Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I like to lift my legs in tiny, painful increments on Tuesdays

A few weeks ago, my friend and co-worker Lauren told me that she’d been taking this new-to-her exercise class called Pure Barre. I’m not quite sure how we started talking about exercising to each other at work, but the gist of the conversation was that she really likes Pure Barre, that it was a totally different kind of workout, and that  I should try it sometime.

Well, OK, I thought blithely. Maybe I will. I like working out and I’d like to lose my—ahem—“Christmas weight,” so why not?

Before I go any farther, here’s something you should know about me: I have a propensity to get really, really excited about certain things for short bursts of time, but after that period of time ends, the thing I’d previously been so excited about drops off my radar. Are some of you like this, too? (Please say yes.) It’s actually not a bad habit to have when shopping, for example—in fact, I’ve channeled said fickleness into a litmus test of sorts, the litmus test part being that if I forget about the item I’ve started obsessing over after a couple of days, then I obviously don’t really need it anyway—but when it comes to stuff like, you know, exercise, it can rob me of some good and good-for-me experiences.

Pure Barre almost fell into that camp. After Lauren told me about it and I’d agreed to try it, I kept having scheduling conflicts that forced me to have to back out. But I finally made it to a class, and while I was a bit (OK, a lot) intimidated—you do a bunch of the exercises at a ballet barre, hence the name Pure Barre, and I am not, I repeat, NOT a dancer—I ended up kind of loving it.

Basically, Pure Barre (for those who haven’t tried it) is like a super intense Pilates session: you do small, isometric, ballet-inspired movements that work your core and that are quite different from my normal exercise routine, which is made up of a whole lot of cardio and not much else. And while you definitely get your heart rate up with Pure Barre—I admit it: I was breathing hard after the warm-up portion of the class—you also feel like you can have a normal conversation with someone after you finish each routine.  But the best part—to me, at least—is that you concentrate so hard on form and performing the movements during class that afterward, when you emerge from your highly focused (and, in my case, so-focused-you’re-squinty—attractive!) state, you just feel clear. It’s awesome, especially after a long day at work.

So yes, I totally felt that clear-headedness right after my very first class, and was proud of myself for getting through the whole thing—Pure Barre is hard, guys. In fact, I was kind of smug: I wasn’t even sore when I got home that night! I’d also gone to spin class the day before—I was the picture of health! I looked in the mirror knew that the Christmas weight was ALREADY melting away!* Pretty soon, I’d be a ballerina!

Um, yeah, and then I woke up the next day and was more sore than I’d ever been in my entire life. Everything hurt. It hurt to lift my arms, it hurt to lift my legs, it hurt to sit, it hurt to laugh. I had to explain to people all day why I was grimacing when I lowered myself into chairs or, you know, took a step. So much for being a ballerina—I’d been humbled by the barre.

But I went back to a couple more classes—in fact, I’ve been going at least once a week ever since—and like most things, the soreness has faded over time, and what’s left is that clear-headed feeling that’s so addictive and, often, elusive. Also like most things, practice makes perfect—I can feel myself slowly getting more flexible as the days go by, which is pretty cool. It’s kind of a win/win.

And that, my friends, is why I like to lift my legs in tiny, painful increments on Tuesdays (and sometimes Thursdays, too).

*Do you get like this as well? I am so guilty of coming home after a tough spin class or elliptical session and looking in the bathroom mirror as I glisten with the sweat of the workout while thinking, “Yep—skinnier already!” even though that’s totally nuts. Please tell me I’m not alone with my crazy.

Photo credit 


  1. It was so cool to see this post right now - I just got back from teaching my Monday night ballet class! There's nothing like it. And yes, that clear-headedness you're experiencing is addictive. I've never heard of Pure Barre, but going to check it should take a ballet class, too! :)

    1. Barbara, that's awesome! Ironically my aunt is a former ballerina and current dance company owner and she tried for YEARS to get me into ballet; I always preferred drawing pictures and writing stories to dance, though. Funny that twenty years later I'm enjoying all of these ballet-inspired workouts. Maybe I WILL try a ballet class this summer!

  2. I did a class like this once - I loved it! Thanks for the reminder - I'd love to try it again! :)