Pure Barre is an exercise class that blends traditional ballet and pilates for a full body workout. Classes are about an hour long and emphasize small, control movements to create the long, lean muscle of a dancer’s body. I have about 12 years of ballet experience from childhood, so this workout sounded appealing to me. I also liked that it emphasized small movements and no jumping or leaps, which I still don’t feel completely comfortable with in Zumba. Lastly, I heard that Pure Barre is the workout Natalie Portman did to get her body into Black Swan shape. So I signed up for a class.
My first impression upon entering the studio was that it was a really NICE facility. But there was carpeting, which I’m not used to for any workout. The staff was friendly, they had me sign some paperwork and showed me around. Then I grabbed a spot on the floor with about 7 other women… every single one of them thinner than me. I was one of only 2 new people in the class, so this was encouraging. These women all had lean, strong dancer-like bodies, and they were called out as veterans at the beginning of the class.
The class started with some pilates-style stretching to fast-paced music. And the warm up was FAST. After that came some free weight work. I had 2lb. barbells and was doing tiny little bicep curls. How hard could it be? Wrong! I had to take breaks frequently, with my arms gaining the consistency of cooked spaghetti. Then came the bar work. The part I showed up for. First there was some mini-squats (plies in ballet speak:) ) followed by some mini leg lifts. This is the part where it started to get weird. I was lifting my leg no more than 2 inches at a time, and suddenly I started to see starts out of the corners of my eyes. I also felt the shakiness in my muscles. Grabbing my water bottle, I decided to sit this exercise out and watch everyone else.
Unfortunately, seeing everyone else do such small movements began to frustrate me. They made it look so easy, why was I having so much trouble with it? I was also a bit embarrassed, being the biggest girl there and feeling unable to do something that seemed so simple. So I kept getting back up, feeling dizzy, and sitting back down. At one point the instructor came and asked if I was ok, and then said “Don’t worry, It’s A LOT for the first time!” But it really didn’t look like it. So after a while I sat and watched them balance a small ball on their calves while doing leg lifts.
After the barre work came a series of exercises where you sit against the wall and lift your legs. I was able to participate in this one without feeling faint, but my leg muscles were shaking like crazy the entire time. This was also the first time I was able to look around the room at everyone else. It brought to mind the smiling, laughing faces that surround me at Zumba. In contrast, the faces of these women at Pure Barre were serious, intense, and determined. The class then ended with a quick ab workout and some stretching.
Afterwards, the instructor came to ask what I thought, and I said I wasn’t sure if it was for me, since I couldn’t get through the entire workout. She said that fainting spells the first time are very common (?!) and that even veterans need to take breaks from time to time. In my opinion, this was even harder than my first Crossfit workout several weeks ago! For the next 4 days after Pure Barre, my abs, triceps and thighs were very sore. So sore that it hurt every time I had to climb into or out of a car, or sit up in bed. Overall, Pure Barre is a fantastic workout, but be prepared if you try it. It definitely is not as easy as it looks!