Not one to be happy with “just another trip to Toronto/Ontario”, I schedule myself to the hilt and try to do different things and especially things I can’t do but in Toronto. After this trip, I just can’t think of anything I want to do/anywhere I want to eat, so I don’t plan to be back until next year… but we’ll see!
I haven’t even tried the gamut of barre fitness in Vancouver: just Barre Fitness and ballet/barre offerings at other studios not remotely specializing in the discipline. I’ve wanted to try Bar Method on a two-week trial basis but haven’t found that suitable two-week period and, honestly, am just a bit scared of that school. :D Harbour Dance has a new Floor Barre class that I’d like to try where you lie on your back at the center and do barre work like tendus and battements (like shown in this 31:00 Youtube video). But it’s awkwardly scheduled right at 5:00 pm and that is when I leave work, if I’m on time.
I have all the time in the world (almost) while on vacation in Toronto so I could check out the two barre fitness studios that started up in the past few years (maybe even just last year) which otherwise were too far from the very core where I lived. I am very much a local-phile and thought Barreworks at Queen and Bathurst (2.2 km from work) to be far and The Extension Room (1.9 km from work the “wrong” way) to be even farther!
I created a login to the studio to purchase a single class and it turns out I could take advantage of their new client/first class offer. With one class paid for, I could use it to register for a class and I selected a Barreworks Mixed Level class at 5:00, their signature class. Barreworks uses mindbodyonline.com for class registration, which I’m used to from Barre Fitness and Chopra Yoga, very intuitive and a fine system to manage your schedule and view visit history.
I almost didn’t see Barreworks except I knew I overshot it when I reached Bathurst. In a heritage looking building, the sign is perched among baroque details high overhead. I climbed the three storeys of steep stairs, a test like that I feel every time I go to Harbour Dance!
The walk from work at King and Bay was estimated at 29 minutes but I broke it up with CNY shopping in Chinatown and the walk on Queen West between Spadina and Bathurst was really fast-I just don’t really like the neighborhood. Being so early, I could “sneak” back into the empty studios after I was given a new client tour, tweet and buy a beautiful water bottle.
Paul was subbing for Michaela for a few weeks and I raised my hand when he asked around in our intimate class of seven who hadn’t done Barreworks Mixed Level before. He was in shock I’d start off with this level class and I really didn’t know given the predominance of Mixed Level that the “starter” class was BarreBasics which, of all days, wasn’t offered that day. I don’t mention that I have over 30 barre classes and ballet under my belt. No point in setting up expectations. :p
Equipment used in a given class include 1-3-lb. weight Pilates balls, a resistance band and a fit ball. Cardio was interspersed throughout the class with step-touches and running/stutter stepping on the spot. I haven’t done a ballet run in a while so it was nice. Weights were also used throughout the class instead of in the beginning in concentrated arm resistance section in the beginning. We really blasted the arms with the resistance bands half way through the class, using the barre and then our weight to hold the band. Paul flowed the class so when the first part-the initial hump-was difficult, the rest of the time passed well.
The two week offer was described to me as I put my boots on-I like how we took off outside shoes at the door so the changing room was clean and dry. But of course I can’t do the two week trial because I wouldn’t ever visit for that long, or be downtown often enough to use it. I could definitely return on a single class basis when I’m downtown for the day. I know there’s no relation but it feels like a “sister” studio to what I’m used to!
The Extension Method at Extension Room
Two days later, I was back downtown but headed in the opposite direction from Bay, out to near King and Parliament to get to The Extension Room on Eastern. My Running Room group would often run out that way to get to Riverdale Park for hill repeats so heading in that direction is still tangled up in some angst for me!
I would have wanted to try two classes in the same day that I was downtown: EM Barre 101 at 12:30 and EM Developpe Ballet Sculpt at 5:30. But given the location, I didn’t think I wanted to hang out or head there twice in a day. I couldn’t pre-register for an individual class and found their website a little … circular, less intuitive to navigate. I was excited for such a cool sounding class – Developpe Sculpt.
The Extension Room is in the middle of a warehouse row extending one block and I almost missed it and had to backtrack and search hard for a door. A short flight of stairs brings you to an open studio capitalizing in the exposed concrete block wall painted white and creating a truly shabby chic decor. It felt like a city ballet studio and you get a great view of it at a long counter at one end of the space where you can register and at some times order from the juice bar.
Here were some of the thoughts running through my head during the challenging hour:
- Hundred squat Scovia? Try a thousand plies, using free weights–good thing I picked the wimpy pink one pounders.
- Shortest rest periods in between because the instructor sweetly carried on, no coddling!
- Plank time: Yay, high plank! … Oh, all these leg swings were in fact hard.
- We are finally laying down on the mat and a bridge is easy … not so when you add battements (rather, tendus in my case)–so I get get to try floor barre and it’s not easy!
While it’s not necessarily a permanent situation, I’m kind of glad for the Extension Room’s off-the-beaten path location. There’s no pretension and you just get a really hard workout. My 30+ barre classes and ballet really did not prepare me for it!