It’s no secret that barre classes have become very popular in the world of fitness.
A very popular question I receive from friends and readers is how to achieve a lean dancer’s body (i.e. how to “tone up” without “bulking up”). While I do recommend starting with a routine of strength training, cardio, and nutritious eating, I always suggest getting into barre and/or Pilates for serious kick-you-in-the-core workouts.
I took my first class (<- holy throwback!) back in October 2011, and I became hooked that very day. While living in Orlando, I eventually started teaching barre classes at two studios, six days a week!
As a former instructor and general lover and advocate of the workout, I often hear a series of questions when I talk to someone who has never tried a class before.
I hope this list of tips helps those hesitant to try!
• you don’t have to be a dancer to enjoy or “be good at” barre classes
I have heard “I would love to try barre, but I’m not a dancer” so many times! Having a dance background does help with musicality and understanding how the body moves in certain ways, but it’s definitely not a requirement.
From my observations and experience, barre workouts seem to come easier for dancers, but there have been plenty of students and members who rock the workout without a day of previously stepping into a ballet studio.
• you don’t have to be super flexible
I have also heard “I’m just not flexible enough for barre classes” many times!
Truth is, even after years and years of dancing, my flexibility was as its peak when I was teaching barre classes several times a week. My studio was big on stretching (we incorporated three long stretching sequences during each class), and I could feel my body moving deeper into stretches as time went by. I watched so many clients go from nervous to full on splits over time, too.
It just takes time, patience, and practice to loosen those tight and anxious bodies!
• you should probably sign-up online
If you are planning on attending a well-known studio (especially at a popular time like early morning, lunch, or after work), I would recommend signing up for at least a single class online. Most studios use MindBodyOnline, and it’s easy to find a link to register for an account and find a class to sign up for when you access the studio’s website.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt to aim to arrive at least 15 minutes early. This will allow time to fill out waivers, use the restroom, and get a general run down of the class from the instructor.
• you might want to invest in a pair of barre/yoga socks
We didn’t require barre socks at the studio I taught at, but a lot of them do. Every barre studio I’ve been to sells their own brand of “sticky socks” and they come in a variety of colors and materials.
Beyond studio branded socks, my favorites have been Shashi mesh barre socks (similar). I also have my eyes on Bella ‘Full Toe” Gripper Socks. I wouldn’t necessarily go for the ‘open toe’ versions, as most studios won’t let you wear them. There are so many cute options out there!
• wear whatever you feel comfortable in
… but most people sport a tight tank, leggings, and barre socks.
There’s no need to break out the leotard and tights here. Think of similar attire to what you would wear to a yoga class! The majority of students wear tight fitting activewear like leggings, fitness tights, and form-fitting tanks. While it’s cute to wear workout gear like this, it’s also a great way to be able to see your form in the mirrors during exercises.
• bring a bottle of water with you, and take sips when you need it
The more studios I venture out to, the more I realize that a lot of classes don’t necessarily give you breaks to grab water. Almost all classes go right from one exercise to the next – without breaks – for the full 50 minutes to 1 hour. This is the design behind the workout, so never feel bad for taking a few seconds away from what you’re doing to re-hydrate.
For this reason, I always have water ready and available with me in the room!
• the rule of three classes
Barre isn’t for everyone. I do, however, recommend anyone wanting to get into the style of workout to try it at least three times before settling on an official “I hate this” verdict.
I often joke with friends that you probably won’t understand anything that’s going on during the first class. It will seem a lot longer than an hour, you’ll be angry at your friend for bringing you when you finally feel the “barre burn” everyone talks about, and you will finally understand an exercise when it’s time to move onto the next one. That’s normal.
By your second class, you’ll have an idea of what to expect, and you’ll feel slightly more comfortable. By your third class, you’ll start to learn the flow, and your body will feel more natural with movements and holds, and you will start picking up cues on form. You’ll probably feel a huge improvement, and you might even feel a stronger core when you leave.
The studio and instructor can make a huge difference in your experience, too. If you have a bad experience, try out a different studio!
I could keep going with tips I’ve picked up throughout the years, but I need to get going.
If you enjoyed reading this post, let me know. I might pick it back up down the road! Also, if you have any additional questions about taking classes or the style of workout, feel free to ask away in the comments section.
Best of luck to you and your barre endeavors!
Questions of the Day
• Have you ever been hesitant to take a barre class?
• What is really holding you back?