When my friend, Jen forwarded me an email for a free barre class, I debated over wanting to go. I’ve heard about barre for a while, and I’ve only avoided it to this point because I hate obsessive fitness trends. I’m also a savage who prefers her kettlebells – that’s just how I roll. I eventually said “yes” if for no other reason than Jen is always down to run races with me, and so I didn’t want to leave her hanging.
When I was checking out the studio’s website, I read the description for the class “This one-hour class combines ballet conditioning, interval cardio, Pilates, yoga, and meditation to strengthen your core, lengthen your muscles, center your mind and lift your spirits! Inspired by the Lotte Berk Method, this class produces visible results, impressive total-body toning, and flexibility while maintaining the utmost safety and accessibility for all students.”
The last part about accessibility caught my attention. I get a lot of patients with chronic illnesses asking me to recommend exercises, classes, workouts, etc. So if this class is about accessibility for all, I’ve got to check it out for myself and others. After taking the class I can honestly say that the word “accessibility” is being used somewhat loosely here.
Our instructor, Whitney is a friend of Jen’s which is how we ended up there at 8AM on a Saturday. They met while doing their yoga teacher training, and Whitney is now completing her barre teacher training. Whitney is fantastic. She has the heart of a yogi which made the class feel very encouraging and inclusive throughout. We chatted briefly before class and I let her know about my RA and hip replacements, and she shared that her mom has both hip and knee replacements. Knowing this about her made me feel much more comfortable because I knew she had more insight into joint replacements than most instructors do.
The class itself was hard. It was one of those “if your muscles are shaking, you’re doing it right!” classes. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved it! But the difficulty level probably isn’t best for someone just starting on their fitness journey or someone with a more limited range of motion, strength or balance. Because barre focuses heavily on ballet principals and barre exercise, some of the moves included placing your foot on the barre for deep stretching. This was probably the hardest part for me because it relied on balance while trying to be somewhat mindful or hip precautions (at 5 years out I no longer abide by the “90-degree rule” and just try to use common sense).
Whitney did an awesome job providing not only encouragement but alternatives to pretty much every move we did. Things like “drop to your knees if you can’t hold the plank”, “you don’t have to use any weights at all for this to be effective”, “use the barre to balance if you need it” or “if you can’t raise your arms here, that’s OK”. By offering modifications throughout the class I felt totally comfortable doing just that – modifying moves so they were safe for me to do. This did, in fact, make the class feel very accessible to me at my current fitness and conditioning level. Even with my modifications, I got a kickass workout!
The bottom line: barre is every bit as hard and fun as I’ve heard it is. I’d love to go back and try it again in the future, but I’d probably only want to go back to Whitney. Is it as accessible to everyone as the studio’s site would have you believe? Probably not, but if you’re interested in trying it sometimes here are some tips:
- Research studios in your area. Look for one that is not only well reviewed, but has an exercise philosophy that resonates with you.
- Start with a beginner class (duh). Once you decide on a class, see if you can call or email the instructor in advance to discuss any health concerns or physical limitations you may have. If the instructor doesn’t seem comfortable, welcoming or willing to help you adapt the class, move on. Find someone who makes YOUR comfort and safety a priority.
- Don’t be a hero. I get it – no one likes to the ONLY person in a class that can’t do a move, but injuring yourself will call a lot more attention than simply dropping your knees during a plank. Listen to your body – if it doesn’t feel right stop, stretch, take a sip of water and wait until you feel comfortable joining in again. You won’t be the only one to do so, promise.
Sixhipsandcounting is provided for general informational purposes only and represents my personal experiences. The opinions expressed here are mine and not those of any advertiser, company, affiliate or group. I do my best to provide accurate information, but please understand that I am not a medical doctor or expert in the field. Please do not consider my opinions as substitutes for sound professional or medical advice.