As I mentioned in my last post, finding dynamic exercise classes in east Texas has been tough. We have a couple of yoga spots, a pilates studio that basically only offers super expensive private training, I think like a CrossFit gym that I might try, and then just normal gyms mainly with cardio rooms and any extra group exercise classes cost like $85 a month. Nothing offers Les Mills-type classes, with pounding music and a super peppy motivating instructor.

So as I am wont to do, I started Google searching around Dallas. Courtney has been raving and swearing by Barre, which I never went to with her at home because “ugh, taking cheap public transit a whole 30 minutes downtown for one class?”

Well, try 170 miles round trip by car.

Design District in Dallas
Design District in Dallas

I was getting a little too cozy at home. A little too content with my comfort zone, my safe and familiar gym down the block, with my safe and familiar Body Pump class. Enter moving to Texas with a new job and the world at my feet to conquer. For the most part I am so much more energized. I’m in a brand new part of the world and I want to taste it all.

So when I found The Barre Code online, and took in their sleek website design, communal mantra “Live by the Barre Code,” and their active social media presence, it was like a desert wanderer seeing water for the first time in weeks. I wanted in on the club. A first-timer’s single class was just $15, so I signed right up! It would take my ENTIRE Wednesday night to do this 50-minute long class, but I guess that’s just how bad my itch was for a good ass-kicking workout.

image2Now, imagine you’ve been immersed in the country for most of the last 6 weeks, and that bustling metropolis has always made you nervous. Imagine that you fled Bethesda (6 out of the 25 on that list are within a 30 mile radius of the house I grew up in) on purpose, with its stuffy self-importance and designer labels. Now imagine arriving in the Design District of Dallas, known for its luxury lofts, fashionable young professionals, and chic boutiques. …Sounds exactly like Bethesda.

Intimidating, as luxury and fashion often are, but nothing I hadn’t faced down before. Bring it on, luxury Dallas. This Montgomery County-raised girl can play along.

I hydrated around the corner at a convenience store and then went back to “Trinity Loft” to face my fate.

My first Barre class.

image3I could hear the coaching from outside. Seeing girls walk in, I saw how loose their sweatshirts hung, how sculpted their biceps were, how blond their hair was and how bouncy their ponytails. It was like I was seeing every girl at brunch in Bethesda after Sunday morning Pilates parade past me. Do it for the story, I told myself. I changed into my workout clothes in my car and with the last knot of my shoelaces, marched into The Barre Code with all the self-assurance a pretty, highly educated east coast girl raised in a rich zip code would be expected to be able to muster up.

I braced myself for the judgment, the side glances, the forced friendliness I’m so used to encountering in Montgomery County and DC, as a size 12-14 should-I-shop-plus-size-or-squeeze-into-the-largest-regular-size curvy, fleshy girl.

I found none of it.

The first thing I saw walking in was a skinny, sculpted girl laboring over tricep kickbacks with a 2 pound hand weight. Okay, yay, it’s universally torturous! I thought! Even the skinny sculpted ones have trouble! Wait, why am I excited about this? What have I done?! 

A girl around my age greeted me. “Is this your first time?” she asked, alert to my deer-in-headlights face. Another woman was filling out the “first timer” waiver so the idea of “the same clique meets here all the time and you’re the new girl” quickly went out the window as I was shown around the studio, to the lockers, the changing rooms, the bathroom. Everything was sleek and exciting looking. Clean! Shiny! Upkept! Not rusty or falling apart like the “antique shops” aka sometimes hoarders giving up on their lawns you see every 2 miles in east Texas.

Front area, waiting for the previous class to let out
Front area, waiting for the previous class to let out

Less cliquey and more peppy community, the front area was selling Barre Code loyalty tank tops, things like “Live by the Code” and “BarreBees.” Obviously very female-centric, screaming to be worn for an Instagram selfie. I mean, I love this shit. I was already wondering if I was going to regret making the long drive only to fall in love and into a long-distance relationship.

This is what I need. A community. Something to get pumped up about. They had a chalkboard of winners of a Spring It On Challenge, where you tried to go to as many Barre classes as possible in a short amount of time and the winners won Lorna Jane gift cards. (Side note: Lorna Jane’s price tags make me laugh OUT LOUD, but secretly I want it all, I’d be ALL about winning a $100 gift card. Damn it why can’t we have these things in Tyler!)

When class was ready to begin, we filed into the studio. There it was, the famed “barre” itself. Girls spread around in front of the mirrors, setting up their resistance bands and small hand weights. I was relieved that the most weight for these were 3-pounders. Psh, I thought. I can handle this. Body Pump is like 10 times this weight when I’m going light. 

Oh, naivete.

Trying to pick an open spot at the Barre, I noticed the motivational sayings decal’d across the mirrors. Innocuous things like “NEVER GIVE UP” and “DIG DEEP.” Less appealing “motivation” like “EARN YOUR BODY.” (I tried not to be affronted and launch into a self-love and bodily acceptance tirade in my head and simply choose a different mirror.) I settled on “Find Your Strong.” All the sayings alternated pink and black, except for one mirror designated, “Instructor.” How tidy! How effective! I was ready!

Girls started stretching out, some looking like ballerinas and I began to wonder if maybe “Barre Code” was actual ballet. Hesitantly sitting on my sits bones in front of the mirror, I noticed a girl toothpick thin wearing a tank top hanging loosely from her reading “FUEL UP.” Feeling like a chubby baby in my tight, unflattering workout clothes, which forgave nothing in a seated position, I dubiously wondered what she ate to “FUEL UP.” I told myself to stop. I was fine. That girl’s journey is none of my business. Besides, I look fine standing up.

I'd felt so fit standing up walking in!
I’d felt so fit standing up walking in!

I soon began to suspect that the woman at the mirror to my left was also a first-timer, and the girl to my right was so focused on her own stretching I saw no skeptical glances sent my way. Where was the Bethesda-esque judgment? Even the North Dallas judgment I’d felt walking around North Park Center on Sunday in less than fancy clothes? Not in the Barre Code Design District studio, that’s for sure.

Class began.

My first Barre Code class, by the numbers:

Minutes class lasted: 50
Minutes elapsed before I thought about giving up: 2
Minutes elapsed before I thought I might puke: 3
Minutes elapsed for each body part set: approximately 8
Number of muscles worked on: all of them except maybe eyebrow muscles
Number of reps I could do before everything began to shake: approximately 4
Number of times I thought “THIS IS SO AWESOME”: 48
Number of times I thought “WILL THIS EVER END?!” 48
Number of times I was grateful to our instructor, whose name I think was Julie: 72,172
Percentage I was sure I was being converted to some kind of Barre religion: approximately 78
Percentage I was sure I was hooked: 100
Hours it took for me to sign up for my next class: 24
Days left until I drive 170 miles round trip for another 50 minute ass-whooping: 5

Everything we did, I had to stop to take a break before I fainted or puked. I never felt judged or like a failure for not being able to last a whole set, even when Julie (?) pep-talked us into “doing this for [us], this time is for [us], nobody else.” I knew, like Body Pump, that if I continue to go regularly as a supplement to my running, I am going to get into amazing shape.

Every set we did managed to be designed just right for everything I need to target the kind of conditioning I need to prevent running injuries I’m prone to.

During our ab exercises I could feel the exact muscles Hiza showed me on a diagram were my weakest, the ones that are the most important stabilizers for a runner when she plants her foot.

When my quads and thighs shook like leaves from the combination of squatting and raising on tiptoes, all I could see was me conquering hill running like Rocky.

At the beginning of class my arms had looked like puffy pastries. Nothing had actually visibly changed in the 50 minutes since class began but suddenly looking in the mirror I saw, instead of criticisms, bare skin glistening in sweat that had just stuck out 50 minutes of an ass kicking. I felt like a beast.

Image credit Barre Code Facebook page. I still chafe at the phrase "earn our bodies," but I'll ignore it in favor of the other positivity.
Image credit Barre Code Facebook page. I still chafe at the phrase “earn our bodies,” but I’ll ignore it in favor of the other positivity.

I chatted with the owner and the instructor for a bit after class, telling them how much I’d enjoyed getting my ass completely whooped, while they in turn marveled that I’d come so far just to try their studio. They even gave me a shoutout on Twitter later — talk about great audience engagement. They are really rocking their social media.

Not wanting to ruin the night’s gift to my body on Waffle House on the drive home to good ol’ east Texas, I did a quick Google search of “vegan restaurants in Dallas,” and came up with a “best vegetarian spots in Dallas” guide that listed a spot I recognized as being in the same neighborhood as where the studio was.

image85 minutes later I was seated on its porch and 5 minutes after that, had three vegetable-stuffed soft tacos in front of me that I devoured. It was delicious and I was so content in that moment. Post-workout high, gorgeous night, the triumph of tracking down something I’d been craving (trying something new fitness-wise) and facing down something intimidating (reminders of everything I left MoCo over) only to find it not there at all (down-to-earth, friendly Dallas girls in the stead of, well, unfriendly, privileged MoCo girls).

I’m already looking forward to next week.

On that note, please send gas money.