Taking the Barre: Chicago’s Trendy Workout Catches On
I can barely lift my arms over my head. It was hard to get out of bed this morning because my leg, stomach, back and arm muscles were screaming every time I moved. I took a barre class a couple of days ago and I’m still feeling the results.
A barre workout is a low-aerobic workout that targets your stomach, thighs, arms, and butt. Korey Karnes, 34, takes classes three times a week at Barre Bee Fit. She describes the routine as “Pilates meets yoga meets body-sculpting.”
Karnes was a former Exhale Spa Core Fusion “addict” who began taking barre classes because “it’s a great workout in an hour. You can go back to work without having to wash your hair,” she said.
Barre classes have gained popularity in the past two years in Chicago, with The Bar Method being one of the first studios to open in the city three years ago this week. Now there are several studios that offer variations of the workout throughout Chicago, suiting their class the needs of their clients.
The Bar Method system and other barre classes evolved from the Lotte Berk Method. Lotte Berk was a professional dancer who created the routine in the ’50s after suffering a back injury. One of her students, Lydia Bach, opened the Lotte Berk Method studio in Manhattan in 1971. In the 2001, Burr Leonard and Mimi Fleischman opened their flagship Bar Method studio in San Francisco, California. Barre classes gained popularity in the West Coast and slowly moved across the nation.
“Now they’re all over the West Coast, said Tami Conway, owner of The Daily Method in Chicago. “They’re every ten miles of each other.”
I took my first class with Catherine Wendel, one of the co-owners of The Bar Method in Lakeview. The mirrored studio looks like a ballet practice area, except it’s carpeted and there are small hand-held weights, foam cushions, and mats stacked to the side of the wall. The regular students walk in with impossibly straight posture, Madonna arms and Gwyneth Paltrow legs.
“If you come in three days a week, you see results in four weeks,” said Esther Kufrin, a trainer at The Bar Method who took the class with me. “I was a runner and I never felt this fit.”
We began the workout with stretches, push-ups and progressed to muscle-shaking isotonic routines. At one point, we were instructed to fold a piece of foam and squeeze it in between our thighs, scoop our stomachs in, keep our butts tight and pump up and down ever so slightly on the balls of our feet.
“The tops of your thighs should feel like they’re going to burst into flames,” Wendel said. They did.
“How are you doing?” whispered Beth Greisch, standing next to me at the ballet bar. Greisch is 52 and looks like you could grate cheese on her arms and thigh muscles. Like Karnes, she’s a workout junkie who likes barre classes because it’s “efficient” and “you don’t sweat.” She attends classes five days a week. “It doesn’t get any easier,” she says.
Barre classes in and around Chicago
- Akemi Fitness Method (Evanston)
- The Bar Method
- Barre Bee Fit
- Barre Burn at Equinox
- Core Barre Ballet and Core Floor and More at Indigo Studios
- The Dailey Method