I’ve been pretty closeted about the fact that I’m even attending Pure Barre classes, since the peppy lifestyle branding doesn’t match up very well with my lots-of-dark-eyeliner, was-once-a-goth-kid persona. The classes are advertised as being — and, I have to say, generally are — populated by svelte, gorgeous women; the type of women who look effortless and chic when wearing something slouchy; the type of women who could make money off their Instagram accounts by wearing said slouchy thing and leaning against an aging brick wall somewhere.
As someone who looks slovenly in slouchy things (and fit at best — definitely not svelte — in form-fitting things), for this and a variety of other reasons, I was skeptical when I started out with Pure Barre (three years ago, it must be, in Jacksonville, after moving an hour from my treasured ballet lessons and finding a Groupon). Uh, the highest the weights go is 5 pounds? You think I should start out with 2 pounds? Everyone looks like a supermodel ballerina? The front room is a boutique that feels more like a spa than a gym? Nope nope nope nope nope.
But then, I took the class. And it kicked my ass! (Or “seat,” as they’d say — barre classes are replete with these kinds of euphemisms.) I was so sore the next day, stairs were a challenge. And this was after weeks and weeks of heavy-weight gym work. Plus, you know, that spa atmosphere I just bitched about? It’s pretty inviting, after all. And the music is bumping. And the positions, though uncomfortable and unflattering and god-damn-near impossible, are each only held for about 2.5 minutes — the workout speeds by and you’re in the zone the entire time. It never gets tedious. Only super (super, super — I cannot emphasize this enough) challenging.
When I started barre in Jacksonville, I was hooked. I went for as long as possible and then moved to Athens, OH for grad school, and needless to say, there’s no barre studio (yet!) in that little college town of population-2000-before-students. (Although I definitely thought about what it would be like to open one there, had I the capital or the signature look. It seems like the right market.)
I had a few Pure Barre videos and podcasts on my computer, and would sometimes use them to supplement my routine when I couldn’t make it down to the gym. When I was done with my first year of grad school and went on a giant, cross-country road trip, I found myself looking for barre classes in any city I stayed in longer than a day or two — and paying for quick weekend cameos or single-class drop-ins. I was also a regular Bar Method client in St. Augustine for a few months, when I got back from the road trip, but before I moved for my job.
When I moved to St. Petersburg and found myself less than 10 minutes from a Pure Barre studio, I was glad I’d finally found a barre home. In fact, I took two classes at the same studio when I drove down and stayed a night for my interview. I’ve been hittin’ it almost daily ever since. The team welcomes each client like family and the space is inviting. Plus, they’ve held lots of cool events (several of which I’ve taken part in: sunset class on the beach, glow-in-the-dark-rave-class, and my favorite, “Bring on the Men,” in which you get to humiliate and frustrate a person-with-a-penis whom you love — and trust not to disown you after being put through an hour of difficult, feminine, hip-centered exercises their bodies are not necessarily primed for).
I’m not going to endorse any of the studios or franchises over any other (a pretty un-Spirit-Ball-Ambassador move on my part, probably; sorry! It’s hard to make a statement because each studio is great in its own way, and has its own drawbacks). But I will say that barre studio classes in general, while overpriced and perhaps too invested in branding and a kind of manufactured exclusivity, are an awesome, interesting workout that keep you (literally) on your toes and make you shake and sweat consistently. I’ve seen improved stamina and flexibility, and although my weight has remained the same, the shape of my body is different. And it’s never difficult to go. I actively look forward to it.
And either way, being chosen as the Spirit Ball representative this month — for which I was nominated in large part, the team tells me, due to my stellar form — is a win in my fitness history, which spans 70 pounds and a wildly oscillating understanding of– and appreciation for — my body. I feel strong and capable and less afraid. And, you know what? I’m (probably. Hopefully?) never going to buy $90 yoga pants — but Pure Barre is fun and effective, and fitness is about finding ways to move that you enjoy. Give it a shot. You haven’t got anything to lose — and you can totally do it.