All the studio’s a stage for fitness instructor Elena Flores Rector. She makes it her mission to energetically entertain as she leads students through a full range of muscle-toning moves in her barre and pilates classes.
“I tend to take it to the next level,” Rector says of her FlyBarre classes at Flywheel Old Town where she frequently finds a way to use costumes, accents and alternate characters to ramp up the fun factor.
Rector has been teaching for about three years, mostly barre and pilates classes, but her first passion was acting. She earned her undergraduate degree in musical theatre and while touring with a production of Mamma Mia!, she struggled to find a fun way to work out on the road. If a fitness class didn’t fit her schedule, she experimented by making up exercise routines on her own in her hotel room.
“All of a sudden a lightbulb went off,” Rector says of the realization that she could share her creativity through teaching. “I find such passion in entertaining, as well as driving people and inspiring them.”
Themed classes at FlyBarre shine a spotlight on Rector’s flair for the dramatic. Past class themes include everything from “Girl Groups,” where Rector spoke in a British accent while dressed as Scary Spice, to “Pulso de Mayo” on Cinco de Mayo, where she donned a taco costume. She took on Tina Turner’s persona while teaching the “Pop Divas” class and recently dressed in a bumblebee outfit and a crown to bring “Queen Bey” to life in her Beyoncé- themed barre class.
In her pilates classes at Pilates ProWorks in Lincoln Park, Studio Manager Caitlin Carlino says students often compliment Rector on her combination of fun and intensity.
“She keeps her classes positive and motivating with encouraging words and hilarious puns and jokes,” Carlino says. “She delivers some of the toughest pilates workouts around.”
Rector says the theatrical style and humor can seem silly at times, but it’s not just for show. She considers it a method to help students love their time in the studio.
“I use it as a platform to perform and enjoy it and make other people enjoy it as much as I do,” she says.
FlyBarre exercises focus on creating lean, long muscles by using tiny pulses to isolate hard-to- tone areas. Similarly, the goal during pilates at Pilates ProWorks is to work muscles just up to the point of exhaustion, says Carlino. Rector believes her animated approach does more than amuse; it motivates her students to smile through the tough workout and hold on a little longer.
“When you go past that burn, when you feel like you need to drop out, at that point when you push past that, then that’s where the work is,” she says. “That’s where you’re getting that good stuff.”