Bitch Biz: Bitches Who Brunch partners with fitBallet. While this article was written independently by Bitches Who Brunch, we do receive compensation from the company.
We consider ourselves Fit Bitches, so whenever we find a workout class or routine that we truly love, we admittedly binge a bit. Exhibit A: fitBallet, which just broke onto the New York scene, by way of California, this year. The five of us New York Bitches have been known to often run into one another at a weekday evening class.
The classes are held in a charming old New York dance studio, complete with old ballet bars and creaky wooden floors. But once the music starts, and the weights are lifted, it’s nothing but energy and sweat. The New York instructor, Jessica, inspires us with her enthusiasm and grace. We just try to keep up, pliés and all.
Naturally, we wanted to learn more about fitBallet, and where it all began. So we reached out to the founder, Julie Schechter, who is a life-long dancer. We loved chatting with Julie: She grew up in Southern California ballet studios and on dance teams before graduating from The University of California, Irvine, with degrees in Dance and Global Cultures. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 2012 and practiced at a law firm in Orange County, California as a litigation associate for several years.
In 2014, hoping to help women incorporate true health into their lives, she left law to found fitBallet. She believes that real fitness—a confident mind and a powerful body—is a crucial component of a life well-lived. We chatted with her about her fitBallet fitness approach and her life in New York.
Are you a ballet dancer or did you used to be?
Yes, I did ballet. I was also a dance teacher during college at UCI. I love dancing; ballet has always been part of my life. That’s kind of where the inspiration came from. It’s a fantastic part of my life.
Are your instructors ballet dancers?
They are! Yes. They don’t just do ballet, they actually dance professionally. My partners in New York, Marc and Jessica, are amazing! They went to UCI with me. It’s a funny coincidence actually, we danced together in school then we kind of lost touch after I graduated from UCI. When I moved to New York and started the business, I was looking for instructors, and sent out a call throughout my network. Other friends suggested Marc and Jess, which was crazy; I didn’t even know they were living in the city. We were all excited to reconnect.
How did you develop this workout?
When I was in law school I had to give up being an undergrad dance teacher and dancing five or six hours a day, moving all the time, which I loved. My first year of law school was a shock to the system to be that sedentary. Ballet can count as exercise but only if you’re doing it multiple hours a day. Just going to a regular ballet class, the structure of it is very stop and start.
I was trying to find a way to keep myself in shape and keep the “dancer body,” the elongated muscles, and the cardiovascular endurance. So I tried a bunch of different things together. I did CrossFit for a while, and I tried yoga, but none of them were really what I wanted. I put circuit training together with isolated ballet exercises and really felt like that worked for me. I started training myself with that. That’s where the curriculum came from.
Even though it has more of a boot camp vibe, how does this exercise shape your muscles? I know the dancer body is a desired one these days.
I’m not sure if I’d describe it as a boot camp per say, but we’re just very focused on being healthy. So we focus on circuit training with sit-ups, push-ups and burpees interspersed with all of the ballet exercises. When people talk about the “ballet body” what they really mean, in my experience, is the elongated muscles and extreme muscle definition.
Are there any foods you suggest pairing with the fitBallet workout?
I’ve done Paleo and I’ve found that it really works and gave me enough energy to be able to work out successfully. But, along the same lines as I was saying before about not focusing on body shape, I still definitely enjoy wine and chocolate. I will say the one thing that I want people to wrap their minds around is eating fats. Your brain really needs it, your body will appreciate it, and it will help you power through workouts. Avocados are a great source of fat.
I could eat avocados with everything! How many times a week do you suggest people take fitBallet classes? Do they need rest days in between?
Well, this is kind of a one-stop-shop workout and the last 15 minutes of class are saved for a really intense stretching session, which is far longer than most. It’s what helps create the elongated muscles and make sure you aren’t too sore the next day. The classes include burpees and kettle bells, there are weights involved, but then once you stretch that much you can absolutely come every day. Ideally, to feel strong and powerful it’s best to come about three to four times a week. Absolutely anything is better than nothing.
Now, I know you told me why you got started, but how did you get started with all of this?
I graduated from law school, worked at a big law firm for a couple of years and really felt dissatisfied. I mean my firm was great and so were the people, but it really was just not the right career field for me. I started training my friends on the side coming up with fitBallet workouts for them. It gave me a creative outlet and they really liked it and started asking for more.
I had one friend who had three kids and was a former dancer as well, and she had struggled with post-partum depression and body image, and after just two months of working out with me she said she was able to lift all her children at once and felt good about her body for the first time ever. She told me that she felt powerful, had energy and that kind of sparked a fire for me. I realized I could really help people so I gave notice at my job and I launched the company two months later.
So I know you mentioned burpees, which are definitely not my favorite, what is your favorite move that you’ve incorporated in with all the ballet?
The thing that I have to say about burpees is that everybody hates them at first, but then you develop this sort of love hate relationship with them. They the perfect exercise, you do one move and you’ve worked out your entire body. But when it comes to favorite ballet exercises, we do this one that is like an arabesque. I love adding these kinds of moves because it works muscles you don’t normally use. With this move you are in first position, with your heels together and your toes out, and you lift a leg behind you as high as you possibly can and it works up to your back muscles that you don’t normally work.
I know the move you’re talking about, it is a great one! Now, I absolutely have to ask about your brunching preferences. It’s what we do! Important question: bloody Mary or mimosa?
Bloody Mary all the way.
A girl after my own heart! Spicy and full of toppings or are you more of a purist?
I would say the spicier the better. There’s a place in LA that puts a meal on it basically, with a slider and a deviled egg and I appreciate that.
When it comes to brunch, are you more in the savory or sweet camp?
Definitely savory, although I always like to go with a group in hopes that somebody at the table will order French toast so I can have a bite. I feel like I never have a big enough group to just order one order for the table. If everyone just had about two bites it could be an appetizer.
Finally, if you could brunch with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
I think I would have to say Elizabeth Warren because she seems like she’s kicking ass and taking names right now. I would love to brunch with her and talk to her.
Get a Bitches discount on fitBallet by registering with the code INSIDER. You’ll get a 10-pack of classes for only $120 (normally $300)! This offer is valid through the end of August.