Sunday, March 3, 2013

Barre Class? I Just Prefer the Bar

I’ve been avoiding writing about the series of barre classes that I tried for 2 straight weeks…I almost bumped it again to next week because I went on a fun, bargain-hunting shopping spree for workout clothes this weekend, and I really would much rather blog about cute fitness clothes (including photos from my personal fashion show). Oh well, you all have that to look forward to next weekend. Get excited.

Alas! I must write about these barre classes while they are fresh in my mind. I took my last class in my 3-pack series this week, and the memory of the workout will surely whither away with another week. I bring up this avoidance because I think it really signals that I just wasn’t too jazz-ed about these classes. In the past, there has been such a buzz surrounding barre workouts. I tried one a couple years ago, and I really disliked it. However, I’m all about 2nd chances, and I bought a Groupon for 3 barre classes at Pop Physique for $29.

So what are these barre classes all about? As a seasoned veteran of many types of workout classes, I thought that barre workouts really fused together elements from pilates, yoga, and ballet. All of the quick repetitions of the exercises were done simultaneously with short exhalations that reminded me of mat pilates classes. Between the quick repetitions of exercises, we often cooled down in yoga poses such as child’s pose, downward dog, spinal twists, happy baby, or planks. Much to my dismay that I lack personal experience doing ballet, the exercises at the barre and doing splits align with my vision of things that happen in ballet. This fusion has the potential to create an effective workout, but overall these barre classes did not meet my high bar.

On a positive note, I will say that the studio I tried out, Pop Physique, has done an excellent job of branding themselves into their own fitness entity. Anytime I see this butt in scrunchy underwear, I think of Pop Physique (or a creepy American Apparel billboard). 

Butt seriously, this marketing logo bewilders me. Is this what I should wear to class? Underwear that scrunches up my butt crack with sweat wristbands? Or is this what I should pose in my before and after barre photos? I’m not really sure. They are clearly marketing primarily to women…once women inquire into their studio, they are also targeting women with some mula. As you’ll read below, I don’t think Pop Physique passes my cost-benefit analysis, but it must for lots of women as this chain seems to be growing!

Strength Factor
I would say that barre workouts primarily build strength through their quick bursts of repetitive exercises that focus on the various parts of the body. At Pop Physique, the classes seemed to start with some planks for abs and exercises using lightweight dumbbell for arms. Then, we would move to the bar for an ounce of stretching and tons of exercises focusing on legs and butt. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced my legs uncontrollably shaking quite so much. I figured this was partly due to the new kinds of exercises, and the teacher reassured me that it’s “good” if my legs are shaking. I get that to a certain point, but I felt like I was having a seizure on the lower half of my body. After the exercises at the barre, we rounded out the class with another burst of abs, which were super awkward positions. I expected to be trying new things, but typically I can naturally ease into whatever the teacher directs since I’ve been to so many classes before….not the case here! For me, aside from the shaky legs, I felt like as soon as I was starting to feel my muscles get a little tired, the exercise would be over, and we’d move on. However, right when my muscles start to fatigue slightly, that’s when I would like someone to push me a little harder. That’s why I pay to take a class: to have that extra external push when I would likely give up at home.

Soreness Factor
Even though I didn’t feel like I was pushed as hard as I would have liked in terms of strength, I did wake up sore the following day after my first two classes. However, my body must have already started adapting to this new workout because I did not get the morning-after soreness after my 3rd class.

Stretch Factor
I think I had higher expectations for the stretch factor since I had always assumed that barre workouts stemmed somewhat from ballet, and all ballerinas I know are freaking flexible! The stretches we did were super short, and therefore I felt like I couldn’t fully sink into any particular stretch (e.g., folding over raised leg on ballet barre, splits, happy baby).

Sweat Factor
Because of the format of the class, I did not get sweaty at all. There would be quick bursts of repetitive exercises, then a cool down stretch, rinse, and repeat. As soon as I would start to heat up, we would cool down. I could actually just cruise into work after that class because I really did not get sweaty or gross.

What’s the deal?
Um what’s that you see in the background? It’s missing the scrunchy butt underwear, but do you see their branding in full effect again?!

As you can see the regular prices at this particular barre studio range from  $20 for drop-in and $180 for 10 one-hour classes. Being on a budget, if I’m going to pay $20 for a one-hour workout, that workout better kick my butt (in or out of scrunchy butt underwear)!! These barre classes did not cut it for me, especially because this workout would need to be heavily supplemented with other stretching and cardio activities.

A penny for your thoughts…
  • How would you describe barre classes?
  • What are some of the strengths of barre classes?
  • What other studios have you tried barre classes?
  • Do you think I should give barre workouts another chance?

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