Barre Classes Are Torture (But I Keep Going)

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 

I came to the world of exercise late in life. While I played soccer as a kid, and by “played soccer,” I mean “ran around clueless on a grassy field with other 8-year-olds in matching rec center T-shirts,” I wasn’t the most athletic gal on the block. And my short yet distinguished bid for an Olympic gold medal in track and field was thwarted in high school when I realized just how much work would be involved in order to get to the podium. Further, the only formal dance training I have under my belt is one ballet class for a fuzzy semester when I was 4.

Needless to say, I’m not the most coordinated mom at the PTA meeting. But because I have grown to love physical activity and enjoy meeting my friends for an outdoor run or a weekly exercise class, I’ve become pretty adventurous in what I’m willing to try in the name of staying fit.

And I’ve done it all too: Mommy and Me Yoga, Zumba, spin class, and strength training. I’ve run road races, participated in triathlons, and completed six marathons. While I wasn’t the most athletic chick when I was younger, I can say with some confidence that I’m in pretty decent shape — or more accurately, my exercise routine supports my eating and drinking habits and I’ve achieved an okay-ish level of fitness. Because I’m never not going to drink wine, okay?

So, when my friend suggested I join her for a barre class, I figured it would be a piece of cake. I mean, I’ve survived swimming in brackish lake water with elite swimmers who mowed over me like a freight train. I’ve conquered mile 20, aka “The Wall” of a marathon. I’ve managed to do yoga DVDs with a screaming toddler in the room. I was pretty sure I could handle some cutesy ballet steps with a bunch of other mom ballerinas.


OMG, was I ever wrong. The barre was set high, I tell you.

For those not in the know, the latest rage to hit the exercise world and strip malls is a class designed around a ballet barre. The exercises, stretches, and moves are designed to target deep muscles, create a long, lean form, and improve strength and flexibility.

Basically, picture a pilates class with a ballet barre combined with trying to balance a book on your head for long periods of time in a room covered with mirrors and no place to hide. All while a perky, super-friendly instructor tells you to “Pulse, pulse, hold!” through a headset on her perfectly coiffed hair.

These classes are no fucking joke, people.

On my first day, my friend suggested I get there a little bit early to familiarize myself with the equipment. Naturally, I made snarky comments about being fully capable of putting my hand securely on a ballet barre, but when I arrived at the gorgeously appointed studio with gleaming hardwoods, I realized I might be in over my head.

After I purchased the requisite “grippy” socks, which I’m assuming prevent assholes like me from splaying like wobbly baby giraffes all over the floor, my adorable instructor showed me around. There were tiny little red exercise balls, yoga mats, and these circular tubes that would be strapped around my legs at various times during the class.

Even though strapping my thighs into red resistance tubes that barely squeezed past my knees didn’t seem like the best of ideas, I decided to be a good sport. Besides, my friend was there to lend moral support and she promised we could go to Starbucks afterward. So I took my spot at the barre and hoped for the best.

I believe this is the part where I tell you that I regret that I didn’t pursue dance lessons beyond the church multipurpose room where an old lady who smelled like moth balls taught me to plie when I was in preschool.

While the others in the class held beautiful, statuesque poses to the pulsating beat of a weird Beyoncé mix, I spent the class sputtering expletives, tripping over my two left feet, and having the instructor announce, “Keep it up, Christine!” which is basically the equivalent of hearing, “You look like hell, but at least you’re trying!” The other mom ballerinas lowered their messy buns and snickered into their shirts emblazoned with catchy phrases like, “Barre Goals” and “Barre Crawl” as I did my best not to break my neck as I yanked off the resistance bands.

In truth, I sucked at barre class. I mean, really sucked. I was the only participant who said “Fuck this shit” through most of the class and my “messy bun” looked like an explosion at a mattress factory after I finished the class. After a while, though, I got the hang of the routines —mostly.

By the end of the class, at least, I realized I felt relaxed, energized, and firm in the knowledge that my mom abs would eventually benefit from all of the holding and tucking.

Much to my surprise, and probably yours after the breakdown I just gave you, I loved my first barre class. As soon as I could drag myself off my yoga mat, I immediately signed up for a class package as the perky instructors all clapped with glee. And when my instructor kindly gave me pointers and complimented my humorous approach to the class, I knew I’d be back, F-bombs, grippy socks, and all.

Sure, I sucked at the moves, and I’m pretty sure I “Tuck!” when I’m supposed to “Hold and freeze!” but stepping out of my comfort zone every time I attend a barre class is fun. I realized that while the classes are challenging, and I feel like an elephant with a crooked tutu, I enjoyed learning something new. I’ve made some new friends. Strength comes in all forms, and these ballerina moms kick some serious ass in their bejeweled grippy socks.

Though I’ve progressed to the point that I don’t need to mutter expletives during class, I’m not going to lie: I still feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands when I drag those red tubes up over my thighs. And I admit it: I secretly want a shirt with a catchy barre phrase. Don’t judge.

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