Barre classes might not seem as intimidating as other forms of exercise, but tread lightly: They could give you a whole new pain threshold.
Before I tried barre class, every time I walked past the studio by my office, I’d stifle a chuckle at the teeny-tiny weights, or suppress an eye-roll at the thin, sweat-free women bouncing lightly on their toes with little rubber balls between their knees. It looked like the kind of “workout” you’d do just so could go to brunch afterward in new leggings and a tank top broadcasting “Hey! Everybody! I work out!”
But you wouldn’t actually look (or smell) like you did.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself in agony, holding onto a barre for balance, one leg bent backward in the air and a squishy ball wedged behind my knee, while a tall blond woman in a headset bouncily repeated commands to “Lift … and flex.”
There was music, too, but I couldn’t tell you what it was.
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I was busy being completely consumed by excruciating pain radiating from muscles in my leg that I didn’t even know I had. All the while, the demonic chorus of “Lift … and flex” was the only thing I could hear, until the instructor finally, perkily announced that three minutes were over.
When we switched legs, I could’ve sworn I heard a scream from a tiny muscle somewhere between my thigh and my “seat” — as the instructor kept carefully calling it.
After a few rotations through other strange poses, we were directed to grab a giant rubber band and lie in the fetal position on the floor. First thought: Thank the great and powerful “seat” — I get to lie down!
Second thought: How dare they use the fetal position — beloved position for relieving hangover or menstrual pain — to actually cause pain?
With the giant band around my legs and my knees to my nose, I managed to push my legs open and closed against the resistance of the band only a handful of times before looking around the room in bewilderment. Was I doing something wrong? How were these women doing this? My hips felt like they were being forged in hellfire!
When the instructor announced that we’d be moving on to arms and should grab our tiny weights, I was relieved. What pain could possibly come from a three-pound weight?
Someday I will learn to stop asking questions the universe seems eager to answer with a vengeance.
I can only say that I must have been suffering from some kind of exercise-induced fever when I signed up for the class at Pure Barre in Lower Queen Anne. I had recently taken several other niche exercise classes and had apparently caught the bug.
Aside from my own brown skin and curly puff of a ponytail, the room looked more or less like I’d expected — mostly lithe, tall white women in leggings. There were at least two other women of non-glamazonian heights, but I could literally see my wide hips in the mirror bowing out from behind the slim-hipped woman standing in front of me. Still, I was received with a genuinely warm welcome by the staff, instructors and even some of the classmates, who bounced up to me afterward lying through kind smiles about how well I did.
The cooldown was a relief, though I continued to exhibit my utter beginner status as I struggled to reach my hands to my toes next to women I’m convinced were masters of some kind of new body-origami art collective.
Despite my weeping muscles, I left feeling warmly welcomed but with a newfound fear of getting beaten up by ballet dancers. Still, when the little email reminders from the barre studio pop up in my inbox — “We’ve missed you!” — I seriously think about going back. Usually, my wallet and the faint memory of muscle pain send me on a short run instead.