Why Barre Could Make 2018 Your Fittest Year Ever

purebarre2-12Photo Credit: Rio Chavez Photography

It’s been a few years since barre transcended the label of “workout fad” to become a bona fide fitness movement, and if the ever-expanding crop of barre studios around Chicago is any indication, its popularity is only growing. The touted benefits of a regular barre routine read like a list of top New Year’s resolutions: weight loss, improved muscle tone, smaller waistline, better core strength, and straighter posture, to name a few.

If you’ve held out on the workout until now, consider this your year to give barre a try. We talked to Susan Rothman, owner of the Pure Barre studios in the West Loop (1170 W Madison) and Fulton River District (625 W Lake Street, opening at the end of January) to find out more about the physical (and mental) benefits of barre, what newbies should wear to their first class (and what they can expect from it), how long it takes to see results, and more.

What are the biggest physical benefits of a regular barre routine?

Our clients most often rave about their increased core strength, and with that they see a trimmer waistline as well as better posture and reduced back pain. Most Pure Barre devotees also notice a definite change in the tone of their arms, shoulders, upper back, seat and legs. It’s fun when a client runs up to show me new definition in her tricep. I’m not kidding! I get shown a lot of triceps and bicep flexes!

Above and beyond the physiological changes, clients love how they benefit mentally/psychologically from taking class regularly. Everyone has their “stuff” they walk in with for that first class: the extra weight, the nagging injury, an emotional burden. But within a few classes, they can feel the positive community and the fact that we’re rooting for them. It’s amazing to see the transformation as someone begins to hold their head higher, smile more, and mentally push themselves harder in class because their confidence has grown exponentially since that first class.

How long does it take to see results from a barre workout?

Every client is different and their bodies are different, but in general, our clients start seeing results in the first 10 classes. Two huge factors in how soon you see results are taking class often enough and pushing yourself. Pure Barre is a specific technique and it’s going to take time to understand the basics. Consider yoga or tennis; you wouldn’t take one-to-three classes and expect to master either, so have the same expectations with barre. It’s going to feel different, maybe even weird. But go with it and allow yourself to be a beginner – revel in learning something new!

We recommend giving it at least five-to-10 classes before you judge whether barre is for you and taking two-to-three classes a week while you’re getting up to speed. This allows you to retain what you learn from each class and build on it. If you wait too long between classes, you’ll be starting new each time, which is frustrating and delays the results you want.

As for effort level, if it feels easy, you’re probably missing the real work (and thus, won’t get results as fast). Listen to the cues your teacher is giving in class about how and where to work in terms of muscle engagement, and if something felt “easy” ask your teacher questions after class. We often find that new clients are not fully engaging the muscles they need to or they’re using too much momentum. In our classic technique, especially, the magic is in the deep contraction of the working muscle, so if you’re just going through the motions, you’re not going to get your tighter core or lifted seat quite as fast.

purebarre2 1Photo Credit: Rio Chavez Photography

Barre isn’t really a cardio-focused class. Is it still a good option for weight loss?

Yes. If barre is your main workout and you’re focused on weight loss, I’d recommend a non-cardio format (like our classic class) two-to-three times a week and a cardio option (like our Empower class) twice a week. As a side note, I also wouldn’t focus on weight loss in terms of the simple number on the scale, but instead on body fat percentage, how your clothes fit, and overall how you feel mentally and physically throughout your day. I say that because we have to remind clients all the time that their weight is only giving part of their body’s story and that number may go up or fluctuate while they’re gaining lean muscle mass because muscle weighs more than fat. And you WANT to gain lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass increases your metabolism so you burn more calories all day long and it creates a more attractive physique overall. So just say no to the “skinny-fat” look (e.g. skinny frame but no tone), and yes, to a fit, lean and strong body.

What can a barre newbie expect from their first class? What do you do in class?

This can vary quite a bit depending on the specific barre studio and the type of class you choose, but let’s assume you’re taking your first Classic class at our studio.

  • Key terms: We’ll give you a quick overview of a few  key terms we’ll use in class and ask about any injuries you have or modifications you might need.
  • Floor work – Class starts with a warm up focused on getting your heart rate elevated, energy up, core engaged, and body warm enough to prevent injury. It usually moves fast, but don’t be intimated. Take it at your own pace and know that with each class you’ll adapt faster and faster.
  • Upper body: The latter part of warm up focuses on upper body work. Remember to choose weights that allow you to focus on form and the contraction of each muscle – if you go too heavy too soon, your form will suffer and you’ll miss out on the work (and benefits!).
  • Lower body/core: Then, you’ll move into sections with particular focus on thighs, seat/gluts, and abs. You’ll be surprised, though, in each of these sections, you’ll often still be using other major muscle groups, if not your full body, which is part of what makes Pure Barre so effective and efficient.
  • Cool down: Expect two or three minutes cool down and stretch at the end of class. Take advantage of this time! So many people rush through this section, but it’s really what puts the finishing touches on your warm muscles and mentally helps you reset before you go on with your day.

Now that you know what to expect, give yourself a pep talk. Literally say, “I’m going to allow myself to be a beginner. I may not “get it” right away, but that’s okay!” Your attitude going in is so important. We see a lot of people who come from other fitness backgrounds, specific routines, or haven’t been working out, and for some reason they step into a barre class and expect to nail it the first time around. As your teachers, we’re not expecting perfection, only that you try and work for progress in each class. Give yourself time to pick up the lingo, understand your body and the movements, and enjoy learning something new.

barre class benefits 2Photo Credit: Rio Chavez Photography

Are there different types of barre classes?

Yes – the barre category has exploded! There are a lot of variations out there. The biggest evolution we’ve seen in the last few years is more cardio added to barre offerings, so clients can get their strength, cardio/interval training, core and stretch work under one roof.
At Pure Barre we do everything we can to offer variety, while still staying true to our core tenets, such as providing a safe movements, an efficient workout, and results-driven programs. Right now we offer our:

  • Classic format: The class that literally put barre on the map! It incorporates isometric movements throughout class, which help fatigue the muscle and build muscle endurance in a way that’s new for many clients.
  • Empower format: Combines strength and cardio for a non-stop 45 min class. Generally bigger movements and more sweat than our Classic format.
  • Foundations: Our Classic format with a little extra focus on the technique fundamentals – great for both new clients and those wanting a technique refresher.
  • Intensives: Full body work with additional time spent on focus areas like core or upper body, which challenge our clients to take their fitness to the next level.
  • Workshops: We offer a monthly technique workshop called Breaking Down the Barre, which is less of a workout and more of a de-brief on each section class.

What do you wear to barre, and what should you bring?

For Pure Barre, we always suggest comfortable workout wear that you won’t be fussing with throughout class:

  • Tank or tee: Fitted or loose
  • Sports bra: If not built into your tank; higher support recommended for cardio-based classes
  • Leggings or capris: We don’t recommend shorts, just because in certain positions, they will tend to ride up and clients always end up fidgeting with them more than focusing on their workout. Leggings also help keep your muscles warmer throughout the workout.
  • Footwear: Be sure to check with your specific studio, some require bare feet or tennis shoes. For Pure Barre, we require socks in the studio and recommend grippy socks in particular to help you hold your form for certain moves (no foot wraps or socks with exposed toes please).
  • Water bottle: Bring a water bottle so you can stay hydrated, especially if taking a cardio class.
  • Small towel: Good idea for cardio classes; I’m not a “glower”, I’m a sweat.it.all.out. kinda girl!
  • Equipment: Be sure to check with your specific studio. For Pure Barre, we provide all other equipment like weights, mats, resistance bands, etc. so no need to haul your yoga mat from home.

We’ll see you in the studio!