Back to the Barre with Barre3

So I recently decided to spice up my exercise routine.  Since my usual workout plan is running
supplemented by the occasional Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred video, this wasn’t
exactly difficult, but I wasn’t exactly sure what sort of ‘something new’ I was
looking for.

Lucky for me, I was helped out by the coincidental Groupon
offer for Barre3.  For those unfamiliar
with Barre3, it’s a combination of ballet barre, yoga, and pilates, blending
together exercises from each type of workout for a unique and thorough
 I’d heard good things about
Barre3 before, but I’d been a bit nervous about trying it out.  I was a dancer for 18 years, so I had
experience with barre work, but I’d never really tried pilates, and I’m
downright awful at yoga.  

But it’s been terribly hot here in Louisville lately, and my
runs have turned into marches around my living room, so I needed to find a new
workout that didn’t require me to go melt outside.  Seriously, I turn into Fat Amy when it comes
to running in extreme temperatures.
Aside from just making me miserable, it’s also dangerous to be
exercising outside with a heat index of 105.
Seems a bit contradictory to risk heat exhaustion just to get a run in.

Since I didn’t have any other ideas—and because there was a good
deal—I decided to give Barre3 a shot.
They have packages with just a few classes, so I figured if it wasn’t my
thing, I could easily get in the classes I’d paid for and never go back.

That plan has yet to come to fruition.

When I arrived for my first class, I was pleasantly
surprised by the studio: small but clean, bright and organized, with
barefoot-friendly cork floors and the floor-to-ceiling mirror I was familiar
with from my old dance class.  The ladies
behind the desk seemed genuinely pleased to see me, and they’d even added some
stars and an exuberant “WELCOME!!” next to my name on the sign-in sheet.  They immediately welcomed me and asked if I
had any questions or concerns and generally tried to ease my obvious
nervousness.  I really appreciated their
friendliness, and it did actually help calm me down a bit before I met the
instructor for my class.  She was just as
welcoming, and she asked about my background and any injuries that she might
help me with during class.  She, too,
asked if I had any questions or concerns and assured me that I could ask her
during class if anything came up later.

Now, I know that not every Barre3 studio is set up or even
run the same way as my studio here in Louisville, but I wanted to convey how
inviting and open the studio felt right from the start.  The general atmosphere was one of support and
genuine interest in helping everyone do their best.
 My introverted self was quite nervous to jump
back into a class setting for my workouts, and all the ladies went out of their
way to welcome me and ease me into the class.
Even if I hadn’t ended up liking Barre3, I still would’ve been
ridiculously grateful for my warm welcome.

The class structure, on the other hand, is probably fairly
uniform between studios, although each class is full of
variety even within itself.  But the basics seem to be standard,
and while barre, yoga, and pilates may sound like simple or even silly workouts
compared to, say, weightlifiting, running, or organized sports, let me tell
you, these workouts are hard

Of the three classes I’ve attended, none of them have been
exactly the same.  Yes, the warm-up and
cool-down are basically the same, but everything in between is different, which
is great.  All the same types of moves
are used—open floor work with hand weights, standing seat work, balance
challenges, mat work—but the casual mix-it-up is a lot of fun.  It’s a nice (and needed) change after repeatedly
watching the same workout videos and running the same routes again and
again.  Even better, the moves are largely
designed to exercise muscles that are less worked, which means that the moves
are going to be deceptively difficult.
Which also means they’re going to make you sweat and shake and
hurt.  Seriously, you wouldn’t think that
tiny one inch up-and-downs would be so tough, but you really feel them the next

The other thing I love about the moves is that they’re
designed to have a basic version and then level-ups.  Each move has the ‘easiest’ version plus one
or two more difficult variants designed to add in additional muscle groups or
test your balance and generally make the move harder.  This initially made me nervous, as I thought
that everyone would be going for the harder versions and little ol’ newbie me
would look like a weakling sticking to the basics.  

Not the case.
Although Barre3 is technically a class, it feels more like an individual
workout around other people that happen to be doing the same workout.
 I know that sounds silly, but it’s true.  There’s absolutely no pressure to be as good
as the person next to you; you are there to do the best you can do, whether
that’s more or less than everyone else is doing.  My instructors have been great about
encouraging me to do whatever I’m comfortable with, and they’ve readily praised
good form and perseverance no matter what difficultly level I was working
at.  Now me being as competitive as I am,
I at least try each level-up before writing it off, and I’ve been surprised to
find that there are a lot of moves that I have to stick with the basic
version.  That’s not because I’m not
trying; it’s because the moves take a lot more balance and flexibility than
I have.  

Like I said, the moves are deceptively hard.  

But they’re fun, too, especially when I can move along with
the beat of the music.  The instructors
have playlists for every class, and the music is nice to have without being
distracting.  I’m the type of person who
constantly has music playing during the day, and after years of dance, I instinctively
move better with music on.  Some moves work
better in time with the music, but others are better/easier to perform in time
with your breath cycle.  I’m still having
a bit of trouble with this concept, mostly because I forget to breathe a lot
during the harder moves, but I’m getting better at consciously focusing on my
breathing and working with my breaths to enhance the moves.  

I’m also getting better at performing the moves I’m familiar
with in a more engaged manner.  Whether
it’s forcing myself to push my heels harder into the floor to engage more
muscles or to keep my neck relaxed but still keep my balance, I’m finding that
you can get more out of every move if you actually think about the way you’re
doing the move rather than just doing it.
It’s a different way for me to think about exercising, and while I still
have to remind myself to do a lot of little things, I can already feel the
difference in my routine.  

Each class lasts an hour, and although every time I’ve found
myself checking the clock during the first twenty minutes or so, once we really
get into the workout, I’m too busy trying not to fall on the floor to
notice.  At the end of every class,
though, I feel like the time has flown, and I definitely feel like I’ve put in
a good workout.  I don’t get many steps
toward my daily 10,000 step goal, but I definitely get my heart rate up, which
is more than I can say for my living room marches.  

The only downside I can see is the cost of the classes; my
runs and videos are free, whereas an individual Barre3 class costs up to $22,
which will add up pretty quick.  Groupon
deals and bigger packages help decrease the cost per class, but it’s still more
than free.  However, I feel I can justify the
cost for the different sort of workout, the guidance and help I get from the
instructor, and the fun of working out with other people again, which I hadn’t
realized I’d missed until my first Barre3 class.  Plus, having to buy the classes makes me feel
accountable; since I already paid for the class, I need to go use them, and
that mindset has already pushed me back to the studio twice this past week.  It helps, too, that there are classes at all
times of the day every day of the week, so I can easily schedule my classes
around work, church, and other obligations.

Overall, I’ve had an amazingly fun and rewarding experience
with Barre3.
 The workouts are tough, the
instructors are knowledgeable and encouraging, and the whole experience is just
fun.  Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but I feel
like, for me at least, it’s worth it for the unique workout I receive and the
sense of comradery I get as other people sweat alongside me.  Barre3 may not be for everyone, but you’ll
never know if you don’t try.  Who knows:
you may end up finding your inner ballerina or yogi and enjoying a new form of
exercise that will help you become a healthier, happier you.


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