The Burn: You Don’t Have to be a Ballerina to do Barre Fitness

This Yaletown hotspot will light a fire in your calves.

Until trying out Barre Fitness, the only experience I had had with a barre was a ballet class I took when I was four. From that class, I remember being told to use my listening ears, performing first position by standing on a paper heart, and learning that despite her many capabilities, my mother is absolutely useless at doing a ballerina bun. My first recital was also my last, and the video we had of my performance was taped over by some insignificant event like my baby sister learning how to walk (but don’t worry, I’m totally over it).Anyway, as I got off the Canada Line and headed to Barre Fitness in Yaletown, I was pretty worried about the possible dancing aspect of the class. The Barre Fitness website encourages clients of any fitness level, and declares that no ballet experience is required for the class. Still, I had it in my head that barre = dancing = imminent and crushing embarrassment.The SpaceThe Barre Fitness studio is in the heart of Yaletown. It’s only a three-minute walk from the Canada Line station, which is great because you literally don’t have the time to psyche yourself out. Through the front doors is a small reception and waiting area. Towards the back, the space opens up into a locker area and a simple studio. The walls are painted a trendy and fresh aquamarine colour, and matching mini exercise balls rest on two ballet bars on either side of the space. A single mirror runs along the left-hand wall. My instructor suggested that any newbies to the class take a spot next to the mirror, presumably so I could be witness to my own clumsiness.The WorkoutVancouverites with two left feet, rejoice: you really don’t have to be a dancer to do a barre class. I took the Barre Fitness intro class, an hour-long total body conditioning class that is recommended for beginners. My instructor, Nathan Todd, was very supportive and had a great sense of humour – his motivational mantra aligned really well with my own, sounding something like “just five more, and I’ll never ask you do to another push-up again… for this class.” During my class, we only actually used the barre for about half of the workout, alternating between barre exercises, floor work and standing dynamics. We started with pliés in second position, then moved on to push-ups using the barre, planks, glute bridges with mini exercise balls, and arm workouts with light weights. This class is focused on endurance rather than strength, so participants do lighter exercises for a long time rather than more difficult exercises for a short time. There is a lot of pulsing, which requires tiny movements that are difficult to see but very easy to feel (for example, at one point I stared down at my calves fully expecting them to be on fire). Besides the lack of dancing, the thing that surprised me the most about this class was the age breakdown. The barre buffs varied in age quite a bit; I estimated the youngest participant in their early 20s and oldest in their 50s.The VerdictBecause of the low-impact, endurance-focused nature of the Barre Fitness class, I left feeling energized and accomplished, but not ridiculously exhausted. I could have gone to any one of the nearby foodie favourites straight from class and not offended my dinner date (read: not too sweaty). I think it’s because of this that barre attracts participants of all ages – most local studios seem more geared towards 20-something smoothie-suckers, and while the classes still challenge that age range, they are also practical for more advanced exercisers. You definitely don’t have to be a 20-something ex-ballerina to do barre. You can be active, non-active, young, old, or recovering from an injury; it’s a very accessible form of exercise.I think it’s pretty safe to say my Barre Fitness experience was far better than my preschool ballerina experience. But I can’t be sure, as my recital tape is lost forever (again, totally over it). The DeetsBarre Fitness1038 Mainland Streetbarrefitness.comClasses from $25, membership $169 monthly