Anyone who knows me knows that despite my best intentions, working out just for whatever reason is just something I don’t get around to regularly. In my ideal life, I wake up blissfully rested at the crack of dawn, and set off on my daily morning jog (after some light stretches, of course).
I return energised and enjoy a refreshing shower, have a healthy and wholesome breakfast (perhaps a fruit and kale smoothie with a lightly toasted bagel) and do some light reading prior to heading out the door.
I know. So, that doesn’t happen.
The reality is that I usually wake up and down some coffee while getting ready – my daily jog being replaced by the walk to the office; my kale smoothie dreams promptly vanishing as I contemplate which baked good to ingest. Present Anita laughs at the idealistic naivety of her past self that seemed to not factor in the Arctic temperatures in her grand jogging plans??? It’s like…really cold.
The moral of the story is that I don’t exercise enough but I really should. It just seems that with busy days of to-do lists that grow by the day, and the demands of everyday life it can be hard to factor in time to commit to working out. Which is earnestly a real shame, considering that exercising has a huge range of benefits for the body and the mind. Plus, I get to eat more – a win-win.
What better way to kick off the day and set myself up for the working week than with this 35 minute blitz?
When I was asked if I’d like to review the new Les Mills Barre class at Live Active Rodney, I jumped at the opportunity to get some exercise in. Plus, the class I was to attend was first thing on a Monday morning – what better way to kick off the day and set myself up for the working week than with this 35 minute blitz? At only £2.25 a pop with your Live Active card, it’s economical too.
So what is barre exactly? A bit of digging and I found that barre classes have very quickly come into vogue this year. According to Live Active’s website, Les Mills Barre is “A modern version of classic balletic training; a 30-minute workout designed to shape and tone postural muscles, build core strength, and allow you to escape the everyday.
“Incorporating classic ballet positions with modern music, LES MILLS BARRE is a combination of cardio and strength with high reps of small range-of-motion movements and very light weights.”
What makes Les Mills barre classes unique to most other barre classes is that they don’t use the traditional “barre” to support you, which means that your muscles have to work extra hard to support your body’s stability and strength.
This is how I found myself walking up to Live Active Rodney this crisp Monday morning, hyped to get my blood flowing and get my barre on. The grounds themselves were really picturesque – the venue is located next to the beautiful Rodney gardens and amidst much greenery. It was like stepping out of the everyday and into a little secluded fitness retreat.
9:20 AM and I was in the hall, ready to start. This is one of the busier classes, and there were around roughly 14 other people attending, from a range of ages and experience – for a couple of others it was their first time too. I opted to stay toward the back of the class in case I completely messed up…which I did at points! But chalk it up to a learning curve.
Our instructor,Carolyn started us off with some stretches to get our bodies moving, before getting us doing some cardio moves (with a bit of strength training thrown in for good measure) which gradually built in intensity.
It was different to any cardio-centric workout I’d done before in that we incorporated the grace of ballet movement throughout – I felt as if I glid through the air at points! How I looked in reality perhaps did not align with the elegance I felt. Lindsey motivated us throughout, skilfully guiding us through each move and offering words of encouragement.
The class was broken into short chunks, each co-ordinated to different upbeat chart songs. I found this really motivating on a mental level: it encouraged you to try to keep going until the song’s end, at the end of which we’d have a few seconds to catch our breath!
You can tailor the workout to match your current level of fitness.
Afterwards we progressed onto some more challenging moves, stretches and balancing which really worked our cores. If your body was meant to feel the burn, mine was positively on fire. Suddenly the iciness of the air outside seemed like a welcome respite!
Admittedly, here I needed to take a few spaces to rest in-between, but what was really great was that you could tailor the workout to match your current level of fitness. Can’t manage the jump right now? No problem, Carolyn told us – lower intensity alternatives were always offered so you didn’t need to feel like you couldn’t keep up, or feel alienated.
We then grabbed some low intensity weights to work with while strength training. If my muscles were working 9 to 5 before, they were now doing overtime. Like, they were doing the late shifts that nobody else wants. They were being stretched with the same intensity that I stretched out that last analogy.
After some elegant gliding across the floor that made me feel like a cross between a dancer in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ and Dua Lipa in the video for ‘Electricity’, we grabbed the mats to cool down. 30 minutes: done – and honestly, it flew by!
I felt like a cross between a dancer in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ and Dua Lipa in the video for ‘Electricity’!
On the walk back to the office, I had time to cool down and gather my thoughts. What is particularly great about this class – and is a big factor in barre’s overall growing popularity – is just this – the short time means it’s easy to slot into busy schedules, so it’s great if you’re pressed for time.
Although I went by myself and didn’t know anyone, which can be intimidating, I felt really welcomed – it was a friendly group, but if you’re also not heavy into chatting with people it’s easy to grab your own space.
Personally for me I don’t have that much experience with group activities and classes, the times I do work out opting to go solo. But I can definitely see the benefit of attending a structured class where you’re surrounded by others with similar goals – it’s definitely motivating!
The difficulty level I’d say was beginner to intermediate. There were a lot of points where I found myself having to give myself breaks, but rather than feeling completely out of my depth (as I undoubtedly would in a more advanced class), this actually made me want to come back and keep pushing myself to a point where I could have increased stamina. It was more difficult than it initially appeared, but not impossibly or overwhelmingly so.
What I appreciated the most was that this class was centred not around weight loss or beating your body into submission, but about developing strength, gaining fitness and adding a creative element of self-expression. That’s not to say that this class isn’t for you if weight loss is your goal at all – just that it’s nice that it’s not marketed in a way that breaks you down before it builds you up.
It shows you that actually, fitness and exercise can be genuinely fun, and not just another way to punish yourself. In a world that prioritises “clean” eating over healthy eating, and strategically posed images of perfectly toned bodies over the huge diversity of bodies that exist of all shapes and sizes, this is really refreshing.
So would I come back again? Absolutely. Catch me in six weeks embodying the grace of a professional ballet dancer!
If you’d like to try out Live Active Rodney’s Les Mills Barre class, visit their website here to book a class. Classes run throughout the week and are £2.25 each with a Live Active Leisure Card.
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