In Sarah Ramos’ Zaddy, The Horrors Of Barre Are Laid Bare

Ramos’ new Audible Original audiobook follows a 20-something fitness instructor who finds herself unexpectedly pursued by an attractive older man.

Sarah Ramos is the author of 'Zaddy.'
Bea Helman/Audible

In this excerpt from Sarah Ramos’ Audible Original audiobook Zaddy, 25-year-old fitness instructor Elle paints a bleak picture of her boutique exercise class.


“Tuck, hold, tuck, freeze!”

I howl at the women before me. Two ponytailed Valley private school graduates. A silver fox in ballerina cosplay with a face that says “50” but upper arms that admit “64.” Most people never see her like this, back curved and straining.

Like Dr. Krivitsky, I’m in the business of helping Angelenos feel like the best version of themselves. At least, I make them look like they feel like that, as they torture themselves to Top 40 club remixes in sweaty, windowless rooms. If we were in our right minds, it’d be unbearable. But our minds are the last place we want to be.

“If your mind is telling you to quit, don’t listen to it! Just breathe. In, one, two. Out, one, two!”

Looking at their expressionless faces, it might seem easy. But they’re good at hiding pain. Watch their pelvises, thrusting in rhythmic unison. This is the Water Ski position. No water, no skis, no fun, just pounding bass over burning inner thighs until their knuckles go white and limbs shake. This is the 2 p.m. class at Go Barre Silver Lake, located between a gourmet ramen shop and bougie juice bar in a Sunset Boulevard strip mall.

“Great work, Haley! Beautiful, Olivia! Nice, Emma! Keep it up, Megan! Good arch, Jess!”

I use a secret trick to remember names: associate each woman with a gruesome death. A hurricane hoovers up Haley. Olivia’s organs fail. Emma is eaten alive. A monster mangles Megan. Jess jumps off a bridge. Though who could forget Jess Weisberg? Just look at her. She’s a long-limbed, sun-kissed waif with a goddamn loose wave. A Brentwood-raised quote unquote wellness devotee who will take any opportunity to preach about how intermittent fasting changed her life. This thinly-veiled-eating-disorder-saleswoman is my biggest competition. Oh yes. Despite being less experienced and four years my junior, Jess Weisberg and I are neck and neck to teach the most coveted time slot there is: 7 a.m. In fact, the only reason this raven haired bitch is showing her contoured face in my lowly afternoon class is to gloat that she met with our boss at 1 p.m. while I have to wait til 3.

“Your mind doesn’t know how strong your body is! When it hurts that’s your muscles strengthening and looking better!”

I have them on their tiptoes, in invisible stilettos, sculpting their calves. Jess’s heels are impressively wedged into imaginary six inch stripper platforms, but the rest of her form is shit. That’s the thing about Go Barre. It moves too fast for integrity. I approach Jess, tilting my Britney Spears-esque headset mic away from my lips to whisper, “I’d ease up. You’re leaning back so far back your traps and knees are overcompensating.”

She pulls away from the wall another inch and says, “I like to work it to the max.”

Cocky bitch, I think as I watch her calves quiver and thighs bow out. This kind of knee strain builds up slowly, imperceptibly, until it’s something you can’t undo. I would know. When I was a 15-year-old ballerina, I liked to work it to the max too, there was no stopping me, I was on the fast track, Mommy’s golden girl. Then a torn ACL rendered me a geriatric nobody at 18.

[ELLE] “Jess, it’s a marathon not a race. If we prioritize proper form —”

[JESS, HARSH] “I’m good.”

The other women eye Jess’s thin, dangerously contorted frame and rearrange their bodies to match. What can I do? I may be a fitness instructor, but try to instruct Go Barre clients and I might lose a finger. In the United States, there are over 500 independently-owned Go Barre studios, which are all flocked to by beautiful women. Or at least women with $35 to blow on a single exercise class in hopes of becoming beautiful. They don’t come here for health or proper form. They come to the Sweetgreen of barre because it’s the quickest way to attack their abs and thighs between rolling calls in front of their laptops and networking over $18 glasses of natural wine. They want their asses as tight as their necks.

Before you say it. I know I’m a hypocrite. Who am I to judge anyone’s expensive, dangerous beauty pilgrimage when I just got a plastic surgery consultation? Well, for one, my consult was free. And it’s not like I went through with it! Two, I’m self-aware. I know dysmorphia is wrong. Sure, negative self-talk chases me like a tornado, but I pride myself on outrunning it. I may have to follow Go Barre’s rules now, but I’m going to change the fitness world. Because I know the cost of worshiping physical beauty firsthand.

I put on some Billie Eilish, pretending to believe a two-minute stretch is enough to recover from 53 minutes of high intensity work. “Round of applause for yourselves, ladies! I’m so proud of you! Now, remember to log onto the Go Barre app to vote for me, Elle Noone, to take over the 7 a.m. class!”

Jess arcs over her outstretched hamstring to hide a smirk, like my ambition is a joke. And sure, sometimes it feels like no matter what, I’ll always be on the bottom rung of an ever-extending ladder. Sometimes it feels like I won’t become the founder of my own billion-dollar fitness franchise, with hundreds of The Elle Method boutiques across the country that charge a reasonable rate and make true wellness accessible to all. Sometimes it feels like that, but one day I will achieve my goal. I have to.

From the Audible audiobook ZADDY by Sarah Ramos. Copyright © 2022 by Audible. Published on May 5, 2022 by Audible. Reprinted by permission.