You know that saying ‘Real men wear pink’ well the same can be said for Barre in my opinion. This past weekend I celebrated my Birthday and one of the highlights (which is fast becoming a Birthday tradition) was for my Husband Mike to come and attend a Barre class with me. Mike doesn’t do Barre classes any other time of the year, but he knows how much I love Barre and so on my Birthday he will put on his Barre socks and embrace being the only man in the class.
We took the 8.30am Dailey Fusion class at The Dailey Method, Cow Hollow Studio with the wonderful studio owner and rockstar teacher Kiley Lucan. During class I couldn't' help but smile when I looked across at my Hubby and watched him shake in Thigh work and really concentrate on the coordination of Arms moving in one direction and Legs moving in the other. All while trying really hard to stick to the beat of the music. Post class I asked how he felt and he said his Legs felt sore and that he had gotten a really good, full body workout. I wanted to dig deeper to find out his opinion on why so few men do do Barre class and what elements of the class did he love and which parts not so much.
Mike loved how the Core work was threaded throughout the class in addition to the teachers cues to constantly engage your Abdominals even when the focus of the movement was on another part of the body. He liked how challenging the Leg work was. Mike plays Soccer so his Legs are pretty strong anyway but the small isometric moves in Barre are really like no other type of workout. He equated the feeling in his Legs to the same burn you get in your Thighs after hours of Snowboarding as you hold that ‘stress’ position in your Legs. Because Mike only takes Barre class once a year, on my Birthday, he essentially has that ‘first class’ experience each time. There is a lot of movement content in a Barre class and you transition from one move to the next quickly. So when you are new to class it is easy at times to feel like a 'rabbit caught in headlights' and feel a little lost as you try and understand what the moves are and how to engage and perfect the alignment in your body. Because in Barre you are often working on more than one muscle group at a time in a single exercise. Mike found it really useful when the teacher announced which part of the body you should be feeling the work in as you performed the exercises. Small incremental adjustments in your alignment or even a small shift of weight can completely transform an exercise and the way you feel it in a Barre class.
The next day after taking the class Mike was still surprised that he was experiencing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and was even more surprised that he felt soreness in his Back muscles, which he didn’t think he was working in the class. That is the beauty of Barre, every part of your body truly gets worked and with the incorporation of Spinal extension, flexion, rotation and lateral Spinal movements as well as all the Arm work you do you are using your Back in nearly every exercise in class, but in a really subtle way.
The thing about Barre is that consistency is key. Attending once a month or once a year you are never going to reap the incredible benefits this class has to offer. With this class you have to leave your ego at the door because in the first class you will most likely feel like a 'rabbit caught in headlights' as all the other Barre warriors (who attend daily) execute the movements perfectly around you. You will probably feel a little silly as you look at yourself in the mirror and attempt to look graceful as you Plié in a Wide Turned out position while moving your Arms around. But thats ok! Because no-one expects you to look like Carlos Acosta (one of the worlds greatest male Ballerinas) while doing these moves. By leaving your ego at the door and embracing the physicality of this workout you will not only get an incredible workout but you will also have a lot of fun while doing it. Once you realize just how good this workout is for your overall strength, your flexibility, your posture, your alignment and for injury prevention then you will be signing for 4 classes a week before you know it!
The great thing about Barre is that this class can help you be successful in so many other types of workouts and sports. The focus on correct knee alignment and tracking can help Runners or Soccer players, the strength you build during Thigh work can help you in Skiing and Snowboarding. The increase in flexibility you will experience in class and the core strength you will build will help you with injury prevention in the future.
Yes I LOVE Barre workouts, I have taught 100’s of clients from Europe to the US in this type of workout and seen incredible results first hand in their bodies and my own body (and yes some of those clients were men) But I hear you, I am a little biased. So to give my point more weight on why men should do Barre I give you 6 ft 4 inches and 280 lbs Steve McLendon. American Football Player for the New York Jets. McLendon started to take once weekly Ballet classes as a way to help keep himself injury free. He claims that regular Ballet classes have helped to strengthen his knees, ankles and feet and that when he misses a Ballet class he really notices a difference in the way he plays. So if a guy from the NFL can do it then so can you!
I believe cross training across different fitness modalities is the best and fastest way for you to reach your fitness goals. In my own training I combine Barre, Yoga, Bootcamp classes and Reformer classes as that is the combination of workouts I need to make me feel at my peak. For my husband Mike weight training in the gym and Soccer a few times a week and now the occasional Barre class (I am encouraging him to come regularly!) is his ideal combination for peak performance.
My point is don't be afraid to try something new. To look outside the box when it comes to your workouts. Just because its hard shouldn't mean you won't try it. As one of the most well known male Barre teachers Fred Devito said 'If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you' Embrace the unknown and see what happens, you might be pleasantly surprised.