The Truth About Barre

The latest craze? Or just plain crazy?

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Editor’s Note: Jump, flip, and paddle for joy–we’ve found nine calorie-burns fit for fun summer living, plus tips on motivation from the Hoosier star of Bravo’s Toned Up. Ready for Zumba in the pool and spinning to Poison? Shake it to the right. To see all Health & Fitness articles, click here.

 

Tight, tighter, tightest! These words took on new meaning upon hearing them in my first barre class, a ballet-inspired workout at The Dailey Method in Broad Ripple last summer. In one hour, I’d squeezed my abs, thighs, and rear so taut I thought they’d catch on fire. Only 10,000 more micro-squats on my tiptoes until I’d look like Natalie Portman.

My path to the barre began when I started searching for a workout that wouldn’t strain or injure my body—and especially my knees. Since Reagan was in office, I have stepped, aerobicized, Tae Bo’d, spun, run, walked, Pilate’d, TRX’d, personal-trained, and boot-camped my way across the north side of Indianapolis. If it involved sweating to cheesy teenybopper or hip-hop music, I was in.

Facing 40, though, my knees had had enough. That’s when I read about the benefits of barre classes. Many women swore by the results, primarily the toning and strength improvement. A number of them reported they had stopped running yet were maintaining their fitness with these workouts, which focus on sculpting a long, lean body through core work and Pilates techniques at the barre and preaching proper body alignment. I was skeptical, having exercised long and hard enough to know that I wasn’t going to look like a Black Swan extra in this lifetime. Still, I’d made a commitment to be kinder and gentler to my body while still pushing myself. Would barre, with its pulses and squeezes so tiny and precise it’s hard to tell if students are even moving, really be enough of a burn?

I had my answer halfway though that first class. My abs, thighs, hips, rear, and arms were screaming for mercy. When the instructor said it was time for seat work, I silently rejoiced for the chance to sit down— except “seat” meant the booty, not a chair. It was the most grueling workout I’d ever done, even harder than boot camp. So why am I still doing it a year later? Because it turns out those women were right: Nothing pays off like barre. As for my knees and all those plies, I’ve learned to think “thighs, thighs, thighs” to relieve the strain. Plus, I am so proud of myself at the end of each class. The feeling of accomplishment outweighs the pain. Slipping on a pair of Levis has gotten easier, too. Here’s to a tight, tighter, tightest 40.

 

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue.

 

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