lift. tone. burn.
Let me talk to you guys about the workout I’ve been doing since October.
Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with exercise.
Growing up, I was always that kid who pretended to walk during running laps or got winded during P.E. class. It was amazing that I even passed the mile-run test in 5th grade. I lived a fairly sedentary lifestyle (except when my parents bought me Dance Dance Revolution, I played it all the time and slimmed down during my freshman year of high school). I’ve always yo-yoed in weight, and I reached my highest weight. when I was 15. I had to do something about it: I was so uncomfortable and unhappy. I had the worst eating habits, but with dieting (as in cutting down on junk food, eating more vegetables and actually enjoying it, and eating smaller portions) and walking/jogging in place on the treadmill, I was able to lose 40 pounds. Since then, my weight has gone up and down over the years. Life happened. Lupus happened. Prednisone definitely happened. I’ve talked about in previous blog posts many times about how the prednisone weight gain has taken a toll on my confidence, but it’s necessary whenever there’s a high level of protein in my kidney. That’s why I turned to makeup for confidence, thus starting blogging.
I have exercise ADD: I credit the treadmill for my weight loss achievements, but it still left me “skinny-fat” (looking thin on the outside, but with a high body fat percentage). I tried lifting heavy weights multiple times, but it just made me bulk up and I found it so boring. Yeah, I know people can say that “lifting weights doesn’t make women bulky, it’s not true” but it personally has for me, especially for my body type. And why force doing something you don’t even enjoy? Life is too short for that. I do like kettlebell workouts though. I’ve tried Zumba, and I really love it. I find Pilates a bit boring. I love yoga, but I feel like I don’t fit in with the “yoga culture”, but I do it every once in a while to gain flexibility and strength.
Anyway, along the way (in my early 20s), I saw that barre/ballet-inspired workouts were rising in popularity due to Black Swan. Even though I’m anything but flexible, I’ve always been attracted to ballet and barre for the grace, femininity, flexibility I wish I had, and yes…the touted “long lean muscles”. I don’t like the manly culture of the gym or lifting heavy weights (I will only lift heavy weights if it’s items to help others carry for work or moving). I’ve tried videos from Ballet Beautiful, barre3 and Bar Method. Ballet Beautiful gave me my dream body before I had to go back on 80 mg of prednisone in 2013 due to the insanely high levels of protein in my kidney, and then put on all the weight back and more. I did Bar Method streaming, DVDs and I took a live class in SoCal once: I worked out with Bar Method frequently last year to prepare for my wedding. I loved how my arms and abs looked, but I felt like my legs got slightly bigger, and pants tighter, so I stopped. I regret stopping though and I should’ve just stuck to it. I felt a lot stronger and more flexible from it too.
I’ve heard about Pure Barre, because it is the most populated barre fitness chain in the US and Canada with over 400 studio locations. Recently, Pure Barre opened up 3 studios in Sacramento, and I so badly wanted to try them. The newest Pure Barre studio opened up on October 1 (which is also the closest one to where I live and work), and I signed up for the 5-week unlimited class pass. It was perfect timing, right after I got my job!
Here is the full description of Pure Barre, from their website:
Pure Barre is the fastest, most effective, yet safest way to change your body.
In less than an hour you will achieve a full-body workout concentrating on the areas women struggle with the most: hips, thighs, seat, abdominals and arms. The Pure Barre technique is low-impact, protecting your joints by avoiding any bouncing or jumping. Each strength section of the workout is followed by a stretching section in order to create long, lean muscles without bulk. The technique works to defy gravity by tapering everything in and lifting it up!
The concentration involved while taking Pure Barre allows you to block “life” out for the hour, creating the mental benefits similarly obtained by the practice of yoga or meditation. A transformed body and a clear head in just one hour—it doesn’t get much better than this.
The Pure Barre studio I go to is nestled in Pavillions Shopping Center, an upscale strip mall located in East Sacramento.
When you enter, the room is clean and minimalistic with white walls, and a white cubbies to store your items while you work out. There are also hangers full of workout tops and pants you can buy. You can (and should) also buy grippy socks to help you not slip during planks.
Then, you enter this spacious studio with a small area filled with the workout equipment you need (a set of 2 and 3 lb. weights, the small rubber ball, and a resistance tube).
The workout is 50 minutes long and is INTENSE. Don’t believe the people who tell you that barre is easy or ineffective. I’ve been going for 4 and a half months and I am still getting super sore all over my body. Here’s the structure of a Pure Barre class:
- Warm up: marching in place, Pilates-inspired ab work, the dreaded 90-second plank, side planks
- Arms: Little pulses of various arm workouts with the 2 and 3 lbs. Those don’t sound like a lot until you’re doing endless reps in one-inch pulses, and you feel like your arms are going to fall off.
- Thighs: various leg workouts at the barre incorporating your body weight, the rubber ball and/or the tube, such as plies (little ballet squats)
- Stretching your legs and getting deeper into the splits (I am nowhere near there but I aspire to!)
- Seat: various “seat” (butt) workouts incorporating the barre with the ball and tube, and some “seat” floorwork
- Abs: More ab workouts such as planks, various crunches, leg lifts, supermans and then bridges at the end
Aside from this classic Pure Barre class, there is also another class called Pure Empower: it is more cardio/HIIT-oriented, and is only 45 minutes long. Pure Empower combines typical barre moves with faster-paced body movements, a platform and wrist weights. Think of it as if barre and step had a baby. It is SO difficult, and I’m dripping in sweat, but I love it (and I love that there is no 90-second plank in Pure Empower!). I struggle making time to work out as it is, and Pure Empower is great way to get your cardio fix.
The workout is done to Top 40 music with a techno remix. I swear I always have their music stuck in my head now (along with the phrases the instructors say: “pulse up an inch, down an inch!” “press hold, press freeze!” “heavy tailbone!”). The instructors sometimes do the workout with you, but also go around the room to correct your moves (to make sure you’re doing it in proper form so that you don’t risk injury and that you get a better workout), and they compliment you out loud, like “nice work, Hannah!”
I find myself taking A LOT of breaks (especially during the 90-second plank), but slowly I am getting stronger.
What I love about Pure Barre
- I know, the stereotypical barre-goer is the upper class size 2 woman decked out in Lululemon. Yeah, there are a lot of women sporting Lululemon in the classes, and there are some who are already tiny, but there are many more women of different sizes. I don’t feel out of place. Maybe I’m lucky to be living in such a diverse city: if I lived somewhere else, I would feel differently.
- The instructors are so kind and sweet. Though it’s frantic and fast-paced, they are always willing to correct you and make sure you are doing the workouts properly for a deeper burn.
- You don’t need to be a dancer to take barre classes. I have taken a couple of dance classes in the past but the moves are super simple and don’t require coordination.
- I feel AMAZING after class. Sometimes during the workout the class is too intense, but when we’re done with a challenging move I feel like a badass. Cecilio notices how I have more energy. My mind is clearer, and I’m not stressing out about the things in my life that are giving me major anxiety while I’m working out.
- How low impact it is, which is amazing for my joints (especially because I have lupus and I have to be careful to not injure myself, since my joints are more sensitive than the average persons’), but it still manages to slay my body from head to toe.
What I don’t love about Pure Barre
- The 90-second plank. Enough said.
- Oh hell yeah it’s expensive (that’s where the lululemon-wearing stereotype comes from). It’s $99 for the Intro package (unlimited classes for 5 weeks for your first month), and $159 after that. I purchased the Founder’s Rate 12-month auto-pay package though: my first month (in November) was $50, then I pay $139 every month and then my last month will be free. I know $139 is A LOT to spend for fitness, especially when most gyms are about half that cost (which is already considered expensive!) But that is not a lot compared to other barre studios in bigger cities. I’ve seen that in cities such as SF or NYC the monthly packages start at $200. Lucky that I live in little old Sactown! But I am doing my best to fit this in my budget, but scrimping on other things (like random superfluous impulse buys).
As far as the results? During my first month, I had AMAZING, lightning-speed results that I’ve never seen before…not even from the treadmill or from Ballet Beautiful. My pants were starting to get loose, and I was getting the lean, toned legs of my dreams (and I’m naturally pear-shaped too!). My waist whittled and abs flattened out. I lost a tiny bit of weight, but I certainly wasn’t at my lightest weight. I didn’t care though. I’ve never felt so confident with my body. Unfortunately, I had to go back on prednisone in November because the protein in my kidney showed up high again. I have gained the weight back. So if my instructors ever read this post and wonder why I’ve been going 3–4 times a week and still gaining weight, well that is why. I do feel vulnerable every time I go to class (and I’ve taken 60-something classes) and seeing reverse results. I will write more about how I’ve been feeling body image wise in a few posts soon.
I do see and feel results in other ways, however. My arms, quads and hamstrings are rock hard, and I am getting more flexible. I am holding the poses longer, embracing the shakes more and getting stronger even if I am not as lean as I want to be (by no fault of my own). I have much more energy throughout the day, and I am more productive. I am still going to go to prove to myself that I am stronger than lupus. I still have a sliver of hope that I will taper the prednisone and lose that weight again, even when I get frustrated during my doctors appointments about no change in my medications. Trust me, there is so much temptation for me to give up but I can’t and I won’t.
Throughout my blog I will post more about Pure Barre, such as trying their online streaming classes (which come free with the Founder’s Rate), and reaching my goals of taking 100 classes (then 250, 500, etc.) because I want to so badly get there. When I reach 100 classes, I will treat myself to pair of cute leggings from Alo yoga at the studio.
Here are the Pure Barre locations in Sacramento:
564 Pavillions Lane
Sacramento, CA 95825
10241 Fairway Drive
Roseville, CA 95678
El Dorado Hills
4390 Town Center Drive, Suite #100
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
1710 R Street, Suite #120
Sacramento, CA 95811
The studio owner, Kristen, has operated the Pavillions and Roseville locations and recently took over the El Dorado Hills location. She will also be opening a new studio opening up in Midtown Sacramento (the Ice Blocks location) in late spring! I am really excited for that, considering it is closer to where I live and work!
Have you ever tried barre workouts before?
Hannah is a travel writer, graphic designer, and the founder/editor of Hannah on Horizon. She is based in Sacramento, California, living with her husband and two adorable dogs. She shares tips on how to experience luxury travel on any budget, and how to maximize time at each trip or destination, no matter what your budget or amount of vacation time at work. She enjoys making you feel like you have visited each destination with her through her storytelling and informative writing style.