You’re heading to your first ever barre class – your mind is alternating between envisaging strict ballet mistresses and long legged divas in tutus, and recalling the whispers amongst your friends about the dreaded “thigh shake” and almighty burn of a barre workout. In this post, we talk to guest writer Rosie Hope about tips and tricks for your first barre class!
#1: Ditch the Leotard, Dress Comfortably Instead!
Despite the connection to ballet; leotards, tights, tutus, scraped back buns, and ballet shoes are not required in a barre class. Your best bet when coming to a barre class? Dressing in something that you feel great in – if you feel great you’re bound to have a great workout! Choose exercise clothes that give you a great capacity and freedom to move. At the same time, It is also useful to wear form-fitting clothing so that your instructor can help correct small details of your posture.
Here I’m kitted out in the Running Bare “In the zone” tights and “Voga crop”, both from Base Athletica, which show off clean lines and channels ballerina vibes!
#2: They ARE Speaking Another Language – Don’t Stress
Ballet originated in France, in the court of King Louis XIV. As such, ballet terminology is French in nature. Given how ballet forms the basic premise of barre, aspects of this french terminology is often used during barre classes. It can be easy to stress when hearing foreign words such as “arabesque” (when your leg is extended long behind you) and “releve” (when you rise onto your tippy toes) being thrown around. Instead of fretting, watch and note the shapes and alignment demonstrated by your instructor. As you continue to come, these words will become familiar… bonus of a new language learnt!
#3: Don’t Worry About What the Person Next to You is Doing
Like any other fitness class, there’s bound to be a wide range of experience levels in a barre class – from complete beginners, to clients in rehabilitation, to the odd professional dancer. With that in mind, it is important that you focus solely on yourself and your instructor. The person next to you may be more flexible/stronger/out of sync with the music/fitter/slower than you but none of that matters… because this workout is for YOU!
#4: Form First
Form and posture is a key element in any barre workout. In order to achieve that lean yet strong physique of a dancer, you want to constantly make sure that your alignment is in check before executing any moves. While it may be tempting to throw all form cues out the window as the workout gets faster and more intense, remember that slow and steady often wins the race. Don’t be afraid to stick to beginner level options and nail that foundational form to get the most out of your workout.
#5: Focus on the small movements
Barre workouts are known to hone in on the slow-twitch postural muscles of the body. In other words, instead of just utilising the bigger muscle groups, exercises zone in on smaller, stabilizing muscles (such as the gluteus medius and adductors) which are often overlooked and underworked. This often means that seemingly tiny actions end up having a mighty “barre burn” effect! Use the ‘mind to muscle’ connection here and actively send your attention to the part of your body that is being engaged in a move. This will help you activate and recruit the correct muscle fibres and sculpt out results.
#6: Feel Strong, Look Graceful
An analogy often used in ballet is that of the swan; floating gracefully on top of the lake while furiously paddling its legs below the surface. You are the swan. Embody it! Freedom, expression, and dancers poise all begins from the upper body, so even when you are working hard through the sequences, try not to grit your way through it! Rather, see if you can allow a sense of grace and ease to float over the upper body, which will additionally help to reduce any extra, unwanted tension and give you an added sense of elegance in your movements.
#7: If You’re Shaking, You’re Doing It Right
Let’s be real for a moment: your body is probably going to shake uncontrollably during certain points in class (chair pulses I am looking at you!). As your legs, arms, and abs begin to wobble and feel like jelly, give yourself a [silent] cheer… because it means you are doing something right! As mentioned above, the shake comes from the slow twitch muscles desperately trying to adapt and strengthen – and it is in this very place that the magic happens. Embrace the shake!
#8: Expect to be sore the next day
When you wake up the next morning and get out of bed, expect to feel some aches in your stabilizing and postural muscles! Your body has worked hard and will be adapting to this new workout. This shouldn’t be confused with acute pain, but expect to remember the previous days’ barre session as you (try to) walk down the stairs, sit down on your chair (fold over series got you here), or have a huge laugh with a friend (that last final ab series)! Think of it as a friendly reminder of what a great session you completed. Also, remember that the more you come back and get stronger, the less sore you will be over time!