(All photos ©Tiffany Kristen Photography)
(I met up recently with Marie Boivin, a long-time Stittsville resident who recently opened Barres and Wheels, a fitness studio on Stittsville Main Street, in the strip mall next to Brown’s and Tim Hortons. The business brings together her love of ballet, a strong business background, and her personal focus on fitness and nutrition as a way to overcome life’ challenges. -GG.)
GLEN GOWER: When I walked in, I was amazed at how bright and open this space was. How would you describe the space to someone who hasn’t been here before?
MARIE BOIVIN: First of all you don’t feel like you’re in a strip mall in Stittsville. It’s an impression of open space, lots of natural light, the barn wood, the cork floors, the wooden table. So all the elements are brought back together and I have a feeling of grounding. I believe it’s a grounding space and this is what I tried to emulate.
GG: I know there was a fitness studio here before also doing barre fitness. What’s changed from the previous business that was here?
MB: From a structural point of view, not much has changed. I re-configured the space, I separated the large studio space into a spinning studio. I kept the beautiful skylight and the rest of the space as a barre studio. I built an office. All the furniture is brand new. We painted and added some art on the wall, and we put our touch into the space.
GG: Describe some of the different things that you offer here.
MB: My passion has always been in dance and ballet, so as a little girl this was my dream to become a ballerina. Obviously it did not materialize! But I always danced as an adult as a hobby in classical ballet. After I had my last child, my little guy who’s now five, I could never really go back to ballet. My body changed, and I turned to barre fitness which I believe is an unbelievable workout.
The concept of bar is really small isometric movements, and holding the positions for a really long time so it really fatigues the muscles, and then we stretch it out with nice, deep stretches. So you really combine ballet, yoga and pilates. All of that combined together brings an unbelievable workout. It’s very low impact — not prone to injuries — and it builds the nice long lean muscles that ballerinas have. It really improves posture… it really tones everything.
GG: And you’ve combined that with the bikes.
MB: Exactly, I believe that barre fitness is absolutely wonderful, but I thought that there was a component missing, which was the cardio. So by bringing on the cycling, which is also low-impact, the two of them combined together brings an amazing offering for overall fitness.
On the barre side, we try to incorporate yoga, which I think is very important for the mind. So we have very calming classes, like Wednesday night candle-lit yoga. Sunday morning we have the sun salutations. When I see the space and I see the skylights above the barre studio, there’s nothing like it. So you set your week right, set your intentions, and it really energizes you afterwards.
We also do combined classes, so 45 minutes of spinning, followed immediately by yin yoga. It’s a lot of nice, deep long stretches so it opens up the hips, and all the places where you are typically tight, like we hold a lot of stress into our shoulders, or for runners who typically have very tight hips, it really releases.
GG: I want to talk a bit about the business environment. We’ve seen Movati open out here in the west end, and Goodlife. A lot of people say, “how are some of the smaller businesses going to survive”? Where’s the niche for a smaller studio like this? How do you fit in and run a business with so much competition?
MB: I believe there’s a place for everything. This would be considered a boutique fitness studio, where we offer something very specific. We don’t have personal trainers or other things that larger studios would offer. With all the competition maybe we’ll have the fittest people in Ottawa in Stittsville! What we offer is unique in the sense that every exercise is low-impact. It’s for literally everybody at any fitness level. We can have a high-performing athlete on a bike, and a beginner on the next bike. Every single class can be catered and modelled and adapted to any fitness level.
GG: And do you live in Stittsville? What’s your background?
MB: I do, I’ve lived here for over 15 years. I have 20 years in corporate business, mostly in finance. I’ve transitioned in the past year over a very stressful phase of my life, and once I had resigned from my previous position, I found myself wondering what was next.
Throughout my life, and throughout some very stressful times what kept me going was fitness and nutrition. I had to focus on this, and I set myself small objectives on a daily basis, and that’s what kept me going in every other aspect of my life to help me manage stress. So that’s why I wanted to create a space that was calm, non-threatening, appeals to all the senses, and people come here and they set their own objectives and we help them carry it through.
GG: What’s your vision for where this goes in the future?
MB: We want to fill in the classes! We want to have people come in and sign up, and eventually we might grow and thing of studio number two. We want to make sure the concept is strong and developed here and we can evaluate what the next phase is going to be.
GG: Anything else you want to share with Stittsville?
MB: I love Stittsville. This is my town, this is where my kids are still growing. I have two kids in university and my little guy goes to Jean Paul II. So we love to feature local artists, we love to help out. This is a community space and I let people come in and do their workshops. So we have nutrition workshops, Kate Rickman features her art here, and we try to feature local businesses as well.
The studio runs two classes a week for new moms (it’s called Baby Barre) where they can bring their babies either in a carrier or place on a mat in front of them. These classes are free on a donation to CHEO. We suggest $10 per class and a donation receipt will be issued by CHEO at the end of the year. My son Leo had an open heart surgery at birth so we have always donated back since he was born. I wish to continue this tradition with the new business!
(Barres and Wheels is located at 1261 Stittsville Main Street. For more info visit barresandwheels.com)