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Raising the Barre

Pure Barre Does Fitness Right

I took a week of classes at Pure Barre and this is what I discovered: Pure Barre (PB) makes sense.

PB is safer than most other fitness classes and effects the pleasant soreness of ripped and repairing muscles. Yet this soreness is different from that of, say, boot camp. The ache seems to come from deep within the muscle, as though building it from the inside instead of simply bumping it up on top. It also lifts one’s lift-resistant areas (I’m talking to you, derrière.)

Unlike weight classes, boxing or other exercise regimes derived from historically male-dominated sports, PB classes stems from ballet; a graceful, more feminine - but no less challenging - form of movement.

Its low-impact, high intensity classes focuses on small isometric movements (one inch up, one inch down) to strengthen and tone your core, legs and glutes. They also toss in a generous dose of planks, abs, and hand weights to tone your upper body.

Studios are designed to minimize distraction. Lydia, manager of Fairfield PB explains, “walking into the studio, it’s easy to leave the world behind.” Leaving the world for 50 minutes enables you to focus on your mind/body connection: using the correct muscles for each exercise. May sound obvious, but it’s not. Often, we unconsciously rely on our strong muscles to compensate for weaker ones, creating an imbalance. The instructors help you maintain this connection, correcting posture and “tuck” to ensure the most effective and painful workout.

Yes, for all of its elegant movements, PB is a masterwork in thigh-scorching torment. Instructors are delighted when clients’ muscles tremble like a jello salad in an earthquake. The shake signals muscle fatigue, which means you’re getting a great workout. It also indicates the muscles are ready to be stretched and elongated, just like a real ballerina’s!

PB uses this concept to create four types of classes: Foundation, Classic, Empower, and Reform (reviews are on the facing page). After only four of these high energy, fast-paced workouts I felt tight and toned in all the right places.

The owner of PB Westport and PB Fairfield, Laura Sabia, was a client of PB in Florida. Smitten with the classes, Laura walked into their corporate offices and asked where they’d like to have a studio. “Well,” they shrugged, “we’re looking at a town called Westport, in Connecticut.”

Laura threw her belongings into her suitcases and moved up here to open the studio. She hired a contractor, Frank Sabia, who she eventually married, which isn’t relevant but very sweet.

Her classes appeal to a myriad of women, teens to 70’s, all shapes and sizes. In the four classes I’ve taken I didn’t see a man, although they’re welcome to attend.

After my third class Alex, my instructor, asked how I liked it. I felt tight, toned. “I loved it,” I enthused. A woman in her late ‘60s overheard and exclaimed, “The classes are addictive!”

She’s absolutely right.

Pure Barre

Foundations: PB encourages clients to start with Foundations, a 45-minute class focusing on technique and form. There is some mat work and instructors love to throw planks into the mix. The core of the class is barre-work, wherein you hang on to a barre for dear life doing pliés and leg lifts while imaginary flames sear your thighs and quads.

My instructor, Nicole, has taught at PB for six years and has danced and taught ballet for 25 years. Her moves made mine look silly, but she insisted they were “gorgeous” and “lovely,” which was really smart because I’m a pushover for that kind of encouragement.

Classic:

WOW. This 50 minute class is fast-paced and the time went quickly. Which is good, because it’s HARD. Nicole was the instructor and she can modify it for anyone for any reason. She kept us busy with muscle work and stretches, so I had precious little time to spy on my barre-mates.

Instructors agree it takes 5-7 classes to acclimate your body to proper form for the most effective workout. They are also quick to correct position and posture during class.

Empower:

Like Barre on steroids. This class is for those who want more cardio and more sweat with their workout. It includes signature micro-moves and larger movements at the barre mixed with plank and burpees. Sometimes they include a small platform for step drills. The class never slows down, so you have no time to feel sorry for yourself. Then - Boom! - it’s over.

Reformer:

Similar to Classic, but instead of a barre for support you use stretchy tubes. Micro-moves are done while pulling on the tubes with your arms or with the tube handles around your feet.

At one point I felt sort of moronic, with tubes flailing in all directions while I stopped myself from falling. But the whole point is to strengthen your core and improve balance and by the end of the class I had already gotten better.

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