“An associate teacher in training vomits from exhaustion and dehydration. PB training is no joke.”
Exercise has always been an important part of my life. I was in my local newspaper at the age of three for winning a gymnastics meet, lead campers as a summer camp counselor on four-day hiking excursions through Southern California, and have logged more hours bouncing and stepping in unison during aerobics classes than I can count.
Most recently, I fell in love with the lengthening and shape-defining moves of barre classes. So when America’s most prestigious and successful studio Pure Barre announced it was opening its first international location mere metres from my door in Toronto’s trendy Queen Street West neighborhood, I jumped at the opportunity to apply as an instructor. “Free classes!” I thought (if only that was the hardest part!).
From the application submission process to the grueling training schedule, here’s the true tale of how I became a certified barre instructor, and am mentally and physically so much stronger since.
First, a little background about Pure Barre: with over 400 locations across the United States and growing, along with with international expansion happening in Canada, too, it’s safe to say Pure Barre studios are determined to take over the barre scene. With an almost cult-like following (example: you have to wear their branded sticky socks to attend class, and participants revel in collecting every colour), I was told right from the get-go that “drinking the Koolaid” was imperative to getting on board.
The video audition
Step one of the process was meeting the studio owner over a brief chat. We discussed my background, which was limited to a longtime love of fitness, and was given a 10 minute scripted warm-up, which I was told to memorise and record myself reciting.
This video was sent off to Pure Barre’s corporate head office for review to determine whether or not I was worthy of enrolling in teacher training. Points were given for projection, a chipper attitude, and how closely the script was narrated from memory. (Memorisation, as I was to learn, is a major part of being a PB instructor.)
I passed this exam-video, which turned out to be the first of many tests. I was then given a Pure Barre DVD to practice with and a return ticket to South Carolina departing a few weeks later, where I would attend corporate teacher training over a four-day period.
Excited and so, so, so in the dark as to what I was about to get myself into, I tossed the DVD into a corner of my condo and kind of forget about it. I got a rude awaking a few days prior to my departure when I saw my itinerary and everything I was supposed to already know… Whoops, I was way behind already.
Training day 1
Immediately after arriving at the training facility in South Carolina, we took a class led by our corporate trainer. I felt energised, and thought, this isn’t so bad after all! But then a bomb went off in my head when I was given my training manual right after. What the? There was WAY too much information for me to process at one time. Words like beats, reps, counts, set-ups, choreography and demos danced derisively in my face and I kind of felt like crying for the first of what would be many times in my journey.
The next six hours were spent digesting logistics and taking turns practicing teaching choreography to one another, meaning we were basically working out all day long both physically and mentally.
We were repeatedly told every new instructor feels crazy overwhelmed at first and to relax. This didn’t help me feel better even a little bit; all my training associates had professional dance backgrounds and careers, move like water and can point their toes at least 45degrees more than I can. Why isn’t a more vigorous screening process necessary? I’m not qualified for this!
Training day 2
The next morning I woke up feeling a little, uh, not so star-like. I was still exhausted, but dragged myself to the training facility by 8am again nonetheless.
We started the day by observing a class taught by a master teacher (meaning, she can teach instructors all 5 levels of PB) and her students taking the classes were all level 3 or higher (I was training for level 1, of course). She was a petite and blonde Southern Belle who sprinkles “y’alls” into her dialogue, and looked ridiculously perfect while teaching. I found out she would be leading our training for the next two days, and felt intimidated. She was much more hands-on than our trainer the day before, and I found this type of training to work much better for me when translating to tactile learning.
But before I got the chance to feel a bit of relief, I learnt we have homework that night, which consisted of us each learning a chunk of class to teach from start to finish the following morning. Back in my hotel room, all I wanted to do was unwind, but I had an entire abdominal sequence made up of three exercises to memorise and teach in class tomorrow, so I reluctantly studied instead.
Training day 3
Day three of training began with observing another class taught by another master trainer, and then our group teaching our parts in the start-to-finish class. It’s really clunky; apart from memorising the exercises — and Pure Barre demands verbatim dialogue from the manual — we are also required to circulate the room and give students’ hands-on corrections, which means adjusting their form and paying attention to pulling the microphone away while directing; peppering in additional cues and motivational encouragement (also from a carefully edited list dictated by the manual, and personalising it by using student’s names); making eye contact but ensuring we’re not taking the student out of their zone; counting music beats to ensure the correct amount of reps for each move is performed (4 rounds of 8 musical beats = 16 reps); adjusting the lighting, music volume and song assigned per exercise; and demonstrating each move for exactly two reps after, again, verbatim, getting the students in the right position. Um, how am I supposed to do all this at once, while instructing a class — with a smile?
Later at our last supper, I indulged in Southern grits and a well-deserved glass of wine that I had honestly been dreaming of since day one. On the walk back to our hotel, an associate teacher in training vomits from exhaustion and dehydration. PB training is no joke.
Training day 4
The next morning was our final training day before flying home later that evening. We taught and got graded by our master trainer, and I was surprised to hear mostly positive feedback.
The training never ends
The aftermath of training was far more grueling than I could ever have imagined. In order for me to pass my certification, I had to teach a flawless class that was filmed and submitted to the corporate head office for review.
Three months after I returned from training camp, countless hours spend repeating, memorising and learning my “test-out class”, endless support from my fellow instructors and one failed attempt later, I passed and was certified to teach level 1 Pure Barre classes in the newly opened studio.
My career as a Pure Barre instructor, however, was a short-lived one. The expectation to memorise a 55-minute class from start to finish each and every time I taught a class was far more difficult and time-consuming that I bargained for. The pressure to perform all of the requirements while teaching ultimately took the joy of fitness and the fun out of it for me. I’ve since returned to the barre as a student here in Sydney, and am happy to say I’ve fallen in love all over again.
November 15, 20161:29pm