I LOVE barre workouts. I got certified as an instructor last year, and while I don't teach classes at the moment, I do incorporate some elements of barre into my own workouts. There are some misconceptions about barre, which might be stopping you from trying it.
I can tell you that you don't have to be a dancer (or graceful) in order to love it and be good at it. Goodness knows graceful is not a word anyone has EVER used to describe me :-) People of all shapes, sizes and ages take these classes and rock at them. You don't have to wear toe shoes or a tutu, although you could if you wanted to.
Here are 5 reasons why I love it. Maybe you'll be inspired to give it a try too.
The Mind-Body Connection. Because form is so important and because you have to use lots of smaller, supporting muscles, you must develop strong communication links between your brain and your body. You pay attention to it in a way other kinds of workouts don't necessarily require. There are mirrors everywhere in a barre studio and they help with this. You can actually see what you're doing; you can see the shape your body is making. Incidentally, this mirror time is actually beneficial in other ways. Many of us (women especially) are uncomfortable really looking at ourselves in the mirror. We avoid it, or we use it as an opportunity to catalog faults. Looking at yourself in this context is good practice for viewing your reflection as simply information. In this case, information about safe exercise form. It's not about judging imperfections. It's just about looking at what's there. It's actually very freeing.
It's always challenging, no matter how many times I go. The equipment is minimal, the weights are light, and you do the same movements every time. BUT...somehow, it's always challenging. A little change, like lifting your heels during a plie, totally changes how it feels. There are tons of ways to modify everything, either to make it more challenging or to give yourself a bit of a break while you build up the strength and flexibility to do more.
The stretching. You're working your muscles but stretching them at the same time. I imagine my muscles getting longer and leaner with each repetition. It's one of the things I loved about Pilates as well.
The focus on core work. In barre you work your abs throughout the class, mostly in an upright position, which is how your core muscles are designed to function. There is usually a floor segment at the end of the workout where you do some more focused ab work, but not the traditional kind.
I'm a ballet-class dropout, but barre let's me feel like a kid again. I know I said that the tutu is optional, and I've never worn one to class. But it does take me back to when I was five, sporting my fluffy pink tutu, plie-ing and releve-ing my little heart out. You should never discount the power of fun in exercise. Anything that hearkens back to play is a workout we are more likely to stick with.
If you've never taken a barre class, but would like to, the good news is they are almost everywhere now! I encourage you to try barre, or whatever exercise sounds like fun to you. Keep trying different things until you find something you like--something you look forward to each week. Classes can be a great addition to your workout schedule, and you don't need to be intimidated by them. (Check out this post I wrote about group classes.)
What are your favorite kinds of exercise? What do you love most about them? Share in the Comments section below.