Looking over the barre, I see Broadway wet with dawn dew, the morning foot traffic beginning to pick up. Standing there on my tippy-toes, knees bent, arms holding onto the ballet barre for balance, I’m in full “power leg” mode at Barre3. Luckily, the passersby can’t really see my sweaty struggle (I checked; the double windows provide a sort of one-way glass effect). This is good because my legs are starting to get the shakes — that sweet spot where the muscles are forced to surrender and reform.
“We try and push muscles to basically the point of fatigue and failure because that is the point where they are going to start to break down and rebuild,” Jessica Neely tells me the preceding afternoon at Noisette Pastry Kitchen next door.
Neely owns and runs the Barre3 downtown, which is coming up on its two-year anniversary in April. The studio is part of former Eugenean (and current Portlander) Sadie Lincoln’s growing barre fitness empire — a genre of exercise that draws on techniques from ballet, yoga and Pilates.
Scanning the framed fitness magazine articles on the studio’s walls, it’s clear that this is the hip, new workout: An Us Weekly clipping points out that even Madonna was flying Lincoln into NYC for her body-sculpting program. The first studio took off in Portland’s Pearl District; nationwide, there are now more than 50 studios and five in the Philippines.
“It’s an hourlong class that really targets every part of your body from head to toe, with low impact but highly effective small-range — for the most part — movements so that your heart rate is elevated, you’re working deeply but it’s not an excruciating workout,” Neely explains. “It’s something that should leave you feeling more energized rather than depleted.”
As an averagely active person who has been taking Barre3 classes on and off for the past year, I would have to agree with the increased energy claims. After doing Barre3, I feel like bouncing down the street. But, as for it not being an excruciating workout, that’s relative. Each class has alternate positions and movements to increase or decrease intensity. I’ve walked away from class dripping, ahem, glowing with sweat, and sore for days, but it’s a good burn with a streamlining effect on the body. And anyone can do it; I’ve been at the barre with college students, people over 70 and pregnant women.
“That’s one of the beauties of all barre workouts, is that they are highly effective in lengthening out muscles, in strengthening and in shedding pounds and inches, particularly inches,” Neely says.
The only complaint that I have heard about Barre3 is the cost. A single class is $20 a pop, higher than the average drop-in class for yoga in town, which typically run $10 to $12 (Pilates hovers around $35). However, you do get what you pay for: The blonde wood studio is always bright and clean; classes are never overcrowded; instructors work hands-on; there are showers, towels, lockers and onsite childcare; and all the equipment is provided — mats, core balls, weights and, of course, the barre.
Neely, a former teacher who got to know Lincoln taking classes from her when they both lived in California, did manage to procure a special discount for the Eugene franchise: 10 percent off for teachers. “We felt like we wanted to offer teachers something a little special all the time,” she says. “Sadie herself is a former educator; she has a master's in education, so she also has a soft spot in her heart for teachers.”
There are also discounts for seniors and students. And with the studio’s two-year anniversary coming up and a new instructor in training, there will be free, open-to-the-public classes offered in April.
For more information, visit barre3.com/locations/eugene/.