Empower Lifting

barre and soulAndrea Isabelle Lucas

At their respective Cambridge fitness centers, a pair of standout trainers help women hone their physical and emotional strength.

Andrea Isabelle Lucas, Barre & Soul
barresoul.com | 36 JFK St.

A women’s studies degree opens a lot of doors. You can pursue a future in politics or study for a career as a civil rights attorney. You can write, or work for a nonprofit, or become a women’s studies professor yourself.

If you’re Andrea Isabelle Lucas, you become a trainer, using fitness as a platform to lift women up.

“My calling in life, and the thing that I want to be remembered for, is helping as many women as possible achieve their full potential,” the Barre & Soul founder says.

Lucas was pregnant with her second child and was going through a tumultuous divorce—she crossed state lines to escape an abusive relationship—when she started teaching barre classes as a way to make some money. She quickly realized it wasn’t something she wanted to do part-time.

“Every time I would go into the studio, drop off my kids and take that hour for myself, it turned into the best therapy I ever could have had for everything I was going through,” she says. With every class, Lucas felt herself temporarily escaping from the stress she was under. She began to reconnect with her body. More than that, as she watched her physical transformation, she realized just how powerful she was. The ability she had to change her body and her life—to improve both physical and mental health— eventually led her to become a full-time barre teacher.

“What you get up and say to a group of women three times a week can have a huge impact on them,” Lucas explains. “I started to think that I could create studios that would embody this culture of empowering women.”

When Lucas says “empower,” she’s not just talking about the physical strength that comes from exercise. There’s a mindfulness component that extends beyond the barre—Lucas and her instructors take a moment before each class to share a thought and ask students to check in and consider their intentions. Then, there’s the social empowerment of finding a community that welcomes you, where you belong and where positive messaging about taking ownership of your life is at the core of its ethos. The barre community was endlessly important to Lucas when she left her abuser—she says it “gave context” for who she was.

There are no mirrors in the Barre & Soul studio, one of several subtle positive touches in the space. Lucas wants her students to feel they can participate without judging their bodies or comparing themselves to one another. She also runs a blog, The Fit Feminist, where she tackles health and wellness, addresses personal challenges like juggling kids and career and writes about larger societal issues. And it isn’t only women who train at Lucas’s studio—she’s watched Bruins and Celtics players step up to the barre next to pregnant women and women in their seventies.

The Harvard Square Barre & Soul location, which opened in 2015, was Lucas’s third, but she says it took the most guts. It was the biggest and most expensive space, and it required the costliest and most time-consuming renovations. But Lucas, who was a single mom at 19, knew she was strong enough to get through it.

“I knew I wasn’t going to die if I failed; I was only going to be broke,” she laughs. “I’ve been broke before and survived that.”

She’s since opened two more locations, in Brookline and in Providence, R.I.

Jane Taylor, Raw Fitness Performance
raw-fitness.net | 201R Msgr O’Brien Hwy.

By Hannah Walters

“Boys don’t have the same cultural and emotional barriers to weight lifting,” Jane Taylor, founder of Raw Fitness Performance in East Cambridge, explains early on in our conversation.

Teenage girls may worry about “getting too big,” according to Taylor, which means they’re missing out on what she believes is one of the best activities they can do for fitness: heavy weightlifting. That’s why she started a summer camp to get Cambridge-area girls into the gym, working out and pushing boundaries.

The physical ambition and courage Taylor seeks to instill in young women is reminiscent of the bravery and drive she tapped into before opening the doors to Raw Fitness Performance. With an already long and robust training career to her name, Taylor decided to drop everything and travel the world with her wife in 2011. It was something she’d always wanted to do, and when she asked her wife to join her on a globe-trotting journey, her answer was simple: “Yes.”

Two years and thousands of miles later, Taylor and her wife found themselves back home in Cambridge. But Taylor didn’t have a job, and while she considered going back to a gym and starting over, she eventually decided to go in a different direction. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, if I have to grind it out [somewhere new], I just want to do it for me,’” she explains. She opened Raw Fitness Performance in 2013.

“I started with literally two clients in the morning and one at night, and then it just grew from there,” she recalls. Now, she’s looking to expand and hire additional coaches.

Taylor has a master’s degree in exercise science and more than 30 years of fitness coaching experience to her name, so she’s known for offering the right amount of tough love and serious fitness expertise in the gym. With classes like her early morning “Everything but the Kitchen Sink,” she uses a variety of training tools and drills to increase strength and conditioning while minimizing injury.

“I want my clients to be healthy. We don’t talk a lot about weight loss and fat loss. I want to get people focused more on performance,” she explains. “The shtick here is to train, to get better, to practice.” She doesn’t encourage fad dieting or cutting corners when it comes to exercise. Raw Fitness Performance is a place to turn to if you’re looking to transcend your usual excuses, put in an honest workout with a top notch coach and support a business owner who cares about the community.

This story originally appeared in the January/February issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 250 locations throughout the city or by subscription

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