There has been a lot of buzz lately about barre workouts — ballet/yoga/pilates-inspired classes that focus on isometric strength training with high reps of small movements. These exercises are typically done at a ballet barre or on a mat with props like resistance bands and light weights. Studios have been popping up like mushrooms, touting benefits such as improved posture, muscle definition, weight loss, and increased flexibility. They also talk a lot about achieving the long, lean muscles of a dancer.
Well, I am no dancer so I set out to investigate.
When I first set foot in Pure Barre Reston, I had only intended to take photos of a class and chat with the owner, Brooke Sides, about the workout. When I left, one thing she said stuck in my mind. Brooke told me she usually tells first-timers to try 10 classes before deciding whether barre is for them or not. Within those 10 classes clients learn the lingo, better understand the form and begin to see results.
Fair enough, I thought, and immediately signed up to see if the hype was legit.
After taking 10 classes in 12 days this is what I learned:
1. You will need socks with sticky tread.
This is your head’s up. The studio is carpeted so you will slide during some of the exercises without them. You can buy them there or bring your own.
2. You don’t have to be blonde, super-fit and in your 20s to take classes at Pure Barre Reston.
Ok yes, most of the instructors look like the ladies below, however, in every class I took there was a wide range of ages, shapes and colors. I, as a woman of a certain age (ahem) and fitness level, did not feel out of place or uncomfortable in the least. Everyone is welcome.
3. Tiny movements are deceptively hard.
Carrie Rezabek, the CEO and founder of Pure Barre, says the workout “uses calculated isometric movements to work each muscle, then stretches the muscle back out to create long, lean lines—without the bulk.” Isometric exercises usually involve supporting some sort of weight (in this case, your body weight) without moving—for example, holding a pushup in the lowered position.
Most of the exercises involve what’s called “pulsing” where you get into a position and move up an inch and down an inch until your muscles burn and shake uncontrollably. This is desirable and is called “overloading.” I call it 30 seconds of hell. It may look like nothing, but it’s everything.
4. Two pound weights weigh more than two pounds.
Not really, but sort of. During the arms portion of class you can choose to do the exercises with two pound weights or with no weights. I foolishly thought opting out of these super-light weights was ridiculous until about 60 seconds in when my arms started burning and I almost cried.
Trust me, they give you the option for a reason.
5. They talk a lot about “tucking.”
Tucking is the act of dropping your tailbone and keeping your spine straight rather than sticking your tush out and arching your back. This tiny adjustment actually makes the movements harder. I felt I was able to pinpoint the muscles we were targeting better when I remembered to tuck. This totally reminds me of kegels, though, which makes me giggle in every class.
6. The music is kick-ass.
This may be a hold-over from my raver days in the 90s, but the dance music is awesome. The tiny movements are done to pulsing, electronic beats which is actually pretty motivating and lots of fun.
7. If you are a cardio-addict, you may want to mix it up.
Pure Barre is a low-impact workout so there is not a lot of jumping or running. It’s a full body workout and builds muscle while burning calories, but if you love that runner’s high this may not be for you. I absolutely broke a sweat every class and felt spent after each session.
8. Even though it’s low-impact, your body will need a break every few days.
I figured I would breeze through 10 classes in 10 days but my body had other ideas. The workout promises to overload muscles and it delivers. I find taking three classes in a row then one day off works best for me.
9. You WILL see results in 10 classes.
Let’s get to brass-tacks here — Pure Barre works. I began to feel tighter and leaner after about 6 classes — so yeah, I bought a month-long pass. As hard as I fought it, I got addicted. Brooke was right, 10 classes was all it took.
10. The introductory rate is a good deal.
If you are a new client, an unlimited month-long pass is only $100. Classes are $25 individually, so it pays for itself in four classes. I highly recommend trying it out. If you do, tell them Modern Reston sent ya!
Pure Barre Reston (off Sunrise Valley)
12975 Highland Crossing Dr.
Woodland Park Crossing
Herndon, VA 20171