My first class at Pure Barre St Pete was pretty scary. I spent the time leading up to the class feeling horrified by the whole concept, and I was absolutely positive I was going to hate it.
I walked in to a trendy studio occupied by workout clothes I can’t afford, perfectly young and lovely staff, and pounding pop music. As I sat there in my R2D2 yoga pants with no idea what to expect, I became painfully aware that there was a sort of unspoken uniform. Black leggings, flowy tops and tanks in conservative colors (no neon, no prints unless they were branded), and everyone in the same grippy bottomed, sparkly mesh topped socks. I felt so conspicuous, ever more so given I outweighed every other class member by a good fifty pounds and probably had a good eighty on the instructor.
I clumsied my way through the class anyway and left feeling frustrated. The instructor didn’t give modifications for new students and I kept hearing “the higher your toes, the thinner your thighs” in a high-pitched perky voice echoing in my head. I didn’t want to go back. I sat down in my car and…felt completely awesome.
Seriously. The workout made me feel amazing. I was energized and super sweaty and felt great. It was so annoying. Even more annoying? I woke up the next morning and had no functional soreness. I was sore and could tell I’d worked, but I wasn’t dying and I didn’t spend that day or the next hobbling. I hate hobbling. In short, I felt exactly the way I wanted to feel. I even craved less crap.
Basically, I was going to have to go back. I had a ten class pass anyway, and I felt like it was wasteful not to use it. So back I went. It wasn’t until I was walking into my third class that I realized a lot of the issue was in my own head. I was so sold on the idea that barre wasn’t for girls like me, that is was a particular sort of environment full of “other” people. I was convinced I’d hate it, and I’d liked it in spite of myself. I decided it was time to switch up my mindset and really give the workouts a chance. The more classes I went to, purposefully trying to visit every instructor and lots of different class days/times, the more I settled in. I saw more and more people like me – new, not twenty, not tiny – and I realized how hard I was working. I pour sweat in that class and my average heart rate is in the 120s to 130s. There were tons of sections where I had to take breaks and some things I just couldn’t do at all.
By class seven or so, that was starting to change. I was seeing distinct differences in what I could do and how I was feeling. My body felt stronger. I wasn’t getting frustrated in class as often. By class ten, they’d changed up the moves and I was really enjoying the challenge. The focus on bodyweight strength and isometric holds and dance-inspired movement is sort of perfect for what I want for my body. The class structure keeps me motivated and also gets me out of the house.
In the end, I ended up with another month of classes thanks to the super supportive staff there. In the end I think most of them really want to see students keep coming back and getting stronger.
The benefits: After you get the hang of it (took five or so classes) the routines are easy enough to follow. I pour sweat without feeling nauseous or dizzy or horrible. The workouts aren’t based on jumping or running, so my temperamental legs are safe. I get some aches from the workout but am never so sore I can’t function. The ballet inspiration is genuinely fun for me. I actually like the horrible pounding pop music. The more I go, the more I find nice people – participants and instructors – who make me feel welcome. When I finish the workouts I feel like a SUPERHERO. It’s a tough, full body workout in less than an hour.
The drawbacks: The atmosphere is definitely intimidating at first, and the first few classes can feel frustrating since instructors don’t offer modifications or detailed instructions. The schedule is hard for me (any schedule would be) because the traveling husband means always needing childcare for the classes. If I had a more traditional situation I could go to the 6am class Tue-Fri and at least one weekend morning. Because I have kid worries, I can only make one weekday class without feeling guilty for missing time with her and/or asking someone else to watch her. Most weeks I can’t guarantee more than two classes a week. There is a dress code – no shorts, no midriffs exposed – that wasn’t an issue for me but could be tough for some. They also require grippy socks and no shoes in the studio. I’d suggest toeless ones since the regular sort I picked up in the studio leave me slipping when I try to hold a plank.
The biggest issue though? Price for sure. The classes are super expensive compared to anything else I’ve seen and it’s super tough to manage. Honestly I don’t know if I’ll be continuing past this month despite my love of it because I just can’t afford it. Classes are upwards of $20 a piece, and an unlimited monthly pass (which requires more than two classes a week to really take advantage of) is nearly $200 a month. They have packages of ten or twenty or fifty classes that make it cheaper than purchasing them one at a time, but not by much. They have regular Groupons, but you’re not eligible for those after the first one. I honestly think they’re worth the cost, but that doesn’t count for much when you don’t have the money.
Conclusion: I took my eleventh Pure Barre class this weekend. I’m pretty sure I cried at the barre at one point, and there’s one move that continues to completely evade me (that one in the pic…no seriously, that’s the face I make). So frustrating. I feel incredible. I want to feel this way every day. Think you can’t do it? Think you’ll be the biggest one there? (I am)