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Ballet Beautiful: Why My New Favorite Shoes are Ballet Shoes

After one training session with Mary Helen Bowers, a professional ballerina and the founder of Ballet Beautiful, I had high hopes that this would be an ideal workout for me. I’ve tried it all—Pilates, spinning, running and weight training—but everything changed the shape of my body in ways that made me unhappy. I do have some dance experience, but you don’t need it to benefit from this type of workout. All you need is a fitness mat—it doesn’t get more portable than that!

And don't be intimidated by the name! The Ballet Beautiful workout, "inspired by the artistry and athleticism of dance," is nothing like the strict classes I remember taking as a child. It’s a group of great women who come to take a break from the city and stay in shape. You’re allowed to chat about your favorite book or check your email throughout this intense workout, which helps take your mind off the fact that your inner/outter thighs and lower abs are absolutely on fire from the repetitive exercise. I will say that sometimes it burns badly, but none of us would keep going if it weren’t for the great results!

“My workout is all about helping women build strength and embrace their femininity!" says Mary Helen. "I see a lot of fitness as being driven by a very masculine energy and approach towards shaping the body and building muscle. As It's an intense workout—you will feel burning in your legs and butt like never before, but it also has a really calming effect on the body and the mind. This is important! I personally don't respond to the boot camp approach—I do not want someone in my face blasting music and telling me that I suck. I think that exercise is really important 'you' time. It's a chance to do something positive and healthy and walk away feeling better about yourself and the world! You don't have to beat yourself up in the gym to get results.”

Amen. I hate pushy instructors who make me feel like I'm not doing a good job. If Mary Helen sees that one of her students needs to reposition themselves, she politely asks them to do so rather then putting individuals on the spot.

As if discovering this awesome workout wasn’t enough good news, you don’t have to be in New York to join in. Ballet Beautiful live streams interactive classes that you can join from anywhere in the world. Most people start to see positive changes in their body after only two weeks of practicing for three hours a week. I only did two hours a week in addition to the BB meal plan, and I still saw results right away. And on days when I don't feel like sticking to my meal plan—I slipped and ate glazed donuts the other day. It helped to confess to Mary Helen even though she wasn't pleased with my divergence—I still try to incorporate Mary Helen's tips. "I think that balance is key," she says. "It's not about dieting or deprivation—it's about nourishing your body, satisfying cravings in healthy ways. The bonus is that you will sleep better, have more energy and reach your fitness goals more quickly!"

If my testimonial isn’t enough, perhaps Natalie Portman can serve as a more substantial one. Mary Helen trained her for her role in Black Swan. And there’s a book where you can learn all of the moves and diet tips—I read a few pages every morning to help start my day off right. If you plan to join the class via live stream, be sure to give Mary Helen and me a shout out!

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