journey to buff: xtend barre + pure barre, and the myth of being a superhero


I woke this morning with the realization that I’m not a superhero, regardless of how much I want to be. Between daily four-hour commutes, a home that bears an uncanny resemblance to the remnants of a typhoon, and an endless cycle of evening appointments, I’ve only an hour of solitude before I crawl into bed and plow through my days all over again. I abhor this frenzy, this sense that I’m not able to fully be present because I am what I’m going after. I secretly laugh at this because I was the woman who lugged trash bags filled with clothes down Fordham Road because no one was able to pick me up when school ended, so I was forced to lug all of my belonging on the subway. This was a woman who lugged papers in the rain because she had a paper route and the Sunday papers needed to be sorted and delivered. This was a woman who had to go to extremes to feel something when the enormity of the extremes invariably revealed a vast nothingness. This was a woman who felt she always had to suffer to get to a place of calm.

Yeah, I’m too old for this nonsense. The poetry of struggle might read lovely on paper, but pain isn’t pretty or cathartic. It’s hard, it’s a white-knuckle; it’s often gruesome.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I cancelled the bulk of my plans for this week to solely focus on my move. I am not superhuman, and the practice of mindfulness and self-awareness is a constant struggle for me. Years ago a friend observed that I lived for the extremes, and I have to always remind myself that there is beauty in the word no, in sitting still, in feeling the world around me instead of running after it.

Perhaps this is why I like barre classes. Like the methodical nature of baking, barre classes feel like a metronome. The constant articulation of movement between body and breath feels like a call and response to one’s self. And in this sermon I find a certain kind of quiet amidst all the blaring music and noise. I like routine, I adore habit, so knowing the architecture of a barre class, even if the story changes slightly {new characters are introduced, plot twists and the like}, there is comfort that, unlike life, I know how the story ends. And within this space of time I can relax. My yoga teacher talks about suffering without agitation, and I’m constantly reminded of this when I’m pulsing for days.

I discovered Xtend Barre Brooklyn via ClassPass, and a slew of fawning reviews. While there’s no shortage of barre-based workouts in the city, Xtend is the closest to ballet I’ve experienced. The moves are highly-choreographed and meticulous, and believe me when I say that I’ve never worked harder in an arm series. Twenty minutes of arms, people. Talk about AGITATION. Formal ballet terms are used, however, the format is fairly easy to follow {this coming from someone who got kicked out of a step class}. The accoutrements are simple — a mat, 1-2 lb weights, a barre stick, and a Pilates ring — and help deliver precise movements, a deep burn and a focus on alignment. Although I found myself floundering due to the rookie move of scheduling any kind of fitness activity after a Brooklyn Body Burn class {learn from my mistakes, people}, my instructor Rochelle was endlessly upbeat, kind, and fanatical about correcting my form. If the energy of a space can speak volumes, Xtend Barre BH is writing the novel of the twenty-first century. Austere, yet warm, the staff and owners are inviting, friendly and encouraging. Although I was exhausted after last night’s class, this is definitely a space to which I’ll return.

What to Know: Come wearing barre socks {the studio, like most, sells branded socks} and fitted clothing. The space is 3000 square feet, and hosts a slew of changing rooms and two bathrooms, sans showers. Towels are provided and water {regular and coconut} is for sale.

The word on the street about Pure Barre is pretty strong, and booking a class is akin to getting into Nobu. While I found the staff and space inviting {the instructor made it a point to approach me and asked about any injuries and she frequently adjusted me in class, both for which I was genuinely appreciative}, I didn’t love Pure Barre as much as Xtend, or other studios I’ve patroned. This may sound minor, but the USQ space is flooded with overhead track lights, which made the space hotter than it needed to be, and I found myself constantly squinting from the constant glare. Pure is really focused on the “tuck” {tucking your tailbone} in exercises, and I found the velocity of the class to be a tad overwhelming with instructions that weren’t as clear as they could be. Often I found myself asking, where does my leg go? until I asked this question aloud to the equally confused woman next to me.

While I do plan on returning to Pure Barre for Meghan Starr’s class, my feelings about the studio are mixed.

What to Know: Pure Barre might be the only studio I’ve patroned that doesn’t provide towels. Bring your towel + barre socks + tons of water. While there are a few changing areas, the USQ is a tad cramped, and there’s only one bathroom in the space. Oddly enough, their retail space is expansive; I just wish some of that space had been allocated to changing areas.

Both classes introduced me to the wonder that is the small Pilates ring, which is at turns a cruel torture device and a brilliant invention for thigh + seat work.

Now that I’m sufficiently sore, I’m retiring my cape and superpowers for the week to focus on hauling my life from one floor to another.

3 thoughts on “journey to buff: xtend barre + pure barre, and the myth of being a superhero

  1. The poetry of struggle is something I’m throwing off too. I used to find some kind of melancholy happiness in it, a feeling that this is how it has to be, this is what I get for being where I come from… But no longer.

    Best wishes with your move!


  2. I love how you described barre. It makes perfect sense to me. I find it hard to explain to all of my friends who do other types of exercise and don’t find barre as challenging or fulfilling. But to me, barre just makes sense. When I’m on the mat or at the barre, I can just loose myself in the movements and my mind slows down for a moment.


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