Ballet routine boosts fitness

Leeds Carnegie Basketball Team get to grips with a new fitness routine BalletBeFit, which is based on the moves used in ballet. Picture: Liam Tansley
Leeds Carnegie Basketball Team get to grips with a new fitness routine BalletBeFit, which is based on the moves used in ballet. Picture: Liam Tansley
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A Yorkshire dancer has developed an exercise programme combining ballet and keep fit. Catherine Scott reports on BalletBeFit and some unusual converts to the regime.

There may have been a time when ballet was the preserve of dainty dancers.

Not any more. People are taking up the elegant dance form no matter what their shape or size.

And a Yorkshire dancer has developed a new programme combing the elegance of ballet with a keep fit regime.

And National Cup Champions Leeds Carnegie Basketball Team got more than they bargained for when they tried their hand at the new fitness routine BalletBeFit.

Despite an average height of 6ft 5in the boys finally got to grips with the toning and flexibility class designed by founder Rachel Withers.

Though the aim of the day was to highlight the similarities between athletes and dancers, in terms of stamina, fitness and flexibility, the players were surprised at the level of muscle strength needed to maintain certain positions.

Rachel, accompanied by Kate Gilbert and Rebecca Lindley, both qualified BalletBeFit instructors, put the team through their paces.

In just 12 months BBF has soared in popularity.

Rachel, a classically trained dancer and lifelong fitness enthusiast decided to combine her two passions, creating an exercise program based upon the principles of ballet.

“A number of years ago I realised that the time I had invested in dance had paid dividends in regards to my fitness and energy levels, making my two passions inextricably linked. Inspired, I set about creating a series of moves and routines that, with guidance, anyone can do and everyone can benefit from. And so, BalletBeFit was born.”

The carefully choreographed series of moves, holds and reps brings together core strengthening “statics” and intense cardio drills, and can be tuned up or down to suit participants’ goals, whether conditioning for a sporting event or maintaining a toned, healthy physique.

Rachel has just choreographed a four-page workout for the July edition of BodyFit Magazine, and with classes in Leeds, Rotherham, Halifax, Huddersfield and Manchester, BBF is set to go nationwide.

“The basics can be learnt in just one session,” Rachel explains. “Which has proved to be hugely appealing both to class attendees and instructors.”

The number of dancers and fitness trainers gaining a BalletBeFit qualification has been on the increase since the start of the year with no sign of slowing down. Franchises are also being set up across the country.

“Zero impact training has gained in popularity with professional sports people.

“Aside from the obvious physical benefits, such as increased strength and flexibility, risk of injury, both whilst training and during the match, is reduced dramatically.

“This appeals particularly to coaches and managers who don’t want to see their players on the bench.”

As for the rest of us, Rachel says, BalletBeFit offers a 
safe, accessible way of improving core fitness and developing functional strength.

Training that brought a benefit

Rachel Withers, is a classically trained dancer and lifelong fitness enthusiast. Her training began at the Dorothy Stevens School of Dance, later attending the Louise Browne Yorkshire Scholarships Centre before going on to train at the Royal Ballet School 
and the Northern School 
of Contemporary Dance. She has performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and choreographed for theatre groups across the UK.

She set up BalletBeFit after realising the positive affects her training had had on her body and fitness levels.

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