“Don’t forget to breathe,” Kelly Backert told members of the barre class in her Bel Air studio.
Nine women on their hands and knees at Kore Barre & Yoga were squeezing a green ball the size of a honeydew melon between the calf and thigh of an upraised leg. They glanced at one another through sweat-streaked faces and as of one, inhaled audibly.
“Bang, bang, there goes your heart,” thumped over the studio sound system. “I know you want it.”
Perhaps that last sentence could be debated. Still, Lynn McKaughan, 66, of Bel Air, Kerry Paradis, 41, of Fallston and the rest had signed up voluntarily for this grueling full-body workout. What’s more, they keep coming back, five or six days a week.
‘It’s your workout, guys,” Backert, 44, said.
“This is where you get stronger. Right now, in this moment. A lot of people can’t do what you guys just did.”
Backert’s slew of certifications — for, among other things, teaching boot camp, spin, barre, personal training and health — keep about 400 Harford County residents returning to Kore Bootcamps, the fitness studio she founded in 2017 and its second location, Kore Barre & Yoga, which opened in late March.
‘I’ve been working out with Kelly for 12 years,” Paradis said. “She’s very motivating, not just for my physical health but also mentally. It’s why I have stuck with her for so long.”
In addition to the workouts, class members say they enjoy Backert’s teaching style, which mixes lessons in mindfulness with gentle encouragement to push themselves physically with a disarmingly comic and slightly off-kilter world view.
Who else but Backert would build a business that incorporates fitness classes, meditation sessions and workshops aimed at “healing the relationship between the body and food” with plans to some day open an ice cream shop?
Backert blushes and then laughs.
“I’m here to create a community where people feel really good about themselves,” she said. “Living your best life is about moving your body, and living your best life is also about eating ice cream.”
Kore Barre & Yoga and its sister business, Kore Bootcamps, came into existence after a roundabout journey that began about 25 years ago when Backert signed up her first spin class.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” said Backert, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland in 2005. “But I didn’t know what I wanted to teach.”
Taking spin classes progressed naturally to teaching them at the YMCA. From there, she branched out into other areas of physical fitness.
“When I was at the Y, people started asking me to lead classes for a group of their friends or to do personal training in their garages or outdoors,” she said. “I started doing that in 2007, and that business took off so fast that I quit the Y and started doing it full-time.”
Club members say that Backert is an intuitive teacher who incorporates life lessons into her workouts.
“In your life, when you are doing hard things, always come back to your breath,” Backert said.
“You can call it God, or the universe or whatever, but it is your inner strength, your inner knowing, a way of centering yourself.
“Don’t ever forget to breathe.”
Kore Bootcamps, 102 N. Main St., Bel Air and Kore Barre & Yoga, 15 E. Churchville Rd., Bel Air. 443-640-5274. korebootcamps.com or korebarreyoga.com