Between my junior and senior years of college, a summer internship back home provided me the opportunity to explore new hobbies during the time I wasn’t being swallowed up by a cubicle. By the end of my draaaaaggging eight-hour days (I can hear you laughing, dad), I was ready to move my body. After hearing multiple people rave about barre, my curiosity (and skepticism) warranted an impulsive purchase of a one-month membership at a local studio. It would be untruthful for me to write that I was ‘hooked’ after the first class; let’s be real, I had committed myself to every pretty penny whether I liked it or not. But as the slow days of June continued, I found myself returning to the same excitement and anticipation before each class. In many ways, barre wasn’t just a new hobby—but an outlet, a refuge—during an emotionally-tolling summer. It’s neat how great things tend to find us when we need them the most. When I returned back to school, I quickly became a loyal student at a local studio nestled in SLO’s quaint downtown.
I ask myself why I enjoy barre, and have decided to owe my friends (and myself) a thoughtful answer:
[*Note to reader: I am not a fitness guru and I am not a barre expert. These insights are gained strictly from personal experience.]
1. It’s just as mental as it is physical. The cognitive application of working though “the burn” is as equal a triumph as the last set of 20 pulses that you’re certain will be the end of you; barre is not a mindless escape. I’m not someone who particularly enjoys ‘zoning out’ during workouts, which is why I enjoy a workout as cerebral as barre.
2. It initiates a new response mechanism. Although humans are magnificently built to verbally articulate our responses to one another, I believe there is an underrated value in abandoning that pressure. Barre involves listening to verbal cues, as we do in everyday life, but responding to them (PLOT TWIST) via a less familiar dimension of the human body – physically.
3. Plateaus do not exist. There is always one more inch you can drop that booty, one more centimeter you can raise those heels, one more breath you can exhale towards a deeper stretch, and a more centered sense of balance you can develop.
4. Its attention to detail. Barre workouts are comprised of isometric exercises that isolate specific muscles. That being said, if one aspect of your form isn’t situated accordingly (e.g. the most common: your hips aren’t tucked), there is a high chance the workout is ineffective…and you probably think you’re supernatural because everyone else is digging their graves while you pick at your chipped nails and make tonight’s grocery list in your head. In a world that idolizes multi-tasking, barre discourages it. No matter how advanced a barre student you may be, you are constantly re-situating and re-focusing yourself to find that trembling, ground-breaking shake. Barre ≃ attention to detail.
5. It’s a synergetic fusion of yoga, pilates, ballet, strength training (and sometimes a little cardio). I’ve taken yoga and pilates classes here and there, but found both practices anti-climactic (for my liking, at least). However challenging, I would find myself leaving classes feeling like I missed the show – something was missing. Barre incorporates the strength, flexibility, breathing, and meditative disciplines within each practice, all the while incorporating a brilliant (and addictive!) burn.
6. It’s routine, but it’s not routine. Sure, there will always be a cherished familiarity of first position, pulsing, tucking, and more pulsing and tucking. But each class, every instructor, and each new playlist (jams. are. everything.) brings a twist that is anything but routine. #SameIsLame
7. It’s a culture. Of course this depends on the studio’s community of instructors and students, but there is something to be said about people (okay, women) coming together for what in the moment feels like an ass-whooping punishment. We must be crazy. Barre studios provide an un-judging home for the occasional swear word(s) and sweat marks that should never (emphasis on the ‘never’ part) see daylight. You can’t help but feel the camaraderie.
8. It’s immeasurable. Unless you’re wearing a FitBit or you are a robot, there is no ‘calories burned’ or ‘distance traveled’ screen at the end of each class to benchmark your success. Your satisfaction is manifested through how you feel, and not how something or someone tells you how you should feel.
9. It’s for me. In addition to the above reasons, barre is something that I do for myself. As is the case for each of us, there are several things throughout the day that are either expected or asked of me (most of which I do genuinely enjoy), but barre is my time. It’s not something I need to put on my calendar or to-do list because it’s an effortless decision each and every time. It’s a way that I appreciate myself, strengthen my body, sharpen my mind, and continually grow.