Coordinated is not a word I would use to describe myself. I'm a lot of things (good and bad), but one thing I certainly am not is coordinated. It seems that falling is a hobby for me; I've fallen at the Toronto Airport, down my mother's stairs, in multiple parking lots, going up the stairs, at Whole Foods, and (my personal favourite) in a university parking lot after the parking arm closed on my head and almost knocked me unconscious.
I'm not one of those girls that is klutzy in a cute way and somehow it's endearing. Girl, please. Has a parking lot arm ever hit you in the head? Amateurs.
As a result, even though I'm a fitness fanatic, the concept of group fitness not only scares me, it terrifies me. The idea of coordinating moves that test your physical ability to music among perfect strangers is essentially a re-occurring nightmare for me. When barre became popular a while back, I wanted to try it, but I let my fear get the better of me. I wanted the signature barre lean body, toned muscles, and strong core, but in my hardwired fear-based mind:
Barre = ballet.
Ballet = dance.
Dance = coordination.
Coordination = a bruised ego and possibly a bruised body.
Fast-forward a few years and things are different now. I run my own copywriting business, I'm the editor-in-chief of Kendra Found It, I'm more confident in my fitness abilities, and I'm a grown-ass woman. It was time to conquer my fear.
Raising (Lowering?) the Barre
Barre is hard to describe, but I would say it's a fitness class based on small movements, core strength, using muscles you don't even know you have, and perfecting your form. In terms of comparing it to other styles of fitness, it feels like the lovechild of Pilates, yoga, and weight (strength) training. Depending what type of class you take and the studio you sign up with, you can either leave dripping with sweat or with a lovely glow.
I was told that anyone can do barre, but before I signed up, I still had to ask the most annoying and crazy questions:
"Do I need to know how to dance?" Answer: No.
"Do I need to wear a tutu?" Answer: No tutus. Socks with sticky soles or bare feet.
"Can I leave if I don't like it?" Answer: Yes, but you won't want to.
"Will everyone be looking at me?" Answer: No. Not unless you're wearing a tutu.
So I did what any self-respecting 30-something would do: I signed up for a month of classes at the Dailey Method and then avoided going for the first week.
After a full week of procrastination, I signed up for Dailey Basics, which is their introduction class into barre fitness. I chose it because I wanted to be around other clueless people like myself and also secretly hoped that there would be someone there that was worse than I was. After just one class, I discovered that barre has much more to do with yourself than the people or even the music around you.
What to Expect
The room was lined with (surprise!) a ballet bar, but please believe me when I tell you that you truly don't need any dance experience or even fitness experience to try barre.
Barre classes have a "flow" to them, working a wide range of muscles; most classes have similar holds, balances, pulses, and isolated movements. Each class is different, but barre focuses heavily on core strength, so it's a good option for people looking for low-impact workouts.
During the next three weeks, I tried almost every type of class at the Dailey Method Kitsilano and learned a lot:
- Like any other fitness class, a good instructor makes all the difference -- find one that will help you perfect your form.
- You'll need to know two basic moves: tilt and tuck (your instructor will explain them to you at the beginning of class).
- Every barre studio is different, so start by getting an idea of what you're looking for. Do you want to join a studio that has just one type of class and perfect it? Or would you like to go to a studio that offers a variety of class styles?
- It's better to have good form and not be able to finish the set (or have to take a break) than to complete all the repetitions with incorrect form.
- Most barre classes give you the option of using small two to eight-pound weights. Don't be a hero -- start small and work your way up.
- I love a good cardio session, so my favourite class was Dailey Cycle: 40 minutes of cycling followed by a 20-minute upper body barre workout. It was a love/hate relationship while I was doing it, but I had nothing but love once I was done (it was probably the endorphins).
Classes, by nature, are for learning. Their main purpose is to teach you something; as a result, there will always be a learning curve. There were times when I looked comical, had no idea what I was doing, and even times when I swore out loud because I was pretty sure my arms were going to spontaneously combust. Guess what? The world didn't end -- no one cared about what I was doing; they were all focusing on themselves. As they were working up a sweat, they were probably thinking about whether their form was correct, what they were going to have for dinner, or whether they turned off the stove before they left the house.
My worst fears were never realized: no one pointed and laughed at me, no one stared at me, and best of all, a parking arm didn't close on my head. Once I let go of my worries, group fitness became much more enjoyable and felt completely different to me.
I learned a lot during my three weeks at the Dailey Method: I learned how to tilt and tuck, the proper form for planking, exercises to isolate my triceps, that I have extremely tight hamstrings, and that my favourite part of class is at the end when the teacher offers up Shavasana. The biggest lesson I learned from barre? My insecurities and neuroses are literally all in my head.
Oh, and I also learned that I need to wear those sticky stocks every day for the rest of my life because it's really hard to fall down in them.
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