Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fitness Guinea Pig - Pure Barre Review

Fitness Guinea Pig is back, and this time she’s bellied up to the barre. The ballet barre, that is. Recently, I got to experience my first barre classes at Pure Barre in Leawood, KS. This was a true FGP (Fitness Guinea Pig) moment that had me completely out of my element. Barre studios/classes are popping up all over the place, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Armed with a Groupon for 2 weeks of unlimited classes, I decided to check it out. **Disclaimer – this is simply my personal experience with one specific barre studio and is not necessarily representative of all barre classes**

Stepping into the studio for the first time, I felt like the elephant in the room, literally. My first class was fairly empty, about 6 students. I was at least a head taller and about 25 lbs heavier than every single one of them. So…going unnoticed is out. To make matters worse, I must have missed the memo explaining the uniform of full Lululemon attire and Pure Barre branded grippy socks…although I whispered a tiny prayer of thanks that I had at least worn some cute-ish gray and pink socks instead of my normal white workout socks. Sadly, no one had these gems:

Growing up, dance was something I never got involved in, which I admittedly regret now that I’m old with no grace, rhythm or flexibility. The instructor came in with long, lean muscles and leg warmers, and I thought, “Finally, I get to bring out that inner ballerina that’s been trapped for 30 years!” We were sent to get equipment, which included a set of light hand weights (3-5 lbs), a resistance band and a cantaloupe-sized kickball.

The first 10 minutes of class were spent in the middle of the room with hand weights. The whole premise of the class is to enter the “shake zone” with each muscle. This is accomplished primarily by doing exercises with a very small range of motion (“pulses”). We worked shoulders, triceps and biceps before putting the weights away.

Next, we finally stepped up to the barre. Finally – I was going to unleash my inner swan! I was disappointed that we never used the barre for anything that resembled anything I've ever seen a ballet dancer do. 

My Expectation
Eventually we sat on the floor below the barre and did some exercises that I think were supposed to work the butt, but I found that my poor flexibility had my lower back or hip flexors screaming long before any muscle actually got fatigued.

We moved to the back barre, where we bent forward at the waist at 90 degrees and I learned the value of a tight-fitting top. We then worked our glutes, still using small pulses to completely fatigue a muscle. We finished with some seated ab work/stretching that was very pilates-esque.

Ultimately, I enjoyed my time at Pure Barre, but I could only see it realistically being a small part of my fitness regime. 


  • The music - upbeat, familiar pop songs
  • Hands-on instruction - body position is critical, and instead of actually doing the workout themselves, the instructors routinely walked around the room to make form adjustments where needed
  • The fashion - FINALLY, a place to wear those leg warmers!

  • The price - a monthly membership is $220, or $20 per class (volume rates apply - for full pricing, visit the website). I also peeked at the price tag on the tank tops for sale at the studio...yikes!!
  • Monotony - there is only 1 type of class at Pure Barre. The specific exercises varied a little from class to class, but they were all pretty much the same. After about 3-4 classes, I was bored.
  • Results - a lot of time is spent isolating smaller muscles, so the heart rate doesn't get elevated much. The class would be fine for overall toning, but if you have some pounds to lose, you will need to add plenty of cardio in addition to your barre class.
Format: In-class, in-home barre workouts also available
Calories Burned: ~ 400 per hour
Sweat Factor: 2 (on a scale of 1-10)
Prerequisites: None, although a fair amount of flexibility - particularly in the hamstrings and hip flexors - helps
Equipment: all required equipment is provided: small hand weights, mat, resistance band, small ball
Fitness Level: any
Impact Level: minimal
How to Fit In: the clothes! Non-grippy socks are the tell-tale sign of a novice. Clothes should be tight-fitting, but since there is very little impact, there's no need for tons of support. The pros wear fitted tanks under slouchy tops. Leg warmers are ok!

Have you tried a barre class? Share your experience!

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