What would you do if you knew you were meant to be a ballerina? Likely take ballet classes. Well I did, and I blew it. I was seven years old, and my mom demanded that I acquire a talent. The only song I could marginally play on the recorder was Ba Ba Black Sheep, and even that raised cries of alarm. We all knew I wasn’t meant for sports; I just didn’t have the coordination. So, what else was there for a seven-year-old who was hopelessly inept? Ballet. As soon as my mom signed me up for classes, I was ready—pink tutu, tights and all. How long did I last? Until my third class. In true, child-like fashion, I quit because I couldn’t make friends fast enough.
Now 12 years later and 70 lb. heavier, I decided to pursue what I previously could have at excelled at as a child. In a less dramatic approach, I signed up for Barre Fitness: where ballet, yoga, and Pilates come together to give you one hell of a workout. There is a studio in the US, Pure Barre, that now has roughly 275 studios across the country, with openings that have steadily increased every year since 2012 (42 in 2012, 66 in 2013, and 85 in 2014). It’s safe to say that Barre workouts are sweeping the nation, with me in tow. So for anyone thinking about taking this new thrill on, here is what you need to know.
How to prepare
Firstly, what you need to do is sign up for a class. Most Barre studios have month long memberships where you can take as many classes as you want, and at your leisure. Or, if you don’t feel as committed, you can pay by the class. Know though that looking and feeling good isn’t cheap (the prices per month are approximated at around $100–$200). I decided to fully dedicate myself to this regime, so after signing up for a month long membership three days a week at the Barre Beautiful studio downtown, I went out and bought a couple of new sports bras to signify the start of my new journey. Secondly, buy some new clothes! Working out is great—especially so when you have cute clothes to workout in. So go out and buy yourself some new sports bras and yoga pants; a pair for each class of the week. (And make sure to bring a water bottle!)
What to expect
I have to admit, the closer it got to my first class, the more intimidated I became. I expected to see swan-like creatures with abs as hard as rocks flicking their long legs into the air while squatting and turning in circles. When in reality, it was one the most comfortable places in which I have ever worked out. I was given a form to fill out and instructions as to where everything was. I was given weights, a skipping rope, and a towel. The cooler was right outside the room if I was out of water and felt on the verge of burning out. The staff was friendly and informative; I was never unaware of where something was placed or how things were done. They also took into account that we were all at different levels. While some can do cardio all day long, others can stretch their limbs so far you’d wonder if they were still attached. The upbeat music played, and the instructors led us through cardio workouts, toning and stretching.
“As someone who prefers to run outdoors, hates most gyms, and has tried nearly every type of yoga, Pilates, and boot camp class, I feel like I’ve finally found a low-impact workout class I’m going to stick with. In part, it’s because of the variety of the exercises: just enough dance so it’s not all just muscle-fatiguing calisthenics and Pilates, and just enough Pilates/calisthenics to counter my lack of ballet dancer grace,” says Sue from Brooklyn, New York as a review for Xtend Barre on Yelp. Before this, my idea of working out was getting up from the couch to reach for a bag of chips, so, needless to say, during my first class, I was a mess. But the great thing is, you don’t need any experience! There is constant encouragement and assistance, and eventually I got the hang of it. It took me all of a week to become an expert. So this training is great for those of us like Sue who just needed to find the right place, or those like me who just needed some good motivation.
Benefits: How you look and feel
After my first few classes, I felt sore. My abdominal muscles hurt, and my thighs ached. Reminding myself that being sore was just evidence that my workout was actually doing something gave me the strength to continue. It took my body two weeks to adjust, and instead of feeling pain, I left every class feeling riveted and refreshed. I could feel my body thanking me for the workout I gave it. My muscles felt loose, my breathing felt easier, and my body felt lighter. Even my posture was straighter, and I found myself standing taller. By the end of the month I lost five pounds and gained the firmness my butt and arms were severely lacking. Keep in mind, through, that all bodies are different, and my reaction to the workouts might not be at the same speed as yours. The classes may be challenging, and they require a bucket-load of endurance, but trust me—it is all worth it in the end.
The best part about the whole experience was the fact that I got to do something that I always wanted to do. Barre Fitness makes you feel experienced and skillful. It gives you a sense of balance and poise that you never knew you could possess. As for me, I will definitely be signing up for more classes, and I suggest anyone who might be interested to go ahead and take the plunge. For all those who ever wanted to be a ballerina but couldn’t, here’s your chance.