I consider myself to be in fairly good shape. Back in October, I definitely wasn’t. But, unsatisfied with a burgeoning beer gut—the product of four to six drinks a night and my now 30-year-old metabolism—I started doing Bikram Yoga.
It was impossible at first. I would have to stand on only my left foot and wrap my right leg up, over and around the precariously balanced extremity while wave after wave of hangover hit me in a room heated to 110 degrees.
Eventually, though, I got good at it. Now, I feel the best I have in quite some time. Like, I don’t get winded when I walk my dog in the morning anymore. But more than that, since I’m a regular yoga doer, I like to think I’m more flexible and have a stronger core than the average man. Definitely. Easily. I can touch my toes without bending my knees.
Which brings us to Pure Barre.
For the longest time, I didn’t even know what it was. I thought Barre was French for ‘Bike’ and it was some European-influenced spin class. It’s not that. It’s a combination of ballet, Pilates, Body Pump and non-stop, stripper-style pelvic thrusting. And over the past few months, I saw more and more females talking about it, always something along the lines of “Pure Barre kicked my butt today lol.”
I figured given my newfound disposition toward exercise; and because clearly anything a woman can do a man can perform with relative ease; and because earlier in the week my sister birthed a child (Congrats Jenna! Hi Claire!), which got me thinking about the relative pain thresholds of our disparate genders, I thought I should give Pure Barre a try.
A 55-minute workout? Pfft.
I woke up yesterday morning confident I would leave my 9:30 a.m. class with an audible guffaw (laden with disdain) about the inferiority of the female sex.
But no. No. No. No.
What is wrong with you women? If this workout is what you think is required to have socially acceptable toned arms, tight butts and trim stomachs… I’d rather go a month without food. That would be preferable to the near hour I spent pumping my hips up and down as both my shoulders and quadriceps quivered uncontrollably as I constantly fought the near overwhelming urge to toss a noose around the Barre bar and end it all.
. . .
I arrived at the class in Carroll Gardens 20 minutes early, because like hell I was going to cocky Bro strut into this thing right as it started. The instructor was already there and, by ourselves, she walked me through the main body movement.
“When I say ‘tuck,’ you want to move your pelvis up under your abs.”
“Isn’t that where it always is?”
“Yes, but like up and into it… no, that’s back… no, that’s down… no, that’s back again.”
She grabbed me forcibly by my stomach and the small of my back and jostled my pelvic bone into a position it had never before resided at.
“That’s … not comfortable.”
She smiled and handed me my accessories for the class—a tiny rubber medicine ball, a pair of two- and four-pound weights, an elastic band—and let me be. I sat and stared at the gray carpet as girl after girl arrived, clearly wondering what the dude in high school lacrosse sweats and a natty tee-shirt was doing there (they were all wearing Barre-appropriate Lululemon).
The room itself was plastered with these black-and-white, Terry Richardson-esque group shots of extremely attractive, yet really angry looking women doing Pure Barre, which I assumed was some sort of motivational tactic (Keep working and one day you too can be one of these bitches who shops with their alimony money at CB2).
Then we started. The following went through my head the first five minutes of class.
Hey, this techno version of ‘Roar’ is kinda cool and oh, we’re starting. Okay. Light squats. Everyone’s going really fast, though. I should speed up. Alright, now I raise my right knee and touch it to my left elbow while twisting to the up? Jesus, I am uncoordinated. Wait. That’s because you are trying to watch everyone else. Look in the mirror. You got this. Up and left and twist and down and right and what the fuck is this step class?
I felt alright. Until we grabbed the weights. You know those rinky-dinky, Day-Glo ones your mother takes on her morning walk? Those, except that I want them dead after I spent the next fifteen minutes holding them at precisely shoulder height. I was winded after one minute, trembling after two and having to take breaks after three. But we kept going. First it was up and out, then out and down, every one these movements obnoxiously small (now bend your elbow just one-quarter inch down!), designed by sadists to flay your arm muscles.
And we hadn’t stepped up to the barre yet.
Then we did. Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now. Stand on the tops of your toes. Now kick your heels out. Does that seem like a reasonable position in which to do anything, let alone a full-body workout? No. It’s insanity, but here we are bending and flexing and honestly, I don’t even remember what we did. I blacked out for this part.
But that’s okay, because shit, we haven’t even sculpted our abs yet ladies and what man wants to date a fatty?
Here’s what our Pure Barre instructor instructed us to do. Sit with our backs straight against the wall. Raise our right leg so our shin bone touched our forehead. Extend our left leg out and off the ground. Raise it up an inch. Lower it an inch. Raise it an inch. And only ten more times to go.
Here’s an illustration of what this position is supposed to look like (I know, because every other person in the room was doing it).
Here’s what I looked like.
The human body shouldn’t bend like that, yet here are all these women flexibilitying it up like it was a casual Sunday at church or some shit.
Hey, are you ready for ab workout number two? I know I’m not, because our instructor had to place a support ball in the small of my back since I couldn’t do the exercise on my own (I was the only one in our class who earned this distinction) (v emasculating). But even with this ball holding me up, it still felt like my abs would collapse upon themselves in a fiery death comparable to an overtaxed star finally going supernova.
It was very painful.
But it was also time to tone those thighs! Stick your elbows on the floor and hold your butt high and lift your leg up and twist your other shoulder while the opposite shoulder turns toward your downward knee and I don’t really know I was just mouthing the words to ‘Timber’ hoping Pitbull’s lyrics would keep my mind off my burning arms and legs and abs and back.
They kept hurting.
Then the lights went off and we had to do 9.000 pelvic thrusts in the dark. I just tried to recreate the position on the floor of my kitchen so I could better recollect it and describe it to you but instead I collapsed to the ground and lied there for five minutes.
After that, it was over. Our instructor passed out wet naps for us to wipe down the equipment we used, which was vaguely reminiscent of the way strippers have to Windex the mirror before the next girl comes on stage.
I felt just as used, abused and denigrated. Except no one tossed money at me. Not at all. In fact, I lost money. The class was $35. Thirty-five dollars. That’s completely nuts. You’re telling me, if I’m a woman—in addition to the dresses and shoes and undergarments and makeup products I have to buy to be a quote unquote accepted member of regular society—I also need to pay these kind of bucks to have the kind of body us men want?
I give Pure Barre 8/10 misogyny points.
Although my abs are fucking fresh today.
[Image via Pure Barre]