For those of you who were fortunate enough to grow up with an abundance of physical activity, you may not be able to fully appreciate how hard it can be for those who view exercise as a chore. Nowadays, exercise is a big and enjoyable part of my life, but it wasn’t always this way. When it comes to exercise, as cliché as it sounds, it’s important to just find what you love (…or, you know, at least can tolerate to a reasonable degree) and stick with it.
Today, I am writing this post to you on the completion of my 100th barre class (other milestones at this studio include 350, 500, and even 1,000 classes taken, which a small few have actually achieved!). For me, reaching this number was both a physical and mental journey.
Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to enjoy exercise. I watched a lot of anime shows in elementary school (like Dragon Ball Z, for example), which showcased feats of (totally-unrealistic) human physicality and positively formed my view of physical exertion. Despite my optimism, my ability to translate aspirations into action was poor. The only time I really exercised when I was younger was when I had whichever sports practice I was participating in at the time. In gym class, I remember growing anxious when physical fitness evaluations such as the PACER test, the Presidential Fitness Test, and even just running a mile (four whole laps around the track) were announced. In high school, when we were training for an in-class triathlon, which consisted of eight-lengths of the front crawl in the pool, two laps around the track, and then a short bike ride around the high school, I vomited in the bushes after the first event.
I’m in a much better place today as far as my physical health is concerned and that didn’t happen overnight. It took years of starting, stopping, and starting again. I went through running phases, yoga phases (more here) and an obsessive gym phase in grad school when I would roll out of bed at 5:30am like clockwork.
When it comes to committing to an exercise routine, in my experience, I’ve learned that the most successful arrangements are those that 1. fit into the rest of your overall schedule, and 2. you love. For me, this exercise was barre.
What is barre class? In a previous post (more here), I explained that barre is a total-body workout focused on low-weight (or bodyweight)-high-repetition exercises. Barre is hard for beginners at first, as the high repetitions can easily make ones out-of-practice limbs shake from exhaustion. If your muscles are unfamiliar with the movements, then, you will also feel very sore the next day. While the struggle can be discouraging, it is important to remember that exercise is supposed to be hard and first impressions can be tough. In my experience trying some new exercise not once but two or three times can better help you gauge whether the exercise is right for you.
For me, my relationship with barre classes was not a love-at-first-sight affair. The studio that I initially went to didn’t offer classes that were amenable to my schedule and I found that the classes often filled up quickly, which meant the agony and frustration of waitlists. Because I didn’t “love” barre at that point, I decided that the membership wasn’t worth the price or the hassle, so I abandoned the endeavor altogether. However, several months later, remembering the “good pain” of the barre exercises, I explored other studios in the Boston area. I was lucky enough to find a place offering a new client special, so I signed up. Like before, I enjoyed the class, but also found the schedule to be a better fit for me. Although I didn’t really intend to sign up for a full subscription after the trial period, I decided I didn’t want to keep searching for fitness classes, so I bit the bullet (and luckily there were even student discounts available!) and now I’m a full member.
Now, at 100 (!!) classes in, I can really see how far I’ve come. Although I don’t look too different, it is clear to me how much fitter I am (my pushups are on point, quite frankly). I do barre classes a few times a week now and whenever I see new students in the classes who are struggling, I telepathically send them messages of encouragement, because it will be okay (as long as one’s form is right; if one’s form is wrong, one will injure oneself).
If you are interested in improving your physical health, I hope you will keep searching until you find something that works for you! Then, when you find that thing, I hope you will stick with it, because it will be worth it 🙂 .