What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
It was a little under a year ago that my vegan, fitness-loving roommate, Abby, said something along the lines of "Hey, let's sign up for Pure Barre!" She explained that it was a new workout studio next to her job and, since I was her partner in all ventures of the workout specification, I obliged.
We had tried a ton of exercise regimens together, including jogging, hiking, biking, and yoga, but nothing stuck. This mostly had to do with me. Abby loved to work out, but since graduating high school, there had been a severe lack of coaches and PE teachers yelling at me to stay active, and without that unpleasant obligation to keep running and hitting various balls, my yoga pants had retired to loungewear.
I didn't like working out. Running gave me shin splints, I hated being hot and sweaty, the entire experience was just unpleasant. I liked the idea of being in shape, but I just hadn't found a workout I enjoyed that gave me the results I wanted. I hoped that maybe Pure Barre could be that.
On the day Abby and I went into the studio to sign up for the New Client Special — a month of unlimited classes — the instructor behind the front desk gave us a tour. The entire place consisted of a lobby and one big room that reminded me of the ballet studio I'd frolicked around in as a five-year-old. The walls were mirrored with a ballet-style barre lining them. The only difference from my old dance studio was the cushy floor. The woman giving us the tour explained that the floor was padded to create a zero-impact workout so we wouldn't hurt our joints while we worked out.
She also shared with us that Pure Barre is a mixture of ballet barre, Pilates, and yoga. The goal of the workout is to — through tiny, isometric movements — work muscles to fatigue and then stretch them out into long, lean muscles with yoga poses.
It sounded great to us, and what was even more of a motivation was what the Pure Barre instructor giving us the tour looked like. She was beautiful. Her muscles were long and lean like she said; she looked like a real ballet dancer.
I was on board.
Due to weird work schedules, Abby and I ended up taking our first Pure Barre classes apart, and I was the one to go first. I showed up at the studio 15 minutes early to sign in. The instructor and front-desk lady, who were both just as beautiful and fit as the instructor we had met the day before, were friendly and helpful as they showed me where to leave my shoes and what to pick up before finding my place on the studio floor.
I was told to pick up a pair of weights (I chose two-pounders), a tube, and a little red ball with the Pure Barre logo. I sat down on the padded floor and watched as other women trickled in. Some were young and some were my mother's and grandmother's ages; some were already super-fit and others seemed more like beginners like me.
After pretending to know how to stretch for a few minutes, it was time for the class to begin. The instructor turned on some upbeat music (Beyoncé!) and started instructing the class through the warm up, which involved a lot of high knees and crunches.
I pushed myself as hard as I could to keep up with the other women in the class who seemed to be having no problem. We moved on to planking and pushups, which was a brutal failure on my part. My feet would not stop slipping. It was around that time that I understood the use of the Pure Barre sticky socks that were being sold in the lobby. Without the grips on my socks, it was impossible to keep myself in planking position.
Then, we moved to thigh workouts. We all lined up across the barre at the back of the room, got up onto our highest tiptoes, and then slightly bent our knees. From there, we were told to just rise up an inch and then sink down an inch using our knees.
If someone was just watching our workout, they would have thought it was the easiest thing in the world. Since these exercises involve just tiny, pulsing movements, it looked like we were doing next to nothing, but let me tell you — we were. Within seconds of pulsing up and down in the position, everyone's legs were shaking. She instructor encouraged us to "embrace the shake" because that was the sign of fatigue.
It was around this time that I felt I had had enough. I was no longer able to catch my breath, and my whole body was beginning to feel prickly. So while everyone was doing an exercise that required them to turn towards the wall, I not-so-inconspicuously dove out of the studio and into the bathroom. I splashed water in my face and gave myself a serious pep talk about not throwing up. After a few minutes, I decided it was time to call it quits for the day and maybe forever. When I gathered up the courage and minor use of my fatigued legs, I slipped out of the bathroom, grabbed my things, and slipped out the front door.
I arrived back home to find an excited Abby, who wasn't doing her first class until the next day, to ask me how it went. It was very difficult to lie as I tried and failed to climb the stairs in our apartment. I had been sore before, but this was different. It was like I would tell my legs to lift up, and they just wouldn't. To not discourage her, I just told her it was "challenging." That was the word the instructors kept using to describe it, but I still don't feel like that really covers it.
Despite the traumatized look on my face, Abby seemed excited and asked if I wanted to join her for her 5 a.m. class. I still don't know what possessed me to say yes.
Besides being at five in the morning, the next class was not nearly as horrifying. I brought water and ate a good breakfast before, and I made it through the whole 55 minutes of class. So did Abby. And while I was glad she didn't have to duck out halfway through like I did the first time around, I was slightly frustrated by her superior athleticism. We had a blast making faces at each other in the mirror when the instructor would push the exercise to the next level, and it was great to just have a pal there for moral support.
That one class got us both hooked, and for the next month, we were both taking at least four classes a week and sometimes even more. After only a few classes, we were both seeing big results. We both lost around 10 pounds, and my butt was at least an inch higher than it had been.
Apart from just physical results, Pure Barre seemed to be helping us in all areas of our lives. We were both feeling more energetic throughout the day and our attitudes even changed. We were both happier and had higher self-esteem. And we are not the only ones who have had results like this. Another member from the studio I attend shared that Pure Barre has helped create a change in her life that is not just physical:
"Pure Barre Kennesaw has been instrumental in bringing me out of a time in my life where I struggled with depression and low self-esteem. Every day I look forward to coming, to working out, to seeing friends, and making new friends. In a sense, we are a family."
And Pure Barre is truly good for women, and even men, of all ages and skill levels. Amy Markle, the owner of Pure Barre Kennesaw shared with me her own experience doing Pure Barre:
"As a former competitive gymnast, I have permanent injuries from stress and overuse. Pure Barre was the first form of exercise I found that was incredibly effective in terms of generating results, yet also safe and sustainable enough for me to commit to. Not only am I able to do Pure Barre without causing myself pain, it has also been restorative for many of my injuries."
She also states that there are modifications for any injury and limitation you may have. In any given class, you will see women of all ages, along with women who are pregnant or have just had a baby. There are even special "baby bounce back" packages available for new mothers.
If you are anything like me and have spent years trying to find a fun workout that provides fast results, Pure Barre is your best bet. You may go in just looking for a good workout, but you will come out having received so much more.