Home Friday 5 Friday 5 At @Physique57: 5 Things To Know Before Your First Barre Class

Friday 5 At @Physique57: 5 Things To Know Before Your First Barre Class

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Last Friday, during BlogHer ’12, I was invited to attend Well + Good NYC‘s blogger meet and greet event at Physique 57, a beautiful barre studio in the SoHo area where some of the most major league butt kicking would eventually take place. We were invited to enjoy a class, followed up by a meet and greet with the other bloggers and lots of refreshments (and treats!) from Chobani, courtesy of the new Chobani SoHo yogurt bar. Exercise and epic snacking? This is an event made for me, right?

Alas, while all this was going on…

The bloggers at the event! Photo Courtesy of Well + Good NYC

…where was I? Stuck on the E train! Who’s got better luck than me? Everyone, that’s who.

Sure enough, I showed up a good 15 minutes late, totally unlike me. (As an Aquarius, I feel it is my personal duty to always strive to be early to anything, lest I give everyone who knows me a reason to say I live up to my free-spirited nature. No! I actually tried this time!)

While they couldn’t let me into the session I was missing, the ladies at Physique 57 were more than willing to work with me. I was gifted with a complimentary beginner’s course, taught by Sarah, followed up with a couple of scarf-down-worthy treats they’d saved for me and a lovely Physique 57 gift bag.

Now… I’m a runner. I’m a lifter. I pole for fun. I even occasionally wrestle around with 80lb dogs. I could pull cars across highways for a living if I wanted, and very little could’ve prepared me for what I was walking into when I stepped my properly-socked feet into that studio. (Physique 57 has its own special socks with grippy textured bottoms for its studio members. Gotta love it!)

That being said, there are a few things I’d wished I’d known before I waltzed in there thinking a barre class would be simple, and I’m going to share them with you:

1) Barre ain’t easy. I remember when my original gym started offering barre classes, and no one attended them because we all thought it’d be simple pretty prissy girl ballerina stuff. It’s not. Trust me. A tricky, yet challenging combination of cardio, flexibility and calisthenics, barre is a constant barrage of different movements that will leave you feeling like you’re going to keel over from how hard you’re working. And, while I can imagine that people are put off by the fact that “it’s a barre, and ballerinas use those, and ballerinas are just tiny,” the reality is that the way the barre is used in the class provides support to someone who might otherwise struggle with movements like squats and basic core work.

2) All that quivering? It’s totally normal. And, guess what? Sometimes, you can even keep working out when you’re quivering! (You must listen to your body and determine what is best for you, though. Just don’t be afraid to push yourself.) Your body will tremble when it comes to new kinds of challenges, partly because the muscle movements at that intensity are new to you…it wants to respond but isn’t entirely sure how. Forging through, to some degree, teaches it to you. (insert mumbo jumbo about new neuropathways) If it makes it better to know this, you can always come out of the sequence of movements and shake your body out (something similar to what boxers do before they swing on you? float like a butterfly, sting like a barre burn?) and then dive right back into it. I found that to be a huge help.

3) You, beginner, will need to warm up before you warm up. You’ll need a pre-warm up warm up. Do some jumping jacks, some mock jump roping… something. It’s likely your mind may not be ready, really, for what you’ll get bombarded with, so do it a favor and just get it ready for war.

4) A good teacher will be essential to your ability to enjoy and benefit from your barre class. Use them wisely. Pay very close attention to the teacher. If something feels too easy, you’re probably doing it wrong. Speaking of the teacher, don’t be afraid to ask for a modified version of a move…and modifications can be to make a move a bit easier for a full on beginning barre baby, or make it more difficult for an experienced, more fit, barre beauty. Sometimes, a modification can be as simple as “do it in double time!” or “uncross your legs” to change how much of a challenge a move will be. You’ll never know unless you ask.

5) Stretching post-workout is going to be integral to your ability to walk that night. You’ll want to invest in a foam roller… or at least a very good quality softball. (Any other kind of ball is likely going to be too hard and beyond painful, or it’ll be too large and too soft to get the job done.) DO some major stretching, spend some time sitting in a hot shower or steam room, and have some quality one on one with your foam roller or softball. Then thank me afterwards.

All in all, Sarah was an awesome teacher. There were, apparently, two other beginners in my class and she was very accommodating to us all. The Spring St location was beautiful, comforting and was full of lovely women who were both accommodating of my lateness and giggled as I joked about how I was going to have to crawl into a cab to go home. There would be no subway stairs for me.

(And then I made it worse by going out with those bloggers in the earlier class I missed that night. They were kind enough to wait for me!)

Oh, and the Chobani? Pistachio and chocolate. Bad picture, good yogurt.

The Physique 57 Solution

I left Physique 57 with a slick-looking tote bag filled with their DVD and book, as well as a list of fun places to check out in the city, courtesy of Well + Good NYC. I left Physique 57 feeling just like a good class should leave you feeling – worn out, but eager to do it again!

So, tell me – have you tried a barre class? Did you love it, or hate it? What tips can you share?

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Tamara August 10, 2012 - 1:18 PM

I haven’t tried it, but one of my co-workers did and she had RAVE reviews about it, but she also told me it was the HARDEST workout she’s ever done. I’m tempted to try, but I worry about what I will look like while doing it. I guess I won’t know until I try huh?!

Erika Nicole Kendall August 10, 2012 - 1:22 PM

I PROMISE everyone’s too tired to be looking at you and watching you do it. I SWEAR. There was a point in time where I genuinely forgot other people were in the room. It was THAT bad. LOL

Rooo April 20, 2013 - 9:56 PM

I had 55 moments like that yesterday (was it just yesterday? LOL) – one sixty-second interval after the other. It was just me and the machine and the props. All I could think about was my own set of abs and inner thighs and stretched-to-heck piriformis and when was the burn gonna stop and stuff.

(Does anyone else have a trainer / group leader who will give you a number for the reps and say something like “Give it all you’ve got!” and then go “I lied – 2 more” or “5 more” ? o.O #makesmewannaholler )

The trainer for that class is also the one in charge for my private sessions for the bad knees, so he knows all my imbalances and adjusts the machine for them so it’s practically like working out on a BOSU ball the whole time. And he’s all cheerful when he does it. It’s all I can do to get through it.

Wenona Wynn August 10, 2012 - 2:18 PM

I’ve done both Bar Method and POP Physic. I love barre work outs, they are amazing, but cost prohibitive. If you can afford them, I really have to say Barre Method is worth every penny. (no slam on Pop Physic, I just think the set up of Bar Method is better, you work out on carpet instead of a hard floor and I think they play a little bit more attention to form. The instructors are attentive and work closely with every participant, hence the classes are small. (They even learn everyone’s name). But in a pinch I would do POP again. It would be really great to see more black women getting into barre workouts. When I started I was often the only one. Thankfully, the word was getting out and more black women were coming in. I think it is a workout that is particularly well suited for curvy types, because it lengthens and tones, so less fear of bulking up, while sculpting even better butts and thighs. It takes a beautiful curvy figure and makes it sleeker and more defined, without trying to make it skinny. And the arms are amazing.

Kaija August 10, 2012 - 3:40 PM

I’m a dancer and I’m thrilled that barre workouts are becoming more popular and I’m glad you got to try it and report back 🙂 Professional ballet dancers make everything look effortless, but those movements are whole-body (and mind) challenges that can kick your butt for sure. I’ve also played a lot of sports, but I always say that ballet is the most difficult thing I’ve done because it requires body and mind focus (no daydreaming or making grocery lists….LOL!) and you have to make the huge effort look graceful and pleasant 🙂 I hope the barre workouts inspire more adults to try ballet…it’s never too late, it’s great exercise, and it’s FUN.

Rooo August 13, 2012 - 6:33 PM

“Professional ballet dancers make everything look effortless, but those movements are whole-body (and mind) challenges that can kick your butt for sure. I’ve also played a lot of sports, but I always say that ballet is the most difficult thing I’ve done because it requires body and mind focus (no daydreaming or making grocery lists….LOL!) and you have to make the huge effort look graceful and pleasant”

Yes, this.


Sonya August 10, 2012 - 4:08 PM

You are so right! Barre workouts look so easy but are soooooooooo hard in a good way. During my first workout I kept thinking to myself, “It’s not supposed to be this hard. I must be doing something wrong.” Ha! It IS supposed to be that hard. Darn it! LOL.

Alisha Semplar August 10, 2012 - 4:25 PM

Where can I find a barre class in the San Francisco, Bay Area?

Wenona August 14, 2012 - 1:59 PM
Donna August 10, 2012 - 8:38 PM

has anyone tried a hot barre class, im thinking about doing that any advice?

Annette August 11, 2012 - 1:17 PM

It would probably be good for me to lightly build lean muscle and build up a lot of different muscles. Also improve my posture. I wonder what can you do at home, or do it at home. Barre classes are not all over the place where I live. So I wonder what can I do at home? Ballet dances are in great shape with excellent posture which helps at lot as you get older.

Kaija August 14, 2012 - 9:21 AM

It’s really surprising how many adult beginner ballet classes are around these days…it’s not just for little girls! Even dance studios that cater mostly to kids are adding evening classes for adults. And people in those classes tend to be fun and friendly…it’s not all “Black Swan” in there 😉

If you Google “adult ballet mycity”, you may find some good leads. I’m not as familiar with barre workouts, but I hear they are becoming quite popular!

Palencia September 1, 2012 - 9:14 AM

Great review on barre classes. I danced as a kid and looked like something I’d be interested in. I have a groupon for one but I clearly won’t be trying this class until 2013!

Leena January 18, 2013 - 10:19 AM

Glad to hear you are getting into barre! I remember being sore a couple of days after my first sessions. That good kind of sore. I love doing it for my thighs especially. I have to second about modifications. Being in a releve position makes it tougher but if you have bad knees it does help to strengthen them that way. Just remember to keep movements small and placing your heels back on the floor. Also take breaks and shaking/stretch out your legs between sets helps too.

Michalet Clark January 18, 2013 - 10:21 AM

OMG E. I danced for 27 years then retired. I even taught for 9 years. Getting back on that barre was about to put me in critical condition. All I can say is stick to it. You’ll be able to get your mojo back in no time.
@Annette, there is a contraption that’s “As seen on TV” for a home portable barre. I haven’t read the reviews but it looks legit.

Tira January 18, 2013 - 1:11 PM

They recently added barre classes at the Y in my area.I going to try the class.. I’m up for a good challenge.

Janine April 20, 2014 - 11:06 AM

I tried Barre (2-3 sessions/week for about a month) and then ultimately gave up going in favor of my normal exercise routine of running/weightlifting/power yoga. I stopped going for a few reasons…

1) Diminishing returns. The movements didn’t give me the same burn after a few sessions. I think this is because the weight you’re working with (body weight and tiny free weights) doesn’t change as your ability to lift it/move it around increases. To keep making gains you would have to up the amount of weight you’re lifting.

2) Low calorie burns. I wore my heart rate monitor to class and saw that I was getting about 125-175 calories burned per hour session. A “regular” weightlifting session with heavier weights burns that many calories in HALF an hour for me. So at this point, I’m convinced that I’m not gaining that much muscle with regular attendance (see 1) nor am I burning enough calories for this to be worth my time.

3) COST. Barre is PRICEY! It would be worth it to go regularly if it helped me accomplish my goals… but see above.

Now I go about twice a month. That’s about the right amount for me to still feel that “burn” after a class and to keep my wallet intact. I do enjoy their well-constructed arm and butt routines.

Some people swear by Barre. I totally endorse going regularly if that kind of exercise suits your needs and goals. The only way to know for sure is to check it out!

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