What The Tuck?

While perusing the social media world last week I saw someone answer the question “What is barre?” like this… “Barre is combination of yoga and pilates with a ballet barre that you use for balance…”. Ummmm, what?

Because barre fitness is still a relatively new phenomenon in the Southeast, we often hear the above-mentioned question “what is barre”? While many see it as a combination of workouts – pilates, yoga, dance – in a classical barre studio, this is not the case. Barre is its own workout, its own moves, its own identity.

So what is it? Barre is a full body workout that incorporate ELEMENTS of dance, pilates, and yoga with isometric movements to carve and shape key muscle groups in the arms, legs, abs, and glutes. It is not a fusion workout. At least not at our studio. Classical barre is based off of its own method – the Lotte Berk Method – which was created by a woman named Lydia Bach. It has been around for MANY years and is just now gaining popularity nationwide. The techniques differ from studio to studio and brand to brand, but a true barre workout (the classical style) is based from Lotte Berk and not a fusion or combination of anything. No warriors or balancing trees here, only tucking, lifting, pulsing, and holding.

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Another key component to a classical studio is the hip tuck. I said ‘tuck’, not ‘thrust’. Tucking of the hips is a classic dance posture that aligns the spine and engages the core. While some might say that the hip tuck is unsafe and outdated, we are confident from our research with local chiropractors, physicians, and physical therapists, that the hip tuck is safe and effective. Think of pressing your tail bone towards the floor. It keeps your body stacked in a position that is safer for the lower back and allows more muscle groups to be engaged during the workout, thus burning more calories and providing an overall strength benefit. 

What’s more comfortable to you? Standing like this..

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Or like this…

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While no studio is really right or wrong, it is up to you to find the workout that is right for your body and strength level and delivers the results you want and need. If a fusion studio that calls itself a ‘combination of yoga and pilates’ is your thing, then go for it; but if you want barre, then make sure you find  a classical studio that uses only elements of other methods, rather than fusing different workouts together. Barre fitness can provide amazing results if done consistently and correctly. At NEIGHBORHOOD barre we make it our goal to ensure that our clients get the best experience possible, with proper coaching to ensure safety and effectiveness during class. If you ever have any questions about a move or a posture, then ask! As we all know, barre can often get harder before it gets easier because we learn the technique over time. Stick to it and keep tucking! Don’t forget, your first class at NEIGHBORHOOD barre is FREE! Come see the difference.

How I Lost One Inch In One Week

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My basic formula for a quick change goes a little something like this….

Water + Sleep – Gluten = Change

Now, I am not saying this formula is going to work for everyone, or that you will all of the sudden shed inches from your waist like some miracle concoction; but I am saying that for me, making these dietary and lifestyle changes produces faster and more noticeable results than exercise and ‘eating right’ do on their own.

Miss Parks says it best with her “water, water, water” chant after every class. She’s right. Increasing your water intake does so much for your body from reducing soreness after a workout, to giving you more energy, and even reducing belly bloat – resulting in a flatter stomach. I bet you thought the belly bloat was going to relate to the less gluten portion of the equation didn’t you? Not so for me. Drinking more water aids digestion and actually causes you to retain less (water retention can have a visible effect on your midsection). I’ve upped my water intake to at least a 1/2 gallon (a.k.a. 4 Bkr’s) with my goal being to consume twice that on a daily basis.

New chant for you, “sleep, sleep, sleep.” Think about it. What do you do when you’re sleepy and trying to stay awake? Eat, maybe? I do, and I don’t always make the best choices, because I crave either sugar or ‘comfort food.’ Being well rested helps your body crave the types of food you need, not the types of food that are quick and easy. Like Chick-fil-a. And pizza. And Coke Zero. Anyway….

That being said, I am not an advocate for completely cutting something out of your diet unless there is a necessary purpose, like allergies or intolerance. However, I have found that significantly reducing the amount of gluten I eat directly results in less ‘fluff’ around my midsection. Why is this? It makes me think about everything I eat. For some, the consumption of processed wheat, rye, or barley can cause bloat due to a food allergy or intolerance to gluten. However, for the majority of the public, who do not have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten (me), it simply means you are consuming fewer empty calories, and rather, replacing snacks and side dishes with well thought out choices like fruits and vegetables. Things to remember? Less gluten does not mean less calories. In fact, often times foods that are labeled ‘gluten free’ are higher in calories than those that are not. Be mindful of snacks containing more sugar and fat as a result of less gluten.

Snack of choice these days? Larabar Roasted Nut Roll (which has less sugar than some other gluten free snacks) and one whole Bkr.

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Final tip… Don’t concentrate on the numbers on the scale. They can be deceiving. I weigh the same now as I did a week ago, but I look better in a bikini 🙂

Modify. It Doesn’t Hurt To Take A Lower Option In Barre Class.

Hot shaky muscles are a staple in our Neighborhood Barre classes, but actual pain can be another issue going beyond the barre burn to another level. While we do offer modifications throughout the workout, some pain issues require you to rework a position entirely in order to avoid discomfort in class. Common issues relate to knees, lower back strain, and strain to the neck and shoulders. While most of these issues will dissipate over time – as you build strength in class – it is important to use modifications to avoid unnecessary strain on your body. Here we will outline and demonstrate our most common modification needs.

Plank – During plank you want to think about pulling your belly button to your spine, allowing your core to do the work, and keeping a straight line down your body. We often see swayed backs and distended necks like this:  DSC00129

If you feel the sway, use this modification – drop to your knees and then pull your belly button back to your spine to shift the work into your core. If holding this position is still too much, then take little breaks by pressing back into Child’s Pose.

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DiamondThe most common complaint here is knee or hip pain. Often this type of pain can be caused by your knee to hip alignment, not anything you are actually doing in the pose. Here we demonstrate a typical diamond pose: DSC00146

To readjust, move your feet into a more narrow V taking pressure off the knees and putting more work in your thighs. You can also eliminate the ‘knee press’ portion of the exercise, choosing to hold a still position instead.

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Chair – Lower back strain can be an issue in chair. Core strength and proper alignment play a big role here. Make sure that your shoulders are stacked over your hips, your hips are tucked under, and that your knees are stacked over your ankles. We often see swayed backs, hunched shoulders, or improper alignment as demonstrated below:

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If you feel the back strain, walk your feet under the barre and use the baseboard for support. Pull your upper body closer and think about pressing your feet into the floor. This will properly align the body and put the work back into your thighs.

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Ab Work – Neck and shoulder strain and lower back pain can often be associated with Pilates-style ab work. Luckily there are MANY modifications for abs, but here are a few basics that work in most positions to alleviate strain.

There is always an option to use 2 balls. This works great for a pre/post natal modification, or for anyone who has a sensitive lower back, by allowing support to the spine throughout the portion of abs where we work high.

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The twist – our favorite modification on our twisting oblique work is to keep the ‘floating leg’ bent, thereby pressing the foot into the floor. You will feel your lower back press into the mat. This will shift the work back to your core and allow you to relax your neck and shoulders, as this is often where we feel the strain in this exercise.

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The pump is another exercise that can cause the shoulder and neck pain that we so often feel during Pilates.  Rather than setting your head down, try lowering your feet from table-top to the ground. Like the previous example, this will allow you to reengage your core rather than straining through your neck.

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Keep in mind that a lot of the pain – especially lower back, neck, and shoulder strain – will subside as you get stronger, as we often compensate for lack of core strength with other muscle groups. ALWAYS take the lower options if you feel pain. It is better to have proper form while performing a more simple exercise, than to strain your body towards an advanced position. By listening to our bodies, we will know when the time is right to take it to the next level. Start slow. It is always OK to perform part of a set in an advanced position and then move to your modification. The more you push yourself, the longer you will be able to hold the advanced poses, using the modifications less and less!

Resolution Schmesolution… Make It Your LIFE.

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The average New Year’s Resolution lasts for 17 days, with the number one resolution being to lose weight (statisticbrain.com). Unfortunately many of the pounds that are lost (if any) are very soon put back on due to lack of commitment, workout and diet burnout, or giving up because you’re not seeing the results fast enough.

There’s a saying that we try to live by here at Neighborhood Barre: “make what you love into what you do.” This saying can apply in a lot different capacities, but let’s try this. What do YOU love? …I love feeling good. I love feeling healthy, being comfortable in my skin, and not sweating the small stuff. How do I live it? I watch what I eat and I exercise almost daily. It’s what I do, so I can live the way I love to live.  Neighborhood Barre gets me there. I get a full-body workout in 55 minutes, it clears my mind of small-life stresses, it give me the ability to feel comfortable in my skin, and I leave feeling strong and healthy.  This year don’t make a resolution. Make a new life. Turn what you love into what you do.

See below for inspiring stories of real clients who have made Neighborhood Barre a part of their life. Living and chasing the shake for over a year! No resolutions here, only happy, healthful lifestyles.

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As someone who has tried every workout in the book, I can honestly say that I have never felt stronger since I began taking Neighborhood Barre classes. It has been a year now, and I am STILL seeing changes in my body!

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Since becoming pregnant, barre has been helping me maintain steady weight gain. I’ve had a big increase in my appetite and I don’t make the “right” choices every time I need a snack. Even though I’ve had to modify some of the work outs, Neighborhood Barre is still kicking my butt and definitely keeping me fit!

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The first time I noticed a change in my body was when my mom and I were moving a mattress up a hill. My mom lifts weights and always brags about how strong she is (and she really is pretty strong) but this time, I was the stronger one and I kept on going when my mom needed to take a break. After that, I noticed that my normal jog around Lakeshore didn’t take as long!! I was feeling better during my runs and so I was running much quicker! My muscles and core are much stronger!!! All this strength and NO BULK!!!

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I had sustained a low back injury from work and had been going to physical therapy for several months prior to coming to Neighborhood Barre. I also had my third flare up of plantar fasciitis that steroid injections and sleeping a rigid boot had not cured. My foot is 100% and my back is 90% better from the overall strengthening of my core. Both things I am thrilled about, but I have to admit my biggest testimonial is that in the past year I have gone down almost two full sizes in my jeans.

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My exercise goals are focused on getting in shape and toning my body; Nb has done that and more for me. It truly is an entire body work-out, and I can tell a difference in the way my clothing fits now. I can see new toned definition in my arms, abs/waist and legs that I didn’t have before. I overall feel much stronger and healthier, and going to the morning classes make me feel more energized to take on the rest of the day!

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After more than a decade of my childhood spent at the gymnastics studio, my body quickly gains muscle mass in the form of bulk. Nb is the first workout that allowed my body to regain its strength and flexibility without the bulk. After only a few weeks, my arms and legs were visibly leaner. I recently took a brief hiatus due to second-pregnancy exhaustion. It only took two classes before the tone returned. The workouts also greatly increase my energy level.

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I have truly enjoyed being a client of Nb over the last year. Not only have I experienced changes to my body, I have had a blast doing it! From my arms to my seat and calves it is like a total body transformation. I really like all of the instructors who push me to feel the burn and shake each and every time I take class. It definitely never gets any easier!

I love how every class is just as challenging as the first. I love how after every class my muscles are fatigued (sometimes still shaking) and I'm relaxed, but energized all at the same time - it's the perfect combo! And of course, RESULTS! I am amazed by the changes I have achieved over the past year. My muscles are longer, leaner, and stronger than ever before. I am a much stronger runner because of the strength I have built at Nb. I love it!

I love how every class is just as challenging as the first. I love how after every class my muscles are fatigued (sometimes still shaking) and I’m relaxed, but energized all at the same time – it’s the perfect combo! And of course, RESULTS! I am amazed by the changes I have achieved over the past year. My muscles are longer, leaner, and stronger than ever before. I am a much stronger runner because of the strength I have built at Nb. I love it!

 

5 Ways To Wear Your Leggings

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If you are barre or yoga obsessed, chances are you find yourself  spending all of your money on crazy expensive leggings only to realize later that you do not actually own any ‘real’ pants. Well, we’re here to help you turn those Wunder Unders and Beyond Yoga Leggings into street chic apparel. Here are 5 ways to wear your leggings in public without being embarrassed (a shirt long enough to cover your rear helps too).

1. Flats.

How about we jazz it up with a print?

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Or more specifically a smoking slipper with print…

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Leopard pairs great with color – especially those jewel tones that we are loving this season. Throw on a chambray shirt over your tank or your favorite slouchy sweater, and voila! You are casually chic and ready to hit the town.

2 & 3. Boots and booties. We might as well combine these into one even though they can give you two totally different looks.

Tall boots, short boots, low boots – they all look great with a legging. Add interest with a leg warmer or tall sock. Think layers for your legs.

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Toms makes a great affordable lace-up bootie. Also check Urban Outfitters.

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You don’t have to have a sock to be cute. Laces and buckles add enough to this look making layers unnecessary.

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Yessssssssss. We love a tall boot with a tall boot sock and leggings. This look can take you many places.

Great boots usually come at a steep price. You can keep it middle of the road with Frye. They make boots of all shapes and heights and with a varying price range. Most are a more casual look, which pair well with leggings.

4. Moccasins.

I’m a sucker for a good moccasin. Just don’t get too crazy. Keep the fringe to a minimum and buy a boot that is suitable for your height. This short boot looks great on most people. It still has the fringe and some detail without taking all of the attention.

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Where to find these and other great moccs? MINNETONKA. The mother of all things moccasin.

5. Platforms.

My personal favorite. Platforms can take your legging look from day to night especially if you keep it simple with black. Pair with a tunic or long sweater and you are ready, set, go.

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Above is a very affordable Steve Madden platform. The black on black keeps it simple and chic.

Homemade Granola & Greek Yogurt by Gussie Gayle

We’ve all heard about the Greek Yogurt craze by now, but what you don’t always hear about is how sugar-filled a lot of store brands can be (not to mention the preservatives). Here, our resident ‘house mom,’ Gussie Gayle, lets us in on one of her most popular recipes – greek yogurt and homemade granola. YUM-O! Perfect for any breakfast or mid-day snack! Here’s a sneak peek of the finished product:

Breakfast anyone?

Oh, and this recipe makes a LOT of granola, so if you’re not baking for a big family or group, cut it in half.

GRANOLA

Step 1: Gather all of your ingredients!

Old-Fashioned Oats, Wheat Germ, Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Coconut, Buttermilk Powder, Chopped Nuts (optional), Dried Fruit (optional), Honey, Sunflower Oil

Step 2: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil and flour a cookie sheet with sides.

Step 3:

Dry Mix:  (In a large bowl)
5 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds (I prefer pumpkin seeds)
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup dry buttermilk powder
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped nuts (optional, but I don’t always)

1 cup dried fruit (optional, but I don’t – I like to add fresh when I serve it)

Wet Mix:  (In a medium sized bowl)
1 cup safflower or sunflower oil
1 1/2 cup local honey

Whisk the oil and honey until they are well mixed and almost fluffy.  Then, pour the wet mix into the dry mix and combine thoroughly.

Once everything is happily groove-a-licious, spread the entire mixture evenly onto the cookie sheet.  It’s a big pile if you do the whole recipe.

Step 4: Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  I usually stir about mid way.  Watch it carefully, because it will overcook quicker than you realize.  It needs to be golden brown, and “dry” enough (after it cools and you crumble it) that it will stay loose in storage.  Store in an air-tight container.

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Step 1: Gather ingredients!

1 Quart Milk (I use skim, but use what you want)
1/2 cup Powdered Milk

1 container (1/2 cup) plain yogurt with an active culture (like Chobani Greek Yogurt)

Step 2:

Pour milk into small saucepan and whisk in powdered milk. Place over medium heat and bring to 120 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. Once milk has reached 120 degrees F, stir in yogurt, blend well, and then pour into two pint jars (or one quart jar).

Step 3:

Turn the light on in your oven and place the jars close to the bulb.  I usually make the yogurt either in the morning and remove it from the oven before bedtime, or at night and leave it overnight until set.

Voila! The yogurt will be “looser” than store-bought yogurt, because it doesn’t contain all of the additives. Resist the urge to stir it, because that will loosen it even more. SO GOOD with granola and fresh fruit!

Self Expectations – Learning To Let Go & Embrace The Shake!

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Many of us expect too much of ourselves in general; and when it comes to physical activity, disappointment is very common. At Neighborhood Barre we pride ourselves on being a judgment-free environment. In fact, our mission states that our goal “…is to offer all clients, whether beginner or advanced, a quick and effective way to transform their bodies. The studio will evoke a sense of comfort and encouragement in our clients’ quest for improvement, free of judgment and comparison.”  However, sometimes outside judgment is not the problem, rather it is the judgment from within that holds us back.

Classical barre is an extremely challenging workout that can often feel even more intense by week 2 or 3 than it did in week 1. This is because our bodies start to adjust and become familiar with the positions, and over time we work deeper in the pose and movements become smaller, transforming from swings to contractions.  This scenario is NORMAL and only proves that you are growing in the technique.  On the other hand, some of us feel intimated from the start. Take it from me, don’t let this stop you.

I know all too well how daunting a new type of class can be. I recently tried hot yoga for the first time. Oh.Em.Gee. You would have thought I was hydrating for a hike through the Sahara with the amount of water I consumed that day. I had thoroughly convinced myself that I was either going to throw up, pass out, or both at some point during that 60 minutes of 105 degree heat. I worked myself up to the point of being so nervous that if my friends hadn’t expected me to be there, I probably wouldn’t have gone. Mind you, this is coming from someone who is, in fact, a certified yoga instructor… yeah. Bottom line, I loved the class. No one fainted. No one threw up. And I felt silly for being so nervous on the front end. Sometimes we need to just embrace a new experience and a new type of workout, and not expect ourselves to be the best. Embrace the struggle, the nervousness, and the new challenge before you, rather than loathing the thought of being the worst or not being able to make it through the class.

So what have we learned? DON’T BE AFRAID to try something new. The fear of the unknown can prevent us from finding things in life that we truly love, even if it’s just a new way to work out. DON’T GET DISCOURAGED! Remember that the barre SHAKE is a good thing – something we never want to lose. In fact, when you stop shaking, you need to start working lower and deeper. DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM YOURSELF! Go into a new situation with no expectations at all. If you need to stop, then stop. If you need water, then go get some water. If you need to sit down and rest, then sit down. No one is judging you, but you. So drop the self-judgment and the high expectations, and concentrate on what’s important – your health!

I Put My Hand Upon Your Hip, When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

Recipes by our in-house ‘Mother Earth,’ Hope Parks.

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What do 11am and 3pm have in common (aside from not being in barre class, obvi)? MUNCHIES!  They hit hard, especially late in the afternoon!  Snacks are easily a downfall in the healthiest diet – either to find healthful ones we actually like, or to not eat them entirely.  Skipping them, causes the metabolism to crash, aka, turning the fat burning furnace off = not cool!  Veggies are an obvious healthful option, but dips and dressings are often loaded with nasty fats and preservatives.  Here are two yummy, protein packed options to try.  Best part?  They are easy to tweak til your taste buds smile.

Hummus

2 cups chickpeas* (Soak them overnight.  Pour off the soaking water and add 6 cups fresh water.  Boil til tender, apx. 1 – 1 1/2 hrs uncovered.  Add more water if needed.)

1/3 cup tahini paste

1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic

Juice of 2 small lemons

Salt to taste

Finish with olive oil, lemon & fresh parsley.

Spicy Chipotle Hummus (thanks to Jill at Lululemon Athletica Knoxville) Cut the lemon juice to 1 lemon and add 2-3 chipotle peppers and 1-2Tbs of the adobo sauce in which they are packed.

*You can use canned chickpeas if you’re in a crunch, but soaking dry ones makes it taste so much better. It sounds fussy, but put them on to soak either at night or in the morning, then put them on to boil while your cooking dinner.  You can drain them and store in the fridge until you are ready to make the hummus.  They also freeze well if you make a big batch.

 Not So Hidden Valley Ranch Dip

1 container greek yogurt

1 Tbsp sour cream

2 Tbsp each your favorite fresh herbs. I used dill, parsley and chives this time.

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp agave

2 Tbsp finely crumbled feta

Taste as you go and add garlic, agave nectar, salt, pepper etc, to your preference.

What to do with your leftover herbs?  Toss with olive oil and red potatoes to roast, try a new salad dressing recipe? Let us know!

Tuck And Roll – Our Favorite Barre Beats

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We get lots of questions and comments about our playlists here at Neighborhood Barre. Where do we get the music? How do we pick the songs? Who sings… (fill in the blank)?

Truth be told, it takes a lot of thought to put together the ‘perfect’ barre mix; and lucky for us, we know the right people. Our wonderfully creative client, Jon Stevens, supplies us with mixes at least once a month. This gives us an extensive library of music that is not necessarily ‘popular’, which is good for you, because then you won’t hear “..and tuck, tuck, tuck..” in your head every time you turn on the radio. We time all of the playlists the same as far as the songs picked for the warm-up, thigh set, seat set, etc.; and we try to keep the music up-beat and motivating, while also popping in those tunes that make you want to tap your foot and sing along. What are our favorite barre beats from now and past playlists?

1. Must Land Running – Stepdad

2. Never Gonna Leave Me – SIa

3. Push It – Salt-N-Peppa

4. Got What You Wanted – Hanson

5. Tricky – Run D.M.C.

6. Something Like This – Scissor Sisters

7. Humdrum Town – Theophilus London

8. Life On TV – Kid Sister

9. Promises – Nero

10. Electric Feel – MGMT

Something Grippie, Something Food, Something Neon, & Some Tunes… What’s In My Gym Bag?

Katy Branstetter
Owner, Neighborhood Barre

We are frequently asked about gym bag essentials here at Neighborhood Barre, so we’ve decided to open our bags and share with you our ‘must haves’ for a barre girl on the go.  Here is a break down of my favorite things, including my top 5 MUST HAVE products. What do we all need? HYDRATION! You hear Hope say it after every class, “water, water, water!” and boy is she right! Water is an essential for every workout and I keep plenty of it on hand in my bag, in my car, and in my purse. I also make sure to pack little snacks to keep up my energy level. I usually pack fruit – bananas, strawberries, or grapes – but I always keep a reserve of cliff bars in my bag! Right now I’m really into the Kids Z Bars and the Mojo Peanut Butter Pretzel (yum!). My grippie socks are also always readily available… I keep at least a pair or two in my bag at all times. Even if I don’t wear them every day, I like to have the option in case I feel a little slippery. If you read my last post you know I like to fix hair – braids, buns, twists, what have you – and I’m usually prepared. I keep a stash of pony tail holders (satin around the wrist, tiny neon in my bag), headbands, and bobbie pins. Also, I live and die by MY WATCH.  Not only was it a gift from a good friend when I first opened the studio, it’s fabulously neon, and I use in EVERY CLASS. For demo classes and privates, I keep a portable speaker in my bag. I love the little Philips fold up speaker! It’s small enough not to crowd my bag, but loud enough to use almost anywhere! Lastly, I’m trying to convince myself to do more cardio in my free time (what’s that??). I find that keeping my shorts and shoes with me alleviates any excuses that might arise when the opportunity does come. And drum roll please for my TOP 5!!!

1.  Rainwater Farm CLEAN MIST Spray – It is so refreshing after a hot and sweaty workout! Just give a little shake and a little spritz and you are set to go from the studio to the street, smelling great and feeling refreshed! Our barre-ers must agree, because we have a hard time keeping it on the shelves!

2.  Aveda Hairspray –  Love this stuff. It goes with me everywhere. Keep your fly-aways at bay and give a little scrunch and lift to post-workout hair. Not much needs to be said, except that it is THE BEST thing I’ve ever put on my hair.

3.  Christian Dior Blackout Mascara – I’m a mascara junkie… I love it almost as much as hairspray. The Blackout is by far my favorite, and it has been for years.

4.  MAC Paint Pot – I don’t wear a lot of makeup unless I’m going out, but the paint pot is great for eyelids and cheek bones on days when your complexion looks a little flat. I have it in Rubenesque, which is a bronze shimmer.

5.  Bare Minerals Brush On Sunscreen – This is a great product if you spend any time exercising outdoors. It’s a brush-on SPF 30 powder with light makeup coverage. I like the powder because it doesn’t tend to run down your face when you sweat like some cream sunscreens. A good on-the-go product!