Raising the Barre

Saturday morning (I’m late; I know; It’s been a busy week) I had the opportunity to try Pure Barre. I’m a member of a Jersey City Meetup group focused on women’s fitness, and our amazing organizers were able to get us a free trial with Local Barre in Hoboken. After reading the description for the class, I was intrigued.

Local Barre workout is a happy hour led by inspirational instructors and music that will motivate you to get a wiggle on. Local Barretenders are serving up an exclusive fitness elixir – a generous pour of cardio, splash of yoga, blended with low-impact concentrated movements, followed by immediate muscle stretching segments as the chaser. Our unique exercises concentrate on hard to reach muscles, taking strength training from Barbells to Barre Belles!

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Unfortunately, Saturday was also the day I had scheduled my long run (8 miles), and even though I woke up at 6:30, I still found myself rushing to Hoboken to make it to my 10am Barre class on time.

I was not on time. Stupid Light Rail. Luckily, the location is just a block from the Hoboken train station, so it’s really convenient for our area. The studio is brand spankin’ new and very clean. It’s also really hip and trendy looking (is there any way to express that without sound totally unhip and untrendy?). I wish I had pictures to share with you, I was already late, so I rushed into class.

The receptionist at the front desk was incredibly friendly and quickly got me set up with the Barre essentials: a mat (similar to a yoga mat but thicker), a yoga strap, two sets of weighted rubber balls, a pilates circle and a ball. It’s a lot of props, and it intimidated me at first, but Barre is incredibly adjustable to your skill level, so you don’t end up using all the props in one session. Once you figure out your level, you only grab the props you’ll need.

The one prop that isn’t provided (although they did sell them in the studio) was a pair of socks with tread on the bottom. We were told in advance that socks are required and socks with tread are highly recommended, but I didn’t have time to get a pair, so I figured I’d be fine. I was not. Truthfully, you really need socks with tread for this class. Unlike yoga, you do a lot of the moves off the mat on the high gloss floor, and I really felt like my form suffered due to fear of slipping into an unplanned split.

 

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Other than socks, it’s recommended that you wear tight fitting shorts or pants as you’ll find yourself in a few awkward positions. A fitted top is nice, but it’s a low impact workout, so you won’t need a lot of support.

Class began with a warm up followed by a series of lower body moves on the barre. I took it very easy on my tired legs, but I can see this being a really effective workout for women. It targets the areas that tend to be “trouble zones” on the female body, namely quads and glutes. We were taught something close to second position in ballet (toes facing outward, heels about 2 inches apart) and stayed in that position while holding the barre and doing full squats as well as pilates type pulsing squats. Even doing the minimum I was feeling the burn in my legs.

We did some more leg and butt work, and just by looking at the instructor I can say that if I kept up with this class, it would help towards building those awesome long, lean muscles in key areas.

One of the things I found especially nice about the class is that you stretch each muscle group after you work it unlike other classes I’ve taken where you only stretch at the end. After we worked our legs, we stretched our quads and hamstrings by putting our legs up on the barre and using the strap. See why you’re encouraged to wear tight pants?

Feeling refreshed, we returned to the center of the room to work our arms. We used the weighted balls to work our shoulders, triceps and backs. These are great muscles for women to work on. Once again, we stretched before returning to the bar for some core work. We did a variation of the hundred from Pilates, and this is where the various props came in. Depending on your level, you could use the ball or the ring in between your legs for a little added burn.

And trust me, you will feel the burn on this workout. I woke up very sore the next day. Part of this soreness came from holding my legs so awkwardly to keep from slipping (I really should have had the right socks), but most of it was a deep muscle burn from lots of tight movements.

Overall, the class was fun. The music was awesome, the instructor was really upbeat, and the hour flew by.  I never really felt confident I was positioned correctly, but it seems like once you get the form down, you’re good to go, so I think after a few classes I’d be much more comfortable.

The class is pricey at $30 a pop especially when I learned that they suggest you attend 3-4 a week. They do offer packages that seem competitive ($99 for a month unlimited is basically what you’d pay for a gym membership in this area), and I can absolutely see this being a comprehensive strength training workout maybe supplemented with (free!) running or other cardio. I can see how sticking to Barre consistently would produce noticeable changes.

Ultimately, I’m a little too focused on running and yoga right now to devote the time and money to Barre, but I’m keeping it in mind as a great option, and I’m so, so thankful to the lovely folks at Local Barre for the opportunity to check it out.

 

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