“This sounds like fun!”
That was the thought that passed through my head when I decided to try the Barre workout at Brooklyn YogaWorks last night. You know how you sign up for a trial where you get unlimited classes, and therefore, you think you can do just about any and every class offered? Yeah, that was me. Despite already toughing it out in an advanced yoga class that lasted 75 minutes, I wanted to to see what all the fuss was about with the Barre workouts immediately afterward. I didn’t personally know anyone who had tried it before, but the exercise gets pretty rave reviews online, especially from dancers. And since I wouldn’t mind looking like a thick ballerina, I thought, “What the hell?” So I grabbed a bar, stuck it on the wall, gathered up a few balls that were light handheld weights, a resistance band, a strap, and a mat, and decided to take part.
I was one of two Black girls in the class of, I want to say, 15, but I was the only beginner in the bunch. I should have known that things were going to get complicated when the instructor told me after I raised my hand to “Feel free to stop and catch your breath whenever you need to. Everyone handles the moves differently and goes at the pace they can manage.” Uh oh.
Nobody says that at Zumba. They’re all like, “Just have fun and don’t stop dancing!” Still, at that moment, I assumed she was simply underestimating my beast-mode tendencies, so I just smiled and nodded like an idiot.
But boy was it terrible.
I actually mean that in a good way. What seemed like some simple movements left me with aching arms and throbbing legs in no time flat. We started out with the small, weighted balls, and we did just about every variation of curling, reaching and pulsing in every direction you could think of (even behind our backs). Within the first 10 minutes of a 60-minute class, I was tired. “Should have just gone to the juice bar and went home,” I thought to myself.
From there, we wrapped resistance bands around our calf muscles, and while holding on to our bars, we slowly attempted to spread our thighs open and then bring them back inward. We also pulsed lightly, up and down, thrust our crotches forward, and at one point, while putting pressure on the resistance bands with our lower legs, rolled our hips to the left, to the right, and in a circle. That was about another 10 minutes. And then we turned around and did it from the other side. *deep sigh*
Then we took off the resistance bands, and it was on to isometric strength training, which is holding the rest of your body still (with the help of the bar) while working on a particular set of muscles. So we held on to the bar, grabbed one of the weighted balls and then lifted one of our legs high in the air while trying to tap our foot with the ball (and we alternated sides). From there, we put the ball behind our thighs and commenced to kick slowly backwards (small-range motions), kick to the side, pulse, and rotate our legs, stretching our hips with the ball balanced. We also had to do this on each leg.
After that, we laid on our backs, used the straps to wrap them around our bars, and started to do work on our core. While holding the straps with our arms close to our sides, we brought our legs down, slightly above the ground, before slowly bringing them back up. We also lifted our hips in the air, doing reverse crunches. We then spent the last bit of class doing horrible planks where we had to use our knees to touch our opposite elbow. And did I mention that we also had to find time to do push-ups?
I’ve never been that exhausted from a workout in my life, and I’ve been consistently in the gym, at least, four times a week since early 2015.
But I’m glad I did it. I know it was only one class, but I already feel like my muscles truly benefited from the extensive conditioning. My core feels nice and tight. My calf muscles feel stronger. And while my thighs are still mad at me, I feel like a few more times on the bar (while I have my two-week trial) will do them some good, and toughen them up big time. And at this point, that’s what I need. Not to drop a gang of pounds, but to tighten and tone, because tight and toned is something I’ve never really been (I was either lanky or overweight).
I really do hope more of us, i.e., Black women, give Barre workouts a shot. And don’t let the bars fool you into thinking it’s a boring class. It isn’t some frou-frou situation where you plié and learn how to stand on your tippy toes or something like that. It’s ballet-inspired, but it’s nothing to play around with. And yet, I can’t wait to do it again.
Well, actually, I need a few days to recuperate. But I’ll be back in there like swimwear for another ass-kicking next week!