The Bar Method Experience

by 7:23 PM 0 comments
After six months of mindlessly pedaling on a stationary bicycle, I'm finally back to Bar Method! I've been to two classes this week, and as a result I can barely walk, in a good way. I can feel my muscles tightening and strengthening so intensely.

I've been going to Bar Method since August 2012, when I read about it in a women's magazine. I had wanted to find something like adult ballet for quite some time. The problem with an actual adult ballet class is that it's a pretty direct reminder that I can't bend/jump/get my leg up in the air like I used to. Plus, I feel like I'm too old to wear a leotard and tights. I was looking for a Pilates studio in the South Bay, but they're all reformer style, which costs tons of money and seems to be for people with disabilities or injuries.

I was really excited when I read about these bar-based fitness classes, and since Bar Method was the closest one to my apartment in San Jose, I signed up there. Looking back on this, I'm so glad that it was Bar Method and not another bar class. Bar Method is very high-quality, but at the time I thought all of these classes were the same. 

When I started, I hadn't even been going to the gym, and it showed! As soon as we started to warm up, I turned bright red because my body apparently thought this was some kind of emergency where all the blood had to be rushed to my head. Then I started to blush because I was embarrassed to be so out of shape, and so the cycle continued. I was pretty thin, but in those first few classes I was proving that thin does not equal fit. 

Anyway, I was determined to not suck at this, and after a while I reached my goal of not totally sucking. The instructors always pushed me to my limit; they knew everyone's name and abilities, and encouraged us to challenge ourselves to improve. After a few months, I could do the splits on both sides, and 50 regular pushups. My back pain completely disappeared, which made the rest of my life much easier and happier.

This is what a typical class consists of:

-Arm work: Tons of reps with small weights, push-ups, planks, triceps dips, etc.
-Relevés: At the bar
-Thigh work: Usually 3 sets of intense, isometric movements. Sometimes involves squeezing a ball or a small mat between the thighs. Instructors say this is the most intense part of class, but seat work is harder for me.
-Seat work: This is brutal. Sometimes it's arabesque, sometimes it's more like a yoga pose held forever with isometric movements. Always, I look like death by the end.
-Round back: Sitting on a mat and resting against the wall, you have to hold your leg straight in the air and lift it higher. Point your toes, flex your toes. This is great for quad strength.
-Flat back: This one takes a while to get, but you have to put your back up against the wall completely flat (while sitting) and then lift your legs while breathing really heavily. This flattens your deep abdominal muscles. 
-Abs: The abs section is a lot like Pilates, which I love. It's modified somewhat, but basically you're lying on your back and doing hundreds of kinds of crunches. 
-Back dancing: This is a polite way of saying you will be humping the air for a few minutes. It looks dumb, but you can't see the other students while you're doing it, and it relieves low back pain like nothing else! Worth it.

Each section is separated by stretching. At first, I was worried I wouldn't improve in flexibility because the stretches aren't held for very long, but this hasn't been the case at all. 

The exercises were developed with help from physical therapists, and the instructors are all trained in anatomy and physiology. The progress I've seen in my own body, combined with not having any injuries, is unprecedented in my experience trying other workout routines. I also love the calm and focus in the studio. My limits are constantly being challenged, but in a really supportive atmosphere. 

Okay, the downside is, it's pretty expensive. It's $175 a month, as opposed to the nicest gym nearby, which is $90. But I love it, and I feel healthy and happy with it, and that's what money is for! I tell myself I'm actually saving on a lack of future medical bills, since people who exercise consistently tend to be much more healthy in the long run. 

Anyway I've started tracking my stats because I bought a biometric scale, I'll post them as the weeks progress!

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


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