"Meet you at the barre" "Resting barre face" "Embrace the shake" "Barre crawl" "Barre so hard" "Barre hair, don't care" "Barre now, wine later" "Just grin and barre it" "Barre-bie"
The barre memes and funny barre quotes go on for pages if you take a short look on a search engine and everyone who does it regularly, absolutely loves to go on about those endless pulses, tucks, holds and plies. Yet there is something about barre that just keeps women coming back for more!
There are also men who take part in barre classes - in fact I have had a number of very keen barre boys that regularly attend my 'in person' barre - but it is certainly the case that around 98% of my classes are made up of women (don't quote that as an official statistic, I am notoriously poor at counting, it is a barre instructor speciality ha ha!)
So what is it about barre that women find so irresistable and why do I think it works so damn well as a workout for all women in their midlife? To answer that we need to go back to what got me to the barre in the first place...
In my mid 30s I had no interest in even finding out what barre was - at that time my workouts were pretty much all intense, sweaty, high impact, sweaty, heavy lifting, more sweating, burpees, sprints, more sweating, running, spinning and a bit more sweating. I thought the only way to work out was 'go hard or go home'.
I sure as hell wasn't giving up some of my precious workout time, away from the kids, doing anything low impact like stretching, yoga, Pilates or barre. To be honest I probably thought they were all too easy for me - how I hear those who have done barre laughing at that admission!!!
Anyway not too long afterwards I started suffering the first of what I now know are perimenopause symptoms (not that I had any idea at the time). Niggling injuries began happening more regularly (hello frozen shoulder), I developed mild incontinence (which made burpees decidedly difficult on occasion) and I was suffering appalling insomnia which was making me tired and emotional.
My confidence became affected and I started to feel a bit too tired to drag myself out late in the day for these punishing workouts - it was making my sleep more erractic and my heart was often racing late into the night after an intense evening workout.
Around this time I was in London meeting friends and I decided to try out a class run by my university pal Sophie - her signature class Discobarre has a huge following and I bounded into her old studio near Covent Garden full of energy and enthusiasm.
60 VERY VERY long minutes later, I pretty much crawled out of the class and wobbled on very shaky legs back to the tube (and nearly cried when I had to walk down those hundreds of steps at Covent Garden Tube Station). My first barre class complete, thoroughly humbled and totally hooked!!!
And so began my love of barre - I qualified as an instructor a few months later and the rest, as they say, is history.
So what exactly is barre?
Barre is a fusion of ballet, Pilates, strength training and yoga designed to tone and sculpt every muscle. You can expect a series of fat burning moves, from leg lengtheners and plies, to booty burners and scorching core sequences. You don't need to be a dancer or have any dance experience - this is not a ballet class. It can also be adapted to any level of fitness.
So what benefits can you expect from a regular barre practice in your peri to post menopause years? HERE ARE MY TOP 5:
1. HIGH INTENSITY BUT LOW IMPACT
One of the main reasons I love barre is that although it is a seriously good, high intensity workout (and you will quickly see results if you stick with it and do it 2/3 times a week), all the sequences are low impact and designed to protect and strengthen your muscles.
This is one class where there will not be a jumping jack or burpee in sight! This can be particularly beneficial if you are one of the many women who start to experience leakage or other pelvic floor issues as your hormones begin to change. 2. HARD WORK BUT NOT SWEATY
There have been a number of women I have spoken to over the years who find that the idea of sweating in a group of people is extremely off-putting, particularly if you are living with hot flushes that can often come on out of nowhere and it will mean they avoid group fitness classes as a result.
The beauty of barre is that even though you are working extremely hard isolating muscles (that barre burn is real!), it is rare that you will break out into a heavy sweat. The work tends to come from holds and pulses rather jumping around. Don't be fooled though - not sweating buckets does NOT equate to not working hard!
3. BUILDS A SUPER STRONG PELVIS AND CORE REGION Many women put on weight, experience changes to their core and start to get lower back and /or hip pain as they journey through menopause. One of the areas that benefits most from barre workouts is your pelvic region and core.
We dedicate entire sequences to tucking your pelvis, drawing up through your centre and scorching the abs in order to build a strong foundation for us to work from. So much of what we do in life comes from our core, yet it is sometimes overlooked.
But this is a time of your life when you need to pay attention to this area - while prolapses, incontinence and bladder/bowel issues are common at perimenopause, you should NOT have to live with it and there ARE things you can do to improve them.
Barre can and does help when you do it right!
4. IMPROVES STRENGTH, BONE HEALTH, BALANCE, FLEXIBILITY AND POSTURE As we lose the protective benefits that oestrogen offers us before we enter perimenopause, we become much more susceptible to breaks, fractures, osteoporosis, weight gain, falls etc. Our balance, flexibility and posture can also begin to deteriorate and one of the best ways for us to combat this is to strength train.
But there is a misconception that you must lift heavy weights in order to 'strength train'. However strength training is essentially any type of physical exercise that uses resistance in the form of your body or external resistance such as weights to help build strength.
And do we ever use our bodies as a resistance in barre - think isolating holds, pulses, planks, press ups and not forgetting those plies that go on and on for a long time! Add in some of the extras such as mini balls, resistance bands and dumbbells and believe me - you ARE strength training!!
In fact one of my favourite things is watching new people* come to class, grab the heaviest dumbbells they can find because they are used to their 10-12 reps in the gym and watching the reality dawn as we hold those dumbbells up and pulse, and circle, and hold, and pulse, and circle, and hold, and pulse, and circle, and hold. Suddenly a 1.5kg set of dumbbells can feel like THE HEAVIEST THINGS IN THE WORLD!!!
(*fyi I do always advise new people to go light - but they don't often listen - they only make that mistake once though, ha ha!)
5. FRIENDSHIPS AND BONDS FORMED AT THE BARRE When you are clutching the barre and the instructor says 'just 8 more reps', there is usually a collective audible groan, followed by giggles and it is often in these shared moments that friendships are formed.
A friendship circle, a feeling of support and being surrounded by likeminded individuals, all united in cursing the instructor is a wonderful thing to behold. We need our female tribes more than ever at midlife and I bloody love the inclusive bonds that I witness being born at the barre.
Sometimes chatting to the person beside you or rolling your eyes at each other as you hear 'that's halfway' from the instructor at the precise moment it feels like your butt is on fire, is the only thing that gets you through to the end of the set.
Everybody loves to hate it when we are doing it, yet within seconds of it finishing you experience what I have coined that #postbarrebuzz and you look forward to when you can do it all over again!
So if you are up for a challenge, looking for something a little different and want to experience some of this for yourself then get yourself to the barre.
"Money can't buy you happiness. But it can buy you barre classes.
And that's basically the same thing!"
If you would like access to a FREE taster of a barre class with me, designed to get you feeling great and moving well, then sign up to my FREE 3 Day Series here: https://www.emmabwellness.com/free3dayseries