barre3 & the email that changed my life

One year ago today I sent an email that changed my life.

via rachelthecat on Instagram

That’s crazy, right?

One year ago, I decided to start reaching out and facing my fears – to challenge growth in my body, mind and soul.

I walked by the unopened studio on Lakewood Ranch Main Street with its bright orange paper and mysterious logo covering the window front. “barre3…where ballet barre meets yoga and pilates. Coming soon!”

I had been exercising on and off at my local gym for the last 8 months or so. Some circuit training, the elliptical machine, a few spin classes (that I stopped because the new instructor kept the lights on and I didn’t like people seeing me sweaty and not keeping up.)
The little bit of exercise I was doing here and there was the fearful kind – the “please don’t look at me” type. My experience with yoga: I knew only what a child’s pose was. Pilates: I tried it once when I was in middle school and gave up within minutes, announcing it was way too hard for me. Ballet barre: I once learned a hip-hop dance for a church play.

I had not even considered taking a yoga class at the gym, or dance lessons, or trying a pilates DVD. But for some strange reason, that studio front that I couldn’t even see into appealed to me in a weird and surprising way. My interest was peaked.

I looked the studio up on Facebook and found a free community class out on the lawn for Saturday, February 7th. The entire week leading up to it, I turned it around and around in my head…and in the knot in my stomach. In my gut I knew this was something I needed to try – although I couldn’t quite tell you why. The day before I almost cancelled my reservation to attend. But instead I chose to send a nervously written email and hoped I would find some reassurance.

I did receive a reply, two hours after I sent mine – from someone I would meet the next day and learn her name was Beth. I learned that because I was reassured – and I showed up.

I arrived 15 minutes early and parked my car. I could see their table set up on the lawn with yoga mats in the grass. There was a woman standing behind the table but no one else seemed to have arrived yet. I clutched my yoga mat and sat. I started to panic. Thoughts of “why are you doing this” “this is crazy” “also, stupid” “you’re too fat and out of shape for this” “you’re going to embarrass yourself” – these are the mean things I couldn’t stop from resonating in my head. My hands were shaking and tears started to fall on my cheeks. I put the key in the ignition to peel out and go home.

“Stay.” I felt inside. I knew I couldn’t drive away now – I couldn’t let myself down. Somehow I knew I would regret it later, giving up so easily.

I got out of my car as other ladies had started laying out their yoga mats and stretching gracefully in the chilly morning air. I rolled my mat out at the very back of the grass – so far back I was 6 inches from the sidewalk. I tentatively approached the table, and met Beth.

Beth knew who I was as soon as I gave her my name, and her warmth was contagious. She told me that she was going to teach with levels and modifications and that I should feel comfortable taking breaks if needed and working at my own pace.

I said as few of words as possible and found my spot in the back again.

The class was hard. I had no idea what I was doing. We did something called a “crescent lunge” and I thought I was going to die. (Note – crescent lunge still slays me!) At one point we held a plank – and by that I mean, everyone held a plank and I just kind of sat there and got teary-eyed because I couldn’t. I had woken that morning with my usual level of pain – hurting enough that I couldn’t forget it, each movement I made aggravating it. I had misty eyes through most of the hour. At the beginning it was from frustration and shame – but as we moved throughout the workout, my emotions changed. I started to realize that even though I was struggling, that this was okay for me. Beth came over to my mat several times throughout and offered me quiet and quick little modifications every time I started to feel a twinge of negative pain.
By the time we had reached our cool-down and we took our three closing, cleansing breaths, I felt an unexpected emotion – raw vulnerability. I had done it – I had worked out for a full hour. With those three breaths I breathed out so much shame, self-doubt and hate. I found a little bit of love for my body. And the craziest thing of all – my pain was almost gone.

I sat there on my mat in awe. It is no exaggeration for me to tell you that my troublesome back, neck and shoulders felt better than they had in years. I had more range of movement than I could remember having since I was young – my stiff joints had loosened and I felt somehow one hundred times more comfortable in my skin.

I was sold. The next morning I signed up for the founding client membership when it came through my email inbox – even though it was a stretch for our budget, I told my husband – “it’s amazing. I’ve never felt this good. I think this might just work for me.”

The next Saturday was their final free class – and I walked (although shyly) with a little more confidence up to the grass. A little lady bounced up to me and enthusiastically shook my hand and introduced herself as Paulina. Beth told me this was her business partner. They treated me like a dear friend – and this time, I didn’t even tear up once.

At the end of the class – Beth mentioned they would be opening on March 2nd, and they would be offering free classes all week and they would have childcare available as well. Without thinking, I approached Beth and asked her if they happened to be in need of any help for their childcare. “That’s actually what I do. I’m a preschool teacher and nanny,” I told her.

She almost squealed as she told me that yes in fact they did – and she would love to talk to me. She said if I could stop by the studio on Monday morning that would be perfect.

So Monday morning, I met her at the studio. The door was barely cracked as she was expecting me – the studio was almost finished, but decor had not been finished and you could see spots where they were still finishing up – and the paper was still on the windows. I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the studio was and I fell in love with the space on the spot.

Beth hired me right then and there. She refunded my founding client membership and I made the decision right there to give my two weeks notice to the mother I nannied for. In the next two weeks before opening, I was in the studio almost everyday – working childcare for free private pre-opening classes, taking classes, and helping out around the studio however I could. In the second week of being hired (and right before opening,) Beth asked me if my husband was upset that I was here all the time. I told her the truth – that actually, as he told me – he didn’t mind I was gone so much because I was so much happier already.

FullSizeRender (6)
via rachelthecat on Instagram

By pre-opening weekend, I was moved to the front desk and off of childcare completely as they realized they would need someone in that position – and I (albeit quietly) spoke up and told them I thought I might be a good fit. Caroline Weiner and Catie Fahrner from barre3 corporate arrived and I spent Sunday, March 1st with the founding team while they lead a workshop. Monday, March 2nd I was there, manning the front desk as ladies poured in for free classes. The energy was electric and I could hardly believe that I was a part of it – such an unexpected turn of events in my life.

FullSizeRender (4).jpg
Myself, Emily and Jenna – founding instructors with Paulina and Beth. Taken in fall 2015.

I would have been even more shocked if I had known that just a few short months later, I would leave the childcare field completely. And then, I would be diagnosed with disorders and syndromes that my doctor would credit my healthy diet and consistent exercise (barre3) with keeping symptoms – including pain levels and weight – manageable. And then that I would be promoted to Studio Manager. And then that I would fly to Portland and visit barre3 Headquarters and meet Sadie and Chris Lincoln themselves. And then – well, there’s always more to come. : )

FullSizeRender (5).jpg
via Instagram

Here’s the thing. barre3 changed my life in so many ways that I can barely sum it up.

One year ago, I was very sick with no clear path to recovery. Today, I am healthier than I have ever been and thanks to barre3, a healthy diet, and a new doctor – I see a way up and out. One year ago, I was depressed and discouraged about what path my non-existent career was going to take. Today, I have a career, one that I love and wake up everyday excited to grow in – and see a path that will carry me for a long time. One year ago, I was trapped in self-hate and self-abuse, doubting myself and living a fearful existence.

Today, I am surrounded by a community that reminds me that I am enough, and that my journey is not one to fear or be ashamed of. I live out every day joyfully, fearlessly, wholeheartedly.

March 2015 / December 2015

And I’m a sentimental sap, so yes – I think it’s truly crazy that an email sent one year ago today could have such a tremendous ripple effect on my entire life. I cannot explain it except that I believe there is a higher power that loves me enough to orchestrate my story so beautifully.

So cheers, Beth, Paulina and barre3 Lakewood Ranch – Happy Anniversary! I’m endlessly grateful for the way you changed my life.

In health and light —