Free Trials and Tribulations: (Not So) Pure Barre

This week my parents were out of town – they went skiing, and I stayed home for ballet.  This meant an opportunity to check out the Pure Barre fitness class that always caught my eye en route to Chipotle.  From the name, I assumed it was a ballet-inspired class that focused exclusively on barre work.  I’ve also gone to enough ballet classes to know that the typical half hour spent on the barre can be a serious workout that leaves you drenched in sweat, so it's not too surprising that the fitness industry is cashing in on ballet.  

Pure Barre is marketed as a blend of ballet, yoga, and pilates moves. It’s not literally a pure barre class - which would mean pure ballet and pure barre movements - but nonetheless, I was intrigued.  I signed up for class on Tuesday, my “off day” from dance.  I arrived 10 minutes early to fill out paperwork and pick up the equipment used in class – For a barre class, the only equipment you would expect would be the barre, but for "Pure Barre" you need an exercise ball, two pairs of light weights, and a resistance band.  The instructor showed me to the equipment and was quick to tell me how much she loved Pure Barre.  “It’s so much fun! I’m obsessed!”  She led me into a studio filled with 15 women, put on a headset, and began the class. 

If there is one thing that Pure Barre is not (aside from barre), it’s fun.  It’s 55 minutes of “isometric movements” which translates into small pulses repeated over and over and over again.  It either burns or feels like you're just lifting your foot up and down, and it looks absolutely ridiculous - which you are very keenly aware of since the room is covered in mirrors.

Overall Evaluation

Workouts are specific activities for the primary purpose of improving physical fitness.  If you haven't, it makes sense to ask yourself, “What do I want out of my workout?”

Workout Criteria Overview

For me it needs to

a)    Feel good during and/or afterward (ie, activities such as stretching or running that feel good during, refreshing after a workout)

b)   Feel like it’s working something, either during or the next day

c)    Be fun and/or feel very purposeful toward a specific goal (ie. not feel silly)

d)   Bonus: Notice changes in muscle tone and strength

If the main purpose of a workout is Criteria D - noticeable changes in muscle tone and strength, why is it considered a bonus, secondary to the others?  Quite simply, noticeable changes take time, and it's important enjoy the moment, not live for some abstract objective.  In my day to day life, I’m more concerned with activities that enhance my current physical and emotional well-being - how I feel right now - and not if today's core exercise is the fastest way to a six-pack.

Criteria Fulfilled: 1/4 - Criteria B

I only went once, so I can’t speak for the long term effects, but A and C were definitely not applicable.  I did not enjoy the experience during, and there was no heightened sense of elation after.  None of the movements qualified as "fun" and if someone videotaped a class, a clip would probably appear on TV twenty years down the line about how absurd fitness classes were in the 2010's.

Other Information

Cost  $23/class

Time  55 minutes


Final Comments

Pure Barre is an unfittingly named fitness class, where the barre is more of a decoration than a premise for the class.  The minimal amount of work done at the barre is carefully extracting all of the artistry, technique, and pleasure of ballet barre work for the objective of turning it into a trendy and pricey form of “exercise.”  It’s not the right class for someone who is looking for a ballet-inspired workout.  Pass.

Next Up on Free Trials and Tribulations: Power Tumbling (Gymnastics) and Hot Yoga