Some workouts are measured in miles run, others in yards swum. For barre fitness, a lot can be accomplished in an inch.
Aerin Durkin stands at the ballet barre repeating “up an inch, down an inch, up, down” and the women raise their foot just an inch and lower. That inch may seem insignificant; it is not.
I tried the workout this past week and my legs were quickly burning.
Pink Barre has been under construction in a space just off the Gainesville square for a few months, and when I heard about the new exercise studio, I knew I wanted to try it. I typically enjoy dance-based workout routines, whether step aerobics, Zumba or even kick boxing.
Barre is different from all those, though. It’s much more about small movements, with a bit of dance incorporated.
“It’s a very different kind of workout than anything Gainesville has seen before,” Durkin told me before we began. “We really focus on a mixture of pilates, yoga, a little bit of ballet choreography. All the movements are very small, really focusing on isometric movements — so no big lunges or kicks or anything like that.”
The class started off with some arm exercises, up an inch, down an inch. It quickly moved to working out the thigh and “seat” as Durkin called it. We each lined up along the barre and put a strap around our legs just above the knee and began a butterfly-type motion.
I’ve always had less strength in my legs than other parts of my body, so I expected to struggle a bit. And I quickly felt the effects of the tiny movements, but it wasn’t so bad I had to stop.
Then came the moves more closely rooted in dance. We took a ballet position then with our leg swept out and back, moving into another dance position and sweeping another way next. This section of the routine was probably the most fun. The movements were larger and there was room for some expression rather that just exercise.
Leg exercises continued, though, as we held a ball in the back of our knee and went back to the up an inch, down an inch routine, trying not to drop the ball.
When the leg exercises were complete, I thought that ended the hard part. It turned out the core exercises were the real killer for me.
We laid on our backs and lifted our legs and heads and my abdominal muscles began to shake violently. I had to stop for a moment before picking back up with the next ab exercise.
We ended with some stretches, and altogether the workout was not too difficult.
It’s less aerobic than many classes, but seems to do a good job of targeting certain areas of the body. If you’ve ever done the type of exercises you find in magazines or on Pinterest to help you tone up for swimsuit season, barre may remind of you of an extended version of that.
One advantage it has over other exercises is being low impact, Durkin said. It can work as a supplement for runners, for example, who may not work these muscle groups in their high-impact exercises.
Being a different kind of workout is another advantage for some, like Havolynne Saxon. She said after the class it’s more fun than a regular workout and the class atmosphere drives her to push herself a bit further than she would otherwise.