Day 4 - Empathy for the Ballerinas

Pure Barre - Coral Gables

Again, for the unaware, I used to run the dorms for the Miami City Ballet School. And every night the girls I was in charge of would come home looking like they’d just been through a war, ice their feet in Epsom salts, complain about how hard class was, and not eat.  I thought they were just being drama queens because, well, teenage girls. But turns out they weren’t lying.

Today I ventured to Pure Barre, a ballet-inspired workout who’s motto is something like “Tone, flex, burn.” Or something else that lets you know this is going to be something painful.

I went to the one in Merrick Park, the uber-upscale shopping center that also houses SoulCycle. MY summer intern had been a devotee of the place, and more than a few girls I know had credited it to their improved physiques.

I rolled in and the instructor took me into the training room, where every bar was set about three feet off the ground. She attempted to show me how to do some of the more complicated ab exercises that involved the bar, and immediately got confused.

“Hmm,” she said as we sat under on of the ballet-style bars on the side of the room. “So the idea here is you stick your entire back and neck to the wall. But your head doesn’t fit under there, does it?”

It didn’t.

“Well, I’m not quite sure how we’re going to handle this.”

“You don’t have any other guys who do this?” I asked.

“Well, we’ve got one guy, and he’s a football player, but I’ve never taught him so I’m not sure. The other guy, he’s from Wisconsin and he’s tall too, but honestly I don’t know what to do.”

After a long consultation with another instructor it was decided that when it came time for ab exercises, I should stick my tailbone to the wall and lean forward to maximize the ab workout.

So, Pure Barre, good as it is, is clearly not meant for men.

This became immediately apparent when the entire class that came in was made up of ladies who were most certainly either students at UM, or had just graduated. And I’m not complaining. It was easily the best looking class I’d worked with thus far. But I’m not a guy who hits on girls anywhere really, and especially not at the gym. So I just used it as motivation to work harder.

Barre classes are made up of tiny movements in everything you do. “The size of a paperclip” as it was described to me by my instructor. That meant lifting your leg off the ground., pointing your toe, and pulsing it for like ten minutes. We repeated this for a while, with different angles for each leg, effectively burning out my legs and hips.

The thing about women’s exercises, they’re designed to work with your body weight. It’s not like lifting where the bigger you are, the better you are. Stuff like Barre is all based on holding up your arms and legs for extended periods of time, and toning those muscle groups. You see, because women go for tone, while we go for size.

So while I was pretty god with the leg exercise at the beginning, once we had to pick up weights and hold our arms over our heads for 5-10 minutes at a time, I started to fade. Having 20-inch arms is cool when you’re at the club. When you’re in a barre class? Decidedly not-cool.

So while skinny little girls can lift 5 pound weights over their heads and “tuck” for ten minutes at a time, not so simple for a guy who’s pushed 2 bills since he was 16.

The workout was quad burning. Lots of holding your leg up for extended periods and doing small pulses. Lots of extending your leg back and doing small pulses. Not a lot of ever having your leg on the ground where god meant it to be.

And they didn’t even make me get up on my tippiy toes. Well, they did kinds, when we were squatted down with one leg crossed over the other, pulsing up and down, then asked to lift up onto our toes. Basically, putting all our body weight on our toes. That is not something meant for the male body. Not at all.

But as the class ended and we stretched out I did realize I was more flexible than some of the girls there. I credit that to a year of yoga prior to all this. I was disappointed that the only interaction I had with any of the perfectly toned blondes in the class was one of them tossing me a red rubber ball to do abs with, since mine had rolled away. But, hey, this isn’t a dating experiment. So I’ll survive.

Pure Barre was the epitome of women’s exercise, and definitely made me appreciate the torture girls go through to get great bodies. It’s all abs and butt and legs, and burns the whole time. And is definitely not something most guys would be comfortable with. But I’m excited to try it again. And, yes, for other reasons than my fellow classmates.

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