Beginning To Barre.
Writing last weekend’s race recap got me thinking about how much more fitness-focused a lot of my posting here used to be. And while I think it’s very natural and normal that that’s changed, I also miss sharing that part of my life. Since Cullen was born, running has taken a major back seat. Formal exercise in general became a much lower priority during his first year, and looking back now I doubt I would have done anything differently.
But he’s older now, and I’m no longer a “new mom” – at least not new enough to make excuses about still trying to figure out the daily grind. It’s funny that I write so little about exercise and fitness, although I’m actually doing more regular exercise now than I have in quite a while.
I’ve mentioned it here plenty before, but I thought maybe it was worth a post of it’s own.
I’ve gotten totally hooked on barre classes.
I went to my first one back in November – a complimentary offer to go try out a class with one of the Barre3 corporate managers. At that point we were planning to start trying for a second baby soon, and I knew that if I didn’t figure out how to make fitness a priority now, it would only get harder during pregnancy/new motherhood.
It was love at first “shake” and it felt wonderful to be back in a group fitness setting. I didn’t go back right away. We traveled and had family in for the holidays, but I continued to think about how much I enjoyed the class.
When January rolled around, a new month and new year were just the motivation I needed to start something regular. Since then, I’ve been going to classes at two different Barre3 studios, and I try to make it to at least two classes each week. The closest studio to my house doesn’t have childcare, so I only head there on weekends and in evenings. During the week, Cullen and I head to a different studio about 20 minutes away, and he plays in the childcare area while mom gets her butt kicked.
So with all of that said, I thought I would talk a little bit about barre in general, since it’s a relatively new-ish fitness trend.
What is Barre?
Contrary to popular belief and an understandable misconception from its name, barre really has nothing to do with dance or ballet. That’s not to say that dancers wouldn’t enjoy it, but if you’re looking to arabesque or chasse, that’s probably not going to happen here.
Barre is actually a low-impact strength workout that involves lots of posture holds and “micro-movements” in order to get muscles burning to the point that you are shaking uncontrollably. Imagine doing a wide squat and holding it for several minutes at a time,while pulsing up and down moving only an inch at a time. It is INTENSE. I was embarrassed that my whole body was shaking like jell-o during my first class, until I realized that I was in good company.
In my Barre3 classes, we usually start with planks and pushups at the bar (chest and arm work), followed by a ridiculous leg set that leaves me ready to collapse. Next is arms, where we use either 1, 2, or 3 pound weights (I use 1lb, and it feels like 20 after a few minutes). After arms is “seat work” which buuuuuurns and burns, followed by abs and stretching at the end. I like that the sequence is always the same so I know what to expect, but the actual moves and stretches are different each time.
Barre During Pregnancy
The thing that I like most about barre is that it’s really low impact. While I get a really intense workout that leaves me shaky and sore, I rarely actually leave the studio sweaty. As a mom, this is nice because it means no double shower necessary (finding time for one is hard enough!).
Being pregnant again, I’m continuing to enjoy the barre workouts, and it’s nice to have a low impact option since I have to watch my heart rate more closely now. So far I’ve been able to continue to do most of the classes in their entirety (while taking breaks as usual), but I think I might have trouble with some of the longer abdominal sets (usually done on the back or stomach) as I get bigger. There are some very pregnant women in my classes though, and the instructors are always offering modifications (which I have started paying attention to!).
It is probably worth noting here that I’ve tried three different barre studios so far – Barre3, Pure Barre, and a small local studio. Like any fitness program, every class and instructor is different, so it’s worth trying a few to find the right fit. For me personally, I like Barre3 the best of what I’ve tried. I like the sequence of the workout, and I have found it to be the most challenging. I tried a Pure Barre class in Cincinnati a few months ago, which I also liked, but the music was deafening and the atmosphere was more intense than what I’m used to. That said, I would still definitely go back and do it again.
The biggest negative to barre is the price. I don’t belong to a regular gym right now, so I’m using that money to put toward barre classes instead. I try to take advantage of promotions like new member packages, Living Social and Groupon deals, and bulk pricing packages. I’ve also noticed that fitness classes in general just seem to be getting more expensive, unless done as part of a regular gym membership. Here in Seattle, most drop in classes for barre, yoga, spinning, flywheel, etc. all range from about $18-25 per class.
The advantage to paying a hefty price tag for the classes, is that it really motivates me to work hard for the entire sixty minutes. Sometimes I’ll realize I’m taking more breaks than I probably need, and I remind myself that it’s only one hour and I paid $18 to be there – I better make it count.
Because it is a strength workout that really works and tests the muscles, it’s also not something I ever do two days in a row. So even though it’s more expensive, I wouldn’t ever expect to do it more than a few times each week. Three is my limit, and two is more common.
Overall, it’s fun to have a new fitness program that I’m excited about. I’m hoping to add some prenatal yoga into my workouts in the next few weeks, and I’ve picked out another 5k coming up later this month. In the meantime, I’ll keep bellying up to the barre!