Fitness Trend: A First-Timer's Experience at the Barre
After taking my first “Lava Rock” class—a barre-based fitness class in Arlington, Virginia—I woke up sore. Not just I-slept-in-a-funky-position-last-night sore, but the kind of sore that makes you avoid funny people and sitcoms (you know your abs will hate you if you laugh) and wish you were a guy so you didn’t have to sit down to pee (haven’t you already done enough squats for the week?).
“We want you to remember us!” said my instructor Lauren Price, trying to persuade me to think of my tender muscles as souvenirs. (A keychain or a postcard would have sufficed, thank you very much.) “Some people want to take barre because they think they can come in and leave without getting their hair messed up,” she added. “Not here. You are going to work hard, you will sweat.” True story.
While the technique has apparently been around awhile, it’s a growing trend in the DC area. The studio I went to, Lava Barre, is the first in Arlington and was founded by Price and fellow barre enthusiast, Vanessa Ligorria. To get the scoop on this new-to-me trend—and on how two young entrepreneurs built the thriving business of their dreams—I caught up with the plié-ing pair a few days after my class. Here’s what I learned about getting my “tuck on.”
It’s More Than A Barre
The fundamental aspect of barre is, well, the ballet barre. In my class, we used it to stay centered while doing squats, keep our balance while doing leg lifts, and stabilize a stretch band while working our triceps. But we also used small free weights, a rubber ball, a yoga mat, and our own body weight. So what ties these elements together?
“You are doing tiny isometric movements to get deep into the muscle and then stretch it long and lean after each movement to get that dancer’s look,” explained Ligorria. Try this: raise your leg, while standing, so that your inner thigh is parallel to the ground and your knee is bent, so your foot is almost touching your butt. Now squeeze your glutes to raise and lower your leg just a few inches, while maintaining good posture—for an entire song. Feel that burn?
From the looks of the duo, the technique works. “It’s exciting to see your body change shape,” said Price. “It’s great when your husband says ‘honey, your butt looks higher!’ You want to keep doing it.”
It Doesn’t Get Old
Part of the beauty of the barre is that it never gets old, said Ligorria. “There are so many ways to work the muscles—you never plateau, it always changes. You can always come back the next day, and you won’t get bored.”
While I can’t speak for other studios, at Lava Barre, they’ve made an effort to use only the most difficult, intense, and effective moves—and to switch up the routine all the time. “We want to give people the most effective workout in their hour,” they said. And if you want to slack? Good luck. When my leg sagged, Price was immediately behind me to give it a boost. When I decided that I had done enough push-ups for one evening (any more than zero is enough, right?), she cracked the whip again.
“The lesson is: It doesn’t matter how low you go, just try to do one more push-up,” said Ligorria. “We always say, ‘take that tail bone an inch lower, stretch a little farther, lift your leg a little higher, and really challenge yourself to get through the workout.'” Easier said than done, but good words of wisdom—no matter what your exercise of choice.
Lava Barre’s Story
If you’re more businesswoman than barre babe, Price and Ligorria are still savvy role models. Five years ago, they didn’t know each other. Price was working in capital management, and Ligorria was in school for industrial psychology. They started taking barre classes at a studio in DC and bonded over their shared passion. “We were addicted to the burn,” they said. After becoming certified and teaching in DC for a year, they opened their own studio in Arlington.
I never would have guessed the studio had opened on July 1, just weeks before my class. It had already accumulated a mass of spandex-clad regulars, who commiserated over their cranky bosses and gushed about their new favorite workout. Price and Ligorria said that the benefit of a studio—as opposed to a gym—is the community it creates. Another benefit? The booze. Yup, that’s right: The pair serves sangria to barre-goers during a session they call “core and cocktails” at the end of Thursday night classes. (Remind me why I went on a Monday?) They also offer childcare for busy moms who want to hit the barre, and eventually hope to open a café and a massage room.
“Sometimes women—and men—are afraid to go for what they love to do,” said Ligorria. “But you have to take the plunge and trust yourself. Do research and do the work, but go for it. If there’s something you know you want to do, do it.”
Added Price: “It’s true that when you do what you love, success follows.” And if what you love is barre? A tight butt follows, too.
Photos courtesy of Lava Barre.
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