Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pure Barre-NYC Review

The ever-expanding NYC barre scene has a new addition: Pure Barre. Although it has been around since 2001, when Carrie Rezabek Dorr first opened her studio in Michigan, since 2009 it has become a franchise and there are now locations nation-wide in over 20 states. I do admit a mild obsession with barre workouts and so was excited to give this one a try.

Pure Barre is located conveniently off Columbus circle on the third floor of a high-rise. Upon walking in, I was surprised at how small the space was but it was immediately warm and inviting. Two curtained stalls in front of the reception desk constitute the changing rooms. There are cubby-holes for belongings in one corner  of the reception area, along with fitness apparel (and Pure-Barre's grippy socks) for sale in another corner. There is one studio whose mauve hues had quite a soothing effect on me.

The studio

My instructor was Leslie Coakley, who is also one of the two owners. I got to the studio super-early and so I chatted with her prior to class. She had been teaching the method for four years in Nashville, before the move to New York. She gave me a quick run-through of what props I would need: a set of 2lbs weights, a set of 3lbs weights, a small medicine ball and a stretching band.

The props

It was the day before Thanksgiving so the class was small (I was one of 3 clients).

Overall, the class reminded me a lot of Core Fusion albeit with some new moves that I had not done before. For starters we plunged straight into a rather intense burst of ab work right after the warm-up. I'm not complaining. I thought it was great- it just caught me unaware. We held a plank and did something rather unusual....pelvic tucks while holding a plank. At first it was terribly awkward but as the class went on and we did pelvic tucks in various other barre-class moves I started to get the hang of it!

After the initial ab burst we did a set of arms using just the light hand weights. I usually prefer going much heavier than 3lbs but the arm section here was quite humbling. Small movements in a continuous state of contraction =  major burn! After this shock to my abs and arms I was pumped for the rest of the class. Unfortunately the thigh section which came next left me wanting more. We did three exercises at the barre; all involved slow movements with sustained contraction. So while I was definitely feeling a burn I wanted more reps. The thigh section usually leaves me spent after barre classes but that did not happen here. Not to worry. The seat section totally made up for it! We did do a set of thigh dancing with pelvic tucks while holding onto the barre. Again, a little hard initially but the learning curve was steep.

Abs were classic Lotte Berk, similar to the format at The Bar Method and Core Fusion. I am not a fan of the round back and flat back version of these abs as I always feel it in less in my abs and more in my hips. Leslie was great at correcting form, especially when she saw my lack of agility in this part of the class. "It's more mind-body than anything. It takes a few classes to master," she added encouragingly.

All in all, I liked it. The pace of the class is slower than what I normally prefer but the small movements and sustained contractions led to a super burn  and I left feeling sufficiently challenged.

The Good:
1. The class: I love how there are so many barre classes and yet all of them have their own unique elements. Pure Barre definitely has added its own variations including the pilates-inspired abs section at the beginning of the class, the pelvic tucks interspersed among other class exercises for added core work and a surprisingly tough arm workout!

2. The instructor: Leslie seemed a little shy in person but once she started teaching she commanded the room. She emphasized correct form and adjusted us all throughout the class. According to one of the "regulars" I spoke to, Leslie's class is the toughest. I could tell she had put a lot of thought into the choreography.

3. The space: Despite the small space, the studio has a cool vibe about it which I liked a lot.

The Not-so-good:
1. The class: I felt like the thigh section could have been tougher. Maybe I'm just a thigh warrior but I wanted more repetitions.

2. Not enough cardio: This class is more about toning and less about cardio. I barely broke a sweat.

3: Music: The music was not memorable. Music is key to my workouts and I love it when classes are choreographed to the beat of a song. Making the music a part of the actual class choreography will  give this great class a lot more oomph!

Pure Barre is classic Lotte Berk, with lots of slow and sustained movements. I definitely liked it, especially  the upper body and core work. It's a great addition to the NYC barre scene and I have no doubt it will find a loyal fan base very soon. There is currently a newcomer's special: $150 for one month unlimited.