It’s been a while since I wrote one of these “Intro to” posts, and I figured it was time to get back at it! And what is a better place to start than with a class that I teach but remains a mystery to many of my participants – Barre.
If you live in a big city it’s likely that you know exactly what a barre class is, and probably know of two or three studios where you can take classes. That is not the story around here. I live in the country, and as far as I know, I’m the only one in my area teaching a barre class. And when I say area, I mean like a 50+km radius. I know there are classes in Halifax, but that’s about it…
So what is Barre?
A Barre class is a strength based class that uses ballet inspired movements to give you a strong, sculpted body. Does that mean you have to look like a dancer (or be a dancer) to go and get the benefits? Heck no! A good instructor can provide options for all shapes, sizes, and ability levels.
Is it a real workout?
Only someone who has never taken a Barre class would even question this 😉 The short answer is yes. There are many different variations of Barre classes out there but one thing is for sure, no matter what type of barre class you take your lower body will be on fire. Many instructors use a “maximum overload” principle meaning we completely fatigue a muscle group, then change the exercises ever so slightly to work that muscle a little bit differently and then keep on going. If you make it all the way through a barre class without your legs turning to jello, finding them shaking like crazy, and feeling like you may die, something is wrong 😉
Will I look dumb if I go to a class full of people who have been taking Barre for months?
The classes are hard, but the fantastic thing is, no matter where you are in your fitness journey, the class is hard. Meaning as you get stronger your form gets better, you can perform the exercises more effectively so as you get stronger the workout never really gets easier. So no, you won’t look silly at all, as long as you all work at your own appropriate level you’ll all be feeling the burn!
I know the lasses are hard – but what are they really doing for me?
Many of the exercises taught in barre classes are based on rehabilitation exercises meant to help strengthen and develop the small muscle groups of the body that traditional strength training often overlooks. That’s part of the reason it is so difficult, because you are tapping into those lesser used (but oh so important) muscle groups. Strengthening the small muscles that support the larger muscle groups helps you to develop an overall stronger and more balanced body. But don’t worry, while hitting those small muscle groups, we are slamming those big muscle groups at the same time!
What type of equipment do you use?
This depends on the studio. Most classes use ballet barres <— hence the name “barre”, I don’t have the luxury of barres in my class so we use the backs of chairs. You can also expect to use exercise mats, small balls or yoga blocks, resistance bands and/or small weights.
I don’t like exercising, and this sounds really hard. Why would I want to try it?
The interesting thing about barre is, it is strangely addictive. Yes it is super hard, but at the same time, it’s fun! We get to bust out some silly and fun moves that are killer at the same time, and by the end you really feel like you had a great workout, but those small muscles are resilient and are already starting to forgive you for the brutalization you’ve just put them through.
What do I wear to barre?
Barre isn’t a high impact class so you can wear yoga attire, stretchy pants and a tank top or close-fitting shirt. This isn’t the class for your super baggy sweats. Your clothes don’t need to be skin-tight, but you don’t want something that will weigh you down or make it difficult to move. Most studios require you to wear grippy socks, I allow people to be in their sock feet or bare feet but you should check with the studio before going to see what their policy is on socks/footwear.
Anything else I should take?
Water, fo’ sure! And a small sweat towel, it can get pretty sweaty!!!
There are no barre classes in my area but I’d like to give it a try, are there any at-home options?
Absolutely! Check out Barre Intensity or Physique 57 for some online training options~
Photos are from my visit to Physique 57 in SoHo when I was in NYC in 2012.