Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Berkshire Fitness Scene : Barre Class

It's not just London that has a wealth of fitness classes. A little bit of careful searching and you can uncover some real gems right on your doorstep. At least that's what I've found with this series. I live in Crowthorne, a place that has quite a village-y feel but just about everything you could want nearby. In amongst the tea shops, salons and gift shops on the high street is a dance studio that hosts children's dance classes, pilates and Barre.

Barre classes were born in the USA and as with most new fitness trends, the UK has followed. The classes take inspiration from classical ballet and combines this high-intensity workout with high energy dance music, designed to target thighs, bum, abs and arms.  The classes are put on by Kathy of Evergreen Fitness and the class is described as follows:

The exercises are set to work on one group of muscles at a time; small, precise movements which you will really feel and the muscles will start to change shape with practice. With consistency, you will find your body becoming slimmer and a more dancer-like physique developing. 
Although it's usual to book a block of sessions, Kathy very kindly let me attend one for free, to see what it was all about. Now I consider myself to be a relatively fit and strong individual but even though this class is suitable for all abilities, I found myself being tested purely because it worked my muscles in an entirely new way! It's good to be reminded what it's like to be a beginner sometimes.

The class size is kept quite small, partly by virtue of the size of the studio but it also means that Kathy could give us more attention. I'm not a dancer. I have danced, disco as a child then tap, modern jazz and salsa as an adult, but never ballet and it showed! Plies became squats and I had to fight my instincts to put weight through my heels! My ego should have been left at the door... instead I worked hard to keep up when I should have perhaps taken it a little easier. The pace of the class was quite fast, faster than I'd expected, but great fun and all set to pop music. If I hadn't been concentrating so much I'd have been singing along. In opposition to ballet, warm up took place away from the bar, but the bulk was performed at the bar, offering support and stability. We also used props such as balls and bands. My glutes and thighs were aching within the first ten minutes!
For someone uninitiated in the language of ballet, I was relieved that Kathy demonstrated throughout, and I did my best to copy her elegant arm movements and replicate the moves, the technical names for which I can't remember. I felt extremely inelegant and uncoordinated, but never embarrassed... everyone else was far too involved in what they were doing to worry about me.

We finished with some slider pad work and floor work using a hoop, which I'd never used before, to give our abs and thighs one last blast before we wobbled out of the door for home. It's usual to feel DOMS two days later but mine kicked in the very next day, despite having taken part in a restorative yoga class that same evening. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to attend regularly because I think it would be really good for me, to compliment my running, but I'll certainly try to get back if my schedule changes.

Have you tried a Barre class? What was your experience? 

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