Summer fitness hissed obnoxiously around us all over the past few months. The conversation, especially in San Diego, became all about getting that svelte bikini body for spontaneous beach days. Then suddenly, as September crept in, we slumped back into old patterns — at least I did, anyway. My cheat week after a solid eight weeks of gym workouts turned into a cheat month, and it could have easily became a cheat season if Pure Barre’s new East Village location hadn’t saved the day.
Pure Barre is a national franchise with more than 375 studios across the country and more opening each month. San Diego has existing locations in Hillcrest, Del Mar and Eastlake with cultlike followings, but until now, never in the downtown vicinity. Thanks to the blonde barre-babe Allison Campbell, Pure Barre East Village has just made its debut on Seventh Avenue and Market Street.
Campbell first discovered Pure Barre while working and living in Boston, essentially flocking to classes to warm up in the snowy winters. She became obsessed with her Pure Barre community and is seeks to emulate the same feeling she had there in East Village.
A little background on me: I grew up in competitive dancing, so being in a studio lined with mirrors and ballet barres feels just like home. I’ve also taken my fair share of barre classes across San Diego, but somehow I have never made it into a Pure Barre studio until now.
While I might seem like I’d slip right into a Pure Barre class seamlessly, there’s one thing to note: Not all barre classes are created equal. So when Campbell started our class on a Tuesday afternoon, I quickly had the sinking feeling that I might not be the star student anymore.
Not to worry, though. Campbell and the other instructors reassured me that even they still get the “shakes,” which is when muscles fatigue and the real work begins. In barre classes, the shakes are embraced, even praised, as a sign that change is happening. After the shake, you stretch, to elongate the muscles while they are warm and malleable.
If you’ve never taken a barre class or thought that the only bar you needed was the one with tequila shots, then here’s a brief overview. Barre uses an actual ballet barre in a total body workout done with small, isometric movements. Classes are often segmented by body parts: arms, abs, legs, glutes, and synced to high-energy music that feels a little like a dance class and a Pilates class combined to create long, lean physiques.
In Pure Barre, students wear sticky socks on a carpeted floor. We were each equipped with a set of light and heavy weights, a Pure Barre ball and a stretchy tube, as well as a mat, which the studio provided. The 55-minute class began with a warm-up in the center of the room and then some light weight work. Next, everyone moved to the barre, where it was time to let our inner dancers shine. No pirouettes here, though; Campbell led us through muscle-quivering thigh and seat work. A series of ab exercises followed, finally ending with a cool down.
The most difficult part of class is to get used to the ideas of teeny-tiny barely-noticeable movements and tucking — a barre term that’s equal parts tush and abs. “Down an inch, up an inch!” Campbell shouted as my body began to shake like an earthquake. At times, the movement is so small, you can barely see it happening, but she communicated that it often takes three to four classes to mentally and physically grasp what’s going on internally.
It’s cliché, but true: This workout is much harder than it looks. But with an encouraging team and a true spirit of community, Pure Barre feels inviting, accessible to all and dare I say … fun. Yep, I had fun seeing my thighs tremble. I definitely did not have fun getting out of bed the next day. Which is to say, yay, it clearly worked.
Pure Barre East Village officially opened on Tuesday. Check purebarre.com/ca-eastvillage for a full schedule of classes.
Pure Barre East Village
635 Seventh Ave., East Village
$89 for first month of unlimited classes; $25 single class