Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dropping the Barre: A Pure Barre Workout Experience

Current Mood: Tired
Current Jams: Sailboat-Ben Rector

This past weekend I attended my first pure barre workout class. Weirdly, it also happened to be my last pure barre workout class. I knew things weren't going my way as soon as I entered the building to sign in and they didn't have my online reservation on file (strike one). Next, I tried to reason with the fiery red haired woman whose hair color was matched only by that of her equally offensive attitude. We were told to fill out liability forms and waivers that asked, I thought, all too
The sistahs and myself
personal questions. Example: Have you been engaged in the last 6 months? Have you been married in the last 6 months? When was your last bowel movement? My nerves were already getting the better of me because I was about to embark on a foreign exercise class; luckily, I could now add being insulted and depreciated to the list of positive emotions I was experiencing. Apparently if you were engaged in the last 6 months you are entitled to a class discount. I was pissed. Not only was I reminded of the shortcomings of my obvious single-dom, I was now being marginalized because of it. Apparently, being a self-sufficient, independent woman is not enough entitlement to merit a discount. (Strike two). 

(Seriously, how dramatic am I?! Someone cue up the Destiny's Child).

Perhaps the most horrifying pre-workout occurrence of all though was the uniform, of which I did not know there was one (lulu lemon pants, lulu lemon tank top, accessorized with a nose in the air, holier-than-thou expression). Now, I am a highly self-aware person. I know that I am White and privileged and I enjoy Starbucks lattes yada yada, but even I was uncomfortable with the air of pretension. (Strike three). Sidenote: In a stunning display of imperialism, one girl actually reached over and across me, dropping her weights to mark what one can only assume was her preordained territory. A territory, I might add, that I was already standing in. So much for diplomacy.

For those that have not heard of pure barre, it's a type of workout influenced by ballet. The idea is to tighten and tone fine muscles, using small, isometric movements. I pretty much had no clue what that meant, to me it all boiled down to the same thing: torture. The evil geniuses behind pure barre are just that; you think you are in for a soothing, leisurely workout what with their plush inviting carpet, soft mood lighting, and overall zen ambience. They also make the studio look like this:

See what I mean? They dupe you into a sense of false security right before they utterly annihilate you. We were asked to grab a medicine ball, a resistance band, and a set of hand weights. The only free weight options were 2 lbs, 3 lbs, and 5 lbs, so I'm thinking, "Great. Anything that uses weights this light has to be fairly easy." If it seems too good to be true, it's because it is too good to be true. Like Matt Bomer. 

Over the eternity that was this class, we squatted and squeezed until we could no longer sit, tightened and toned until I thought the lactic acid would burn a hole through my workout pants, and spent more time tucking and flexing than I even knew possible. We moved through a series of butt, leg, arm, and ab workouts utilizing the bar for stability and, more often, cruel and unusual punishment. Each movement is fine, small, and meant to be repeated until you pass out. At one point, we were instructed to rest our forearms on the bar to work on our "seat" and quads. As you can see from the picture below, I interpreted this to mean it was nap time and I believe I was just about entering my 2nd REM cycle here (I'm the last one down the row, in the black and white. If you look in the mirror, you will notice me completely giving up):

It actually turned out to be quite the existential experience for me. While others were firing up their muscles, I found myself contemplating time (and how, like me, it seemed to have just given up), my own endurance and resiliency to pain, and most importantly, what type of pancakes I was going to indulge in post-workout (oreo, duh. Once a chubby girl, always a chubby girl). My biggest critique about the class was it was incredibly difficult to follow along, which was about the time when I began to quietly (and honorably) throw down my sword and quit. It felt like they were speaking an entirely different language and I was the kid crying and soiling their pants in the corner. I think if I truly understood the difference between "tucking", "flexing", and "circling", I would have been better able to follow along and participate in the workout; instead, I thought we switched to a square-dancing lesson and I was just totally thrown off.

In fairness to pure barre, I did that thing I sometimes do when I decide I automatically hate something before I really experience it and then am completely biased against the rest of the experience. You'll note, I had a similar experience with my first ever soul cycle class. And with Darius Rucker going country. (I have since come around to both). I was just so lost and utterly deplorable at it I did not give it the fair chance this class so obviously felt it was entitled to. Most of my misery was of my own creation, I cannot fairly put that on anyone else. Well I can, but I'm trying this thing where I act all adult-like and responsible and shit. And I cannot criticize out instructor, Esther, who seemed like a lovely, impeccably fit woman. I think if I were in a private class and was given the attention, direction, and care I so desperately needed, say for example like that of a helpless puppy or a house plant, I would have felt much more positively about the class. 


So to be all equitable and crap, I will readily admit I did not give pure barre a fair go. I benched myself and in doing so ended up throwing my workout. I would agree to try it again if I ever found myself comatose and unable to make decisions on my own behalf, but I'm not sure this is the workout for me. This is me pretending I totally loved it and had a clue as to what the fuck was going on:

Take Away Message: As always, I would encourage you to try something new, something that takes you out of your comfort zone. 

On the bright side if I hadn't tried it, I would never have known that I will never, ever do this again. Well, never say never. Who knows, maybe if I find myself in an incredibly masochistic mood I will indulge myself. But for now, I think I'll stick to my regularly scheduled gym classes. And don't let my histrionics deter you from trying the class, I think I actually might enjoy it after the 300th time. Only kidding (except I am literally not). 

You are beautiful.