Michelle Gimbutis fell in love with The Barre Code, a gym she frequented in metro Detroit in 2014, and by 2018, the MSU alum returned to East Lansing to open up her own Barre Code location and has found new ways to offer both classes and a sense of community during the pandemic.
Gimbutis and other women are drawn to Barre Code’s approach to fitness.
When she heard Barre Code was targeting East Lansing as a possible new location spot, Gimbutis said it felt like a sign for her to move her family back to her former college town.
Barre Code East Lansing opened in June 2018.
“It sounds cheesy,” Gimbutis told ELi, “but [Barre Code] really did change my outlook on myself and fitness, and how it’s more than just trying to look a certain shape or be a certain way.”
“You will never ever hear a Barre Code instructor across the country talk about burning calories, losing weight or trying to fit into a bathing suit or tank top,” said Gimbutis. “We just focus on getting stronger, and I think that’s something women don’t realize they’re missing in their lives until they have it.”
East Lansing resident Linda Karbo, fell in love with the positivity of the Barre Code community after just one week. “I was drawn to the range of different class formats that work for whatever your fitness level and ability level is at any given time,” she said. “The Barre Code not only offers a variety of formats and skill-levels but more importantly creates a safe space where you can focus on your personal growth without pressure.”
While some gyms offer a competitive nature, the Barre Code aims to provide a support network among those working out.
“The Barre Code’s mission is deeply rooted in empowering oneself and those around them,” Karbo said. “It’s a truly supportive community that celebrates differences, abilities, and strengths, while providing a space to change and evolve. It’s the opposite of a competitive environment; it’s an uplifting environment.”
The Barre Code introduced a new type of class last year due to the pandemic.
The studio shut from mid-March 2020 through September 2020 but started offering on-demand livestream virtual classes and outdoor classes. Keeping the local support system was important for Gimbutis, especially in the pandemic when outlets for socialization were few and far between.
Before the pandemic, in-person offerings had included: traditional barre style class (heavy repetition of 2-3 pound weights to build endurance,) bootcamp (mix of high-intensity cardio and heavier strength training) and brawl (cardio kickboxing class.)
Because of the required mask mandate, they created a strength training format using heavier props but removing the cardio to allow gym-goers to accommodate for their masks.
With the addition of outdoor classes, the Barre Code East Lansing found a way to return to group fitness classes in person, something many members missed.
“Just seeing the connection people craved after being alone in their homes for so long, it was so wonderful,” Gimbutis said.
Bringing the energy and feeling from the live studio atmosphere to an outdoor setting was a task, however. The covered outdoor space is three doors down from the studio, next to AT&T in the Trowbridge Plaza. Clients bring a yoga mat or towel, and unlike in the studio, which is socks only, clients need to wear shoes outside.
Masks aren’t required for outdoor classes as the reserved 20 spots are socially-distanced. Outdoor classes are offered evenings during the week, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Members can be confident in the safety protocols for in-studio Covid-compliance, something very important to Gimbutis. “We are hard on enforcing masks. No mask, no class,” she said.
“We have numbered spots in the studio, so when you book a class, you’re actually booking a spot (six feet away from one another.) We have a big focus on ventilation, and keep an exterior door propped open often. Our HVAC system has been made sure it’s running at optimal capacity, pulling in as much outdoor air as possible.”
Staff temperature checks are required, and all cleaning agents are EPA-registered. “We were one of the first ones of the state to complete the state’s Covid assessment, that was really important to me,” Gimbutis said.
Community members appreciate the continued support network.
Karbo is grateful for the uplifting Barre Code collective she’s been a part of, even when their studio was closed. “Last summer I took advantage of outdoor classes and I am eager to get back now that the weather is starting to cooperate,” she said. “During the colder months, I took advantage of the Livestream and on-demand options which never disappointed.”
For the wide range of members, everyone from local college students to older East Lansing residents, Barre Code has not only provided a healthy lifestyle, but also healthy relationships.
“I have made connections and friendships with so many fellow members, giving me a space for connection that is sometimes hard to find as an adult,” Karbo said. “In addition, The Barre Code has really reinforced the importance of carving out time for myself. Here, I am reminded of my worth and that I am deserving of the time I am committing to making myself stronger.”
Giving back to the community is another important aspect for Barre Code. Yearly fundraisers with Beat NB (neuroblastoma) and partnerships with fellow gyms and yoga studios like Yoga Connect help encourage community collaboration.
An upcoming fundraiser for Haven House is planned for June 5. “One of my jobs as a business owner in the community is to support the community that I live in,” Gimbutis said.
The Barre Code East Lansing is located in Trowbridge Plaza at 1024 Trowbridge Rd., and offers a mix of classes seven days a week, with varied times from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Interested clients can receive a new client introductory offer of three free classes (any combination of outside, in-studio, or online.)
UPDATE (5/18/2021 at 2:45 p.m.): The Barre Code has updated is indoor mask policy so that masks are optional for fully vaccinated individuals after new guidance from the State of Michigan and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was made available.