Today I tried a Les Mills Barre class in a beautiful gym not too far from my home. I’d spent a while hunting for a barre class and finally one of the gyms in the area had begun to run a class and the program they chose to go with was the Les Mills Barre program.
For those who want a quick answer to: was it good and would I recommend it? The answer would be no, it wasn’t good and no I wouldn’t recommend it. Here are my reasons why:
It wasn’t barre
I’m fully aware that ‘barre’ is now a very generic term that encompasses all ballet-inspired fitness, but it really did just feel like Les Mills was trying to do a little too much with it and it’s not like they didn’t tell me this as they clearly describe the class as “a combination of cardio and strength with high reps of small range-of-motion movements and very light weights”. That is essentially what it was except from the fact that it was definitely a lot more cardio-heavy than strength, which was really disappointing for me because essentially what most barre classes take from ballet is the fact that ballerina’s are strong and so strength training is a huge part of it.
Les Mills promised that the class would incorporate “classic ballet positions”; now I’m no ballet teacher, or ballerina for that matter but I can confidently say that although ballet terms were used throughout the class, I think it would be highly inaccurate to say that they were really ‘ballet positions’.
It wasn’t safe
For the aspects of the class that vaguely represented barre & ballet, it was lucky that I had previous experience in this area. This is because going into this Les Mills Barre class for the first time, with no previous experience, could have caused some damage to my joints and muscles.
I am a big lover of BodyCombat and BodyPump. One of the many things that I love about these two classes is that even when I drag along one of my friends who have never been before, they are able to easily pick it up and it is run in a way that even if it is your first time, you’ll still manage to know how to do each move correctly and in the right form. The fact that Les Mills classes aren’t the sort of classes were the instructor goes around correcting people’s form never seemed to be an issue in Combat and Pump. However, in their barre class this is essential, especially because it is a group fitness class offered in gyms where each week you’re likely to get beginners through the door. All around the room, I saw bad form that went uncorrected, strained lower backs, landing on ankles, over-pronounced knees, need I continue?
Oh and did I mention, I was the only one there for the first time. The thing is, you can’t blame the attendees because they were essentially just trying to do their best and you can’t blame the instructor because she was just doing the tracks given to her.
It wasn’t fun
Nobody wants to be in a class were so many people are stopping because they’ve twisted something, or because they are confused. For half the time the music didn’t quite go with the vibe of the exercise. Imagine going to the Royal Ballet and they played club and chart music through the whole performance. It’s not like you hate the songs, you’d just be like “well this is appropriate”. With that said because it was definitely more cardio and high intensity, they really couldn’t get away with playing traditional ballet-style music. Put aside the fact that I was mostly worried about people straining themselves, essentially I didn’t enjoy it because I just kept thinking, “What is this? Am I in a cardio class? Gosh I’m glad I opted for a supportive sports bra this morning. Should I have brought my trainers?” In fact I did have to change out of my ballet shoes to just my socks after two tracks.
It’s just disappointing really because it had the potential to be really good; bringing a style of fitness that has been in the past very “white-middle class” to the every day gym-goer, but it wasn’t because they simply didn’t bring us barre. Les Mills, you have an excellent Body Combat cardio class and an incredible BodyPump strength class – there was no need to try to cram so much in your 30 minute Barre class and consequently, squeeze out the little ballet left in barre.
So those were my thoughts, but I’m interested to know yours. Did I just go to a fluke class or have you had the same experience as well?
The up side is that, this could all be a problem with this release, they could bring out another release and it could be incredible so I haven’t ruled their Barre class out completely. Besides, my Fitbit informed me that I burned 192 calories in the 30 minute class, so not all bad when you think about it.