This summer was insane! Record highs all summer long and even though the first day of fall has come and gone, we here in Orlando are still sweating it out. The crazy humidity, the record heat and the busyness of our summertime schedule all lead me to make one radical decision when it came to my workout routine: I decided to try my hand at the barre.
In the beginning of this past June, Jordan was kind enough to arrange a free barre class for our Bikini Bod Bootcamp ladies at one of our local barre studios, Barre 54. It was nuts! We all felt completely energized, accomplished and very, very, very sore by the end of that night’s workout. If you aren’t familiar with a barre workout, let me give you a quick, from my amateur point of view, summary. Barre workouts are focused on strengthening and toning primarily. This is accomplished by teeny, tiny movements mostly of muscle areas that can be difficult to tone and strengthen in your average fitness routine. Most barre workouts utilize the Lotte Burke method and if you really like the science, you can read about that here. But for the rest of you, let me just say that my summer at the barre was unlike any other fitness challenge I have ever undertaken. And there’s a barre. A real, honest to goodness ballet barre that at first, makes you feel real pretty and dainty like a ballerina but eventually just beats your body to a blubbery, muscly mess…..and I loved it!
After my first encounter with the barre with the boot camp ladies, I decided to spend the next two months of the summer attempting to master the barre. Here is how it went down. The first two weeks I absolutely hated it. I felt like a complete idiot, was constantly having to be correct and re-corrected by the instructors (who I think began to feel really sorry for me) and I was pretty much convinced that no one had ever been more pathetic at a barre workout ever in the history of barre workouts than me. One major con of barre workouts is that there is a high learning curve and with that comes a high intimidation factor. Some studios will offer classes at different levels but Barre 54, like most studios, throws everyone together. And I had a huge level of intimidation to get over.
Not only was I a novice at this kind of workout, everything about it was counter what I normally enjoy and am good at in my normal fitness routines. I am a hard core cardio girl all the way. I can sprint around the track, jump until my legs give out and there is nothing that I love more than the feeling of my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest. And while there is some cardio involved in a barre workout, most of it comes from your heart trying to help your muscles move very, very slowly. Also, strength has never been my thing. I have always shied away from weight training in the past and any tone I had accomplished was really the byproduct of those heart stopping workouts I was doing with boot camp. But the barre requires you to slow down, and while the music might be thumping away and the beat fast and sure, the movements are controlled and rhythmic, forcing muscles in your body to perform at peaks that they rarely see in every day life. And not only is your body getting worked over but your mind is buzzing the entire time. There is a lot to think about in a barre workout in order to get the biggest bang for your buck: neck aligned with spine, shoulders up but relaxed, hips tucked under, fingers barely touching the barre, knees slightly bent, heels lifted off the floor….oh yeah, and breathe. And that’s just the starting gun. From there you’re moving up and down, changing positions, shifting your weight, moving from the barre to the floor to the barre again, etc. Your mind is on overload.
But something happened after my second week. I got bitten by the bug. And while the movements were still difficult and my body was still shaky, I was able to stay in position longer with each move. One of my favorite aspects about barre workouts is that progress is so easily tracked. I went from barely making it through 2 counts of 8 to blowing through an entire song. And while I am by no means a pretty ballerina these days, by my last class I was usually managing to at least be facing the right direction at the barre. But the most surprising aspect of my summer at the barre was how much I enjoyed the personal achievement I found. Even though I entered each class, looking around at the highly intimidating women around me and wondering how it was possible that they were able to touch their noses to their ankles, there came a moment usually at the beginning of the session where it was just me and the barre. Part of this is because the work is so insanely hard that you don’t have the energy to see how anyone else around you is surviving. With the first lifted heel, my mind would move from a studio full of other women to that one spot at the barre that was mine for the next hour. And while I absolutely love the camaraderie that is present at each session of Bikini Bod Bootcamp, this past summer at the barre caused me to challenge only myself, to encourage only myself and to achieve whole new levels of accomplishment with each class that I attended.
I was surprised at how sad I felt at my last official barre class this month. I went from despising almost every moment to looking forward to my next encounter. And as shocking as it is for me to say, I can’t wait to get back to the barre sometime soon.