It may just look like a gray carpet, maybe closer to beige, but to me it’s magical. Today is my 250th Pure Barre class. In an hour I’ll get to sign the 250-Club barre, which hangs high on the wall, but first things first. Our instructor Rachel tells us its time for the 90-second plank.
I pop up onto my toes and lean against my forearms. I pull my abs in tight and try to relax my face, now a foot above this carpet I’ve come to know and love. Today I’ve got hand weights, and am squeezing a little red dodge ball between my thighs. I don’t know what the plank means to the women around me. Maybe to them it’s cake. It’s my fourth time this week. I have no idea how some of these chicks come every single day.
Our instructor Rachel is walking around me, checking my form. “Stay in this, you’re already at the 30-second mark,” she announces.
Rachel, blond and lovely, is one of my favorites. I can’t help having several favorites: Fawn, Keisha, Dana, Carly, Amy, Brittney and on and on. I should detest them for the work they make me do, but I need them. Some people might do well at home with exercise dvds. Not me. I need some peer pressure. I need the urgent voice of accountability in my ear. They may look nice enough, but they aren’t messing around. They know hard-core barre moves capable of making a Marine cry. The Pure Barre technique utilizes a ballet barre, isometric movements and stretching. After warming up, we focus on arms first, then thighs, seat and abs. During each segment we work a muscle group to the point of fatigue (flutter and shake) and then take a minute to stretch said muscle group.
Sometimes the instructor will stand next to me and offer encouragement, “Good Ina, Get it!” As in “get it girl.” I want to please them. They are always under the impression I can give them just a little bit more, and so I do. Instructor Keisha Vaughn (my favorite Macklemorette) is great at this. “Get it Ina, I see you – keep going — I see you.” Of course, Pure Barre instructors don’t need eyes on the back of their heads because there are mirrors on every wall. They always see you.
My shoulders are shaking. I push my forearms deeper into the carpet. I do my best to hold in my abs, and the four-letter word on my lips. Gravity is such a bitch right now. Carpet, carpet, I remind myself. I can see it’s really several colors braided together. I stare down at its intricate dance, brown and tan weaved through rust and teal. And the beige is there, too, dipping and twirling. Of course, nothing is really as it seems. Beige is never beige.
I love the place my mind goes to when I’m in this state. They call it the mind-body connection. It’s being so focused in the moment that anything is possible. Sometimes I hear the whisperings of the muse. I’ve come up with some of my best dialog while zoning into this carpet. The universe downloads the answers to my biggest questions.
“You came here to finish,” Rachel reminds us.
There are many barre-isms, but this is my favorite. I can’t help but smile, something I do often these days. I see stress for what it is now. I am most definitely better to myself. I have early-onset “DGAFism” usually reserved for the elderly. I don’t give an F about the little things, which used to bog me down. I’m often inappropriately happy, and now you know why.
“And, just 30 more seconds.”
Hell yes. The last 30 seconds are always the easiest. Once I make it to this point, I never fall to my knees. Never. I’m golden. I pull my abs tight and rock back against my toes.
Pure Barre is all about controlled grace. It’s about embracing the mind-body connection.
“You are stronger than you think you are,” Rachel says.
Damn straight. I look over and see the Ina in the side mirror. I don’t know which of us smiles first, but its mutual.
“Stay in this,” Rachel says. “1-2-3-4 —5——6——–7. The sound of seven hangs on the air. Damn. She’s such a tease.
“8-9 and 10.”
Victory. My knees hit the carpet and I indulge in a two-second stretch. I deserve it.
Note: Rachel took this picture after class. It is the only time I have ever smiled during the plank. Much love to Sami and Brandon Sweeney, who own and operate the three (soon to be four) Seattle-area Pure Barre studios; and to Meredith my favorite barre-tender. http://purebarre.com