It was also good timing, as I was four weeks away from a major race in the European Alps. I was planning to do more strength training while reducing my mileage. I felt that my muscles and joints were quite stressed after 4 months of training, so I was looking for a fun alternative to just doing simple stretches. Hence, barre seemed like a good fit for the training plan.
While I’ve heard of many other new fitness concepts locally and globally, barre somehow hasn’t crossed my path. It could be that the barre community is a bit further away from the running community, and there isn’t much overlap. It’s time to change that!

Why do you prefer barre to other complementary exercises, like yoga or pilates?

While I see the benefits of yoga and pilates, I already do HIIT training and meditation, which are already similar. So I didn’t see much of a point to add those into my fitness routine. Barre offers something that I wouldn’t do otherwise, especially in the class environment, with music and the focus on the smaller muscles.
Also, of course, I like the idea that none of my running friends have done it (yet!), so I can share something more unconventional, at least from their perspective.

Was it awkward, being one of the few men who come to WeBarre?

Yup, out of the 8 classes I’ve taken, I only once had a class that had another man in attendance. Otherwise, it was just me and many fit barre ladies! It was fun though. I felt very welcomed by the WeBarre team and I did enjoy seeing the sometimes surprised faces when a man steps through the door!
As it doesn’t take too much to pick up barre, I got into the flow of things easily and felt quite comfortable throughout the rest of the classes. I very much enjoyed coming to WeBarre in the morning before work, get a good sweat in, and then be super fresh for an early start at work. Anything that establishes a routine helps the body and mind!

How has barre helped with your training?

Wow, barre does a lot to those little muscles fibres! I was surprised to feel different muscles working, compared to when I’m running. I probably haven’t really felt those muscles in my life before.
It’s hard for me to say how much it has directly helped my training, or my then-upcoming race, as I haven’t done a formal comparison where I would have raced without barre training. But I definitely felt that my mobility and flexibility increased dramatically! I was able to stretch much, much better and felt my posture improved as well. My hamstring, quads and ankles felt better during my barre training. I joined some WeBarre HIIT classes and those helped to tone some muscles as well.
As I was at the peak of my training, I like to think I had good cardio and endurance, so barre added an element to my training that made me feel lighter. I ran a few personal bests on some routes in Singapore during my barre training time, so there might be some correlation.
Additionally, and maybe in this case more importantly, I felt positive impact on my mental health. I felt refreshed and happy after each class. The way that music and movements are synchronised gets one into a really nice rhythm and flow. No better way to start a day!

Would you recommend other men to try the WeBarre workout?

As with every exercise, it depends on the goals you’re after. I think barre is great for anyone who wants to increase flexibility and mobility, and it’s good for toning muscles and feeling lighter.
There were clear benefits to my running and I would recommend it to any runner that is looking for alternative training that’s fun. I don’t think it makes much difference if you are a man or not – it’s about being clear what kind of training helps to achieve goals better!

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