Readers of this blog know that in the last year I've become a diehard Bar Method devotee, but last week I found myself cheating on the Bar Method to try the newest barre fitness studio in Vancouver, Pure Barre. This is Pure Barre's second location in Canada and its first in Vancouver, and in trying out the 55-minute class, I learned that not all barre workouts are created equal. So how does Pure Barre compare to my regular Bar Method classes? All the details are in an in-depth review after the jump!
A top that covers your midriff, bottoms that go past your knees (no shorts!), and grippy socks.
Class length & structure
A 55-minute Pure Barre class follows a fairly set structure like other barre workouts. There are warm-ups, followed by upper-body, thigh/seat and ab exercises, as well as core work on mats and cool-down stretches. The exercises target specific muscle groups, and intervals of intense activity are punctuated by stretches to recover and stretch out warm muscles. For the class, you'll need a mat, a rubber ball, a resistance band, and light weights—all provided by the studio.
Pure Barre is a much faster-paced barre class than I'm used to, with fewer interval breaks and more all-over exercises. In Bar Method, I usually work one muscle or muscle group to the point of fatigue/shaking for 2-minute intervals, then rest/recover with a stretch. However, in Pure Barre, it might be a 6-8 minute interval before the stretch comes. The exercises flow one right after another, often challenging multiple muscle groups at once and using much bigger movements. For example, during one set of crunches—where I was reaching opposite arms to opposite legs while scissoring my limbs in the air—I could feel my abs, obliques, and the insides of my legs working OT while sweat poured down my face. The next day my quads and core were definitely sore.
As studio owner Tanya Schneider explained after class, flow is the top priority in Pure Barre classes to keep heart rates up and students' minds engaged. Corrections are few and far between, and are always done hands-on or verbally with the microphone off. According to Pure Barre, it's normal to feel completely confused at first and it might take 3-4 classes to catch on to the choreography and structure. If you're really lost, they offer free monthly 75-minute workshops to break down proper form for each exercise.
The teaching style is probably what I disliked most about the class. I'm not the most body-aware and I like corrections and lots of verbal cues on what I should be doing. Take your gaze here, bring your navel to your spine to engage your abs, square your hips, layer on your breath—that sort of thing. Because Pure Barre exercises use bigger all-over body movements than Bar Method, I felt like I was at greater risk of having bad form and pulling something, which made me yearn for precise instructions even more. For these reasons, a first Pure Barre class can be more intimidating for newbies than a first Bar Method class.
Another thing that threw me off is the counting style. In Bar Method, instructors signpost how many reps you have and how much you have left to do (e.g. "Second to last thing," "Final 30 and you're done"), which I really like because I can anticipate how hard I need to push myself and for how long, and if there are just a couple more reps left in something I'll push harder because I know it's only for 10 or 20 more seconds. In Pure Barre, however, it feels like you go ad infinitum until at some point the instructor says "Final 10" out of nowhere. I found my concentration and motivation flagging during several of the exercises because I was gassing out and I had no idea how much longer I needed to last.
Sorry, Pure Barre, but Bar Method wins this one.
Pure Barre: Non-locking cubby-holes; two washrooms with some Saje aromatherapy products if you're in need of a refresh; no additional changing or shower facilities. I highly, highly recommend you arrive dressed and ready to go.
Bar Method: Individual lockers with built-in locks; fresh towels; 3 shower stalls with natural shampoo, conditioner and body wash; an entire changing area stocked with lotion, tissues, makeup remover wipes, dry shampoo, deodorant, and even heat styling tools.
The prices are slightly more affordable at Pure Barre. Drop-in classes at Pure Barre are $25. 5, 10, and 20-class packs are $110, $200 and $350, respectively. You can also purchase unlimited classes for 1 month ($225), 3 months ($200/month), 6 months ($190/month), and 12 months ($175/month). Additionally, there are specials for new clients ($99 for 1 month unlimited, students ($150 for 1 month unlimited), new moms ($450 for 3 months unlimited), and brides-to-be ($450 for 3 months unlimited).
The Kitsilano studio (1907 W. 4th Ave.) is a little out of my way as I work downtown and live in Mt. Pleasant. That being said, it's terrific for those who live in Kits within walking distance, and a second Pure Barre studio is set to open in more transit-friendly Yaletown later this year.
Pure Barre is a great option if you:
- Crave a faster pace and higher intensity in barre class.
- Don't require a lot of precise instruction to maintain good form.
- Live in Kits.
- Are used to going to and from exercise classes in workout gear.
Personally though, I prefer the teaching style and amenities at Bar Method, as well as its convenient location.