Editor’s note: This Vs. That is Travel Boulder’s weekly comparison guide designed to help you pick the activities, food, drinks, hotels and events that best fit your preferences. It’s like if a traditional newspaper review had a love child with Yelp, except always reliably researched and experienced firsthand by our local writers. Because sometimes you can best understand an option by seeing what it is not and by placing it side by side with something else.
If you’re looking to get active in Boulder, the opportunities are higher than the mountain tops. Boulder is packed with outdoor activities, from rock climbing to biking. But when the weather’s too cold or you’re just in the mood for a good indoor sweat, there are also tons of great fitness classes taught by world-class instructors. Among those: classes on the ballet barre.
Barre classes are so popular in Boulder that there are a handful of studios offering different options. And while the premise for these classes is the same — small, high-rep, isometric movements involving the barre, using some ballet conditioning concepts but no actual dance — each studio is a little bit different.
We decided to compare two of Boulder’s popular barre studios: Pure Barre vs. Bar Method. Here’s what makes them each unique. Enter: bar, er, barre hopping, Boulder style.
Pure Barre, located on the second floor of the Twenty Ninth Street Mall, 1750 29th St., claims to be a no-impact combo of ballet, Pilates and yoga. It includes isometric strengthening, as well as stretching to lengthen the muscles.
This description is similar to most barre classes. But the studio uses its own technique that’s slightly different than the others. Pure Barre was created by a dancer and Boulder’s co-owners and teachers are both former Nuggets dancers. Maybe that’s why it’s so musically driven. The music is upbeat and the instructors even increase the volume during extra tough stretches of class. The studio itself is cheerful and energetic.
Along with that, however, these classes move pretty fast. They claim to be modifiable for all levels, but expect to go, go, go without a break. Even for experienced athletes, Pure Barre provides a challenge. Luckily, the Boulder studio says it often places multiple instructors in a full class to help keep everyone safe.
The studio itself is small, with only one room and a bathroom in the back, although it offers an excellent boutique up front where you can buy grippy socks, workout clothes and Pure Barre paraphernalia. Since it’s located in the mall, the studio is also conveniently located steps away from fitness and fashion stores, coffee and tea shops and restaurants, including Protein Bar (a great post-workout fill-up station).
Parking can really suck here, though. Instead of driving circles around the mall, head straight to the free underground parking, where you’re more likely to find a space.
The demographic at Pure Barre is mostly women and tends to skew younger, drawing a lot of University of Colorado students (although you’ll see a decent range of ages and fitness levels in class, and everyone is welcome). Classes are often waitlisted, so plan ahead if you want to try.
Pure Barre’s biggest emphasis is core, although it is a full-body workout. It seems to spend more time in the middle of the room and off the barre, requiring more balance than other barre classes.
In addition to the regular class, Pure Barre offers a cardio-centric, faster-paced class using a step and ankle/wrist weights, as well as light hand weights. This new class, Pure Empower, was designed in Boulder and is now taught nationwide. Pure Empower is 45 minutes long and uses bigger movements than the classic class. Other classes may use tubing, a ball and a mat.
Bar Method, 2425 Canyon Blvd., is an older barre studio in Boulder, and it stems from the original barre-fitness class. Bar Method has been around for more than two decades, so it has a long reputation to pull from.
It uses the same principles as other barre classes, but Bar Method has an upscale atmosphere (the studio is crisp and clean, like a modern day spa). It also has a small but sophisticated locker room and locking cabinets for your belongings. While shopping is limited here (although it is located in a small strip mall), you can still pick up some Bar Method swag in the small lobby. Parking is free and ample. You’ll find plenty of restaurants within a short walking distance if hunger strikes after class.
The format is carefully calculated, the music tends to be a little quieter (although still energetic) and the fitness principles are all scientifically based: It brings muscle groups to total exhaustion before stretching them and then moving on to the next. Bar Method is especially detail-oriented, down to the gymnastics-style padding under the carpet to even further reduce impact on the joints.
For the demographic, the Bar Method tends to be so popular among brides-to-be that it offers special bridal packages and events. It draws a wide range of participants, mostly women.
The Bar Method’s format seems a little more specific than other studios, although exercises change daily. You will work the biggest muscles first, then abs and a final burst of bonus seat work. Equipment may include thick foam mats (different than yoga mats), light dumbbells, balls, straps and foam.
The Bar Method’s proven technique blends core strengthening, interval training and purposeful stretching, “all rooted, of course, in knowledge and collaboration with physical therapists,” says Amy Chesterson, of the Boulder studio. She adds what makes the studio stand out is “proven, undeniable results and lifer status commitment from our clients,” or at least as long as the studio has been open.
The Bar Method also offers a new Express class that uses the same fundamentals with a different format and new ab exercises, all exclusive to this 45-minute class. If you want a cardio boost, try the Bar Move class, which is faster paced, less predictable and with a more flexible sequence of exercises and less stretching. Bar Move is not an all levels class; some experience is required, which is great for the higher-level participants.
As a bonus, Bar Method’s one-time drop-in rate to try a class is cheaper: only $22, compared to $23.