Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Barre Crawl: barre3!

Barre3 is the only major barre franchise I hadn't tried. Based in Portland, Oregon, barre3 is understandably best represented on the west coast. There are a few here and there in the east, but none were near me or convenient to anywhere I have traveled lately.

I was itching to try it, though. I know people in other parts of the country who *love* barre3, so I was very excited to learn that a studio was opening up near me! Really near me. They opened this week, so I headed over this morning to take one of the (free!) opening week classes.

Before I go any further, I would like to mention that this review is based on only one class. Normally, I like to try a few before I share my abundant thoughts and strong opinions with the world, but it didn't work out in this case. And just so you know, the 'b' is meant to be lower case. Like e.e. cummings. And exhale. This is a thing, apparently. I'm going to capitalize it at the beginning of sentences, though. It looks too freaky otherwise.

About barre3

Barre3 was founded in 2008 by Sadie Lincoln, her husband Chris, and some other guy. Sadie is cute as a button and is definitely the face behind the brand.
Isn't she cute? Image:
In addition to the studio classes, barre3 has a very large and affordable online workout library, for which they offer a free 15-day trial. (I'll link it at the bottom of the post.) I've tried the online workouts and honestly, they didn't light me up, but some people really click with them. 

Sadie has also written a book, and there is an iPhone app that offers a variety of fun stuff. I'd generally say barre3 gets an A+ for accessibility.

Barre3 has definitely targeted a niche audience: mothers. In fact, the owner of my local greeted me at the door with someone else's baby on her hip. Studios offer childcare at certain classes for a small additional fee. This is a huge plus for mothers of little kids. It costs an arm and a leg to hire a sitter in my area, especially during the week as the cheap labor force (read: middle and high schoolers) are otherwise engaged. 

There are studios in 24 states, including Washington, DC, which isn't technically a state (but I won't open that can of worms.) There's also a studio in Canada (Toronto) and several in the Philippines. Quirky, huh?

The workout is a hybrid of barre, yoga and pilates. Honestly, lots of barre classes I have tried have yoga and pilates overtones, so I was interested to see how the fusion schtick would play out at barre3. 

The Class

Barre3 is definitely different.... not because of the yoga or pilates elements so much, more because the brand uses a lot of compound exercises. This means you're working the upper and lower body simultaneously. I really like compound movements. It brings extra challenge to the workout and it gets your heart rate up. And there were some large range-of-motion exercises sprinkled in among the up-an-inch-down-an-inch movements you usually do in a barre class.

The format was also a little different from most barre classes I've tried. You work various body parts throughout, rather than isolating parts as other barre brands tend to do. On one hand, this made the class a little more interesting than the standard arms/thighs/seat/abs format. But wow--there were a lot of reps. The instructor said there were a lot of reps, and she wasn't kidding. I'll admit that had me watching the clock a bit. Are we done yet?

'Pros' about barre3

  • It was a little different and it was challenging. Not crazy hard, but still quite challenging. I'm sure I'll feel it tomorrow. 
  • Childcare is a huge feather in barre3's cap. They are the only studio in my area that offers this. I don't need it now that both the little Darlings are in school, but wow... If they had opened a year ago, I would have been banging on the door with cash in my fist. I'm very happy for mothers in my area to have access to a barre with babysitting!
  • Barre3's pre-opening deal was a little unorthodox. The terms weren't such that I was willing to bite, but their overall standard pricing is a bit more affordable than other studios near me. 

'Cons' about barre3

  • I didn't get a single form correction or individual challenge. The instructor called out general modifications, but there was very little personal interaction. Granted, the class was quite full, and as expected for free opening week classes, there were a few newbies. Instructors tend to channel their attention on beginners, but still... I didn't see a whole lot of form correcting going on. (I'd say this class was middle of the pack in terms of instructor engagement.) This is kind of a thing for me, as I've mentioned before. As a more experienced/advanced practitioner, I'm really looking for that extra something-something from the instructor. It's hard to find, and I definitely didn't find it at barre3 today. 
  • This isn't really a 'con' for me, but at my local studio, the children's space is just a half-walled corner of the reception area.
    It's filled with books and toys, very cute, but the presence of children plus people coming and going made the environment slightly chaotic. This doesn't really bother me, but for some people, this might distract from the lovely lalala feeling of getting to a class.
  • I didn't love the actual studio space. The acoustics weren't great, the floor was hard, and only one wall was mirrored, so it was tough to check form.
  • For a brand that targets mothers, I found the core work in this class to be pretty light. And let me tell you, my abs are NOT my strongest part, so it's not that I'm such an ab badass. Maybe it was just this particular class? I don't know, but I definitely didn't feel challenged in my core.

Would I go back?

Sure, I'd consider going to barre3, but I can't say I was hopelessly over the moon about it. Maybe I'll be looking for something different in the future, and if they offer a super deal, I might bite at some point, but it wasn't enough to lure me away from the Bar Method, even though barre3 is closer to home. 


If you're interested in barre3, you can find studio locations here. The link to the free 15-day online workouts is here. There are DVDs and also some workouts you can try on youtube. (FYI, I found the live class significantly more challenging than the online workouts.)

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