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?
Jen @ Pretty Little Grub
Great tips. I remember being very nervous taking my first barre class but I fell in love with it instantly.
The other thing I would mention is don’t go crazy with the weights. I remember when they told us to pick up the 2lbs weights I laughed and went for the 5lbs. Boy did I regret that decision!
Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…Las Vegas Strip at Night Half-Marathon Recap
I’m so glad you gave it a try! And you’re absolutely right about the weights. Now I go for 2 lbs. and rarely even go up to 3! There’s many more tips I thought of after publishing this… maybe I’ll share a Part II 😉
Alyssa @ renaissancerunnergirl
Barre is something I have wanted to try for awhile now – I actually did ballet seriously for 8 years growing up until I was about 15, the whole summer intensives/Nutcracker season for months/class 5-6 days a week after school and on weekends thing. When I walked away from ballet, it was sad in a way, because I did so since I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional dancer and wanted time to try out other activities in high school. Now I miss that style of workout and think barre could be a great complement to my running. Classes are just so expensive in NYC, I am a bit afraid to try it because whether I like it or not, it’s a lot of $$ and to be honest I was/am a little nervous about how it will feel. This was a really great read to push me in the right direction of giving it a try 🙂
Alyssa @ renaissancerunnergirl recently posted…Thanksgiving Thoughts
Ahh, The Nutcracker. That brings back some great memories (and a lot of rehearsals!) <3 Given your background, I think you would love barre. It's so nice to stand and stretch at a ballet barre again! Every now and then, I'll see specials online. There's usually a "New Client" and "Student" packages that helps with costs to try. Good luck!
Great tips! I think one of the most important things that you mentioned is the 3 class rule. Every class feels awkward and foreign and confusing the first time you try it. If you commit to trying it a few times in a row, though, it will become more comfortable and you just might fall in love with it. 🙂
Someone told that to me when I first tried a class and it’s so true!
I loveeee taking Pure Barre classes! The workouts are always different and manage to make me shake like no other!
Pure Barre can be pretty hard! I love trying a variety of studios and enjoy the different styles!
Krystal // The Krystal Diaries
I’ve never tried a Barre class before but I really want to. They are just so expensive in my area.
They are pretty pricey. The best way to go is to drop in for 1 class and if you like it, take advantage of a “New Client” month, which is usually discounted. Also, if you’re a student, ask if there’s a Student discount! They have student packages for $75 a month where I go!
I really want to like Barre classes but my experience so far has been disappointing. Unlike other classes I go to (body pump, spin) it seems really anti social and no one smiles. It’s so serious! I also find I don’t get that same endorphin rush after. Have you found this to be true or does it depend on the studio? I’ve tried 2 so far.
Anna recently posted…80:20 Rule for Balanced Eating
Oh no! You’re probably right about the seriousness. I would compare it similar to a yoga atmosphere. Most people just find their spot at the barre and stretch until class begins. I loved the community at my old studio, though. If you go to the same class times on a consistent basis, you’ll meet others who do the same thing and eventually get to know everyone. As far as endorphins go, I don’t always feel that rush. I do, however, feel like my legs are jello when I have to walk up or down stairs after a class!
Julia @ Lord Still Loves Me
After seeing Julie from PBFingers talk auto barre all the time, I have always wanted to take one. I’m scoping the gyms around me in San Diego to see if any of them are offering barre, and maybe I will give it a shot! I need to vary up my workouts! Thank you for sharing about your own experience, Heather! It sounds like so much fun and a killer workout.
Julia @ Lord Still Loves Me recently posted…Humans Eating Like Animals: TOL
You should try a class! What do you have to lose? 🙂
Ashley @ A Lady Goes West
Hi Heather! YES! Great post! I actually wasn’t a big fan of my first barre class and waited several years to give it another try. I definitely think anyone can do barre, but you have to be ready to ENDURE the burn. Also, many of the barre classes in SF ask you to go barefoot, so that’s my preference. Barre is SO good as a low-impact option, and I love that it’s getting more popular. I wish I had taken your class in Orlando!
Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Give your Thanksgiving a boost with healthy side dishes
I’m so glad you gave it another go. I loved taking Pure Barre with you in LA! Hopefully we can make that happen again 😉 I had never taken a barre class barefoot until this morning! I went to a “Burn” class, where you need yoga mat and take in a heated room. I loved it!
Alexa @ the mindful maritimer
I tried my first barre class in Paris and I miss it so much! I now am back home and live in such a small town that we don’t even have fitness group classes… I guess that’s really all that is holding me back at the moment!
Alexa @ the mindful maritimer recently posted…What I didn’t Eat Wednesday
That sounds so fun! Have you ever tried to stream Physique 57 classes? I believe you can access full classes online! 🙂
Thanks for this post! There aren’t any Barre studios where I live, but I’ve been wanting to try it for ages so I’m hoping to get a month-long membership somewhere when I visit my parents for the holidays! I’m not sure where you used to teach, but do you have any insight/opinion into different studio set ups – for instance something like Pure Barre vs. a smaller local studio?
Somer @PupsOnTheBrain recently posted…Study Breaks That Aren’t Netflix
Hi Somer, thanks for reading! Hmmm, that’s a tricky one. I’ve had both great and not-so great experiences with small (not corporate) studios. I actually used to teach at a private studio in Orlando that only had 2 locations. It was my favorite blend of dance, pilates, and yoga, and I loved the added focus on stretching. I’d say – in general – it would be good to try a “big studio” class if you can find one! You’ll probably like the set up and atmosphere. But, it’s always nice to try a little of everything out there 🙂
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Hopefully it’s not too late to add to this blog post. I’m a runner that’s found the barre class to be a very nice complement to the running, being non-impact and very gentle on the joints. Now the trick is how do you attract more guys to try this type of workout. I’m taking classes at Barre Life in Oakville, Ontario, and we always find it next to impossible to draw guys into the classes.
Great post and hopefully this has helped attract more people to barre !