athenafit barre studio

Connecting Mind and Body: Spotlight on Barre Instructor Ele

athenaLIFEMcKayla DenningComment

athenafit intern McKayla sat down with Jackson instructor Ele Bessonette and asked her about her sense of adventure...

Q; What is your role here at athenafit?

A: I am a senior level instructor and a program trainer!

Q: What is your favorite part of being both an instructor and a trainer?

A: As a trainer, I love seeing the excitement of new instructors. It is rewarding to train talented ladies and then to see their personal growth over time as they develop their own "class personalities".

My favorite thing about being an instructor is my relationship with the clients! It's like I get to see my extended family each week! It is rewarding to have new clients come through the front door, perhaps entering with a bit apprehensive on their first visit, and then to see them grow stronger and stronger with each class. It's awesome to see them start executing the challenges given in class, their heels get higher, their seats get lower, they pick up a heavier set of weights, and their lights shine brighter in and out of the studio. I love being a small part in their transition, I LOVE ALL OF MY BARRE-INAS!!!  

Q: I bet it is cool to see the spark in new instructors and clients! What drew you to athenafit?

A: Honestly, I saw an article online about barre classes entitled something along the lines of "The Workout Victoria Secret Models Do." I mean, who doesn't want to do the workout they are doing? I read the article and watched the tutorial that displayed a few basic barre moves. This was before athenafit had opened, and I started doing YouTube videos in my kitchen using the counter top as the barre, and quickly saw result. Shortly there after, athenafit opened but about that time I had a mountain bike accident and injured my tailbone/low back, and had to quit all workouts for a few months. After my recovery period and with my wedding quickly approaching, I wanted to step up my workout regime. It was then I decided to try an athenafit class. I bought a membership that same day and have been hooked since!

Q: You mentioned mountain biking.  Are you an outdoor activity fan?

A: Yes!  My husband and I both have a huge sense of outdoor adventure! Maintaining a balance in our relationship is so important for my husband, Steve, and I. We spend time together doing things we both enjoy, and one of our favorites is hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail! We also do things together that maybe one of us doesn't enjoy quite as much, like I'll go fishing on the boat with Steve or sit in a tree stand with him, and he'll come to date night at the barre with me! Give and take. 

Q: Being such an outdoor person, what has made you stick with an indoor barre class? 

A: It is all about the VIBES! Good energy, welcoming environment, beautiful atmosphere, and super kind genuine instructors. Barre is so challenging, but I rock it! I love that it is low impact and it didn't bother my recovering back injury when I began to take classes. I saw amazing results quickly! And IT IS FUN!!

Q: Over time, what has proven to be your favorite athenafit exercise?

A: Everything between warm up toe taps to giving myself a hug at the end. IF I had to choose, it would have to be all of our seat series, especially with a round tube thrown in there somewhere. I, like many women, carry weight in my hip and seat region. With that being said, the seat exercises are the most difficult for me, but I have never in my life been so happy with my backside! Reaping the benefits of our seat work is well worth pushing through the pinch and burn! 

Q: Besides barre, what do you spend your time doing?

A: I'm an aesthetician at Blackledge Face Center. I love to garden and also enjoy making jewelry. I also have a newly developed interest in rock climbing and rappelling. 

Q: Any guilty pleasures we should know about?

A: I ALWAYS order dessert at restaurants. I also keep a bag of Reese's cups in my freezer at all times. But I eat super clean (almost) all the time, so it balances out!

Finding "Me" Time: Staff Spotlight on Morgan B

athenaLIFEMcKayla DenningComment

Our intern McKayla interviewed upcoming college graduate Morgan B recently.  Check it out...

Q: So Morgan, you are a senior in college correct? How have you learned to manage being both an instructor and full-time student?

A: Yes! As both a student and an instructor I have learned a ton about time management. I want to be the best I can be at everything that I do, and finding balance is key. I've found that going to an athenafit class is really the best way to relieve the stress of school and life. Even though I may be stressing over the next big test coming up, I've found that it's worth it to just take that 50 minutes out of my day to unwind. 

Q: So true.  What is your major and career aspirations and how has athenafit helped you reach your ultimate goal? 

A: My major is Educational Psychology and I plan to attend graduate school for Speech Pathology. There is a lot of pressure put on us women to over-achieve and thinking about my future can be stressful, especially with graduation around the corner. We lose sight of finding quality time for ourselves. But attending and instructing classes at athenafit always puts me in a good mood and reminds me to stay positive. It pushes me to reach my ultimate goal, whether it be during an athenafit class, in school, or in life. 

Q: I completely understand the pressure of graduation! Speaking of over-achieving, don't you have a history in competitive dance and performance?

A: Yes, I have loved being on stage ever since I can remember! I started dancing when I was 2 1/2 and began competitions in jazz, tap, and ballet. In middle school I danced on our competitive dance team, doing pom and hip hop, and traveled to places such as Disney World for competitions. I continued the dance team throughout all four years of high school, placing third in the nation at the national competition, and I was captain my senior year. Since starting college, I have been the performance chairman for my sorority for the past two years.

Q: Wow that's impressive.  You ARE a busy lady.  What drew you to try barre? 

A: I heard about barre classes from one of my friends and she was raving about how great it is.  Barre sounded like something I would really enjoy and I wanted to learn more about it. From just the first class I felt so welcomed and loved by the instructors. You can really feel the passion that the instructors have for barre, which makes you push yourself harder. I fell in love with the high energy aspect of athenafit and could feel the changes happening to my body even after just a few classes. And in every class, I am able to escape and just have "me" time.  

Q: Speaking of your first classes, when did you start barre with athenafit? 

A: I began training in barre during the summer of 2015. I did not have a lot of experience in barre, but I learned a ton through training and attending classes. I had done pilates, yoga, and other exercise classes in the past, but loved what barre had to offer. I went live as an instructor in August.

Q: A quick transition! How does athenafit stand out from different studios/gyms you have visited? 

A: athenafit is different from any other type of gym or workout class I have ever tried. I do not feel lost or forgotten in a sea of people, as in many other exercise classes I have taken, and I love the personal extra instructions, which I do not receive at the gym. I always leave athenafit feeling like I was pushed to reach my personal best.

Q: What is your favorite athenafit exercise to push through? 

A: My favorite athenafit exercises are the thigh thinners! This often proves to be the hardest part of the whole exercise for me personally, but it is also the part that motivates me to become stronger and push myself more. Regardless of how strong I get with every class, I can always find that shaky point!!

Q: How do you feel after an athenafit barre class?

A: I feel great when I leave class!! The high energy of the workout gives me endorphins and leaves me wanting more. I always feel stronger and better about myself when I walk out the door. athenafit has a positive energy that makes each person in the room feel special and beautiful in their own way.

Q: Last and kind of a fun question...what is a guilty pleasure of yours?

A: My guilty pleasure is definitely watching the Bachelor and I get wayyy too into it. During the summer, all of my close friends from home have watch parties together every Monday. And then of course anything involving chocolate...I have a hard time saying no to that!

"Take the time out of your day to do something for YOU!! 50 minutes will make a world of difference and always remember to be barre beautiful!!"

Sweet Southern Bell: Instructor Spotlight

athenaLIFEMcKayla DenningComment
sweet southern bell.jpg

athenafit intern McKayla sat down with fellow Starkville instructor Bell Hester and asked her a few queations about her athenafit experience… 

Q: So, originally from Starkville, you chose to stay local and attend Mississippi State?


Q: Would you consider yourself a southern belle?

A: I would like to think so.  I love being able to call Mississippi my home. 

Q: You have to be if your name is Bell! Where did you inherit your name?

A: I was named after my grandfather. His name is Bobby Ray Bell. He has all daughters so his name was not going to be passed down.He was such an amazing man that my parents wanted to keep his name alive and decided to name me after him, Bobby Bell Hester.

Q: Very sweet. You also work quite a bit throughout the Starkville area correct?

A: Yes, I actually have 3 different jobs in the area. Two to three days a week I work as a babysitter for two precious angels. Everyday of the week I work as a physical therapy tech at Drayer Physical Therapy and I absolutely love it. And of course my third job is working here as an instructor for athenafit. 

Q: How do balance those with athenafit?!

A: I use my planner a lot to plan around the different schedules. I have found that I love instructing so much and I look forward to teaching classes and all the fun that comes along with it.

Q: And with those you are also a full time student? What are you currently studying?

A: Yes! Kinesiology, I hope to either be a physical or occupational therapist. 

Q: Oh wow that’s awesome! Why have you leaned towards that career path?

A: Well, I used to dance and do gymnastics as a lot!!! However, I didn't stick with it and I got hooked on tennis! I played tennis all through high school and I still play intramural at MSU. Prompted from my time involved in athletics, I’ve always been curious as to how the body functions. So I guess it was that curiosity and my love to help people that drew me to possibly of working in either of those fields. 

Q: With such a diverse athletic history what drew you to try athenafit?

A: Sweet Mayberry (Mabry) She brought me to try a class in Ridgeland and I LOVED IT. I was so sore for days and I felt like I had really gotten an awesome workout. Then when athenafit came to Starkville my mom surprised me with a month unlimited package and I became hooked. 

Q: How has athenafit stood out to you compared to other local studios/gyms you have visited?

A: Two words: LOW INTIMIDATION. I have no clue what to do when I go to a regular gym. I get on a treadmill and act like I know what I'm doing (and I hate treadmills). I love its low impact on your joints, the expert guidance from an instructor, and awesome music. I swear Wendy, our owner, needs to be a music producer.

Q: How do you feel when you leave an athenafit barre class?

A: Like a new woman. I love that after a class, I feel like I've accomplished a good workout but I'm not completely exhausted and not stinky. I can fix my hair and wear makeup and it’s still intact for when I go to class or work! 


Let's Dance: Client Spotlight on Jonette

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Dedicated Starkville barre-ina finished our winter challenge with impressive speed. Check our her client spotlight to take a look inside her athenafit journey. 

Q: So Jonette, when was your first athenafit class?

A: Over the summer. Maybe June-ish!

Q: What motivated you to come to athenafit initially?

A: A friend/coworker raved about the classes and invited me to come try it. I've also been a dancer since I was 3 and have taught dance for the last 15 years. When I lived in Atlanta, I would take dance, fitness classes, and yoga as often as I could. Since moving back to Starkville, I've had issues finding things that keep my interest, are affordable, and are worth it. Before athenafit, I was on my own. Needless to say, I'm beyond thankful my friend invited me. 

Q: What keeps you coming back?  How do you motivate yourself to get moving or to carve out time for athenafit? 

A: I just turned 30 and was in okay shape some might say, but for my standards, I was in the worst shape of my life.  I'm pretty hard on myself, and I was starting to get embarrassed; I even stopped wearing certain clothes - which I've never had to worry about before. I've come to class consistently enough now that I crave my barre workout. I feel ten times better than before, I have more energy, I'm more confident, and I can see the difference. Working out at home is great, but I do best when someone is instructing me. And I feed off the energy of others in class. 

Q: How often do you attend a week on average?  

A: At best, I come 5-6 times a week, but sometimes because of my varying schedule, I'm limited to 3-4.

Q: How does athenafit barre differ from other workouts you have tried? 

A: athenafit barre is the whole package. You don't just do legs and back one day and then arms and core the next, you work A-Z. Barre choreography changes class to class and teacher to teacher, so there's no threat of plateauing. Every teacher I've had is encouraging, thorough, and most importantly, real. They'll admit afterwards if a new routine was difficult and they'll talk with you about life before/after class, meanwhile remaining super professional. I'm constantly impressed. 

Q: What is your favorite barre exercise? 

A: I love stretching. I've taught dance for quite a long time and stretching is key.  So, any of the stretches are my favorites. Also, I focus a lot on my arms, where I see solid changes.  I'm all about working my arms throughout class. 

Q: Tell us something personal about yourself that you don't mind sharing.

A: Professional dance and choreography are major passions of mine. I still, even though I'm 30, see these in my future. Since coming regularly to athenafit, I feel more confident that my goals are still attainable. Coming to athenafit regularly inspires me in every other aspect of my life. 

Q: I love to hear that!! What are your goals for 2017?  

A: There are some auditions that I'm considering. I want to continue to lose some weight and to tone. I want to define my mid-section, legs & arms even more, and I want to feel comfortable and proud in a bikini this summer. 

Q: What would you like to share with other folks about exercise and athenafit?

A: Getting back into the swing of things, eating right, exercising, and making it all happen in general is so so so hard at first. No matter how hopeless you feel or how far gone you think you are, you can and will see change once you continue to stick to it.

Baby Barre Love: Staff Spotlight on Instructor Kaylee

athenaLIFEMcKayla DenningComment

This Valentine's Day we want to focus on a very special kind of love, the love of a mother.  Intern McKayla sat down with instructor Kaylee and asked her a few questions...

Q: Wow! You are a mother of two young boys and a third baby on the way?  How do you balance all of that with being a barre instructor at athenafit in Starkville?

A: Yes, we are very excited about baby #3!  Being a mom is the greatest gift and responsibility. They are my number one priority and I always want them to know that. It is easy to balance for me because I teach the T/TH 6am when they are still sleeping and then either a late afternoon class or a weekend class when my husband is home from work. Colton, my husband, is super supportive of me taking time for myself and investing in other people in a variety of ways, so he is the main reason I have been able to balance all of my cherished responsibilities.

Q: Wow! Congratulations on expecting another baby! What is it like to do barre as an expecting mother?

A: Barre really is the perfect exercise for pregnant women. There are so many modifications, adjustments and ways to make it "your own" and take it at each individual's own pace. It is low impact, and that is really important when you're pregnant. Everything seems like it is growing and expanding within the body, and it becomes easier to injure oneself, so having an exercise that is able to be modified and grow with you is really important. Luckily for me athenafit has so many modifications for pregnant women to protect them and their baby!

Q: Where did your athenafit journey begin and what drew you to initially try barre?

A: I attended one of the first ever Starkville classes in July 2015. It was actually your first time, McKayla, to teach! As a young girl, I found a passion for tennis. I missed being out on that court and was looking for an outlet. I needed to find a way to exercise and care for my body that was fun, motivating and could be done around my kids' schedule. athenafit was all of those things.

Q: How does athenafit differ from other studios/gyms you have visited?

A: What I love most about athenafit, and what I hope my clients feel when they walk into my classes, is that this is a place for everyone.  If you were a competitive dancer, softball player or never played a sport in your life, you have a spot here. I deeply desire people to feel welcome and loved and not intimidated, like many people feel in a workout environment.  I hope the 50 minutes in my class can be a break/relief/positive time of a client’s day.

Q: What is your favorite athenafit exercise?

A: I love doing the seat on the mat exercises, specifically when using the round tube over your knees.  I also like the S-sit against the wall.  You can feel the work right away and it is easy to recognize and teach.

Q: How have you made adjustments to exercises such as the S-sit to ensure a healthy pregnancy?

A: Since I am just now finishing up my first trimester, I haven't had to make too many adjustments yet.  One thing that is common in early pregnancy is shortness of breath and I have definitely experienced that this pregnancy.  Your blood volume is doubling and getting ready for baby.  I have tried to take it easy when I get out of breath by taking a short pause during cardio thighs or doing a few less reps during abs. Later on during pregnancy, it is important to not put pressure on your stomach and I will do the athena fly on my knees instead of laying flat.  Additionally, I will add extra hand support on the mat during ab work and maybe drop to my knees during the plank to support the back and tummy. 

Q: Very good points. How do you feel after the 50 minute athenafit workout?

A: I feel proud of myself for taking those 50 minutes to care for my body.  I am continually reminded that I was given this one body to care for. I want to be present and healthy for my kiddos.  I want to be able to scoop them up easily without my back hurting, or to carry them through the store when they are tired of walking.  

Q: What would be one piece of advice you would give to expecting women who are interested in trying barre?

A: Just try it!  I will be totally honest...during my last pregnancy (about three years ago), I was SO lazy.  I ate too many desserts and laid around a little too much.  I did not realize how weak I was until after Collins was born.  I had super bad lower back pain because my abs were non existent.  My core had grown so weak and my body was worn down from carrying and birthing a big baby.  I found it frustrating to lose the baby weight and to exercise because I just felt so behind.  I do not want to make those mistakes this pregnancy.  Strengthening my core and pelvic floor muscles now will aid in my delivery and postpartum experience. Also, give yourself lots of grace!  Somedays I have been nauseous and barely made it through class and other days I have felt so strong and been able to push myself.  Each trimester and day of pregnancy can be totally different. Take it at your pace and determine what works for your body and baby!

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

A: Well in this season of life, being asleep before 10pm is the greatest gift ever.  My husband and I enjoy going through different seasons of shows and watching them in bed before we go to sleep.  Right now we're working our way through Parenthood (emotional!). So I guess you could say my guilty pleasure is watching that with my husband with a decaf coffee and being asleep by 10. 

“athenafit has made me so much stronger.  My endurance has improved greatly, and with two toddlers clinging onto me all day and another baby on the way, I need some endurance!”