There have been several moments over the years – usually when watching Swan Lake or admiring the sinewy strength of a ballet dancer’s body – when I’ve felt a real twang of regret that I gave up ballet dancing when I was seven. (With the exception of when I watched Black Swan. That made me glad to be a human potato.)
When I accused my mother of denying me the right to be the next Darcey Bussell, however, she replied: “You stopped going because you moaned that the 10-minute walk to the ballet studio was too far.” I refused to believe her.
But as I found myself clutching the barre at the ballet-inspired class Barrecore that uses the principles of a warm-up session mixed in with some cardio, yoga and pilates, I think my mother was right.
While the rest of the class were peacefully carrying on with their exercises, I was hopping around from one foot to the other, trying to take a break from the intensity of the exercises.
The fact is, that ballet is hard. And there is a reason why so many of us wobble into a studio as children only to fall at the first hurdle.
But with the onset of love handles and a chubby bottom that becomes increasingly hard to shift also comes experience and wisdom, so rather than quit when it gets hard, we know that if a class is tough it is likely to yield results.
On average, barre exercises burn around 450 calories. Perhaps it won’t give us back the bodies we had as teenagers, but it certainly will try.
The class starts with some dynamic stretches designed to warm the body up. So far, so easy, I thought, as I looked around the room with mirrored walls. But then comes sequence after sequence of gruelling exercises.
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Small yet very intense movements that work out the core and the abs will have you gasping on the floor. By far, I found the stretches and pulses that worked out the legs and the glutes the most painful, which told me that I needed to work out these areas more.
Also – a word on the music. I was expecting Tchaikovsky, and the soundtrack was a good mix of dance and pop, designed to get you motivated.
Our teacher Perri had the face of a wonderful, beatific fairy but I sensed a will of steel as she nicely but firmly asked us to lower ourselves to the floor.
There were several times I thought we’d be easing into a nice long stretch and instead found myself introducing my muscles to a new sort of torture. However, while the lazy girl in me protested, I knew that this was doing an excellent job of working out muscles I just can’t get to in the gym.
After we tottered out of the class, I felt a familiar burn running from top to toe: the sign of a really good workout. I did wonder how on earth I was going to find the energy to walk home, let alone come back for a second class, but after a while, the burn faded and I was left with a whole bouquet of endorphins released by the class.
The only prohibitive thing I’d say about the classes, is that for the average person, they are quite steep in price. They range from £28 for a drop-in to £22 if you buy them as a package.
I couldn’t afford to keep doing them regularly as well as pay for a gym membership (a lot of the class attendees were lawyers or bankers), but the next time I have a wedding or a big event to prep for, I know that this is most definitely a class that will give my body a sense of leanness and definition.
If you’re willing to put in the hard work, this is easily one of the best fitness classes going at the moment. Even if you are weeping like a baby at the end of it.
Take A Swim
You don't have to be Rebecca Adlington to get a water workout. Even some leisurely splashing around can shave off 200 calories, and it's a great way to stay cool in the heat, too!
Stand At The Bar
Rather than nursing a drink sitting down, try standing with your drink. <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20534367_4,00.html" target="_hplink">Leaning against a high stool</a> is a step up from sitting, but can be more comfy than standing all night, <em>Health</em> magazine reported.
This old favorite is fun for kids and adults alike, and can burn 100 calories in just 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/machineisorganic/6740536715/" target="_hplink">Machine is Organic</a></em>
Let the music move you when you're out on Saturday night. A little boogying can burn 150 calories in just 30 minutes.
Throw A Frisbee
You're not chained to that park bench! If you're already enjoying the outdoors, why not throw around a Frisbee or a football, pass a volleyball or kick a soccer ball? It doesn't have to be strenuous -- you don't even have to be any good! -- but it will get you up and moving. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/458811240/" target="_hplink">Elvert Barnes</a></em>
Go On An Exercise Date
If you've got a date night planned this weekend, skip dinner and a movie in favor of something that gets you off your rears. It doesn't have to be a trip to the gym or a jog -- it can be anything active you like doing together. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/7283892652/" target="_hplink">Tobyotter</a></em>
During the busy week, you sometimes might just let your pet out in the backyard to dig up his own trouble. This weekend, spend a little extra time moving with him. Play fetch, give him that much-needed belly rub or take him on an extra-long walk. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/4255290603/" target="_hplink">footloosiety</a></em>
Catch Up On A Walk
If you've made plans to meet a friend for coffee, take your catch up session to-go instead and gab on a walk. Even strolling at a snail's pace will burn 85 calories in 30 minutes!
Play Pub Games
Put down the drink for some table football or pool if you're at a pub this weekend that offers it. Thirty minutes of pool can shave off 85 calories, not to mention you may save yourself a few if your hands aren't wrapped tightly around that pint glass. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/15216811@N06/5842783313/" target="_hplink">Nicola since 1972</a></em>
Take A Hike
Head for the hills! Depending on where you live, a hike can be a weekend expedition or a quick afternoon adventure. It's a change of scenery and a great way to spend some time outdoors. If you're feeling sporty enough to tackle some hills, you can burn almost 250 calories in just 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/4104101152/" target="_hplink">mikebaird</a></em>
Go Window Shopping
Those people who do their exercise walking around the mall are onto something. Whether or not you plan to buy anything, browsing around your favorite shopping center gets you moving -- especially if you decide to wiggle in and out of a few things in the dressing room. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmyharris/2774384836/" target="_hplink">jimmyharris</a></em>
Visit A Museum
Spend some time strolling through the halls and galleries of your favorite museum. You'll give your brain a workout while you're at it!
Get A Takeaway Instead Of Delivery
Pick your favorite nearby joint and walk to pick up your meal.
Wash The Car
Sure, it might take a little longer than sitting through the drive-thru, but you get the pleasure of working those muscles a little bit.
Instead of sitting at a restaurant waiting to be served, why not whip something up at home? You'll be on your feet slicing, chopping, mixing and more, not to mention cleaning up after yourself. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/janicecullivan/4262146921/" target="_hplink">mamaloco</a></em>
Tidy Up The Garden
Spending an hour digging, crouching, weeding and planting in your garden <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/memorial-day-chores-calories_n_1543691.html#slide=1018494" target="_hplink">can burn more than 300 calories</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7682623@N02/7343305940/" target="_hplink">auntjojo</a></em>
Take A Bike Ride
You don't have be imitate the Tour de France! Even the most casual rides can burn 200 calories an hour. Don't own a bike? Many cities now have <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2011-05-08-bike-sharing-programs_n.htm" target="_hplink">bike share programs</a> that allow you to take a short spin for a small fee, and some parks have bikes available for rent, too. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chinny_chin_chin00/6137088467/" target="_hplink">machernucha</a></em>
It's not just for dads in bowling shirts! Grab a pair of nerdy-chic shoes and aim straight. You may even wiggle a little arm workout out of it! <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/junklab/68904368/" target="_hplink">junklab</a></em>
Start A Wii Fit Competition
Dreaming of a couch-potato weekend? Turn that screen time into something more productive by challenging a roommate, spouse or kid to a Wii Fit boxing or tennis match. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sashawolff/3190273060/" target="_hplink">SashaW</a></em>