If I had a way to search the archives of this blog for all the fitness or diet-related content published over the years, I’d probably have a small book on my hands. A profoundly useless book, that is, which cycles endlessly through self-dissatisfaction-fueled bursts of LET’S DO THIS THING! followed by predictable descents to the bottom of the nearest Frito bag. How to Become Briefly Obsessed with Posting Your Stupid Gym Check-In So Everyone Knows You’re Seriously Committed This Time Before Succumbing to Full-Fledged Lethargy and Gaining, Like, Seven Pounds in the Process. Perhaps it could be displayed next to tomes of equal value, such as The Art of the Deal.

I have tried so, SO many fitness endeavors. I ran a marathon (!), I tried Tae Bo, I suffered through Crossfit, I did all sorts of home workouts, I even did a mini triathlon before deciding I’m a firm HELL NO on anything involving an open water swim ever again.

I just never really found my thing, you know? The thing I genuinely enjoy, rather than the thing that I endure in the hopes of having a different body.

That is, until now. Here in my mid-forties, I truly do have an exercise routine that I love, and it’s mostly thanks to Barre3.

If you don’t know anything about Barre3, it’s a group fitness class that’s sort of a fusion of ballet barre, pilates, and yoga. It’s an hourlong class that’s low impact but deeply challenging, with lots of micromovements and holds that seem SO easy but ha ha ha definitely are not.

Here’s what I love about it:

It’s replenishing, rather than draining. I switched to Barre3 right after trying Orange Theory and I can tell you I just really prefer a class that doesn’t make you feel like you’re going to barf.

Its messaging is super positive. The instructors clearly go through some rigorous training around how to talk about exercise, and the message is consistently healthy and supportive. No one’s yelling at you to crush one more rep, they’re always talking about modifications and finding what works best for you.

It’s low impact. It’s amazing how difficult a workout can be without a single plyo movement. I’m often dripping with sweat during a Barre3 workout but it’s not about being in that high-intensity, can’t-catch-your-breath zone.

It’s kind of woo-woo, but in a good way. Aside from the nourish-your-soul commentary throughout, every class ends like a yoga class does, where you lie on a mat and the instructor murmurs various meditative things while you drift on a pleasant cloud of endorphins. I feel so amazing afterwards, re-centered and de-stressed.

It’s got great music. YMMV, of course, but I dig the eletronica/dance vibe.

The downsides:

It’s expensive. No way around it, it’s not a cheap workout. On the plus side, you can buy class packages so you don’t get stuck in a monthly contract. Sometimes Groupon has some great deals.

It’s kind of … bougie. But who fucking cares, this is about finding fitness you enjoy, not competing for the coolest most urban woke-ass workout.

I’ve been going pretty regularly for a couple years now, and I honestly love it. I love the movements, I love the experience, I love the results. I’m leaner, more flexible, and I have better posture. I find myself doing Barre3 exercises on my own all the time (emptying the dishwasher? Why not drop into carousel horse for a few pulses?), and I feel like I’m seeing continual strength improvements and muscle definition.

Barre3 isn’t the only exercise I do — I go to the gym a couple times a week, I ride my bike, I go for walks. But it’s probably made the biggest difference in terms of changing my relationship with fitness. I finally, FINALLY found the right fitness thing, the thing that feels like self-care rather than self-flagellation.


10 Responses to “Better late than never: an ode to Barre3”

  1. JB on September 4th, 2019 4:25 pm

    Hmmm…. I’ve been wondering what you’ve been doing because your body is smokin’ at the moment and honestly I loved all those fitness posts from the old days.

    Exercise that you enjoy is just… a revolutionary concept that leaves me doing that Julia Roberts formulas meme face.

  2. Cara on September 4th, 2019 6:11 pm

    It’s awesome, isn’t it? For me, it’s the all levels yoga class at my local Y. I am always sweaty and if I felt like pushing a little that day my legs wobble on the stairs on the way out. But, it feels good and I *want* to go.

  3. Donna on September 4th, 2019 9:13 pm

    I remember all your escapades including that horrific swim. I’ve never heard of barre though. I’ll google it. Good for you though!

  4. Kim on September 5th, 2019 5:32 am

    I will always credit you for introducing me to Jillian Michaels’ 30 day shred. I believe that’s the first time I’ve cried actual tears while doing a workout. But that led me down the road to other at-home stuff, which helped me revise my diet & lose 45 pounds. The only exercise I’ve consistently kept up in the years since has been hiking & now that the cold dark months are coming, I REALLY need to make a decision on an indoor plan to hopefully keep away the SAD this year.

  5. Suzanne on September 5th, 2019 7:05 am

    Yay barre3! I am a recent convert. The music is SO GREAT. And I totally get you with the “woo-woo in a good way” thing. One of the instructors at my barre3 class has this… rhythm to her words that I find kind of hypnotic. And there’s this part where she says, “Rise up” (obviously in terms of what we are doing in the exercise — she literally wants us to stand up) but it gives me goose bumps because it sounds so metaphysical. I find that each class is so good for me mentally, as well as physically. Okay, sorry for gushing about this here, but honestly I never thought I would gush about an EXERCISE CLASS and here we are.

  6. Barbara on September 5th, 2019 7:32 am

    For me – get this – since 1986 (yes, 1986!) it’s been The Firm’s very first video with Susan Harris (a classic now). I just ordered another DVD of it last week, so to be sure I’ll always have one that works. For 33 years I’ve been doing it on average of 5 times a week, and have never, ever, grown tired of it. Rather I often go to bed looking forward to the next morning when I can do it.

    Seriously, google it on Amazon and read the reviews – people absolutely love it and swear by it. Me too. And many attest that you can see results in ten days. So true. I live in Mexico so find no Barre3 classes, but truly don’t think I’d pay to go to any class given I so love Susan Harris and the original The Firm (it’s aerobics with free weights).

    I’ve tried many, many other The Firm workouts, Tae Bo, Jillian Michaels, what’s-her-name that is/was Gwyneth Paltrow’s exercise guru, etc., but in the end I’ve given them all away and just craved the original with Susan. The other things I do: Pilates with Mari Winsor, and a few years ago I treated myself to a Bellicon rebounder. Being fit is such an awesome feeling! I’m happy you found the way that speaks to you!

  7. Courtney on September 5th, 2019 8:26 am

    I love barre3! I am not a joiner and I’m also a wimp, so I do it online at home and only the 30-minute classes. But I’ve also seen a huge difference in my strength (I have delts now! and several visible abs!) and my endurance. It’s totally challenging but not impossible, and I love that there are modifications for every move.

  8. Felicia on September 5th, 2019 2:04 pm

    Soooo…. there is no Barre3 in my area (sad!) but they are just about to open an OrangeTheory here – can you please elaborate more about your experience with them? I literally got their email at the same time as your blog post here so clearly the universe wants me to have your review. :) Feel free to email me if you don’t want to make it public.

  9. Mackenna on September 6th, 2019 9:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing your workout! You look absolutely amazing. I’m intrigued by the yoga/pilates/ballet aspect and like that the workout can be done in bare feet. I found a couple of Barre3 trial workouts on-line so will try this from home.

    Lately I’ve been enjoying SarahBeth Yoga
    https://www.youtube.com/user/SarahBethShow/featured She’s a wonderful instructor and offers every level. I’m usually not crazy about the whole video workout thing but she’s actually very good. She offers 10, 15, 30 and 60 minute yoga workouts and the shorter ones are convenient for me during the week when I’m rushed. I’m amazed at what a 10 minute yoga video can accomplish.

  10. Shawna on September 10th, 2019 11:41 am

    I feel like I chirp about BodyPump in your comments every time you post about working out, but I can never resist: this month marks 20 years of me doing it (and 17 years of teaching it) and I still LOVE it.

    But I tell new people after my classes that while I hope they love it too, the most important thing is to find something active that they love, and to make sure they incorporate a cardiovascular fitness component, a balance and flexibility component, and a strength component, even if they don’t love all three aspects. It sounds like Barre3 checks all the boxes for you!

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