Fun Times at the Barre

Updated: May 21

As a Barre, Pilates and Fitness Instructor, I still like to take classes at other studios for various reasons – sometimes it will give me great ideas for my classes, other times I can take note of the cues other instructors give that resonate with me and it humbles me. Rather than barking out orders in a class, I’m taking the class so it gives me a different perspective as a student.

Today I decided to try a new barre class which I will call PureCraziness. I tried a class at this facility once before and thought it was okay but didn’t understand the hype. Today, I decided to try it again and took a different type barre class offered with resistance bands.

As soon as I walked in, I removed my shoes (to preserve the pristine floor) and checked in on the iPad. The girl behind the desk was super busy conversing with her friend so she didn’t have time to welcome me. So I found the cubbies and bathroom all by myself like a big girl and spent the next five minutes looking at overpriced clothes in the lobby.

Upon walking into class and finding a designated spot, I immediately made friends with the two girls around me. One girl had never taken class before “Newbie”, the other girl “Smiley” had rave reviews as she just attended class the previous weekend. Instantly the instructor strutted in, turned on loud music and started barking orders (I LOVE music but not so loud I can’t hear the instructor). She never asked if anyone was new to class or anybody had any ailments she should be aware of – just direction, rapid fire direction. She spoke so fast I had to watch the other ladies to understand what she was saying and what we were doing. Immediately with no warm up we were doing planks on the floor with sliding disks on our feet. So that was interesting – my body was barely awake – never mind ready to hold a plank. I slipped slided around and somehow managed to complete my task. It wasn’t pretty!

We then took to the bar with our resistance band contraptions. Again, military orders. I, of course, grabbed the wrong bands and couldn’t figure out why my arms wouldn’t extend beautifully like the graceful lady across from me. What the . . . I’m a barre instructor for gosh sakes! Our next task was to use the disk on one foot with a band in one hand. This was very confusing but eventually I got myself positioned properly to which I got “nice job, Kelly” by the instructor. Apparently, she did know my name!      But . . . the question was – did she know who was Kelly? Blonde?  Brunette? Uncoordinated blonde?   My guess is she just memorized names! After thirty pulses on one leg to the point it was almost numb, I looked over at my friend Newbie – and mumbled “WTF”. She, thank goodness, understood my humor. Honestly, I just blurted it out.   My leg was numb. I couldn’t understand a word this instructor was saying. And   while Newbie and I were struggling, Smiley had no issues at all and was still flipping smiling. At this point, I was getting a case of giggles. The whole thing was just silliness! Oh yeah – nobody smiled, giggled or conversed in this class. It was serious business (I’m eye rolling right now, you can’t see it but I am!). My feeling is a fitness class should be fun, a bit social and enjoyable. Maybe, that’s just me but it’s a fitness class not military training. At any rate, we finished pulsing on the right and started on the left to which I whispered a mournful – “goodbye left leg, you’ve been awesome!”

Next thing we are on the floor, plank position sliding away with our feet to the point that we were sliding our left leg laterally so that our foot met our left shoulder – yup you read that right – pretty much spread eagle! First of all, I have no flexibility, tight hips and at almost “50” was never going to achieve this task. I settled for mid-waist height but these girls were sliding all the way to their head. Dear God! God bless them! I don’t know how you teach a class like that without checking in with your attendees and their abilities or giving modifications. But our instructor was pretty young and probably a dancer so she probably has no understanding of limited abilities. After all, she’s still learning the art of saying “Hi”.

We finished class with straps on our feet mimicking the reformer. Now, I’ve taken hours upon hours of training to teach reformer and proper head and spine positioning. Absolutely nothing here – raise shoulder and neck and crunch away. I heard the Stott Pilates Police cursing in my ear.

We did finish class with a few stretches. I looked over at Newbie and told her I will never walk again – she smiled and nodded. I think she was exhausted. My other new friend, Smiley, would not make eye contact with me. I may have offended her with my  giggles, eye rolling, and cursing under my breath. So perhaps she didn’t appreciate my nasty, class habits.

After hobbling to the lobby, gathering my personal items, I was one of the last ones to leave – the instructor never said anything to me – not “how’d you like class” or “you did a great job”, “you’re an awesome eye roller” or “please come back and pay our overpriced classes”. So that gave me a warm fuzzy as I walked out the door!

Here’s my takeaway . . . and I never expected a takeaway but so many random thoughts run through my head during these classes that I need to get them down on paper. I have taught at three small studios and I have never not introduced myself at some point to a new student (unless inadvertently). I almost never forget to ask a new student if they have any limitations – I may have missed that 1x or 2x times due to a busy class or chaos but I try my best to never do that. I acknowledge new people in my class and try to offer encouragement or make them feel at ease. Today is a perfect example of a “big box” gym class or franchise that does not train their instructors common courtesy. Sometimes I question our small studios and what we have to offer but today it made me appreciate the one-on-one attention we offer and small group setting. In a small group setting, I can cater my classes to my students’ abilities so that nobody leaves “hurting”. Almost all ladies who come through the door over 40 years of age, have some previous injury or limitation or no fitness experience. It scares me that they could walk into a class like this and hurt themselves. I never intended for this blog to be preachy – in my head it was funny while I was pulsing away – but seriously be careful when you take a new class. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable doing and use your head – if it does not feel right, do not do it. In closing, I try never to be skeptical of fitness instructors because I know how hard it is to get up there and put yourself out there. It is not an easy task. We all have growing pains and bad days. I feel my review is more about the studio and how they train their staff then the instructor herself. But having said that, common courtesy goes a long way – it’s just “pure” common sense!!

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