THE BASICS: A low impact, high intensity work out that isolates muscle groups and works them until they are burning, in a way you are unlikely to have experienced in any other class. You don’t have to be a ballerina either. I know this because I have the grace of a chimp in a tutu (cute maybe, but definitely no Swan Lake).
THE BITCHES: Carly
THE CLASS: I had seen the holy grail. The most pert bottom in my life was right there in front of me on the Barre Core website. I gazed at it in a trance-like, envious state for about 5 minutes, and realised I had two options. Either quit shoving cake in my gob and take the stairs everywhere, or go try out a bottom-sculpting class at Barre Core myself!
Seeing as I have palpitations if I am more than 50 metres from a slice of cake at any one time, I decided that I should probably nip down to Chelsea to try out a class. You gotta start somewhere, right? After chatting to the Barre Core peeps on Twitter about whether I needed ballet experience (no I didn’t) I was all signed up and ready to go!
The studio is down in Chelsea, which is a trek and a half from Shoreditch when the circle line is down (thanks BoJo you berk) but nevertheless I was raring to go and headed off to one of their Saturday morning BarreMIXED classes. The studio is closest to Sloane Square station and although it looks like you have to schlep quite a way down the Kings Road to get to Atlantic Court, it’s really not very far at all in real life. After a small excursion to The Kings Road Sports Centre for a decent sports bra (inspired by the Total Boxing/skipping/oh-my-god-put-them-away debacle I had faced last week), I headed down Atlantic Court- the little alleyway nestled between M&S and Benihana, and up to the glass doors to be buzzed into Barre Core.
I’d arrived at what seemed like a mixed block of flats- albeit of the palatial variety! Barre Core itself takes up the majority of the first floor of this building. Through two sets of doors, you are transported into a little slice of SW3 paradise. A lovely smell, an unassumingly approachable little reception area, and two doors ahead of you reaching into light, bright studios where the magic happens.
Clara on reception was incredibly welcoming, and took the time to show me round the small but perfectly formed studio space. A dinky, warm and clean little changing space with free fresh towels, hairdryers, straighteners and all of the extras you’d need to make yourself presentable enough for the Kings Road set after your class, two showers, lots of lockers and some bench/seating space around reception.
The class prior came to an end and I made my way into the studio- carpet on the floor, one wall made entirely of glass bricks, and wooden barres all around. If Carrie Bradshaw went to an exercise class, it would be in this studio (and if you don’t know who Carrie Bradshaw is, kindly stop reading this blog and NEVER COME HERE AGAIN). Everyone had to equip themselves with kit in pleasingly girlie colours- yoga straps, mats, weights and the like. I had no idea what we would need so picked up a couple of everything and hugged them tightly as I took them proudly back to my little floor-space. This equipment was going to make my bottom so peachy- I could almost feel its power as I padded across the studio with it.
People chatted quietly until the room was almost full (19 is top capacity and this morning’s class was busy), and our teacher Gemma came in, ready to start the class. She set the music quite quietly compared to other classes I had attended lately, and this made it super easy to understand her instructions- the music just gave us a background beat to work with.
Warm up began- some deep stretches, pulsing with weights and lots of low impact reps as we all faced forwards on our mats, assessing ourselves in the big mirrors. The warm up was about the level at which I reached my peak. So you can imagine how the rest of the class progressed!
After warm up, we each chose a space at the barre, and it was cosy without being tight. Work on the derriere was first- hurrah! Lots of sitting squats that Gemma was keen to stress should be tiny and controlled, rather than sweeping or exaggerated in any way.
Sounds easy. Was not easy.
As we squatted into the glute stretch and came up onto our toes, using our body weight as the resistance tool, my legs started to shake uncontrollably. I had to silently and politely remind them not to show me up, and that we still had 45 minutes in which we need to stay upright. They shook more violently in response. It was going to be a battle of will.
Just as I thought they were going to collapse, we were back to the mats for some more floor work- in fact the whole class was like this; a few minutes at the barre, then back to the mats. It kept things mixed up and each muscle group isolated, working hard and then the chance to rest it whilst another muscle group took its turn to be punished for liking cake too much. The class was ingeneously designed to alter the work out, so as soon as you got to the point where you wanted to cry, it was time to change again. Clever Barre Core!
During each interval at the barre and on the floor, we worked legs, tummies and bottoms again, through a mixture of sit ups, variations of standing and sitting splits, and a few familiar yoga poses centred around the warrior series. Each section called for control, reps and small movements, which were absolute killers. To make the most of them your body had to be kept taut and composed. It was incredibly difficult and at one point I was unwittingly pulling a face so strained, that caused another friendly girl in the class to laugh! I can only imagine what ridiculously attractive expression she had unfortunately witnessed me making.
I particularly enjoyed the sections on the barre where we used basic ballet moves and then worked them into a stretch to repeat, toning the muscle. Gemma mentioned the importance of trying to remain graceful and elegant during each of these movements in particular (and took the time to offer personal corrections). I enjoyed this aspect a lot, because it felt like we were emulating real ballet. Obviously I looked nothing like the lithe gymnast I imagined in my head, but it was definitely a work out that made me feel feminine and graceful. And trust me that’s a tough feat!
Final two sections saw the ball and yoga straps used for assisted sit ups; making a pulley under the barre, and to help squeeze our knees together whilst going from lying to sitting and back again, approximately 4 million times.
The end of the class saw a short savasana (resting yoga pose), which I would have liked to be a bit longer, but I am not sure if this is because I am used to the 10 minute savasana at the end of a typical yoga class, or if it’s because my body was shattered! Either way, we were finished, and I therefore consider myself qualified for the next season at the Bolshoi. Why, with these ballet skills and the ten words of Russian it took me several painful years of university to learn, this time next year I’ll be able to plie AND tell people where to find the tourist information centre.
THE VERDICT: “High intensity but low impact”- I couldn’t describe the class any better myself. I wasn’t aching for long after the class, despite my thighs and glutes burning like I can’t even describe, during the reps- seriously, not even intense spinning has made my legs shake like this. I wasn’t totally exhausted either, just glowing from the work-out. This was a quick-burst, tone-up-effectively and sweat-gracefully rather than a cardio-killer of a class. Perfect to add into the mix of a varied workout schedule.
THE EXTRAS: The beauty and exclusivity of this place comes at a cost which could be consider eye-watering for some. However, I feel it’s justified- you are in a luxurious, bespoke little space in the heart of SW3. And you know what? Despite the cost, and despite the fact that I came in looking like a state (and parted with only a smidge of cash compared to the monthly membership costs), I was treated like a princess from the second I arrived. For this I thank you, Barre Core! It was an impressively friendly, welcoming studio where the people who are running it make this little slice of heaven worth the cost. And anyway- can you really put a price on an getting an ass like little Miss.BarreCoreWebsite?! Exactly.