I got kicked out of ballet class when I was a little girl. No seriously, I have no sense of rhythm and I don’t take direction well, never have. My mother tries to class this up and claims that I was a little Isadora Duncan. But let’s be real, even at the tender age of like five the instructor (who knew my cousins who danced with the Joffrey ballet in New York) just knew I got a lot of stubborn in me and not a lot of discipline. So, at the end of the first course they suggested that I find a different after school activity. (And I did, starting with competitive swimming and later DI college rowing).
But despite (or perhaps because of) not being cut out for ballet I’ve always found it fascinating and pretty. So, I’ve always been slightly fascinated by Barre workouts. Ballerinas are simply amazing, like how do I get a slice of that without the decades of training? Well, honestly, Barre doesn’t get you that either, but I have come to enjoy it.
I was a bad bride in a lot of ways leading up to, and during my wedding. For example, I ordered my wedding dress off Nordstrom’s and tried it on at home. Also, I didn’t do any of that get buff for the dress stuff up until about a month before my wedding. As I ordered my dress off the rack and it fit absolutely perfectly without any alterations I could neither gain nor lose weight before my wedding. But the dress was strapless. And once upon a time I had some killer arms and jacked back. I missed those. So, I wanted a workout regime that wouldn’t make me lose weight or gain muscle mass but would tone my arms and back. I googled around and found a Barre studio in town.
How hard could it be?
Once upon a time I got up at 5:05am and could squat 110% my bodyweight and spent 30+ hours working out on a Varsity Crew team.
How hard could it be? FUCKING HARD.
Barre is a technique first and foremost (according to the instructor), proper form should be the first thing one focuses on and what you return to when fatigue sets in. And fatigue will set in, bodyweight is no joke. That’s 140 pounds of me that I’ve got to keep suspended and stable, etc. in a plank.
So here are a few things I’ve learned from doing a month of classes and taking a “foundations” course.
- “Tuck” is perhaps the favorite verb of Barre. Tucking your pelvis/tailbone is both a necessary adjustment for various poses but also frequently also used as an exercise in and of itself. Small, controlled movements are kind of Barre’s thing. Trying to figure out what a tuck is during class is trying to figure out how someone does Kegels from looking at people from the corner of your eye. It’s even worse trying to explain what you’re doing in text for. The best I can do is thrust your hips a little bit when you’re asked to “tuck it out” or the tuck is supposed to be an exercise. Otherwise, if “tuck” is just a position correction then think through your position, use your side mirrors and you’ll figure it out.
- One of the helpful things I’ve found when trying to figure out corrections is to listen for what muscle group is supposed to be working. If the top of your thighs is what’s supposed to be shaking but you’re feeling it in your inner/outer thighs, then somethings wrong. And in that case, it’s probably your feet. But honestly, knowing what is supposed to be feeling the burn you can start shifting around until it feels right or the instructor comes by and adjusts you.
- One of my least favorite positions in all of class is the “water ski” position. Mainly in that I have no freaking clue what that position is supposed to look or feel like. I’ve never been water skiing! And the way instructors describe getting into the position can also confound you, there are several steps. Some notes I learned after complaining to Molly, my instructor this afternoon. This is not chair pose, first and foremost, rather than sitting back, with legs closer to 90 degrees and a flat back perpendicular to that, your toes are aligned under the bar. Your knees push toward the wall, your hips turn under, basically your upper thighs almost touch the bar. When you’re looking for somewhere to stare besides your eyes screaming in pain in the mirror, look at your bellybutton. Additionally, squeeze your shoulder blades together, with so much focus on making your legs and ass shake it’s easy to forget your upper body and posture, but that will help not only get you that donk, but also to keep your back from screaming.
- Even though it might look like people are looking at your and judging I promise no one is paying attention to what you’re doing, honestly. I for one am probably focusing on either my own form or mentally cursing out everyone, most of all myself, for how much a given position shakes and burns and that I don’t like it. So don’t worry if you’re squirming around trying to get in position, or if you feel stupid, or if you’re embarrassed that you’ve had to get corrected by the instructor, or that you’re kicking with the wrong leg. No one is paying any attention.
And here are a few observations about my classes.
- I’ve never seen so much designer sportswear in my life, university issued equipment aside. Lululemon on everyone. Underarmor. Kate Spade. Kate. Spade. I’ve been the only one to wear a tee shirt with cutoff sleeves – which was a common sight at the boathouse when we’d work out all through college, makes me look poor and rough. Like I’m wearing Aerie leggings and a university tee with the sleeves cut out – but not shaggy or torn or anything. And I look like hell by comparison.
- I swear every married woman in class, which is the majority, have the same wedding set. Everyone has a solitaire engagement ring and a sparkly, channel set band. Differences come in the color of gold and sometimes the engagement ring also has tiny diamonds all over the band. It makes me a bit smug with my original art nouveau sapphire ring.
- The average age range in the class is between my age (late 20s) to probably mid-40s. Which is nice. I rarely went to the campus rec center because I didn’t want to run into my students as I was in my JL spandex and because it made me feel old. I’m not that old but listening to the conversations around me I felt wizen and depressed. I’m at a completely different place in my life, I’m not finding bruises from one-night stands or having to use snapchat to fill in spots in my memory from last night. Also, honey, he’s never going to leave his GF, that’s literally the oldest line in the book. Undergrads aren’t going to drive like 6 miles from campus to go to Barre so I’m amongst more of my peer group.
I was going to Barre 3 times a week before my wedding, I’ve backed that off a bit in 2019. Mainly because my unlimited 100-dollar first month class pass ran out. Also, I don’t need to get my arms in photo ready shape. I just need something to do to give my life structure and get me out of the house and occasionally me moving about a bit.
Does Barre live up to some of the stereotypes you might have – about 30+ something blondes still wearing their Greek letters and makeup to work out in? yeah, a bit. Is it also a legit workout? Absolutely.