Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS

“Pure Ecstasy”

Butterflies fill my stomach as I approach the studio for the first time. Will I know anyone? Am I dressed okay? What if my moves look ridiculous? Already this exercise class is feeling more like a social gathering and less like a workout.

Water bottle in hand, I breathe in deeply and prepare to face my fate waiting on the other side of the door. Inside — although I’m not greeted with a platter of appetizers —Pure Barre is nothing short of a social gathering. 

Beautiful women of all ages browse the stylish workout clothes lining the boutique while others chatter privately at the cubbies. I scan the table of bracelets, headbands and sticky socks across the room. If this is the extent of the class’ workout equipment, I think I’m going to like Pure Barre.

A price tag belonging to a sleek black workout top dangles, so I sneak a peek and immediately roll my eyes thinking, “The price of fitness is not what it used to be.”

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Nestled among high-end boutiques and elegant restaurants, the Pure Barre logo is a beacon of fitness in Reynolda Village.

During my freshman year at Wake Forest, I couldn’t help but gravitate towards the red target-shaped “P” that lures so many women in. Now, three years and countless “tucks” later, I’m addicted to the Pure Barre fitness craze.

Pure Barre is a total body workout specific to a woman’s body type. In 55 minutes, the instructor leads the class through a series of low impact exercises and isometric movements to lift the seat (aka “Pure Barre ledge”) and tone thighs, abs and arms.

The fitness routine resembles a ballet class as women rise to their tiptoes for optimal strength and balance training.

Now I must admit, I’m a bit of an exercise aficionado. Pilates, yoga, Zumba, kickboxing and spin — I’ve tried it all.

With the world of personal fitness changing quicker than you can say, “Billy Blanks Tae Bo Body Shape,” I had to give Pure Barre a try — and it’s not cheap. At $225 per month, the price guarantees results.

Although hesitant at first, I bite the bullet and pay $25 for a single class before making my way into the studio.

Unlike in the lobby, the studio is silent except for the faint beat pulsing softly from the speakers. Spandex-covered women are scattered across the room stretching and staring blankly ahead at the mirrored wall.

I grab a set of weights, a resistance tube and a ball before finding my spot in the back corner of the room. In front of me sits a brunette with a glossy ponytail cascading down her Splits59 racerback top.  The toes of her socks are marked “100 Club,” so I assume she is experienced, and begin to emulate her stretches.

As I fold over to touch my toes, I inhale the subtle smell of lavender and exhale the day’s stresses and anxieties. I’m here now, and there’s no time to turn back. I temporarily abandon my looming to-do list, and prepare to focus on myself for the next 55 minutes.

My reverie is interrupted as the instructor, Carolyn, enters the room and shuts the studio’s French doors behind her. An unspoken cue, the army of Lululemon-clad women immediately rises to their feet and begins lifting their knees in synchronization to the tempo of the music.

The wide range of motion sparks my heart rate, and leaves me breathless when Carolyn guides the class to the floor for a series of abdominal exercises.

Up first: the plank. I distribute my weight between my forearms and my toes as I push up into a plank position.

“You can do anything for 90 seconds!” Carolyn says.

Internally I want to scream, while externally my abs, arms and thighs shake viciously.

One-by-one women across the room begin dropping to their knees as Carolyn reminds us to “tuck right” and “tuck left.” I later learned that tucking is a Pure Barre buzzword meaning drop your tailbone and pull your pelvis towards your ribcage.

Transitioning our tucking to the ballet bar around the room, I mimic the brunette from the 100 Club. With every position change, she remains high on her tiptoes with perfect posture. Carolyn instructs the class to place one hand on the bar and rise to our tiptoes before dipping into a deep plié position. 

The repetitions are tortuous, and my legs shake uncontrollably beneath me. The exercise pulls my body in a million different directions as I attempt to keep my hips tucked, belly in, shoulders stacked and back straightened.

With so many details to focus on, the afternoon’s commitments and concerns disappear from my mind.

Carolyn leads the room of Pure Barre devotees through a unique blend of aerobics, Pilates, ballet and yoga. I feel like I’m constantly one step behind the group as I fumble through the exercises.

Prior to class, a friend cautioned that the first Pure Barre session is the most difficult — I hoped she was right.

At last, the lights dim and the music softens. I lie on a mat and absorb the lingering effects of my workout. My heart pounds in my chest, and I feel a bead of sweat roll down my cheek.

On average, students burn between 300 and 600 calories depending on the intensity of the workout. Temporarily paralyzed in a state of exhaustion, I couldn’t wait to feel this way again.

My fondness of Pure Barre grows stronger each time I go. I thrive on the studio’s positive energy and relish in my throbbing muscles. Stealing a glance in the mirror, I saw results after just 10 classes, making every tuck worth the price I pay to back my addiction.

Whether the trendy clothing line or upbeat music lured me in, I am proud to be a full-fledged member of Pure Barre’s cultish following.

Now, you’ll find me tucking with the best of them at 8:30 each morning in my own pair of socks marked “100 Club.”

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