BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO

Amy O’Connell and Sarah Brittenham have found a second home in Barre Forte and we can now all benefit from their new location in Wash Park. Together they have created a welcoming space with imaginative, kick-ass barre and dance inspired fitness classes.

You and co-owner Sarah are both avid runners. Tell us how you decided to embark on this journey and open Barre Forte Wash. 

Well, our journey with Barre Forte really started back in 2016 when we opened our first studio in LoHi. 

Sarah and I met in an usual way. In 2011, I was running the Leadville Trail 100 – a 100 mile trail race where you can use pacers beginning at mile 50. One of my pacers had to drop-out at the last minute, and Sarah stepped in for her. When I arrived at mile 50 on race day, Sarah was there waiting and the rest is history. Sarah introduced me to barre several years ago. I had been experiencing some running injuries and she swore it would help me become injury-free. After one class I was hooked, and I have since included barre as my favorite – and most effective – cross training and body toning workout. 

Sarah and I were both unhappy with our jobs. One day, on a long run together, we decided the people in Downtown Denver needed a barre studio and we needed to be the people who brought it to them. We opened Barre Forte LoHi in the summer of 2016 and had always planned to open a second studio. We considered a variety of other locations, but in the end, we knew that Wash Park was the perfect fit for Barre Forte. 

We’ve heard the rumors that Barre Forte offers instant gratification with strengthening your core. Can you tell us what sets Barre Forte apart from other workouts? 

Every movement we do during class works from a neutral spine or slightly tucked pelvis, we are engage and work your core for the entire 60 minute class. While most other workouts set aside a small portion of class to isolate and work only the ab muscles, our instructors cue the firing of your entire core unit starting with our warm up, and we only release during brief periods of stretching which lengthen and tone the muscles even further. Our clients are often surprised that a trim and toned core is one of the earliest results they see when they start coming to class regularly. We push them in so many other ways, with an emphasis on proper form so that they don’t even realize they’re working their core for the entire hour!

Can you walk us through the different class choices offered at Barre Forte Wash Park?

We offer a variety of different class choices, and  plan to add more in the coming weeks and months so we can allow clients to really perfect their barre practice. The following formats are currently offered at Barre Forte Wash Park:

Barre Forte: Our signature barre workout is designed to trim, tighten and tone your entire body with an emphasis on defining your glutes and legs. By using controlled movements, isometrics and high repetition, you can develop a strong, long, and lean physique in record time. The Barre Forte workout is great for toning your upper body and core.

Barre Express: The perfect option to get that barre burn in before or after work  – condensed to just 40 minutes to better fit your schedule.

Sculpt Forte: A one hour high energy group class that employs a mix of heavy weights, body weight, and full range movements that target your entire body. Our kick ass barre moves will tone the rest!

Be on the lookout for class additions including RUNBARRE™ and a cardio class.

Apart from the intense workouts, tell us about your vision to create a space of community with an emphasis on belonging and empowering women.

One of the key reasons we wanted to open our Barre Forte studios was to create a place where women (and men!) could come to not only get an amazing workout, but to find a “home.” One of the things that sets us apart is our inspiring and supportive community who offer a sense of belonging. Every single person who walks through our doors is welcomed with open arms. Whether it’s your first or fiftieth class, there’s room for everyone here.

Beyond the space, our barre instructors are the best in the business. They are encouraging, experienced and motivating. While they all follow the same format and flow, they are  free to bring their own style and spice to each class – so our clients never get bored or feel like they are doing the same workout twice. We can’t tell you how much we love our staff – we are so lucky to work with such amazing women.

You have locations throughout Colorado. What has been your favorite part of joining the Wash Park community? 

As Colorado natives who have both lived in Wash Park (Sarah still does!) we were thrilled to bring Barre Forte to one of our favorite neighborhoods. Our favorite part of joining the community has been meeting such incredible people, who are now clients. We get to build a new family here and we are so happy they’re loving our workouts as much as we hoped they would. The people of Wash Park have made opening this new studio  very special for us. 

What is on a typical playlist in the studio? 

Our music is a huge part of our workout, and how our clients stay motivated throughout class. We mix all of our music in house and add fresh playlists every month. 

What are some of your favorite go-to recipes for those of our readers who also want to keep their healthy diets in check?

Does ordering take out from Mod Market count?  As business owners, and mothers to toddlers and a newborn, cooking has taken a backseat to quality family time, and building a business. We’re both big fans of grocery delivery services like Amazon Prime and Instacart. It makes planning healthy meals simple, and keeps us out of the junk food aisle. Neither of us are very handy in the kitchen so we tend to stick to the basics, grilled chicken, steak, and lots of salads and veggies!

Both of you are mothers who have successfully started their own business. What advice would you give other rising entrepreneurs? 

Surround yourself with others who want to see you succeed. Our husbands have been incredibly supportive of our endeavors, and have made sacrifices in order for us to be successful. We’ve also been lucky to have hired an amazing team of teachers who care as much about our clients as we do. It sounds cliche, but you REALLY have to love and have a passion for what you’re doing. Leaving a comfy corporate job is stressful, and starting a new business is more work than we ever imagined. There are day-to-day stressors, but you have to remind yourself why you took the risk to build something beyond yourself. There is no better feeling than hearing from women that we’ve made a difference in their lives because of the community we’ve created or the confidence they have from being a part of our studios.

When you’re not running the studio, how do you both spend your free time? 

Amy: I love to explore the mountains (usually by running through them!) and spending time with my wonderful husband, 4-year old son and our two dogs.

Sarah: I enjoy spending time with my husband, our 1.5 year old son and our newborn daughter. With two kids under two, free time isn’t something I have much of, but spending time getting back to trail running in the mountains and foothills is something I try to carve out time for every week.

So if immediate results of strengthening your core and toning your physique is at the top of your to-do list, go check them out!

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