Though I spend the vast majority of my fitness time running, I’m a big fan of cross training. First, it helps me avoid burning out on running – though that still does happen from time-to-time. And second, it offers the opportunity to work different muscles and get some much needed stretching to complement running.
Disclaimer: I have a bit of fitness class restless syndrome. Usually two things happen, I go from class-type to class-type (i.e., boot camp one week, spin the next) without consistency or go all in for a crazy period (30-day Bikram challenge, anyone?).
Recently, though, I’ve taken to barre classes. There are no shortage of studios popping up depending on your city. I’ve taken classes at the four big ones, Exhale/Core Fusion in Chicago, Bar Method in Austin and DC, Pure Barre and Barre3 in Austin. Here’s the 411:
- Ballet-inspired, but to a degree. The theory is that these workouts are inspired by the Lotte Berk method back in 1970s. That said, some are more ballet-focused than others. I found Bar Method to be the most ballet-like, and Barre3 to be the least with more of a yoga focus, which is important for me because I never stretch enough.
- The leg shaking is funky. If you’ve read about these classes, you’ve no doubt heard that one of its trademarks is uncontrollable leg shaking during the peak strength sections. I’m not going to lie and say that it isn’t weird, but it lasts only a few minutes and I notice it goes away the more I do it.
- It’s low impact, but don’t do it every day. These classes are great for folks with joint issues and pregnant women since there is no jumping or plyometric work. That said, due to the repetitive movements in the classes, I wouldn’t recommend doing them every week. One or two classes a week to supplement other cardio/strength is perfect in my book.
- The studios are indeed different. If you live in a city with different studios, try them all – because there are subtle differences. I found Core Fusion to be the most strenuous, Bar Method the most repetitive, Pure Barre infused more pilates and Barre3 incorporates more yoga and slightly easier than the others.
Bottom line? These classes are a great complement for a well-rounded fitness plan, especially for folks who want strength/pilates/yoga wrapped up into a 60-minute class. That said, I think a separate cardio routine is important to avoid injury and keep your body fresh!