Photo Credit: Pure Barre
This January, record low temperatures, seemingly continuous snowfall, and slick black ice plagued the city of Chicago. On Northwestern University’s campus, staying safe and warm was paramount in students’ minds. But rather than cozying up to a mug of hot chocolate, many female students took a different approach.
“Let’s look good under those parkas, ladies,” the instructor hollered over the booming music, coaxing the exhausted clients of Evanston’s Pure Barre to power through the last reps. The instructors even have a phrase to encourage clients to stay in the exercise despite their fatigued muscles: “embrace the shake.”
In this frigid weather, a sign outside the studio asks passersby to come in and get warm, an offer many Northwestern students accept. The barre craze, which has gained national attention, has found its way to our campus.
According to Abigail Reisinger, a barre instructor at Fit Girl Studio in Evanston, barre is “a combination of Pilates, yoga, ballet and weight training. You work all the major muscle groups to full fatigue, and then stretch them out so they get nice and long.”
While Reisinger stresses that barre classes differ depending on the studio, the Pure Barre website gives a similar definition for the workout, coining the term “Lift. Tone. Burn.” According to the website, their barre classes work the hips, seat, abdominals, and arms, and follow each strength workout with stretching to create “long, lean muscles.” The website goes so far as to say that Pure Barre is “the fastest, most effective, yet safest way to change your body.”
Yet barre addicts and exercise gurus alike will argue that barre alone is not sufficient in creating a lean and toned physique. While barre, an anaerobic exercise, can effectively build muscle, it doesn’t burn fat. Thus, in order to reduce body fat and increase muscle definition, barre clients must also include cardio, an aerobic exercise, in their fitness routines.
Kara Weinstein, a Pure Barre client, has noticed an increase in strength since starting barre classes, but not necessarily the definition she is looking for. To supplement the classes, she added cardio exercises like running and swimming into her routine.
So while barre alone may not be enough to “change your body,” when combined with cardio, it can be an effective tool in developing a strong and lean physique.
“The more muscle you have, the faster you’ll burn fat,” said Weinstein, explaining that barre can help increase the impact of cardiovascular workouts. The more barre classes you take, the better results you’ll have from your cardio workouts, the more endurance you’ll have in your barre classes—this vicious cycle helps explain why Northwestern students are finding barre classes oh so addicting.