Is Barre Class Right for You? My Review of The Bar Method
Everywhere I go in San Francisco, I see women dressed in athleisure wear. They’re sporting the latest yoga pants and cute moisture-wicking tanks. Why are these women wearing this type of clothes and where are they going? My guess is to work out, and likely not just any workout, but to attend a boutique studio. They're plentiful around here. I never thought I’d join a boutique workout studio myself until I did just that this past winter. I’ve been so amused and happy with the experience that I wanted to share it with you. Here I write about my experience attending The Bar Method over the past 2-plus months to help you decide if it’s right for you.
A few months ago, ClassPass sent me an email trying to get me to sign up with an offer of 5 free classes. If you’re not familiar with ClassPass, it’s a subscription service that gives you access to various studios and workout classes based on the membership plan you choose. The major benefit of ClassPass is the variety of classes you can take because you can attend different studios in your city. I didn’t want to take the offer though because I was afraid I’d end up paying way too much for the next month after having a hard time canceling my subscription. But I was itching to work out after my dance studio was closed for the winter holidays.
I jumped onto Groupon and found a 30-day unlimited pass to The Bar Method. The Bar Method is a workout method in which you complete a series of exercises targeting the major muscle groups with the goal of improving your health and physical ability. Its exercises are founded on the principles of physical therapy. Classes run 45 minutes to an hour and incorporate the use of the ballet barre (hence its name) as well as other props such as mats and balls.
Honestly, I was open-minded but skeptical about The Bar Method. I had read reviews about barre studios before signing up and wasn’t sure if one would benefit me. I love working out but not the boring kind of working out, you know, running and weights over and over again. I like variety and fun in my workouts. Plus I want to feel comfortable and welcome wherever I am. I also already keep in shape taking dance classes 2-3 times a week and being physically active in my daily life, so this would need to add to that. My criteria for a class or workout method is a few things:
- Does this challenge me mentally and/or physically? That means I’m improving at whatever skill I’m learning.
- Am I sweating? If I’m paying to work out, then I want to sweat. I should feel tired at the end of the workout.
My Bar Method Experience
I’ll be the first to say that I’m surprised at how much I enjoy The Bar Method. I got hooked on it soon after I started. Every class I’ve been to has been fun and/or challenging in some way. My impression of the method after 2-plus months of working out there is that it lives up to its claim of building healthy bodies.
- Classes are challenging. You get an all-body workout that targets much of the body including arms, legs, core, back, and butt. There are two levels of classes for those who want more challenge and cardio. I’ve taken over 30 classes of both levels so far and am definitely stronger, so the classes are doing their job.
- Quality instruction. Some instructors will suit your style more than others, but they all go around the room and correct your form. Instructors are required to learn everyone’s name so you feel more welcome and they can provide direct guidance. I didn’t feel any judgment from staff or other members when I didn’t know what was going on or couldn’t do one of the exercises.
- Workouts are fun. The Bar Method is hard-core conditioning. If push-ups, planks, and crunches are your thing, this is for you.
- Special events. During my 2-plus months, the studio hosted several events including a new member challenge and a Winter Olympics Challenge. Both were fun for encouraging participation at the studio and I earned two pairs of grip socks.
- Convenient. This studio is in the Financial District of San Francisco, which is convenient for people who work in the area. They have early morning classes, lunch classes, and evening classes to suit people’s schedules. And you get a jam-packed workout in 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Limited variety of exercises. The classes follow a routine and exercises are pretty similar. You’re going to do pushups and planks in every class. There are multiple exercises per muscle group, but they’re not hugely different. I don’t mind it because I like conditioning, but if you crave lots of variety in your exercise, you’re not going to get it here.
- Limited cardio. The workouts are heavy conditioning classes. Although you raise your heart rate and sweat, it’s not aggressively aerobic. You’re better off swimming or running to build your aerobic endurance.
- Time. Do you have the time (and money) to commit to both The Bar Method and a gym membership to do more intensive cardio?
- Cost. The Bar Method is pricey. There’s no way around that one. More on this below.
The Nitty Gritty
Since I’m all about frugal living and stretching my dollars, affordability matters. Before I get into the details though, I should mention that I strongly believe in paying for things of value such as skilled services. The Bar Method provides a service, and with its quality instruction, should not be free. That said, here’s a price comparison of some workout methods:
- The Bar Method (new members): $55 for a 30-day unlimited pass from Groupon. I took 20 classes equaling $2.75 per class. That’s an amazing deal, although I know it’s not realistic long-term or sustainable for the studio. Once the 30 days were up, I signed up for the studio’s new member deal, which was $99 for 6 weeks of unlimited classes. Still a great deal depending on how often you attend class.
- The Bar Method (regular members): Classes range from as much as $30 for a single class to $21 per class with a class package. There’s an additional option of $199 for a month of unlimited classes, which can make things much cheaper depending on how often you go.
- The Dance Center: $15 for a single drop-in class. Classes can be as low as $9.50 per class depending on the class package that you purchase.
- ODC (dance studio): $15 for a single drop-in class. Classes can be as low as $9 per class depending on the type of class pass you purchase.
- Gym: $80 per month is average in my area.
You can see that The Bar Method is the most expensive of the options I listed. It’s probably no more expensive than other boutique studios of the same kind, but it’s significantly more than other workout methods.
Is it for you?
At first, I thought The Bar method might be for those who want a light workout or only for fit women. That’s not true at all. The Bar Method is for everyone. There are people of all abilities in my classes. There are pregnant women and even a few men who take classes regularly. The exercises can be modified to make them low-impact or more difficult based on the level of challenge you want.
The Bar Method is also great for those who need a supportive, fun atmosphere to get working out. I tell myself that after this many classes, I know a lot of the exercises and could replicate them myself at home with some weights and mats. Am I going to? Probably not. If you need classes to get you to workout, The Bar Method provides you motivation, accountability, and instruction.
I recommend giving The Bar Method a try if you’re interested in it. Find a deal to get started: Groupon, a buddy pass, a new client special, or something of that sort. Then go for a month or two and experience it for yourself. You may find that you really like it and want to continue. Or you may find that it’s not for you and you haven’t invested too much time or money into the experience.
Should I continue?
As for me, I’m undecided about whether or not to continue. I didn’t plan on continuing long-term when I first signed up, but I’ve experienced many benefits after only 2-plus months. I’m stronger and more toned. That’s carried over into other exercise and activities that I do. My clothes fit better. I feel more confident in my wedding dress. The class times are convenient for my schedule. And the workouts challenge me. I've come to love The Bar Method for what it offers me. I can’t wait to see how much progress I make after taking classes for 6 months or a year.
I’m just not sure how to justify paying $199 a month to exercise. I have a full-time job. I’m not in debt. I prioritize my savings. I also heavily prioritize my health and fitness. There’s no denying though that $1200 a year could go to other priorities. So what do you think? Should I continue?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice. Have you tried boutique workout studios such as The Bar Method? What did you like or dislike about them? What effect did the cost of these studios have on you? Did you stick with them and if so, for how long?