My First Time: Cardio Barre

I have a healthy obsession with bar workouts. I went to my first Bar Method class in 2009, and haven’t looked back. It sounds super 50 Shades of Grey (though better written), but I get great pleasure out of the exquisite, lingering, self-inflicted pain that comes with a ballet-inspired workout. Love.

When I saw a Groupon/Living Social/whatever e-mail it was I read that day deal for 10 Cardio Barre classes for $40, I signed up immediately…and finally got around to redeeming it a month later.*

The plan is to meet up with a friend who had bought the same daily deal, but her boss works her too hard and she can’t get out for the 8PM class. I am on my own.

There are no advanced sign ups, so I arrive 30 minutes prior to the class, as recommended by the studio. I probably could have made it in if I got there 15 minutes prior, but they are known to sell out. While it’s nice to not have to plan this workout days in advance, I’m not crazy about spending 15-30 minutes of downtime waiting for an hour class. I hear this is even more of an issue amongst the actually-employed.

I am prepared to go through the same strength workout as Bar Method/Pop Physique, but this turns out to be much more old school aerobics, with a ballet strength twist. We start with some fast moving stretches and warm ups, including many ballet variations on calf raises and plie releve. All of the balance holds wake up my inner ballerina, who then proceeds to lose her balance and fall. The pace of the class stays fast throughout.

The instructor indicates that “bar thighs” are the hardest part of class. During this, we do a standard fold over at the bar with lifts and bends angled at different sides of the classroom. Just as it starts to really burn, the exercise is over. I want an extra minute during all of these exercises because I am a horrible sadist.

The arm workout is high in cardio, but I never get to a point where my form is quite there. The 8 counts quickly go down to 4 counts and 2 counts and singles, and I spend a good amount of time looking around figuring out if I am supposed to be doing tricep presses or shoulder extensions (we go back and forth between the two). This might get more effective the more classes one takes, but it really does move so fast that I don’t know how anyone can really focus too much on form.

We do a series of standing abs and twists that target the abs; I am semi-concerned I’m going to throw my back out the whole time. Perhaps this is paranoid, but speedy twisting of the torso just screams disaster to my ever-aging body.

The lying down floor workout gets a little Jane Fonda, but she still looks great so who am I to judge? We  lie down on towels and do a series of side lying leg lifts that I feel moderately in my hips and outer thighs, and pretty strongly when we adjust to target the inner thigh. The abs use old school bicycles, among other exercises, and it does the job.

The stretch to end the class is longer than in most classes, which is probably a great thing. Low impact or not, this is a class that contorts the body in ways that are out of the norm.

I’m sure I am missing a few exercises from the hour class - but I think that’s the point. Nothing truly hurt or challenged to the degree that I could remember it 12 hours later. What I missed from this class was the huge sense of “good lord I can’t believe I got through that” after the class, or even the most challenging exercises. My soreness factor is non-existent the next day, which I suppose is not always a bad thing when the primary focus is cardio. Granted, this is coming from someone who has been really piling on six days of running or exercise classes each week lately (only pause a moment to hate me for having the time to do this, then go back to pitying me for not having an income), and it’s also worth noting that this was a beginner class. This class is a great way to get back into exercise if there has been a personal lapse in fitness and the other classes seem too scary to start.

I will note that after discussing the class with a workout buddy who has attended a few sessions, it appears as though the beginner classes vary significantly in difficulty level. I must have inadvertently signed up for one of the easier classes. Not crazy about that lack of consistency, either, but I’m hopeful I can get more out of the rest of these classes by finding the “hard” teacher.

I’m also hoping I can find a teacher who doesn’t play the worst music I’ve ever sat through for an hour. We’re talking war criminal torture music. It grated on my nerves for a solid 80 percent of the class. I have a wide range of music I can tolerate, including pop, cheesy rock ballads, and even a corgi cover of Call Me Maybe. This music, though: my God. I think we heard every song that Mark Wahlberg ever participated in, except for in club remix form and at like 4X speed. Every song you forgot from the 90s, but that it’s ok that you forgot, ended up on that playlist. I can’t speak to how often they change that up, but there is a very real possibility I’ll be wearing an iPod for my remaining nine purchased classes.

The Deets:
Cardio Barre - Beverly Hills (multiple locations)
469 S. Robertson Blvd
Beverly Hills 90212
(424) 777-0032

Takeaways: It’s more Cardio/less Barre, bring a (beach) towel, consider bringing headphones (only half kidding), arrive early for pre- and post-work classes, class difficulty varies, street parking.

*On that note, I have 30 pre-purchased classes for various fitness studios around LA that expire on dates ranging from September to December. I am on lockdown from purchasing classes until that number goes down to 10.