Sadie Lincoln

Reimagining Fitness for the Better

In recent years, the health and wellness industry has blossomed into a $4.4 trillion-dollar industry globally, and the United States leads as the largest market for consumer-focused wellness spending. For many consumers, the trending concept of “wellness” is often centered on improving one’s outer appearance.

But Sadie Lincoln, co-founder and CEO of Barre3, has been working to flip that narrative on its head. The Barre3 fitness franchise is focused on teaching people to be balanced in body and empowered from within – shifting the longstanding focus of group exercise from how you look to how you feel.

Lincoln’s inspiration for Barre3 started in college, when she taught group exercise classes at UCLA and fell in love with fitness. She went on to work at a major fitness company for the next eleven years, but she found that she was experiencing lower self-esteem and poor body image, while physically suffering from chronic pain from trying to forcefully change her body through exercise.

“How we sold fitness [at that company] is how fitness is predominantly sold, with a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture. And it sold very well, fueled by this idea of you’re not enough,” Lincoln explained.

While many fitness-focused ventures still gain membership by advertising a solution to reach an external ideal, such an approach does not foster self-love or acceptance. After experiencing that disconnect firsthand, Lincoln came to the realization that she wanted to pursue fitness with a new mindset.

In 2008, Sadie and her husband Chris Lincoln founded Barre3’s flagship location in Portland, Oregon, with a vision to redefine what success in fitness looks like: removing shame and judgement, while integrating acceptance and encouragement. Barre3’s differentiator is its emphasis on empowerment and feeling good in the body you have, rather than subscribing to messaging that anyone needs to change their body to fit societal standards of beauty.

“We’re manipulated by all of the marketing, photoshop and imagery we see every day, and it preys on our basic human need to belong,” Lincoln elaborated. “Being aware that it’s manipulative, and aware that we’re being sold products based on changing ourselves is the first step to figuring out how to be empowered within fitness.”

Rejecting those industry conventions, Barre3 classes are aimed at increasing strength, reducing stress, and improving balance, while establishing a better connection between the mind and body. With options for modification in each workout, Barre3 instructors enable people of all fitness levels to bring about sustainable and long-lasting change from the inside out. The fitness franchise welcomes individuals to come as they are and integrates opportunities for self-love and inner exploration that are not prioritized in most conventional workout classes.

As it turns out, Sadie’s vision resonates well with her audience: engaging in exercise with a more compassionate motivator helps people stick with their fitness regime, while also assisting in body acceptance and achieving better physical outcomes as a result. The Barre3 wellness-focused business model has proven to be a great success—as demonstrated by the growing total of more than 170 fitness studios across the US, plus an online membership program streaming in more than 150 countries. In addition to the refreshing inside-out approach, people flock to Barre3 classes for its proprietary full-body workout, a staple that is the core of each Barre3 group class.

In looking to the future, Lincoln envisions a world where people are taught and conditioned to love their bodies as they are. Her commitment to social impact has allowed her to continue evolving the Barre3 business – proving that fitness isn’t broken but needs to be engaged in with a new perspective.

Alongside the creation and expansion of Barre3, Lincoln is actively working to enact change within the fitness industry in hopes that more people will participate in fitness regimens to enhance who they already are, instead of working to fit themselves into an external mold for societal acceptance or validation. In that way, she’s truly reimagining fitness for the better.