If you read my recent Surgical Series you’ll know that I’ve been blighted by a spell of inactivity which has led to weight gain, loss of muscle mass and a total loss of motivation. See that’s the thing with forced recuperation, you don’t have a choice but to sit still.
Now, you know that I’m an avid gym goer, it’s my happy place, and I really do mean that. However just like we learned from Spider-Man, with hibernation comes laziness and complacency. I’m not sure that’s quite right but you get the gist….
So, you’ve heard me waxing lyrical about the benefits of being active, from playing roller derby to competing in boxing bouts, training in the Mineral House Gym and my sanctuary, The Barre; you know I’m a go-getter and someone who not only loves the thrill of competitive sport, but also the journey to get fighting fit. But what happens when you lose that drive? I’m somebody who in a year has gone from getting up and hitting the gym or the barre, first thing, then revisiting on an evening after my working day is done, to someone who says ‘tomorrow’ knowing that tomorrow doesn’t exist.
After my most recent round of surgery and during my recovery, I met up with one of my longest standing friends Natalie Catlah for our monthly coffee catch up and man did I go in hard with the whingeing. I was tired, lazy, fat, gross and many other words I called myself, which could all be summed up by one defining category: Defeated. Now if there’s one thing that Natalie and I have in common, it’s that we’re straight talkers. She’s a person I go to when I need to give myself a shake, she pulls no punches with me, but also respects the boundaries enforced by restrictions such as surgery and she knew that I was on the verge of being broken, and largely that I had done this to myself. In a nutshell, I had become complacent, where once was motivation was now laziness and that had to change.
You might have heard me talk about Nat in my posts before (she’s who I go to when I need to wheel out the big guns) she’s the owner, creator and ultimate matriarch of The Barre in Newcastle. Starting to sound familiar? If you follow me on social media you’ll have most definitely seen my posts about the benefits of training at The Barre. If you’re not familiar with the concept then let me fill you in, you’ll most definitely not be forgiven for thinking we flounce around in a posh dance studio….
Barre is hard. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted. Yes it takes it’s name and its basis from ballet but the commonalities end there. The Barre Workout is derivative, it takes the very base mechanics of ballet and turns them into a booty sculpting, thigh honing workout with no dance whatsoever. That was your first barrier right? The fact that you’re not a dancer? Eliminate that, this is a workout for anybody of any shape and any fitness level.
Plies. Lots of them. We take the basic ballet plie (it means “to bend”) and we exercise them in various different positions based on the ballet spectrum. Think lots of tiny, controlled squats that burn out the biggest fat burning muscles in the body and you’re on the right track. What’s different about The Barre is that each round of exercises has been stripped back and built back up by Nat to magnify the benefits for fitness, rather than dance. Take for example a First Position Plie, in Barre, the heels are clamped firmly together to close the chain of exercise and increase the body’s own resistance. Clever right? She wasn’t a ballerina for nowt this one, she’s got some skills.
Well you gotta start somewhere. Listen, I’m uncoordinated and messy but the great thing about The Barre is that it’s slow, controlled and above all else, regimented. The classes follow a set path and your instructor will spend time talking you through and demonstrating the set up of each exercise along with positioning, and you simply follow those instructions. The best way of knowing you’re doing it right is when those muscles start to shake, no Barre Newbie escapes the Barre Burn, it’s mandatory.
One hour. Like with the Star Wars movies, there’s a specific order in which you attack the Barre schedule. Never done it before? Start with First Barre (if you’re a new client you get your first two classes for the price of one), there are lots of these on the schedule to choose from and the schedule switches seasonally depending on demand. Once you’ve found your feet, check with your Instructor and she’ll tell you if you’re ready to move up to Open Barre. Open Barre is a class of mixed ability so you’ll see Wonder Women in there as well as people brand new to the class but don’t panic, The Barre has a community spirit like no other workout I’ve done. These women (and the odd few men) support and encourage each other in and out of class and if you get something wrong in class, even if someone spots it, they’ll pretend they didn’t so you don’t feel crap.
Once you’ve mastered the roster of moves you’ll be able to navigate the schedule of classes a little more freely. When you’re confident at Open Barre level you can try 2nd Barre, the rising to 3rd Barre. In addition to the classes which made the studio famous, there’s a selection of Power (45 min) and Express (30 min) classes.
Well, if you’re getting a taste for the place then try a Barrdio class – from the Power Class menu. This 45 minute fat blaster takes it’s name from the much loved Cardio barre classes in the States and follows the same format. Getting the heart rate up a lot higher with faster, but still controlled movements.
Brawl is another Power Class that’s dedicated to honing the upper body. Want arms like Michelle Obama? Then you’d better be prepared to work for it, this is 45 minutes of upper body exercise with small, precise movements that target not just the larger muscles but the accessory muscles too.
There’s a full suite of 30 minute Express Classes that cram a lot into your lunch break. Each one targets a specific thing: Re-Ab (abs), Re-Flex (flexibility) and Rear-Arrange (booty).
Regular gym gear. leggings, shorts, vests, tees, anything goes and as The Barre has their own range of Barre Threads, you’ll be able to spot the die-hards by their kit. Shameless plug alert: I’ve just switched sponsors from Nike to Pro-Skins so you’ll see me flashing my wares in there too.
The Barre is in Newcastle on the Quayside, it’s right opposite the Copthorne Hotel and whilst it doesn’t have its own dedicated parking lot, there’s ample parking nearby. Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to an evening class as the Quayside approach from Forth Banks can be crazy busy at rush hour.
Now that’s easy, download The Barre Workout app from the app store and there’s an option for a 2-4-1 starter class. After that, the world is literally your oyster.
It’s not cheap, I won’t lie. The Barre is a lifestyle and to tap in and be a part of that will cost you £14 per class if you buy them individually. Like with any fitness studio classes bought in ‘packs’ are cheaper and once you’ve decided it’s right for you there’s an option of a monthly membership package that gives you access to 26 classes each rolling month at a cost of £125 per month – that’s the option I choose and have done for a number of years now as the classes work out cheapest. Obviously you know you’re own starting point, financially and in terms of your goals so select a package that fits with your current lifestyle.
I’m charting my recovery and my journey back to fitness. I put on three stone after having three surgical procedures back to back and being unable to exercise so I’ll be there as much as possible in the coming months. I’m aiming for six classes per week which equates to one for each day The Barre is open in a week, keep your eyes on my social media for instant updates or subscribe here for regular posts on my endeavours. Better still, sign up for a class and come join me!
See you at The Barre!