I consider myself a fairly progressive person when it comes to gender roles and the construct of masculinity. I'll order a white chocolate mocha at Starbucks, and, yeah, I'll have whipped cream with it (come at me, haters). I'll play tennis and sing and dance in my high school's show choir, all at the same time (I'm right here, haters). You might even find me home alone on a Saturday night watching That Awkward Moment, because gosh darn it, that Michael B. Jordan can act (the door is unlocked, haters; come right in).
But a man has to draw the line somewhere, and whether it's due to my own insecurities or male societal pressures that I easily cave to, give me my pen. There are important rituals men must uphold no matter where they are in the world—like choosing to shun any and all persons who eat pizza with a fork. If another male did this in my presence, he would be mocked, then excommunicated—much like the Amish do to members of their family who choose to stream Netflix instead of staying on the farm to make delicious cheese. I also draw the line at male veganism, a plague sweeping the country and ruining group food orders at public restaurants everywhere.
But most of all, I'm certainly not going to participate in, or let any of my fellow men participate in, Pure Barre, the female-dominated workout class that uses a ballet bar—although my girlfriend has been asking me to go with her for over a year. Listen, I'm already pretty timid at my own gym. Is that dude looking at me while I Bench Press? Cool, that's enough reps for today. Pull-Ups? More like "I Can't Do More Than a Few of These and There's More Than 10 People Here Today, So Maybe Another Time-Ups." You think I'm going to tag along to class where one of the first pictures on the website is this? Nah, fam. The ridiculous concept of masculinity is going to win out on this one.
So, naturally, a few months ago I found myself in the parking lot of Pure Barre in Avon, Ohio, after grudgingly agreeing to join my Bae at a Pure Barre mixer of sorts. Guys were invited to tag along with their significant others to test the class, so, along with about eight other couples, I mustered up the courage to get my PB on. My decision was largely based on an idea I had that Barre is easy, a workout populated by women in leggings doing light stretching while mixing in simple core and leg work. About 15 minutes in, after finishing the warm-up, my legs burned with the fire of a thousand suns, and I realized how wrong I was.
Pure Barre succeeds through simplicity. The studio is nothing more than a carpeted room with bars installed across the front and back walls. A full-length mirror covers one of the walls, so I could watch myself flop around like a man who's been Tasered in real time. All that's needed is a pair of light dumbbells, a resistance band and a small exercise ball, all of which are provided. After settling into a corner spot with my girlfriend and sizing up the rest of the dudes (I determined that none of them really wanted this work), I was ready. The instructor, Mari (shout out to Mari. She rocked), marches around the room announcing each move and correcting form errors, started the music, and we were off.
The workout was a blur of pain and sweat, in the best way possible. PB hits many areas of the body, which, judging by my muscles' response, guys spend little or not time working on. I could not hold some of the positions for more than 5-10 seconds before I had to take a break while my body inaudibly screamed, "STOP PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?"
Pure Barre spares no part of you. After the warm-up, you work on your arms, then your thighs, then your butt (or as PB calls it, your "seat"), then your core before the session finally coming to an end after 55 minutes. The actual bar is incorporated frequently, including the "seat" part of the workout. One of the moves—holding the bar while you mimic the act of sitting in a chair—made my legs shake so hard I thought I would drill a hole in the floor. Many of the core moves use the bar, too. You sit with your back against the wall and the bar above your head; and as you grab onto it, you use your legs to plow through a series of moves. Unfortunately, at 6-foot-3, I couldn't sit straight up, or else I would have knocked myself out, so I had to slide down a bit.
But by far the hardest move of all came during the thigh workout (pictured above), when, while down on all-fours with one loop of the resistance band around my left ankle and the other around my right knee, I was instructed to pick up my right leg and extend it out to my right side while keeping it bent at the knee. I can safely say I've never once done an exercise designed to hit that area of my body, and I couldn't even look at my reflection in the mirror because of the immense look of shame I knew would stare back at me.
When things finally ended (shoutout to my girlfriend for checking in on me every so often while she dominated the workout like the champ she is), I, along with the rest of the men in the class, was completely spent. It was comforting to look around the room and see some of my fellow dudes also pausing during some of the moves, simply because of their difficulty. Every so often I made eye contact with a fellow Pure Barre Bro, and both our faces said the same thing: "This is fine but I'd like to be done now."
Despite its difficulty, I thoroughly enjoyed my Pure Barre experience. The playlist was on-point, the instructor kept up a good pace and rhythm (something I'm told is immensely important), and judging by the puddle of sweat that formed on the carpet beneath me (my bad, Pure Barre in Avon), it felt like I had burned a whole mess of calories. My girlfriend admitted that the brand doesn't market itself very well to men (one section of PB's website is headed "Can I Take Pure Barre While Pregnant?"), it obviously has immense benefits, especially for your lower body and core. For the longest time, I never understood how my girlfriend could perform a Wall Sit longer than I could do anything else in life, but after taking a PB class, I get it.
Still, I don't think Pure Barre is something I'd do on my own, in a normal class where there are no other dudes. I realize that's dumb, and that no one would really care, but until Guys at the Barre becomes more of a "thing," I'll stick to my usual workout routine. I mean, look at my man in this photo from Pure Barre's website. He is clearly screaming internally.
Regardless, PB is a legit workout, no matter whom it caters to, and no matter how hard the clichés of masculinity work to keep you away from it. If you're a dude who's looking to mix things up while working almost every part of your body, I highly recommend giving Pure Barre a shot. At the very least, the workout will kick your ass. And isn't that what we really want?
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock