As a person who strives to do the basic minimum during a workout, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself sweaty and exhausted after attending an exercise class at the new Barre3 studio on Chapala Street, where owner Mindy Sofro incorporates Pilates, yoga, and ballet moves into a complete body workout. The hour-long class never felt tough and went by much faster than expected, but I felt simultaneously drained, energized, and motivated to return when it was over.
Sofro’s studio opened last month, but the Barre3 technique — which combines dynamic movements and isometric holds to create low-impact but highly efficient workouts — was originally developed in 2008 by Sadie Lincoln, who first began teaching fitness 20 years ago. Intended to burn fat while building muscle, classes are taught alongside upbeat, energetic music and incorporate a variety of techniques rather than following a monotonous routine. Participants do moves on a ballet bar, for instance, lift weights, and even use yoga mats on the floor. Instructors present multiple variations of each workout, so people of all fitness levels can participate. Some exercises are easier for those with prior dance or yoga experience, but classes cater to athletes, beginners, and even people working through physical injuries.
After an energizing warm-up, Sofro steadily progressed my class from easier exercises to ones requiring more concentration. In addition to offering variations on each move, she encouraged us to pause and take breaks when needed — an offer I took her up on a few times. The workout continually shifted through different parts of the body, allowing certain areas to rest intermittently, so I was able to tone multiple muscle groups without wearing myself out entirely. The exercises definitely pushed me to my limit, especially since I tend to focus on cardio rather than strengthening my core, but I never felt intimidated. In fact, by the yoga-posing cooldown at the end, I felt pretty accomplished.
The new Santa Barbara location at 761 Chapala Street, one of more than 70 nationwide, offers classes daily, but there are also 200-plus streaming workouts online, accessed with a monthly subscription. See barre3.com.