Adventures in cross training: Belly up to the barre.


When it comes to fitness, I’m always down to try new things. With the exception of trampoline aerobics because I have easily triggered motion sickness and I’m pretty sure that would make me hurl. This desire to experiment with the next great thing is how I found and fell in love with aerial yoga, which somehow does not make me want to hurl despite all the hanging upside down. But that’s a story for another day. Today I’m talking about barre and I don’t mean the place you go to get drunk.

I just took my second barre class. I first went a few months ago and thought it was cool, but I usually like to reserve my Sundays for yoga, especially after doing a long run on Saturday. Yesterday I felt like switching it up, plus barre starts earlier and the class is a half hour shorter leaving me plenty of time to come home and clean up before meeting some friends at the other kind of bar for the football game.

Let me preface this by saying that barre is a pretty bad-a workout. You work with props such as a soft rubber ball, a hoop, a ribbon on a stick…

ribbon gymnast

That’s not me, in case the Olympic rings weren’t a dead giveaway.

I’m joking about the last thing. But there are hand weights and resistance bands. It’s great for toning up and I’m a wee bit sore this morning. However in a lot of ways, barre is just not a very ‘me’ thing. Picture this if you will…

I park my Mazda – which just so happens to be in dire need of a car wash – among the shiny fleet of BMW and Mercedes SUVs gathered outside a small storefront. A new-to-this person might be a little confused by the cushy sofas and racks of designer looking clothing in the reception area. This barre studio looks more like an upscale boutique where I can’t afford anything than a place one might go for a solid workout. Everyone I see, including the instructors, is made up and coiffed as if they are about to go out for an expensive dinner. I remembered this from last time and made sure I put on mascara before I left the house, but I’m very aware that I probably still stick out like a sore thumb. It’s a sea of Lululemon and here I am in off brand black leggings, a (albeit awesome) Baltimore Ravens tank that I made myself, and a pair of $10 sunglasses with the arm about to fall off. I need to have my roots done. I do spot one girl in last year’s half marathon tech shirt and I decide that she is cool.

Clusters of preppy women – and it’s estrogen for MILES in there –  are talking about their first world problems in the carpeted studio and a bathroom that would put any that I will ever have in my current or future home to shame. I get the feeling that this is more of a social thing for many of them and a few give me a slightly disdainful side eye. I am the only one here with visible tattoos. But don’t you worry your perfectly highlighted little heads, soccer moms. I’m here for my fitness, not to sneak out and steal your Prada wallet while class is in session.

Is barre like this everywhere? Or am I just SO fortunate?

Once class gets started, it’s pretty awesome. The music is upbeat and fun and I am reminded to add that Kylie Minogue song to my running playlist before Saturday. The routines are seemingly easy at first. 5lb hand weights? No problem! Except after a few minutes they become a problem. There is a lot of repetition and my muscles are on fire. Barre also mixes in a lot of yoga and pilates and I have been doing yoga for a long time so I enjoy that aspect of it. It’s also sometimes very ballet-dancey and graceful which I like as well. I kick ass in there while some of the regulars are huffing and puffing on the floor. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get some measure of satisfaction out of that. I climb in my dirty Mazda feeling confident, poised, and ready to tackle my day.

So would I recommend it to others? If you are a guy….ehhhhh…no chance. But for women interested in toning up, definitely. With the exception of the hand weights, everything in the class is body weight centered, which is very much my preference over heavy lifting. If you drive a Lexus, get your nails done at least once a week, and have good hair, you’ll fit right in. If you are a member of the offbeat crowd like I am and your local barre classes are a bit of a snobfest, don’t let it sway you. It can be a little intimidating at first, but once the class gets started, none of that matters. Plus I’m pretty sure they were more afraid of me than I was of them.

THIS WEEK IS HALF MARATHON WEEK and I’ll be glued to the Weather Channel like a crazy grandma. So far the outlook is nice and cool, which is exactly what I was hoping for after this string of nasty 90 degree days we’ve had around here. Bring it on!



3 thoughts on “Adventures in cross training: Belly up to the barre.

  1. Kelly @ Turned up to Eleven says:

    It sounds like it would be intimidating by the classmates but in the end I”m glad you were able to show them what was up! I have always been curious about this but haven’t found a local place that offers this. To be fair, we only recently got our first official Yoga studio. You know it’s hard to think of fitness here when everything is deep fried 😉 I love when you blog about this stuff – not only do I love reading your stories (because it sounds like you’re telling me this at the bar over a drink) but because I like hearing about you testing out new fitness areas 🙂

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