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Health

Class of the month: Barre

FitnessDance

Not sure what to expect, I signed up recently for my first class in barre, a combination of Pilates, yoga and ballet. I wasn't too worried about the physical challenge because I am a runner and in good shape. I've also danced and am no stranger to the ballet barre. But let's just say that neither of these activities quite prepared me for this class.

The Barre studio at Quarry Lake in Pikesville is beautiful — soft, warm colors and low lights. But once we got started, there was no looking around. It was total focus. After a brief (and I mean brief) warm-up, we moved on to the handheld weights and a round of small, tight upper-body movements that made me want to take off my arms and walk away. We then moved to lower body, working thighs then glutes, with the same small, tightly controlled moves that really work the specific targeted muscle or muscle group. We moved from the floor to the barre and back again throughout the session.

It looks deceptively easy; after all, you are only using your body as resistance with very small movements and without high impact. But you are taking those muscles through a series of angles and heights, tucks and lifts, to a slow burn. Several exercises use weights and balls, though you don't have to add them. In fact, everyone was working at her own pace and ability, resting if needed. Despite a full class of 20, the instructor gave one-on-one attention as she walked around the room, repositioning an arm angle, pressing gently toward a better stretch, offering encouragement.

Occasionally, I sneaked a glance at my new friend, Robin Berg, whom I met just before class. She's been coming to barre several times a week for nearly a year. "This workout has changed every part of my body," she said, adding, "I never thought I could look like this." At 54, she never seemed to miss a beat.

Throughout the hourlong session and after working each muscle group, we stretched — or "elongated," as they say. But we saved the abs for last. This is where I realized I both loved and hated Marni Gorman, our beautiful instructor and studio co-owner. "Some of you may be seeing stars right now," she said smiling, "but that's perfectly normal." I was seeing stars all right but with her encouragement was able to push it to the end. It was quite the workout — but I'm ready for more.

Barre

2632 Quarry Lake Drive, Pikesville; 410-486-8480

No dance experience required.

$20 per class; discounted packages available.

Equipment is supplied, but you need skid-resistant socks (Barre sells them). Wear long pants, like yoga pants.

Bring a water bottle (and perhaps an Advil or two).

More information: barreonline.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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