Stacey Margaret Jones: Fitness Odyssey Continues at New Pure Barre

The new workout studio in Pleasant Ridge, Pure Barre, has been getting some local notice lately. When a friend who had joined there told me that the first class is free, I quickly messaged my Fitness Odyssey friend Angel about giving it a try. She was game. In fact, she was so game, she showed up with yoga socks – for both of us.

Before I went to the class, another friend, Paige, told me how much she liked the workout, how demanding it was and how much she felt it was helping her.

I prepped by creating an online account to reserve my free spot and read up on the recommended attire (“wear form-fitting clothing. … To retain body heat, cover your knees and wear socks that grip”). When the day had come, Angel and I showed up on a Saturday morning for our class.

Pure Barre describes itself this way: “Pure Barre is a total body workout that lifts your seat, tones your thighs and burns fat in record-breaking time. Utilizing the ballet barre to perform small isometric movements set to fantastic music, Pure Barre is the fastest, most effective, yet safest way to change your body. Students see results in just 10 classes. …”

I describe Pure Barre as a no-impact, very intense strength-training workout. If you measure intensity by how much I looked at the clock during the hourlong class (zero looks, low intensity; glances every three minutes, high intensity), then this was a workout of extreme intensity.

To me, it seemed like a mixture of hot yoga (the temperature in the room becomes slightly elevated, I thought), Pilates (moves reminiscent of “the hundred”) and the Tracy Anderson Method (small movements with light weights). Current music is used, a la Jazzercise, but they play dance versions of the songs, which kind of strips them of their individuality. All the music seems to blend together during the 60-minute session.

Pure Barre is a national chain, and routines are choreographed by corporate and learned by instructors, according to one of the owners of the Little Rock franchise.

The Little Rock studio is small-ish, and a long wall and a short wall are mirrored. Barres run along all four walls, but they aren’t used constantly. Classes also make use of light weights (2- and 3-pound hand weights), mats, resistance tubes and small resistance balls. Like yoga, the workout helps you use your own body as weight and resistance to shape, tone and strengthen, but unlike yoga, the workout is fast-paced and set to club music.

Engaging in the small, repetitive movements, I would begin any new series thinking, “This? This tiny move? What will this do?” Then, within a minute, I wanted to holler out to the instructor, “Um… hey, excuse me? Pardon me? My arm/leg/foot/hip is about to fall off. Seriously! IT WILL FALL OFF.” The instructors just continued to intone, “You’re here to finish!” I always did, and moved on to the next series of movements, starting the mental process from doubter to believer all over again.

One thing that was difficult for me to get used to, coming from Jazzercise in which the instructors are always in front of you to demonstrate the moves in a mirror-image way (they say “left leg” but they use their right, so you can easily mimic), is that the Pure Barre instructor gives verbal instructions and will demonstrate the moves, but not for long. So, if you miss it (while drinking water, or easing a cramp), you have to look to other members of the class. Often, my right/left-challenged brain mixed up right and left when I did watch an instructor, because she wasn’t mirroring us.

But the benefit of this is that she comes around often to check everyone’s form. With small movements, correct form is the key, and without that piece, classes wouldn’t be as beneficial to anyone. I’ve been to three classes so far, and have never left without having personal attention from the teacher.

What did Angel think? She said she really valued the precise targeting of specific areas. “It reminded me of Pilates, but it was ten times harder!” she said.

She also liked the dimly lit and softly carpeted studio because it allowed her to concentrate on her breathing and movement. “Even though I could see myself (and everyone else) in the mirrors across the room, I found it less distracting than the brightly lit gym environment, even with the pumping music.”

“Everything moved very fast, so there was no time to get bored but there was plenty of time to feel the burn,” she summarized.

Interestingly, while I felt like I was sweating buckets in the warm room, she said she thought it would be “super easy to head out to work or drinks after the class” (though she was pretty sore the next day).

The verdict (x3):

  • Paige is going to class on her new membership as many times a week as she can
  • I bought a Groupon for five classes in May
  • Angel is still looking for the perfect fitness fit for her, though she’s not ruling this out

One caveat about Pure Barre, because I really like and respect the workout and have noticed benefits after just three classes (only one of which I wanted to throw up during!): it’s expensive. A drop-in class is $20. The new-member, first-month unlimited fee is $99, but after that it shoots up to around $200 per month. That’s a lot for one kind of workout. By comparison, Jazzercise is less than $45 per month for unlimited classes.

But if you’ve got it, shovel some off the pile, throw on your Lululemons and flaunt it at Pure Barre. It’s a demanding workout that’s already helped me feel stronger in just a few weeks. I’m sure I’ll be back regularly to whip myself into shape.


Stacey Margaret Jones, M.S., APR, (@sharkushka) is a market research consultant and a member of the inaugural class of the Arkansas Writers MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas. She lives in Conway with her Chaucerian husband. Jones, a South Dakota native, does not play team sports, unless you consider cocktailing a competitive event.

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