Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Barre Crawl: The Bar Method!

A few months ago, I was chatting with a few women before a barre class. We were talking about how we always seem to gravitate to the same spot at the barre. Mine is usually where I can see myself in several mirror angles so I can check my form (or check out my bum, depending on the day.) One woman said, "Oh, I always head to the back, in the hopes that the instructor will leave me alone."

Huh? I think I gave her a look similar to this:
I know. Pretty.
Ok, to each her own, but really? I don't get that. The last thing I want in a barre class is to be left alone. I've paid the money and schlepped my way over there, spending a precious small people-free hour, plus travel time. If my form is off, I want to know. And even better is when the instructor really challenges me. Don't we all want to grow and learn and better ourselves? (Cue inspiring music...) Well, I do. Otherwise I'd just stay home and rearrange my spice cupboard.

So anyway, last week I packed the small people off to school and started a month of unlimited classes at the shiny new Bar Method studio that recently opened near me. Let me tell you, there is no metaphorical 'back of the room' in that place. But I don't want to get ahead of my story. First I'll tell you a little bit...

About The Bar Method

TBM was founded by the legendary Burr Leonard. Burr started out teaching the original Lotte Berk Method in the early 1990's, but after noticing some students struggling with aches and pains, Burr consulted a physical therapist and reworked the exercises to make them safer and more effective.

In 2001 Burr and partner Carl Diehl opened the first Bar Method studio in San Francisco. TBM now operates on a franchise system. There are over seventy-five Bar Method studios throughout the United States and Canada.

My Local

Is beautiful. Really. It's all shiny and sparkly. See?

I like pretty as much as the next person, but what I really like are the functional features of the studio. The carpet is really cushy, which is standard at TBM studios. They all have an inch of squishy loveliness under the carpets, which makes being on releve for an eternity just a tiny bit less painful. When your thighs are going numb, you don't need the balls of your feet to be numb, too.

My local is also light and airy with ceiling fans!
Image: Bostonmagazine.com
This extra ventilation is key for us heavy sweat-ers. And there are... wait for it....

Towels! I was so psyched about the towels, I almost jumped up into one of the ceiling fans.

Pretty is nice, but honestly I'd workout in a barn for the sake of a good class. If it was good enough for the baby Jesus, it's good enough for me. What's really important is...

The Class

In a Bar Method class, you'll perform many of the classic moves with which any barre-ista is familiar--pretzel, flat-back abs, c-curve, fold-over seat, etc. The movements are almost always very small--moving an inch means just an inch. Bar Method classes are particularly isometric, and the pace is very slow and controlled.

But what I'm really loving about Bar Method are the very attentive instructors. They undergo months of intense training involving hours of study, practice teaching and written exams. And it shows. Jen and Sarah, the owners of my local studio, are very attentive to form. If you slip out of position, they are right there to get you back into it. They are warm and encouraging, but they won't let you away with anything.

This is a good thing. Even the most experienced students need form corrections. The better your form, the harder the exercises. When you are fatigued at the end of a set, it's common to tense your shoulders, slump forward, or lower your heels. Good instructors keep on everyone to make sure form is pristine to the very last rep. That's where the money is, people.

TBM instructors will call people out by name, rather than just correcting people privately off-mic. I knew about this beforehand and wasn't sure how I would feel about it. But even after only a week, I've come to like it. When I hear Jen or Sarah telling Susie to stand up a little straighter, I stand up straighter, too. This way we all benefit from the form corrections. And you never stop needing them.

What I Don't Like About The Bar Method

It's not next to my house. And it's not free. You can't have everything in this life. A single TBM class costs a little more than other studios in my area, but there are deals to be had. In fact, my local is offering a first class FREE deal during the month of September! Any natives looking to join me?

Remember--they have towels!

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FYI--If you don't live near a studio, The Bar Method also has DVDs and a streaming video service with a pretty large library. Check it out at www.baronline.barmethod.com.

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