I’ve tried all sorts of workout routines, everything from running 5k races and a pricey gym membership to fitness classes and Jillian Michaels’ DVDs, but lately I’ve found myself in a rut. Too busy. Too bored. And well, with the holiday season upon us, I need something to help me deal with the stress. And the cookies.

Barre3 was created by workout guru Sadie Lincoln based on a workout she invented for her client Madonna (yes, that one), and first launched in Portland. It now has studios popping up all over the country, so when one opened in my ‘hood, I figured it was worth a try–and a review for you, if you’ve heard about barre workouts and are wondering if they’re for you.

Barre3 is the first of the trendy barre workouts that I’ve ever tried, other than actual ballet, which was a huge part of my life through college. Ballet experience is absolutely not a prerequisite for Barre3, which combines ballet barre, Pilates, and yoga in a very intense one-hour workout. It uses dynamic movement and isometric holds in what is one of the best low-impact, but still fat burning and muscle building, workouts I’ve ever tried.

Barre3 review: The Barre3 studio experience

The studios are super sleek and modern, with lockers for your items and childcare for an extra fee; so handy for moms who don’t want to have to get a sitter in order to attend class. You do need to register for classes (and childcare), either in person or online, although I imagine you could easily walk in depending how popular your studio is. At my first class, there were 20 women ready to go.

You take the class in regular work out clothes and bare feet, or you can purchase special socks if you feel more comfortable. The instructor takes you through a series of warm-ups, then various exercises that tend to follow a specific order: legs, combination arms and legs, seat work (your bottom), and then core, although the whole hour is really aimed to work your core. And oh does it.

Barre3 review: Photo of Barre3 class in Newtown, PA

The classes I’ve taken have been heavy on pilates, with a few yoga poses here and there. And surprisingly, the barre seems to be there only to hold you up doing certain exercises with no actual ballet barre exercises involved. That’s not necessarily a complaint, as I’ve enjoyed every class I’ve taken without it. I also imagine it depends on your teacher and how she likes to run her class.

What I love about the classes is that they are totally low-impact, with the instructor offering adaptations based on your ability and any special needs (bad knees, bad back, lighter weights, heavier weights) throughout. But wow, I still sweat and more importantly, feel the burn, or as they call them “shakes and quakes,” which is when your muscles are so tired they literally start shaking. The movements are not complicated nor do they require coordination of any kind, just lots of holding, and small, intense movements.

Barre3 Review: Hey, it's not just for moms

My favorite part is that because the workout is so challenging and requires a pretty high level of concentration to get through without flopping on the ground, my brain actually gets a workout too. I find myself completely focusing on the here and now, which is very rare these days. I leave feeling sore and sweaty, but also very grounded and clearheaded.

And because I’m so focused on my own shaking thighs and burning buns, I don’t even care about how I look or what anyone else is doing in the class, which I’ve found to be quite a rarity.

There is just no time to think about how my pooch looks in the double mirror.

The classes are a bit on the pricey side if you pay individually: $20 per 60-minute class at my center. Add in the cost of childcare ($5 per child at my center) and it’s certainly not cheap. Actually, if I had to put all four of my kids in childcare, I don’t think I’d be able to afford it. They have all sorts of special deals, though, whether it’s a monthly membership–which offers childcare discounts among other things–plus introductory offers; I purchased 3 classes for $30 and am currently on a $99/month unlimited class schedule now.

Also small pet peeve: In some cases, the movements aren’t coordinated with the music. As a dancer (and a musician), it’s a little annoying to me, but nothing that deters me from the classes. And again, it could be just the teachers I’ve had. I will say that my classes have always had awesome music, most of it is some combination of top 40 or club music, which really does help motivate me.

And because the classes are often so popular, you do need to think ahead and register online, which can be a blessing and a curse. This also means that if you have to *cancel fewer than 24 hours ahead of time, you will be charged for that class. I actually don’t mind having to plan out my week and register, but I do tend to do it the night before just in case. As we parents know, you could have a sick kid or a last-minute field trip and you wouldn’t want to have to pay for a class you can’t attend. If you’re not super organized and like to go when you like to go, this might not be for you.

*Editor’s note: Actually, you have up until one hour before the class starts to cancel without a penalty! 

Bottom Line: 

I’ve only been taking these classes for a couple of weeks, so I can’t say if I’ve lost a ton of weight (which isn’t really my goal, honestly). I do feel stronger and more focused, and yes, my pants do fit better. If you’re looking for an intense, low-impact workout that will help make you stronger and fitter, as well as distract you from the busyness of life, I’d definitely suggest giving Barre3 a try.

Visit the Barre3 to see if there’s a center near you.