The Class: Pure Barre
When: Classes are held Mondays-Sundays; consult purebarre.com/tx-riveroaks/ for schedule.
The workout: You don't need ballet experience to try Pure Barre, a 55-minute full-body workout concentrating on the hips, thighs, seat, abdominals and arms. But you do need to have an open mind. I didn't, initially. I thought barre workouts were more about ballet and dance movements, less about fitness training.
Turns out, the Pure Barre class uses the barre, a stationary handrail, for ballet warm-up exercises and some ballet positions. But it's a hard, intense low-impact fitness workout with no jumping, jarring, bouncing or jumping. You use the barre for body-weight resistance in a combination of stretching, lengthening and pulsing exercises. We started with a few minutes of warm-up stretching (knee lifts, arm circles, slow push-ups) that felt great and seemed easy. We moved to arm curls and tricep extensions with 2- and 4-pound free weights, doing the movements so slowly I started to feel a tremble.
Then we moved to the barre to work on thighs and the "seat." (The word "butt" is a no-no at Pure Barre.) I thought the barre would be a snap. After a few minutes of lifting and holding one leg in the air for a minute or so, then switching, I really started to feel the burn, and it lingered. Instructor Diane Hare-Ganchev gave each student a small, red Pure Barre ball to use. The balls were placed between the legs while we worked on holding and pulsing movements. We also had to maintain good posture and tight abs. It's so much harder than it sounds.
By the end of the class, I felt as if I had run a half marathon, and the burn lingered even more the next day. I couldn't tell if my muscles were longer and leaner after my first class, but they felt like it.
The experts: Hare-Ganchev, also a Houston actress and fashion model, was hooked when she initially took the class a year ago. "I tried everything to work out, and I came to realize, I don't like running or extreme fitness workouts. Even though Pure Barre is low impact, it's fast paced. You don't have time to think, and you get results."
Instructors intentionally don't participate in the class with the students, she said, so they can help them maintain posture and do the exercise correctly without injury. "It's hard. You suffer, but you get a good workout," she said.
Fitness level: Beginner. (No ballet or dance experience is required.)
Intensity: Low to high. The class starts with easy stretching, then builds to barre work that will leave your legs feeling like noodles the next day.
Results: Pure Barre claims you'll see results in just 10 classes going at least three to four times per week. Toning is one of the biggest benefits. Results will vary from person to person depending on class frequency and diet. Hare-Ganchev said clients have claimed to have lost inches in as few as four classes. She noticed her own thighs becoming increasingly toned and strong and she achieved a "really nice round butt." (Oops, "seat.")
Gear: Wear comfortable workout clothes with a sports bra. Bring towel and water bottle.
Price: Single class is $22; unlimited monthly rate is $195. At 7 p.m. Feb. 12, Pure Barre will host "Bring your man to the Barre" for Valentine's Day for 12 couples. Women will pay the regular class fee, men pay $10.