"Barre class? Like...lawyer bar?"
"Like bartending bar?"
"No...like ballet barre."
I kid you not, I've had this conversation like three times in the past 24 hours. Friends, I signed up for barre classes.
Barre is one of those trendy new workouts that apparently isn't actually new--it was founded on the West Coast (of course) in the early 90's, but is just now hitting Minnesota. Studios have popped up all over the Metro area, and after doing a lot of reading about the workout and the amazing benefits of the method, I bit the bullet and committed to a 30-day unlimited-class trial with Haute Barre, a studio in the West End.
The basic principle of barre is to fuse yoga, ballet, stretching and "isometric" (small, static) movements into a workout designed to target female problem areas...the butt, thighs, abs and arms. Given that these are the areas I am most self-conscious about, this sounded ideal. Add to that the fact that barre has a reputation for being a low-impact, gentle-on-the-joints workout, and I was even more intrigued. Finally, throw in some majorly inspiring photos of the results (amazing lean, toned ballerina-esque bodies) and I was sold.
My friend Alyssa and I ventured out on Sunday morning for our first class feeling more than a little apprehensive. Every review I had read online touted the workouts as being absolutely physically punishing and intense...and given my current state of fitness (which is to say, not fit in any sense of the word) I wasn't feeling too confident about my ability to even make it through the workout. Thank god for the buddy system! It made it a lot less intimidating.
We started with high knees marching in place...right up this former band nerd's alley...and added in tons of arm work. About five minutes in, I had already broken into a sweat and could feel muscles I've never known how to work screaming. It was intense. The instructor, Amber, was a mother of two and had, I shit you not, the most bangin' body I've ever seen...so she could have told me to dangle upside down from a bridge and I probably would have tried it.
After warmup came thighs, and excessive use of the barre. Second position? We hit it. Plies, tiny squats, and constant repetition of the phrases "Get your heels an inch higher, your hips an inch lower" soon had my entire lower body visibly shaking (the goal of the workouts). Halfway through, I was biting my lower lip, raising my eyes heavenward, and praying to I don't even know who or what to make the torture end. And it did...just in time to move onto "seatwork!"
"Seatwork" consisted of a ton of resistance band exercises--cramming my already exhausted thighs into what basically seemed like a large extra-stretchy rubber band didn't strike me as the most effective way to build a perfect posterior, but not even two sets later I realized these "large rubber bands" served a dual purpose as a modern-day torture device. Again with the shaking, trembling, raging-mental-debate-with-myself through ten to fifteen brutal minutes, and we hit the floor for abs.
I won't bore you with the ab details--core work featuring 60-second planks, use of a rubber ball, added weights for extra difficulty--but after two classes, I can't sit up without levering myself by the arms. Class ended with a long, luxurious, ultra-rewarding set of stretches where I finally felt like I was channeling a graceful ballerina (HA! RIGHT.), and we wrapped up an hour later.
Guys, this was HARD. This was probably the most physically demanding workout I've ever survived, and when I say survived, I mean exactly that--at points, it felt like I had to actually convince myself not to fall over or give up. As awful as certain sets felt in the middle, I found myself completely hooked. Come Monday morning, when every muscle we'd worked felt sore to the core, I couldn't whip out the credit card fast enough to commit to my trial. I scheduled out classes roughly 4 times a week for the duration of my trial, and already found myself back at the barre on Tuesday and last night.
Today, I can't lift my arms too far over my head, and it feels like I got repeatedly punched in the gut, but I can't wait for my next class on Sunday morning. To check it out for yourself, visit hautebarrestudios.com.