Q&A: Pure Barre’s Rachel Roberts

From the bar exam to barre classes, Rachel Roberts gets a leg up on the fitness industry.

Image via Pure Barre Newton Facebook.

Roberts owns two studios, including Pure Barre Newton. Image via Pure Barre Facebook.

Barre classes have some serious body transforming capabilities. The ballet-inspired workout uses isometric exercises, plies, tucks, leg lifts, and more muscle shaking movements to provide the long and lean dancer’s body that we all crave. We asked Rachel Roberts, owner of Pure Barre Newton and Pure Barre Wellesley, why she loves barre classes, how she transitioned into the barre world, and the lowdown on the many men at her studio (she swears they’re some of her most dedicated customers).

How did you get hooked on barre workouts?

I was a college soccer player at Brown University, and fitness and sports had always been a big part of my life. After college, I struggled to find a fitness regiment that worked as well as playing sports. I was living in Colorado at the time, which is where the Pure Barre headquarters are. I have to admit, I was skeptical of a class that I perceived to be “L.A.”, and I didn’t respect how hard or effective the workout could be. But I took a class and it was a game changer for me. I loved it.

Why did you decide to open a Pure Barre studio in the Boston area?

I have a law degree and I pursued that for a while, but it wasn’t a good match for my personality. I’m active and I love working with people. I love having different facets to my job. At the time, I was ready to move to Boston, which is where I am originally from, so I applied to open a location here. That was over two years ago, and my studio was the first in New England, basically the first studio on the East Coast. I simultaneously trained to teach, and although I love teaching, I knew that it wouldn’t be my focus. I was going to run the studio. I felt that I really understood the complexity of women’s relationships with exercise and with their bodies, and my main goal was to create an environment where people could see results but would also feel included. My studios have no pretentiousness or attitude. It’s just great community.

Why is barre a great workout?

Barre workouts are based in ballet and they are all about small, isometric movements. The classes are very low impact, but they are still an incredible workout. The idea is that very small movements tighten and strengthen the muscles to create a lean physique. The general results of the workouts are long, lean muscles. People immediately start to stand taller when they start practicing Barre. Their posture improves, they get stronger, and the shape of their body changes quickly. Over time, people feel stronger in their core, which improves balance and helps back pain. Marathon runners say it makes their legs stronger. People come for weight loss, for cross-training, and for community.

How hard are the classes? Will beginners feel welcome?

Barre is pretty difficult, but people of different fitness levels can all work in the same class. The best part is that you can push yourself to your own limits and bring your muscles to fatigue. It’s up to you how hard you work. So while it’s difficult, it’s doable for everyone. We always say that if you can hold the barre, you can do the workout.

What’s the best part of a barre workout?

Hands down the best parts of barre workouts at my studios are the men and women who make up the community. They’re friendly, warm, loving people. There are friendships that started before they came to these classes, and there are friendships that started because of Pure Barre. I’ll go down to Starbucks after class and see unlikely pairings, two women—one 20 and one 62, and they meet for coffee after class each week. Barre transcends all other categories of age and occupation which is really cool.

You really have male clients?

Some of our most committed clients, people who come almost every day, are guys. But yes, men certainly are in the minority. Your gender doesn’t matter when it comes to the benefits of these classes, though!

What do you love most about barre classes?

Personally, I think that barre is the most complete workout I’ve ever done. I’ve never found a workout that’s more comprehensive. I push myself very hard during barre workouts, and I find that I’m getting cardio, strength, and flexibility work. I love being active outdoors and I love playing sports, but my workouts now are almost 100 percent at the barre. The concept of time off is kind of lost on me at this point because my studios are open from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., seven days per week. I’m busy in a good way, but let’s be honest— the fitness industry is an industry that never sleeps!