Fad Fitness: A Rude Intro to Barre

Week 1: Shaking like a leaf and swearing at the television with Physique 57
Staff Writer

Let’s get a few things out of the way right now: I don’t do girly fitness routines. If I’m instructed to shake, shimmy, thrust, step a jazz square or otherwise employ an element of looking sexy into a workout, I’m done. And, admittedly, I also struggle with gyms in general. There are too many ready-made excuses to get myself away from the stale air, Lululemon-clad blonde girls and veiny men giving me the stink-eye in the weight room to force myself into a membership.

But lately, I’ve needed a push. Working at a desk has, upsettingly, left me more inactive than I’ve ever been—and my ready-made fitness excuses weren’t helping. 

Which is why, the other day, I found myself in my living room, holding a squat position for what seemed like an eternity, swearing at a tanned, toned woman streaming through my computer. The stream came from Physique 57—a barre method program that’s been lauded as a toning, shaping, calorie-burning blessing by the likes of Denise Richards, Kelly Ripa and Kristen Bell and has been gaining popularity across the country for the past couple years. And the obscenities came from my mouth because this neverending squat—and the small muscle varations that came with it—hurt. A lot. 

Physique 57, and many barre programs, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a take off of ballet training, promising that same long, lean dancer’s body. It targets arms, abs, glutes and thighs and uses body weight as resistance, overloading your muscles to fatigue—think holding (and holding, and holding) a variation of planks, lunges, v-sits and so on. Within seconds, your body is burning—and shaking like a leaf.

That shaking, in fact, is precisely how I spent the entire 57 minutes during the first of the five-class arsenal that promises I see results in as few as eight sessions—part of the reason, in fact, that I opted for this particular workout fad. Girlier than I’m used to, yes, but I love muscle burn, don’t want to bulk up by any means, and I can do it from my living room, thanks to Physique 57’s just-launched array of online, streaming classes accessible any time, anywhere there’s WiFi.

Using very little equipment (a chair/sofa back to replace the ballet bar, yoga mat, thick towel, hand weights and playground ball), I’ll be streaming these classes five days a week for the next six weeks. I’m already terrified (holy eff, I’m sore), but I’ve also already gained some critical knowledge:

• Sweep/vacuum/mop the floor before starting. You’re down there a lot.
• Capris and pants are a must. Unless you’re completely alone, it doesn’t matter how long you think your shorts are, they’re not long enough—and no one wants to see that.
• Don’t think for a second that you can keep up with the “advanced” variations. Nope. Not happening. 
• This might be more fun to do with a buddy. While the classes are without a doubt created for women, I might be able to talk one of my guy roommates into giving this thing a go.

Stay tuned.

About the Project: The Active Times' Fad Fitness Challenge is a six-week-long project in which five hapless writers will immerse themselves in five popular fitness programs—CrossFit, Insanity, Barre, Flywheel and Kettlebell classes—for the dual purposes of getting in shape and evaluating them for our readers. We guinea pigs will bust our butts, burn calories and discover muscles we'd long since mothballed and, if all goes well, emerge into the New Year with a well-rounded perspective of the top fitness fads. Check back every weekday from now until the New Year to come along for the ride without breaking a sweat. Click here to check out the rest of the programs.