Barre3 is a new fitness studio on King West, the first franchise in Canada for the Portland, Oregon-based company.
Barre classes are one of the current fitness trends, and this brand sets itself apart by combining aspects of Barre classes with yoga and Pilates. It's a mix of isometric strength exercises, small controlled movements to target a particular muscle group and large, functional body weight movements (like squats, lunges, etc.).
Texas transplant and Barre3 studio owner Aimee Astrander moved to Toronto, and when she realized there was no Barre3 here, she decided that had to change. Barre3 staff visiting for the opening from head office in Portland informed me that devotees are so committed to the program, this is often the reason a new franchise is opened. (Apparently, in the small city of Portland alone, there are seven Barre3 studios.)
Located on the second floor of a multi-use building, the studio is immaculate and flooded with natural light, managing to find the perfect balance of minimalist elegance and comfort. It is an intimate space with a small lounge and front desk, studio and change room. This is a studio clearly intended for women as there is only a women's change room, complete with several private shower stalls and toilets and an array of useful personal hygiene products (and even extra hair ties).
Classes involve a set sequence (warm-up, legs, upper body, glutes, core, etc.) but Barre3 certified instructors are encouraged to bring their own flavour to each class. We begin with a gentle, dynamic warm-up but then get right into challenging work using a Pilates ball between our thighs to engage the muscles.
A lot of time is spent on your toes, which is tricky if you lack balance, but participants are encouraged to modify each exercise to suit their ability level and several options are always offered by the instructors.
Lower body is definitely the focus, aside from some sequences using 1-2 lb weights for the arms, which is not enough for most conditioned individuals to build much strength. After a number of standing segments, we (happily) come down to the mat for glute and core work with the Pilates ball.
While most fitness classes neglect sufficient stretching at the end, we are treated with a great full body stretch routine. Just as promised, we leave feeling strong and energized.
This is not a "get ripped and incinerate calories" class, but it was definitely more challenging than I expected. I would say it makes a great addition to any fitness routine by addressing strength, balance, and flexibility, elements often neglected by cardio junkies. The classes also accommodate almost any ability level and the atmosphere is very accepting and inclusive.
If you want to add a functional element to your workout routine, and/or improve your sport performance, you should check out Barre3.
Photos by Jesse Milns.