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    Despite my fitness and health interests, I'm still just a regular 30-something with lumps and the kids to match, so when it comes to fitness, I face the same common challenges everyone does. But, I couldn't resist the new challenge of visiting Pure Barre during its opening week for a class.

    Said to bring noticeable body changes in just 10 visits, appealing to women who seek quick results, Pure Barre claims to lift your seat, tone your thighs and burn fat to create the long lean muscles of a dancer's body. What woman could say no to that?

    I entered Pure Barre for Saturday's 9:30 a.m. class, and introduced myself to Karen Handel at the desk, one of Pure Barre Louisville's franchisees. She struck me as so genuinely upbeat that I immediately felt welcome. Several more women of varying ages had gathered in the waiting area, filling out forms, introducing themselves and getting to know one another, bonding mostly with those who seemed most like themselves. We all took in the clean beauty of the lobby and studio, in the way toxic off-gassing of new flooring materials makes one appreciate the beauty of new things. In all, there were about seven of us.

    One woman mentioned that she's an August 2011 bride-to-be, and was presumed to be at Pure Barre to change her body for the wedding, so an onslaught of gushing over her began. She and her mother, regular Barre users in Lexington, came together. Her mother sat and chatted with a woman close to her own age, and they each discussed their own workout histories, Pure Barre experience, Pilates, yoga, and bygone days of running. I interjected with my own running history (however recent), but was quickly assured that no workout could compare to what Pure Barre would do.

    When the 8:30 class finished, we all sat a little straighter, excited to get into the studio. I listened to a woman leaving the class. She was tall, fit, and Pure Barre-stunning. Surely, we were all there with visions of her body in mind. A dancer's body. She was still sore from Thursday's class, but still came back just 2 days later.

    But, the truth hurts.

    We walked into the studio and I followed the others in picking up a ball, a long resistance band, and some hand weights. Suddenly, there we were, all our imperfections--the reasons we were there--staring back at us in the mirrored wall. Karen started the music, tweaked the lights, and we got down to business.

    In all of my expectations of Pure Barre, I never imagined becoming winded during the warmup. Pure Barre was a force…without reckoning. It was the most intense workout I've ever experienced, hands down. Ten classes to see results? I'd bet money on it. Even fewer, if you're close to meeting your goals. Once we worked into Pure Barre's super-secret nitty-gritty movements, my girly 2-pound hand weights began to feel impossibly heavy, with movements so slight and deliberate that I just couldn't hold on. I accepted my truth and set my weights on the floor.

    Surely, we all have visions of workout videos of yore with massive, long movements--flinging a limb, and sneaking a break mid-fling. At Pure Barre, there is no time for laziness in the middle of a controlled 2-inch movement.

    Pure Barre quickly proved to be pure hell. Pure torture. Large muscle groups in my body shuddered rudely in response to the outright exhaustion that delivers the speedy success. Pure Barre's efficacy relies on very specific positions and movements. With no history of dance, I struggled with the formal yet basic heels together, toes apart, bend my knees, tuck my pelvis, all with a ball betwixt my inner thighs. Then I learned that finding the right position was just the first step. Add to that, movement. Up, down, up, up, hold, down…? I quickly learned that if I wasn't feeling the burn, I was doing something wrong.

    So, is Pure Barre worth its monumental results?

    For you, the answer depends on what kind of exercise you enjoy, and what your goals are. While women tend to prefer aerobic activities, we also tend to shy away from the strength training we need. Certainly, I stood out as a newbie; not only one of two women without the exclusive black Pure Barre footie socks with the non-skid soles, but the only one who dropped her 2-pound weights like she'd been carrying their exponential burden for years.

    Certainly, as the body adapts, Pure Barre gets better, easier, and even more rewarding with its visible results, exactly like every other intense exercise done consistently.

    If your goals are purely aesthetic, Pure Barre will deliver, quickly. But, don't expect to go in and look like a dancer in 10 classes. If you're not built like a dancer, you're never going to look like one, but Pure Barre is an effective workout that can help you become the best you possible, for as much as you're willing to put into it.

    As an exclusive workout, Pure Barre is not for me. For an endorphin junkie, it's too deficient of aerobic activity, and I drove home feeling emotionally drained (also due to the massive calorie burn); however, for cross training, it would be perfect! While I'd like to add Pure Barre to my running routine once a week, I have to burn 62,000 gasoline calories to get there and back home again--that's 2 gallons of gas and 45 miles. Unfortunately, driving to Pure Barre is not worth it for me, even though the workout is intense, absolutely effective, and purely butt lifting.

    Simply, it's both the best and worst workout I've ever had, and I'd do it again, except with more breakfast, and a scheduled afternoon nap.

    Whatever your goals, Pure Barre may be the right workout for you, or the right cross-training activity. Classes are available 7 days a week, and for a limited time, take advantage of a special one-month unlimited new client price if you're in search of big changes. For more information, call Karen Handel or Lucy Gentry at 502-749-2222 or email

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    Photo: Pure Barre Louisville

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    Rachel Hurd Anger's picture

    About Rachel Hurd Anger

    Rachel is a freelance writer who enjoys running in our metro parks, drinking local beer, and raising suburban chickens. Most recently she has contributed to a special edition of Chickens magazine.

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