Finding the right (active) fit with founder, Sarah Johnson

There are teachers, and then there are those who love to teach. Sarah Johnson is one of them. As the owner and head instructor of Fit Barre Fitness Studio in downtown Hamilton, Sarah uses her background in competitive sport, CrossFit, dance, and nursing to lead barre fitness classes. Using the ballet bar as a balancing aid, barre combines pilates, yoga, and of course, ballet-inspired poses to achieve a full body workout, isolating different muscles through small isometric movements.

Using a mixture of music like Beyonce, Chris Brown, and David Guetta, Sarah motivates her classes to reach their goals in strength, flexibility, or weight loss. Reminding participants “yes you can” during challenging parts of the program, she shares her passion for fitness and inspires clients to be the best version of themselves.

Photos provided by Fit Barre

Q: Tell us a bit about how Fit Barre started and how its grown and evolved since.

SJ: Fit Barre first opened in November 2016. I was teaching in Toronto and friends and coworkers kept asking when I would start teaching in Hamilton. At the time there really wasn’t anything like what I taught and I wanted Hamilton to experience what I taught first hand.
It was a huge leap of faith and I have my incredible support team of coworkers at the hospital where I still maintain work part-time as a nurse, my family, and social circles that I talked obsessively with about barre and how great it is.

In our first year, our business model and what we offered started to focus primarily on barre and that’s where we found the most success and popularity with attendance.
To start, I was teaching six days a week in the evenings and weekends, and soon realized in order to make a fair run at this and remain competitive we needed more staff and from there, our team started to grow. By the fall of 2017, we had another barre teacher. Now, we have a staff of 4 and offer classes from early mornings to evenings, seven days a week.

Q: Any major success stories/change stories of clients who have come to Fit Barre?

SJ: I think success and change are defined a little differently for each client at Fit Barre. Every client who walks through our door for the first time has never experienced a Fit Barre class before. So regardless of how “fit or unfit” someone is, everyone finds our workout challenging.
Some clients are there to focus on strength and increased flexibility, others have weight loss goals in mind and want to tone up for their wedding day, while some are there to get back into shape after taking a break from physical activity.

I see the changes in everyone- I see the clients who can now hold a plank for 90 seconds without dropping to their knees who couldn’t hold it past 30 seconds when they first started. I see clients strength form when they don’t come out of their thigh sprints and embrace the shake and uncomfort that comes with digging a little deeper. I see success when shy clients expand their circle of friends and chat with other clients after class and hold a spot for them in the next class.
Everyone’s fitness journey is different and unique and I think that’s what makes our studio so different. There are change and success in all aspects of what we deliver.

Q: For someone new to fitness or a healthier lifestyle, what advice do you have to help them be successful and maintain the habit?

SJ: Consistency is key in anything and knowing that where you start isn’t where you finish!
Fitness can be a hard routine to get accustomed to, especially in the winter when the days are shorter and the car requires a heat up before you can get to a class! Having a workout buddy is a great way to stay accountable and consistent in developing a new habit.
We love when clients bring in friends because they get to share in a positive workout together while spending time together.

When creating goals I think it’s important to create short-term vs long-term goals, and keeping them specific and measurable helps people stay directed in achieving them. Having short-term goals prevents the feeling of being overwhelmed by the long-term goal and puts a plan into place. Having a plan is a must in order to complete the end goal, it keeps you focused and on track.

Photos provided by Fit Barre

Q: You’re launching Barre Baby in April – what made you decide to start this program? Tell us a bit about it.

SJ: Barre fitness is such a great method of fitness for pregnant and postpartum women. During my teaching time, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching women all the way until their due date and truly believe remaining active in pregnancy can be done safely.

After speaking to some of our clients, there seemed to be lack of programming for women to participate in that cater to women specifically postpartum with the proper education and knowledge in this particular method of fitness.

It’s been so rewarding to learn more about the body postpartum, and I am so excited to be challenged to come up with new ways to teach this method of fitness to women who need modifications specifically in relation to core work as they heal. There’s a lot of misguided resources out there and I want to be a reliable, safe option for women looking to re-enter fitness. The perks of this programming include the inclusivity of baby. Women are welcome to bring their little ones with them to class so that they don’t need to worry about child-care.

Q: What do you like about living/working in Hamilton?

SJ: I love the sense of community and feeling I have that comes with owning a studio in the downtown core. The local business owners are so supportive and everyone I have had the opportunity to meet or work with has always been so great to be around. The best thing about owning a business downtown is the number of individuals that let you into their lives. I get to hear who recently got engaged or has wedding plans. I am usually one of the first people in a client’s life to hear they are pregnant. I’m privy to first date stories, bad breakups, job promotions, clients going on vacation, clients having too much fun on a weekend. I love that I get to be a part of a routine and that when I’m out getting coffee I run into at least one client. This studio has become such a social outlet for me. I have made amazing friendships through my clients and my staff. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such incredible people and to be a part of the downtown revitalization.

Q: Do you have anything special for those looking to tone up for summer?

SJ: We’d love to help Hamiltonians enhance their fitness this season and bring fresh faces into the studio. For new clients, we’re offering five weeks of unlimited classes for only $99. Hope to see you all there!