Sitting here on the eve of my 1,000th Barre Code class and I’m feeling more grateful than ever for this community of barre babes. If you would have asked me at the start of my journey where I thought I would be after 1,000 classes at the Barre Code, I probably would have focused on the physical aspect of my achievement. I would have said something like, “I’ll be in the best shape of my life!” Or, “down 10 pounds.” Am I in the best shape of my life? No. Have I lost ten pounds? No. Do I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life both mentally and physically? Absolutely.
The Barre Code has been a key component on the path to gaining my self-confidence back, and a positive relationship with my fitness routine. Five years. 1000 classes. Over 54% of the days in my year I’ve chosen to start or end my day with my sweaty sisterhood, and 1,000 classes later; I’ve gained more mental strength from this physical workout than I ever could have thought imaginable.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve tried to incorporate fitness into my daily routine, but I’ll be honest. At first, my fitness goal was focused on one thing: losing weight. I felt like I had to do hours of high-intensity cardio to achieve what I wanted, the perfect body. The problem was that in my mind the “perfect body” didn’t include my body shape in the definition. No matter how hard I tried or matter how hard I exercised, I was never good enough because I couldn’t replicate what I saw in the media. This created an unhealthy relationship with my fitness routine.
I signed up for my first 5K my senior year of college. My roommate was a big runner; so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Surprisingly, I faired pretty well during my first race and managed to finish in about 32 minutes. I was determined to get better and train more. Over the next year or so, I got really into it. I went to a fancy running store to get fitted for shoes, did every 5K I could, and even ran a half marathon. Seems great right? The problem is, I dreaded almost every run. If I was aching, sore, tired, it didn’t matter. I would run anyway and I hated every second of it. I focused on the miles I ran, the calories I burned, and pushing myself to exhaustion while aiming towards perfection. I would always feel accomplished after a run, but I was left feeling like I was missing something. I never felt the so-called “runners high” or the euphoria as my feet pounded the pavement. I tried to supplement running with yoga, but that wasn’t really for me. I could never get into the flow and I would leave class wanting more.
Then I found the Barre Code. When I found The Barre Code I was at a pivotal point in my twenties where I was starting to wonder what I really wanted out of my life. I had always held myself back from trying new things because I was scared of failing and scared of putting myself out there to be judged by others. At the time I was really unhappy in my relationship; so I focused my energy into working on myself. I happened to drive by the studio on my way to work, and when I got to my office I signed up for a class the next day. Barre had been something I wanted to try because I danced competitively in high school. Dance brought so much joy and energy to my life and was hoping that barre could do the same.
My first class was the traditional barre code class that focuses on four main muscle groups: arms, core, thighs, and booty. Before the class was over I practically ran out of the studio to sign up for a monthly membership. Over the next 30 days, I tried all the different class styles and slowly started going to the Barre Code more days than I wasn’t going. One day a few months into my new routine, I sat back and thought how much this group fitness class had changed my mentality towards working out. I didn’t track my calories, or how many steps I had. I went to the Barre Code 4-5 days a week because I actually enjoyed it. This was such an important mental shift for me. Because I had been chained to my runs for so long, I had never known what it was like to love fitness for how it made me feel both mentally and physically.
This positive relationship I had created with my new fitness routine was a huge catalyst in my mental health. Not only was sweating every day great to shake out my nervous energy, but I was genuinely happy to be in class nearly every day. My mind was preoccupied with this new love for barre and I no longer had time to obsess over my weight or appearance.
The energy and joy I felt during my first class is the same feeling I had this morning during my 1,000th class. There is something so powerful about sweating alongside an amazing group of women who focus on uplifting each other versus tearing each other down. The crazy part is, I almost didn’t go to that first class because I was nervous. Now, I can’t imagine my life without the Barre Code! Saying yes to vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness; and out of vulnerability often comes the greatest joys in our lives.
When I look in the mirror today I love what I see. Not because I have an 8-pack (PSA: I do NOT have abs, mostly because bagels and wine), or because my arms are super toned, but because the Barre Code has taught me over the past five years to love myself again. They taught me it’s not selfish to spend 200 hours a year focusing on yourself and that I should be thankful for my body. My workouts at the Barre Code are not a punishment. Actually, they are a way of saying thank you to my body for all that it does for me each and every day.
I’m sharing my fitness journey with you during Mental Health Awareness month because group exercise was a huge catalyst in my mental health journey. Our physical health and mental health are extremely connected. That 50 minutes I spend each day focusing on myself sets the tone for my entire day. Barre is not for everyone, and that’s okay. Group fitness might not be your thing, and that’s okay too. Some people prefer to run or workout at home; while others prefer boxing or cycling. There isn’t one way to exercise and fitness is not a one size fits all. You have to want to go because you like it, not because you are punishing yourself for the cookie you ate yesterday.
I challenge you to get out there and get your heart rate up in honor of mental health awareness. Whether that’s at a barre class, running outside or doing some push ups while you watch Game of Thrones. If you slowly start to think about your mental and physical health as one, you’ll see how connected they really are.