Here Lies Susie, Rest in Peace. Cause of Death: Pure Barre.

You’ve heard of Pure Barre.

I feel I can safely assume that, because I’ve heard of Pure Barre, and I’m usually the last person to hear about things.

But for those of you still in the dark, Pure Barre is an exercise program created by masochists to torture women under the facade of being a distant cousin of ballet.

…Or something. I don’t know. Look it up.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to get in shape ever since my doctor called me a fat lard a few weeks ago… and I’ve been hearing a lot about Pure Barre lately.

And since I pretty much do whatever I want these days, I went ahead and signed myself up.

I’ll be honest, I went into this thing all cocky. My limited exposure to the program had informed me that it wouldn’t be cardio, there would be no jumping or bouncing, and they I would only be using 2-pound weights. Pshaw. I spent like two weeks working out this year, and I did dance… oh, a decade or so ago, so I GOT THIS, right? Should be a piece of cake, a la mode.

But it was not a piece of cake a la mode. It wasn’t even cake a la no mode. It was… slabs of concrete on a plate.

My first impression walking in is, damn. These girls look GOOD.

I don’t mean runway model skinny, I mean FIT. I’m talking, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider fit. These girls look like they’d be right at home with loincloths around their waist, traipsing through jungles with a machete. The movie Avatar comes to mind, only these girls aren’t blue.

And hawt. Oh my god. Easily a room full of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen. I suddenly feel overwhelmingly self-conscious in my sweats and oversized T-shirt. They make me jealous of turtles, how they can just hide inside themselves at whim.

Boys, I’ve uncovered the secret. If you want a hottie, hang out outside a Pure Barre studio and thank me later.

Then it occurs to me: there’s no way all these girls are this fit, and this hot. This is fake, this is part of the gig. They pay these girls to come to these classes the same way beer commercials use subliminal advertising with big busty blondes – to make men think, in caveman-style logic: “Me drink beer. Me get pretty girls.”

Me go to Pure Barre studio, me become pretty Avatar-fit girl.

Luckily, all the fellow-attendees-slash-possibly-paid-actors are really nice. They twirl around me as I stretch awkwardly on the floor, and give me enthusiastic encouragement for my first day.

The instructor pulls me aside to give me a basic overview of what to expect – and she says, two or three times, “Don’t worry. All these girls in here – every one of them had a first day, too.”

Translation: You will suck at this.

The class begins, and we go to the bar to perform a series of leg strengthening exercises.

Did I say “leg strengthening exercises?” No no, that’s the wrong name for it. You’re probably picturing squats or burpees or some nonsense.

Nope, what I mean is – we just stood there. Just stood there, with one leg down and one straight out. Or on our tip toes with knees bent. Or with flexed feet, turned out feet, pointed feet. We barely even moved. The most tiny, miniscule movements – tighten and hold, tighten and hold.

From outside, it probably looked like we were doing barbie doll impressions, twisting the leg socket by a half an inch and then just standing there like a statue.

Which made it all the more infuriating how unbelievably, indescribably HARD it was.

At Pure Barre, they have an expression called “embrace the shake.” What they mean by this is, by the end of the class you’ll have exerted your muscles to the absolute breaking point – and your muscles’ way of expressing this to you will be to shake uncontrollably.

We’re meant to embrace this.

I am embracing the shake within the first eight minutes of class. Not just slight twitching, mind you, but absolute violent spasms. I look like a frightened cartoon character, my knees knocking together. “Way to go, Susie! Embrace the shake!” the instructor tells me.

I don’t know what this means. The shake isn’t something I can control. I’m not embracing anything, I’m just trying to stay alive. If I could send the shake away with some cab fare, I’d do it. I want to spit in the shake’s face.

After days and days at the bar, when I’ve given up all hope of my legs ever returning to normal function and I’m starting to forget my name, we retreat to the mats.

I’m no anatomy expert, but I truly did not even know there was this much sweat inside my body. Where does it all come from? And how is it produced by doing nothing but standing?

On the floor, we do more teeny tiny movements – this time working itty bitty muscles in my abs I didn’t even know existed. Sweat is dripping off the tip of my nose like a leaky faucet.

After weeks of impossibly miniscule gestures involving a ball and a resistance band, mercifully, the class comes to a close.

I practically collapse on the floor. I am dying I died I’m dead.

The same girls frolic up to me cheerfully, asking me how I enjoyed it. Gathering my remaining pride, I can only muster a single syllable: “Tough.”

They laugh conspiratorially. “It gets easier, we promise!” Then they skip tra-la-la back into their Avatar forest while I lay helpless on the ground.

Exiting into the crisp Portland night air is nothing short of heavenly. The icy wind laps my pink face like a loyal dog, and any remaining drips of sweat are stopped dead in their tracks.

It’s wonderful… until I realize home is 17 blocks away.

And I suddenly realize I can’t walk. I can’t even remember what it’s like to walk. I’m like an infant re-learning my first steps. Even swinging my arms hurts.

I somehow stumble awkwardly home, and climb into the shower practically on all fours. As I type this, I’ve been sitting in the same position for the last 2.5 hours because getting up sounds so unbearably painful.

I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into here. This has been horrifyingly intense, and completely overwhelming. I’m exhausted, weak, and I ache all over.

…And, truthfully, I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

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4 thoughts on “Here Lies Susie, Rest in Peace. Cause of Death: Pure Barre.

  1. oh my goodness this is hilarious! i think that is how everyone’s first time is. after going to Pure Barre for a year now i really do embrace my shake! if i’m not shaking by the time i leave then i know i didn’t push myself! happy tucking 😉

  2. What does it say about me that after reading your post I actually think I might want to try this. It also makes me wish I would have written a blog post about the first time I went to a pilates mat class, lead by a seductive mistress of torture by the name of Ursula. Note: I have not been to a pilates class since.

  3. Pingback: Don’t call it a comeback | The Nutshell Version

  4. Susie —- One of my coworkers just asked me “Have you heard of Pure Barre?” I immediately ran to this blog and sent it to her. Just to let you know your blog never leaves my brain. Even when you leave the country. Love ya!

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