I’ve never had a strong relationship with fitness. It wasn’t until high school I clicked that P.E. class could actually be fun, and I have trouble exercising just for it’s own sake. I do love feeling strong and healthy though, so it’s all about finding things that work for me, instead of forcing myself to do what I dread.

This month I decided to try barre classes at Barre Body in Melbourne. Based on a combination of ballet barre, pilates, and yoga, each class is designed to provide a full body workout that will leave you long, lean and toned.

I grabbed an introductory pass, which gives you unlimited classes for two weeks, so I could try a few different styles (there’s Barre Body, Barre Moves, a couple of yogas, Barre Tone and Barre Cardio to choose from, plus a Barre Express class in the evenings) and off I went.

I started with Barre Moves, thinking because it’s more influenced by ballet and yoga it would be a gentle way to ease into barre. It was not. About 10 minutes in my thighs were on FIRE but thankfully our instructor seemed to get the worst out of the way at the beginning — it got easier from there.

The classes are challenging, but it’s the kind of challenge I like; controlled movements that challenge my strength, rather than exploding my lungs trying to run at full speed, for example. The classes are hard but they’re not impossible and they leave me with only gentle muscle aches the following day. It’s enough to know that I’ve worked ‘em (especially my abs, oh my abs!) but not so much that I want to cry every time I sit on the toilet (stupid lunges).

If you do like the huffy-puffy workouts, they also offer a Barre Cardio class which is like a mix between barre and high energy aerobics. There are different levels, too, so if you’re an unfit unco like me you can start at a lower intensity and build your way up.7 things I love about barre class: a review of barre classes in Melbourne

After completing 5 classes in two weeks I tortured enjoyed myself so much that I’ve signed up for an ongoing membership!

Here’s why barre class is my new favourite

It works with my back injury.

Last year I had a bulging disc which was SO painful. For weeks and weeks. After that experience I now try to be super careful with it because there’s no way I’m going through that again. It means I have to take care with forward-bendy things, and it’s also been recommended that I don’t run lest the pesky disc pops out again. Core strength is key to support my back, and barre is definitely working my core!

At the beginning of each class the instructor will ask you if you have any injuries or concerns, and then will give you modified postures and keep an eye on you to make sure you don’t inflame anything.

I know I’m doing it right.

If you do classes on YouTube you can think you’re doing it right but actually you’re not. Once I started going to classes and the instructors explained different postures I realised that there were some things I hadn’t been doing properly. Being in a class means you can watch the instructor, plus they will give you little tips and correct you if you’re not quite in the right position. This has been especially important for teaching me how to brace my back with my core.

I’m more aware of where I am in space.

I know, this sounds weird. But one of the instructors particularly encourages you to notice where your body is in space, so that you support yourself and keep the energy flowing. This has stuck with me in other classes (I notice if I’m tensing my shoulders towards my ears and adjust my arm position, for example) and outside of class too — when I think I’m sitting well perhaps my ribs are leaning forward instead of sitting nicely over my pelvis, or I’m hunching my shoulders forward rather than lifting my chest.

Nobody cares what you’re doing.

After my first class I was chatting to Chris about it and asked if he’d like to come (although he’d be the only guy). He was understandably a bit self-conscious about the idea. “You know what though,” I said. “I couldn’t even tell you what the other girls in the class look like. Nobody will care.” I’m so busy focusing on my own positions, keeping my balance, breathing, and watching the instructor for guidance that I don’t have to time to worry about what anyone else looks like or is doing.

It brings focus.

With all that to concentrate on I don’t have a spare thought, which means each class gives me an hour where I don’t think about anything other than moving my leg using only my glutes, not my hips and back.

It’s ok to start slow.

I still can’t do 100% of a class, but when I feel like my thighs are going to explode out of my legs I take a pause and shake it all out. And no one cares. Even the instructors accept that it’s difficult and simply encourage you to do your best and join back in when you can.

I quickly noticed an improvement in my strength and flexibility.

Even though I’m not strong enough to make it through a whole class yet, after only a couple of classes I did feel stronger and more in control of my body. And during my fifth class I realised I could fold all the way over and touch the ground easily, awooo!

Barre Body has studios in Sydney and Melbourne, and some videos on their website you can do at home.  If you live elsewhere, simply Google ‘barre class [your city]’ to find a class near you. And let me know what you think!

What’s your new favourite physical challenge? Let me know in the comments!