Practically everyone I know has been talking about barre workouts lately—but to be honest, they make me nervous. Last time I tried ballet, I’m pretty sure I was six and my parents quickly pulled me out of the class because let’s just say I wasn’t the most agile student.
Recently, a number of barre gyms have opened up in Toronto, of which the newest is Barre3, a workout system that combines moves from ballet, yoga and Pilates. Founded in Portland, the company now has more than 70 studios worldwide, and this is their first foray into Canada.
Since I promised myself I was going to work a little harder this winter, I figured why not give it a shot? Plus, with celebrity fans like Madonna and Miranda Kerr, it HAD to be effective, right?
What is a Barre Workout?
Walk into a typical dance studio and you’ll see a handrail that runs along a mirrored wall. That's the barre, and it's a core part of ballet training, particularly for warming up, strength work and form.
The barre workout concept traces back to the late 1950s, when ex-ballerina Lotte Berk trained socialites and celebrities to build dancer's bodies using the barre and their own body weight.
Today, barre workout classes like Barre3's combine traditional barre work with elements of yoga and Pilates, and instead of stuffy classical music, are set to upbeat top 40 (think Beyoncé and Sam Smith).
My Visit to Barre3
When I first arrived at Barre3, I’ll admit I clammed up a little. It looked exactly like what I had dreaded—a dance studio filled with tiny girls wandering around in top knots. Though everyone was super-friendly and welcoming, I had this horrible feeling I was about to seriously embarrass myself.
I was told to pick a spot along the bar between two brackets; that would be my space for the class. No accessories are required, but if you want to bring more of a challenge to the workout, they recommend you grab a squishy Core Ball as well as two sets of weights, one and two pounds.
At this point, I was totally freaking out. Most of the other students looked like dancers and though I’ve done some yoga over the years, I felt like a fish out of water. But then the music started and I began to relax.
Similar to most aerobics classes, we worked through a series of poses, adding movement to the beat of the music. For each pose, we would first hold it; then do small, one-inch micro movements; and finally, more dynamic, bigger movements. The idea is that the holding increases strength, endurance and focus; the small movements boost metabolism; and the bigger movements get the heart rate going.
Though some poses involved using the barre—mainly just for support—a lot of the workout was done on the floor or simply standing. No pirouettes or complicated dance moves!
I was actually surprised at how quickly the class flew by and at how much my abs, glutes, legs and arms burned, even though I wasn’t really sweating.
The best part was that I was so focused on trying to get the postures right, I didn’t even have time to check out what everyone else was doing or to compare myself to them—something I’m usually super-guilty of.
The Bottom Line
I think I... wait for it... now like barre.
Honestly, I went into Barre3 expecting to hate it, but they have a great mix of calming, yoga-like poses that get kicked up a notch with music and fast movement. I also really liked the Core Ball, which made sit-ups feel easy. Seriously!
Where To Try a Ballet-Inspired Workout
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Here's a list of some other barre gyms across Canada to try:
- Toronto: Barre3, Barreworks, Barre Beautiful and Spynga
- Vancouver: The Bar Method and Barre Fitness
- Calgary: Barre Body Studio and The Sweat Lab
- Montreal: TrèsStudio Barre and Xtend Barre
Have Your Say
Have you ever tried a barre workout? Do you have a favourite ballet gym?