I’m what gym rats refer to as a “cardio junkie.” There’s nothing I love more than breaking a sweat on the treadmill as the Food Network blasts through my earbuds (oh, the irony). But with both eyes forward on the elliptical machine, I’d barely noticed my wimpy arms and pathetic core muscles. When I realized that despite daily hours clocked at the gym, I could hardly lift a pencil, much less a set of weights, it was time to switch things up.
Barre workouts are one of the newer trends to hit the local fitness scene. The technique is a strict one, usually based on late German dancer Lotte Berk’s exercise philosophy. The workouts combine moves from yoga, Pilates, and ballet exercises to create a full-body workout that tones the seat, legs, abs, and arms. A strong focus on tiny, isometric movements builds long, lean muscles with the help of light weights, playground balls, and resistance bands.
Although Barre workouts have been around for a few years, more gyms than ever are offering classes, and studios are cropping up on every corner of the Twin Cites—it only seemed fitting to check out a few of them. So with aching arms and trembling legs, I pressed on.
Regardless of the studio, Barre classes have a culture of their own: They require intense focus, a high tolerance for pain, and socks with little rubber “stickies” on the bottom to keep toes from sliding around while holding 90-second plank positions. But getting used to all of that is nothing compared to the “shaking,” an uncontrollable full-body tremble that begins once you’re working the focus muscles to their full extent. It’s an unnerving experience to say the least.
I attended classes at Barre Bliss (great for beginners but a little too Zen for my adrenaline-seeking tastes) and The Barre (with two suburban locations and childcare for a small additional fee, it’s ideal for parents and those living farther out of the Cities) before stumbling upon Pure Barre, tucked in an unassuming strip mall just west of Lake Calhoun.
In this Goldilocks-esque journey, Pure Barre turned out to be my Little Bear bed and porridge. My hours logged on the treadmill were to no avail—these workouts are hard. At some points, every muscle in my body shook to the point where I appeared to be convulsing. The studio (and its awesome team of instructors who have the extraordinary ability to jump from being your best girlfriends to Lululemon-clad drill sergeants in a matter of moments) emphasizes constantly pushing your body just once inch farther. After working my way through 70-plus classes, I still regularly want to stop for a nap before the abdominal workout.
While I may have had doubts that any group exercise class could give me the same boost as a sweaty gym session, this cardio junkie is, without a doubt, in rehab.