Can ballet make exercise fun? Finding my core strength at Xtend Barre | Women's Agenda

Can ballet make exercise fun? Finding my core strength at Xtend Barre

It’s been a while since I took up an organised exercise class. It was probably after I was forced to tolerate five consecutive sessions of squash classes in high school that I swore off any form of organised activity.

Naturally, when I first heard about Xtend Barre from a friend who was hooked after her first session and hasn’t stopped talking about it since, I was initially skeptical about just how much fun it could actually be.

According to her, the workout has helped her build her strength, concentration and find motivation for regular workouts too (and obviously, she’s pretty happy with the physical benefits, but that’s not the core purpose of my mission to find exercise that’s ‘fun’).

After taking off in the US in 2000, Xtend Barre was introduced in Australia in 2010 and has reached the sort of cult status so many of those hybrid exercise classes tend to do. It combines a spin-off of pilates and yoga stretches and breathing techniques with ballet conditioning, and promises a full body work out in one hour.

Ever since I watched Centre Stage I have had visions of becoming a ballerina, but those were quickly quashed when I realised grace and agility were not my strong suit. But given that I’m looking for ways to make my workouts tolerable, and if I can realize my dreams of wearing a tutu while I’m doing it, then I’m adamant that I can take on the barre, even if it’s not the kind of bar I’m used to.

When I arrive at the studio after a long day at my desk I am trying to focus on how good I’m going to feel from stretching out the cramps I’ve acquired sitting down for the majority of the day, instead of how exhausted I am after staring at a computer screen all day.

Instead of a computer screen I’m met with a giant wall of mirrors and a room covered in ballet bars – and there’s actually not a single tutu in sight. The instructor greets everyone who enters with an enthusiastic smile that I can’t help but mimic, even though I’m feeling a little less enthusiastic on the inside. 

The class starts with a mixture of yoga stretches and I remember the downward dog from that one yoga class I took and ease my way through to the next few poses. For a moment, I’m even distracted by the fun dance soundtrack — Look at me; I’m having fun already!

Next up are the arm exercises and this is where the fun definitely starts to wane. Using small hand weights, we are told to pulse our way through plies, leg lifts, jumps, and ball squeezes. Inside, I’m cursing the instructor who comes over to correct my technique and push my squat a little further. Who even knew your inner thigh muscles could shake like that? Looking around the class, I am pleased to note that while the instructor’s enthusiastic smile has not disappeared, everyone else’s around me has.

Finally, we hit the floor mats for some intense ab workouts before we finish with — my absolute favourite part — a five minute floor meditation.

By the end of the class I’m sweaty, my arms are shaking and I know I’m going to have some trouble walking down the stairs. And I also feel really, really energised.

As I walk out into the rain I realise that the past fifty five minutes were definitely a little bit painful and I probably spent about forty of them staring at the clock while doing terribly ungraceful things on the ballet barre.

But damn I feel better already. And now that I’ve signed up to two weeks of unlimited classes I think I’ve just run out of excuses again.

There are a number of studios across Australia that teach Xtend Barre and most will offer a two-week trial membership for around $50. Other variations of the workout are available through Barre Body and Barre Attack classes around Australia.

With flexible timetables offering classes in the morning, afternoon, after work or the weekend it’s easy to find a class to suit your schedule. Some studios also offer Mums & Bubs classes for new mums too.

You can find a class in your city here

Next up. No Lights No Lycra. I always fancied myself as a back up dancer.

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