Raising the Barre to Empower Women

I have a love-hate relationship with planks, lunges and squats because I also have:

  • The arm strength of an inflatable tube man
  • The knees of a tin man
  • The flexibility of a pencil

Images of an inflatable tube man, tin man and pencil, added up to equal the author, Maiya Hayes.

But I appreciate the benefits of strength training, namely how it tones my muscles and helps me burn fat. So recently, I put my ego aside and joined about 20 of my co-workers at a special group fitness class at The Barre Code in downtown Royal Oak. The 50-minute class offered a sampling of the cardio, strength-training and restorative-stretch classes provided at The Barre Code, which is a fitness studio for women.

I had a basic idea of what to expect because I’d taken a few barre classes at my gym in the past year. But my sense of security was shaken a bit when I received some surprising news:

  • I found out that we’d only be exercising in our socks. (Whut.)
  • I found out that we’d be using 12-pound body bars. (Double whut.)

Regrets — I have a few

Before the class began, we were asked to choose a pair of free weights to use during our workout — we had the option of selecting two- or three-pound weights. I chose the three-pound weights while nearly everyone else chose the two-pound ones. I did this because:

  • I had used three-pound weights in my previous barre classes, so I assumed I’d be OK.
  • I thought we’d only use the 12-pound body bars to prop up our bodies while performing leg exercises and stretches.

Image of three-pound weights.I was wrong on both counts.

We ended up repeatedly lifting the 12-pound body bars during the strength-training portion of class. And by the time I finished all those repetitions, I could barely move my arms. I was so tired that I struggled to do the rest of the strength-training exercises, which involved using my body weight and the 3-pound weights. (I spent a fair amount of time cursing myself for not choosing the lighter weights.)

By the time we reached the cool-down at the end of class, I felt so proud of myself for finishing the workout. I was so grateful to my muscles for their hard work and resilience that I gladly rewarded them with several minutes of restorative stretching. 

A safe place to challenge yourself

A sign at the Barre Code's entrance.The Barre Code prides itself on offering an empowering environment for women to test their physical limits and strengthen their bodies. During our class, our fitness instructor constantly encouraged all of us to exercise at our own pace, and she provided options and modifications to accommodate a wide range of fitness levels.

Image of class in session, with the author lifting the dreaded bar.I enjoyed the uplifting vibe of the studio and the opportunity to work out with a diverse group of women. Their collective energy helped me endure the intense parts of class, and their smiles and laughter kept my spirits upbeat.

Class participants checking their form in a mirror.I normally feel self-conscious during strength-training classes because all my physical flaws and shortcomings are on display for everyone to see. But during The Barre Code class, I never felt like my weak arms, bad knees and stiff muscles were being judged by anyone. Instead, I felt a camaraderie with my co-workers and appreciated being part of a supportive, strong group of women.

However, I did make an enemy during our workout session: That 12-pound body bar definitely was mocking me throughout class. So in the near future, I’ll be buying some barre socks and taking another class at The Barre Code.

I’ll show that body bar who’s boss.

Want to try The Barre Code for yourself? Enter code “BCBSM” when you book a class at the Royal Oak location and it’s free (valid through the end of 2019, good for one free class per visitor). 

About the author: Maiya Hayes is a senior writer and editor, Corporate Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She’s a proud cat mom and devoted sister to a Labrador retriever. A former sports journalist, her hobbies include brunching after exercising and daydreaming about being a backup dancer for Beyoncé. She loves TV shows, movies, podcasts and audiobooks, and hates wearing socks.

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Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan

 

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