Trying Times: Raising the Barre 

Megan Orr, Opinions Editor // Illustration by Cynthia Tran Vo

Barre fitness is something that has always appealed to me. You may not have guessed it, but I am a former dancer – former being close to two decades ago. The child ballerina in me longs for the rigid structure and form of a barre. The adult slob in me needs to get in shape, so here I found myself at 9:30 am on a Saturday, at The Sweat Lab on the North Shore. 

Nearly all of the women in the class were exactly like I expected: thin and svelte, hair neatly tied back, toned arms proudly displayed in their tanks. Then there was me: my frizzy-do knotted on the top of my head, wearing an extra large T-shirt, that I got for participating in a Colour Me Rad run two years ago, and a pair of 10-year-old Lululemons, looking around the room wild eyed. I stuck out before we even started, which was when it became evident that I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.  

This is not a ballet class, first of all. Am I glad for that? I guess so, because that would’ve been even more humiliating. There’s no limit to the amount of shame I would’ve felt if there had been any sort of choreographed element to this class. This was like some sort of yoga/pilates/bootcamp mix. I was sweating so much that I couldn’t hold plank without slipping and that was before we had even finished the warm-up. The other gorgeous ladies looked unphased. I looked at my friend with pleading eyes, but it was too late. We were in too deep. So I just continued to pulse squat like it wasn’t going to dislocate both my hips at the same time.  

It was just one seemingly endless and impossible thing after the other. To the beat of upbeat house-style top 40 remixes, we did pulsing curtsy lunges. Again: my hips will never be the same. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything right and spent most of the class staring around the room frantically. I felt like an idiot – a big, sweaty idiot. I tried to convince myself that I was just being insecure, no one was even looking at me, but while everyone else seemed focused and determined, I was focused on not throwing up. 

Regardless of whether or not my form was on-pointe, when our beautiful Amazon of a teacher, perfectly toned with fiery red hair, the living embodiment of a chiseled Greek goddess, Saskia, said that we should be, “feeling the burn,” I did. I felt it. I still feel it. A lot of it was the burning sensation of sweat streaming directly into my eyeballs, but still, there was a burning.  

We ended the class with some light stretching, which I was psyched about because I am like, really good at light stretching. Then we were given these absolutely magnificent cold cloths with essential oils to wipe our faces with. I had to resist the urge to immediately shove it between my boobs, but still, it was a nice touch. All the other women were glowing, looking almost refreshed. I was dripping sweat and looked like I had just gotten a bad chemical peel. Although exhausted and not sure if I would be able to make the trek home, I was overall feeling pretty pleased with myself for surviving.  

Saskia reassured me after that this was a hard class, which I had no choice but to believe due to the now jellied nature of my legs. For a few hours after I got why people like to exercise – be it the endorphins or just trying something I had always wanted to, I was pretty hyped. I considered writing Saskia a thank-you note for making my first barre class a memorable one.  

However, like with most seemingly positive things, soon came the pain and suffering. I woke up tentatively the next morning, worried about what I would be feeling in my body. Rolling out of bed I was surprised by the parts of me that hurt. The area of my body that was most disgruntled is what I’m sure Saskia would refer to as the inner thigh, but I feel is closer to my vagina. Additionally, what may be called the lower abdominals were absolutely throbbing, so also my vagina basically. Why does my vagina hurt, Saskia? 

Overall though, this was not an entirely negative experience. The folks at The Sweat Lab made my fat ass feel welcome, and maybe, in time, my ass will be less fat if I decide to stick with it. You heard it here first, I didn’t completely hate a new thing I tried. Maybe my 2019 #summerbod will actually be a thing… probably not, but maybe.  

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