Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pure Barre and Piece

All hail to President's Day yesterday! Blessed be thy President's Day for it was good to have the day off from work in observance!!!

I took advantage of the extra time by knocking out my semiannual dentist appointment (and got the all-clear on my teeth, woo hoo!) Then, I trekked through the snow blizzard to the Bucktown neighborhood, where I met Lauren for a Pure Barre class. It was the first time "barre-ing" for both of us!

I was really excited about finally getting to try out a barre class. However, I was also a tinge nervous. Based on reading a host of online reviews, the consistent opinions were that the workouts were highly intense. There were also a lot of references to your muscles shaking during the workout, and to expect lingering soreness afterwards. The good news was that many folks agreed that if you attended the classes consistently, you would see great results very quickly. And I like results!

Allright... here we go.

This is a good representative sampling of the exercises we did during the class.

After warming up, we used light hand weights to do a series of arm exercises. We did a variety of floor exercises and stretches with and without a small rubber ball and/or a resistance tube. We rotated the floor exercises with various standing exercises that we performed using the barre to stabilize or hold ourselves.

The exercises mostly consisted of variations of tiny, controlled movements. For example, in a standing position you would extend one leg forward as high as possible, point the toe, and rotate that leg as if you were tracing the outside of a coin with your toe. Another example included standing in a plie with our heels raised, and then doing squats or pulses while holding that position, like this:


Some of the exercises were very challenging to maintain. My legs and various other muscles started shaking several times while I was struggling to maintain my form and keep going. Our instructor, Blake told us, "Don't be afraid of your muscles shaking. A shaking muscle is a changing muscle." Wow, was I feeling the burn! There were times where I couldn't hold the position any more and had to take a momentary break. At times it felt like the series of exercise repetitions would never end. It was energetic and fun but the exercise was very intense, indeed!

From an instructor standpoint, I thought Blake was fantastic. I found her very approachable, knowledgeable, and down-to-earth. Before the class started, she greeted everyone individually, introduced herself, and talked to each of us about our barre experience. During the class, she was very encouraging, addressed each of us by name, and put forth a lot of effort to ensure that we were using the correct form. She used a great selection of music during the class, where she tailored the musical selections based on whatever series of exercises we were doing. Then, after the class, she came by to find out our thoughts, make sure we were doing okay, and answer any questions.

The attendees at our class. Our instructor, Blake, is the one wearing the pink tights. I'm to the right of her in the turquoise shirt. Lauren is to the right of me in the fuschia tank top.

The workout aftermath? My glutes were feeling sore immediately after the workout. This morning, I woke up with soreness in my arms, back, and abs which I have been feeling all day.

I can definitely see why these barre classes are effective! The Pure Barre website says that "clients typically see the best results when they attend classes 3-4 times per week" but right now I am way too sore to think about attending that frequently. You'd definitely have to work up to that! But, what I love most about the class is that it is very low-impact. It really is perfect for runners like me who battle knee problems and would really benefit from great muscle-toning/strengthening workouts. (Check out Lauren's recap here.)

There was only one thing to do after a killer workout like that. Hit up one of the most popular pizza joints in the neighborhood.


I hadn't been to Piece in years, so it was great to check it out again. I mentioned to Lauren that I'd only ever been there at night, so it was cool getting to see it during the daytime. It is very laidback. There was a good mix of locals and families there, presumably because of the President's Day holiday.


Normally I am all about deep-dish pizza through and through, but Piece's thin-crust "New Haven-style" pizza is very delicious. Lauren and I both took advantage of their amazing lunch special to get customized individual pizzas. We hung out and talked about everything from running to laundry to travel bucket lists to shoes. It was a blast!

I really do love neighborhood joints, in general. Now I am getting more and more inspired to start checking out all that the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood has to offer.

In the meantime, bring on the next barre class! I am already looking forward to going back as soon as the schedule permits and after my soreness subsides a bit. Maybe next weekend? My burning muscles are gearing themselves up for round two!

29 comments:

  1. I love how you did this killer workout then finished the morning off with a pizza! Sounds like an ideal way to go! :)

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    1. Thanks, Pete! I chalk it up to being equivalent to the post-race beer that folks love after crossing the finish line of a good race. =D

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  2. Pizza post workout is the only way to go! And the workout was TOUGH! Parts of my arms (underworked before, I imagine) are still sore today!
    Thanks for getting me out to explore my own neighborhood, Em!

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    1. Lauren, that Piece pizza was SO GOOD. Addictingly good. If I lived as close to Piece as you do it would be very, very dangerous for me! Maybe at some point this month I'll even take the plunge and try that fried chicken pizza special? Thanks again for a super fun afternoon - it was so great to hang out and catch up on everything!!! I look forward to getting together again sometime very soon!!!

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  3. What a fun day! (minus the dentist, I hate the dentist!!!) I forget, do you work in the Loop? I would love to go at lunch to a Barre class!

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    1. Thanks, Katie! I am not a fan of the dentist either so it was really great to have an issue-free visit. =) I do work in the Loop, my office is at Monroe and Canal! Where is your office? I would love to get together over lunch for a fitness activity and/or just to catch up!!!

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  4. Yay! I'm glad you finally got to go! And you know, the best cure for muscle soreness is to keep working those muscles :-)

    Also, as a fan of thin crust pizza, I really want to go to Piece.

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    1. Thanks, Erin! Yes, it only took me two months to get moving on the Gilt City deal, LOL. I still need to schedule the Aerial Fitness class, too! Hopefully sometime over the next few weeks. And YES - as much as I would love to just sit on the couch to cure the muscle soreness, it is indeed better to keep moving. Sigh!

      Let's definitely go to Piece sometime! I think you would love the pizza and the atmosphere there!

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  5. D'oh! This post made me hungry for Chicago deep dish. *shakes fist*

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    1. LOL, please don't remind me. I have plenty of trouble fending off my daily deep dish cravings, too. =) BTW - what's the update on your plans to visit Chicago in April or early March?!?!?

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    2. Shamrock shuffle check and check! I'm running it with my sister, so I'm guessing we'll be at a 12min/mile pace. She usually 5Ks around 36 minutes or so. I'm excited ... and nervous! I didn't realize how huge that race gets!!

      And, btw, I will be getting her to partake in her first ever true Chicago deep dish since she's never been to Chicago. I can't wait ... just over a month away!!

      We're going to hit up the Skylounge for lunch after packet pickup and then wander Michigan in there somewhere (Navy Pier - check, Tall building to see Chicago skyline - check, shopping on Michigan - check). I think we'll also walk along the Lakeshore path at some point to see that, and of course the race starts by Buckingham Ftn (Lakeshore and millennial Park - check, check). Any other touristy suggestions? I've been to Chicago enough times that I can't really think of anything else that is a "must see" for a first timer.

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    3. So exciting! I do have to work that weekend (hence why I'm not able to Shamrock myself). But if time permits maybe we can try to meet up while you are in town, even if just for a little bit.

      If you need deep-dish pizza recommendations, let me know. =) I actually wrote a blog post about it awhile back: http://emmers712.blogspot.com/2012/03/pizza-pizza.html

      In terms of touristy suggestions, I think you've got the best ones covered! You probably won't have a ton of time to do much else, but if so I might suggest checking out some of the ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown or Pilsen. I would also suggest going to see an improv show (Second City is the most famous, but I love ComedySportz, and iO is really good, too). I might also suggest going to see some jazz or blues (Green Mill or Kingston Mines are both great picks), or some theater (www.broadwayinchicago.com). I've got a ton of other off-the-beaten-path things to suggest - just let me know what else you might be interested in. =)

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    4. BOO! You have to work?! Sh!tty!!

      Yeah, with it being my sister's first trip to Chicago, I figured we'd not have much other time once we hit the major stuff I noted above. She wants to hit the art museum if we have extra time, so I'm guessing we'll max out all the free time we have between Michigan and the art museum (plus a little extra time at Tiffany's for me - holla!!!)... and maybe save the show for next time (since I don't want to be out too late if we're running Sunday).

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    5. Yeah, I have to work one weekend per quarter for quarter-end close, and Shamrock happens to fall over that one weekend. Bad timing! I've been wanting to run Shamrock for years but this is the fourth year in a row that I had a conflict with the race date. Maybe next year the timing will work out!

      Oh yeah, the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art are both very cool! The weekend will go by in a flash for you. Yay for Tiffany's, I am excited to see if you find something there that you like. =)

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    6. Oh, I won't have a problem finding something I like. I WILL have a problem finding something I can AFFORD, though!

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  6. Way to earn that pizza! I've never done a Barre class. I was worried they were uber crowded like that first pic you posted. Glad to see yours was not!

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    1. Thanks, Marcia! I think you would enjoy a barre class. My fear was that everyone at the class would be a graceful ballerina but the attendees were all refreshingly "real." I was also worried that it would be super crowded, and am wondering if the blizzard on Monday impacted attendance? Will get a better idea at my next class!

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  7. Nice! I love Barre classes, but maybe just because they remind me so much of ballet :) Also I have yet to try Piece. I really need to go there.

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    1. Maggie, with your ballet experience I bet you would be a pro at barre classes! BTW, I am getting really inspired to try the burlesque classes that you posted about, too. I think you would love Piece! It is so laidback and chill. Let's definitely go sometime. And maybe we can start planning some pizza group runs!?!? Local fun runs in various neighborhoods, followed by a visit to a pizza joint!

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  8. So is the class pretty low on the intense cardio side - it's more holding moves? It kind of sounds like vertical yoga - super challenging moves that make you shaky!

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    1. Correct, the class is almost no cardio - it's all strength-training and toning exercises. I like the comparison to vertical yoga! It really is amazing how much just holding a certain pose, or making a very small movement, can work our muscles to complete and utter fatigue!!!

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  9. I've always been pretty curious about barre classes, but no one has ever really explained them like you did! Interesting.

    Also, I looooooove Piece :) Even more so as a beer drinker, since they brew their own, but their pizza is pretty tasty (since I'm partial to thin crust anyway). And it's only about 3-3.5 miles from me and Maggie, so I'm in for a run there! And a cab ride back.

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    1. I am glad that the detailed description was helpful! I was always very curious about barre classes myself, and likewise nobody had shared much detail about them to me, either. I had all these images of teeny tiny ballerinas wearing pointe shoes, so it was nice to see how down-to-earth and real the classes are in reality.

      Yay, Piece! I'm not a beer drinker, as you know, but it sure does look like they have an amazing lineup of beverages! Love the idea of going for a run there and then cabbing back. =) When summertime comes around, let's do it!!!

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  10. I tried Pure Barre once on a free class special. LOVED IT! My goal was to join the unlimted month for first time clients since it's cheaper but otherwise, it's so expensive, I can't see shelling out the money. I think I'm going to get it in March and go 2, maybe 3 times per week if I can.

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    1. Amanda! I actually had read your blog posting about your experience when you went, and found it really helpful. I completely agree that the classes are AMAZING, but definitely a bit too pricey for me (I got a discounted 5-pack of classes from Gilt City). But I MIGHT consider splurging on a membership in the wintertime when I won't be running as much. I wouldn't get enough out of it in the summertime since I'm more focused on half marathon training, et al. In the wintertime it would be much more feasible to go 2-3 times a week to justify the cost, for sure!

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  11. Here's my big question about pure barre: how do you pronounce it? Like candy bar or like the Fonz "bar-ehhh." It's just been bugging me for forever! Haha!

    This looks like not my type of thing, but after how I've glommed onto yoga, I actually do think I'd like it. It sounds intense, but I like intense. That sore feeling afterwards or the next day is my favorite!

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    1. That's a really good question! I always pronounce it like candy bar (not that I'm biased, of course ;-) ). But the spelling does make it sound like it it should be bar-ehh. Love the Fonz reference, that is spot on!

      I bet you'd love barre! It definitely worked a ton of muscles that I don't usually hit, which was a great feeling. I am getting more and more into cross-training these days for the feeling of being more strong all-around, instead of just in my running muscles. I love that sore feeling, too! Makes me feel like I accomplished something!!!

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  12. Wow, maybe I'll check it out once I am done training for my 50K.

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    1. I think you'd really enjoy Pure Barre! Definitely check it out when your training schedule permits! When is your 50K?!?

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