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WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR FIRST BAR METHOD CLASS

“All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and I promise you something great will come of it,” Benjamin (played by Matt Damon) says to his son in the movie “We Bought A Zoo.” A first class at the Bar Method is one of those acts that can take a bit of insane courage, and just as Damon’s character promises, great things — in this case getting a more beautiful, healthy body — can come of it.

Jen's Class bicepsIt’s understandable that that walking into your first Bar Method class takes at least some courage. It has a reputation for being challenging, and friends are often so darned devoted to it that they can make you wonder. These friends are well-meaning, but their enthusiasm for the Bar Method can backfire and churn up inner cascades of self-doubting questions among the uninitiated: “Am I going to get addicted? Will everyone be, and look, better than me? Will I feel singled out when the teacher calls my name? Will I even get through the class!?”

If you’re wondering how you’d do in your first class, I want to reassure you that the overwhelming majority of new students of all ages and fitness levels have a positive experience. Bar Method teachers are skilled at making their new students feel safe and welcome, letting them know what they’re going to feel, explaining the benefits and mechanics of the exercises, and getting them into a focused workout “zone” that makes the hour go by fast. But don’t just take my word for it! Hear about the first day experiences of three students who almost never got there, and were glad they did.

Rachael, Summit, New Jersey

Rachael on right with her daughterFor a long time Rachael walked by the Bar Method studio in Summit without going in. A single mom in her mid-40s, Rachael “dismissed it as an option for me,” she says, “because the word ‘bar’ implied ballerina and that was something I certainly wasn’t.” One Thanksgiving, her daughter came home from college, and the two of them decided to give the class a try. “I changed three times before I left the house,” Rachael recalls, “not sure what to wear. I was sure I would be the only person there who would not be able to lift her leg to her ear. I was so nervous when I turned the corner into the studio, but everyone was so lovely and welcoming. As I made my way through the class, I was amazed at the extensive options given within each exercise…options for those who were advanced and options for novices like me. The instructor offered specific encouragement and suggestions to each student using their names! It was clear that each student was so involved in their own progress that no one had time (including me!) to notice anyone else.”

Mary Ann, Redmond, Washington

Mary AnnFor two years, Mary Ann’s California-based daughter called her to talk about the positive effects the Bar Method was having on her body. Then a Bar Method studio opened in Mary Ann’s area. She was placed on the mailing list but didn’t attend for another year. Finally Mary Ann signed on “and I might add without too much enthusiasm,” she admits, “because I was suffering from a lower back injury. However, once I began taking classes under the watchful eyes of Bev and Maika (the studio’s owners), I was nurtured with kind comments, disciplined corrections and happy faces. I got the message; this is working for me.”

Grace, Bernardsville, New Jersey

A busy mother of three young boys, Grace would not be dragged to a first class for a long time in spite of the persistent efforts of her best friend Margaret. “I can be a little sarcastic and a physical underachiever,” Grace says by way of explanation. At last Margaret prevailed. “As I entered the class,’ Grace remembers, ‘I was really impressed by the instructor’s desire to not just learn the names of students, but to engage and take a serious interest in each individual’s progress and development. Honestly, on that first day, I was a “D” student, but that did not matter. What struck me is how much and how often these instructors encouraged me and others and made constructive adjustments in order for proper form to be achieved. Also, every exercise is explained along with its function and benefits. It is fascinating to submit to this level of instruction. Not only did it stimulate my muscles, but a switch was flipped in my brain, too. This Bar Method became my Mt. Everest and I was hooked.”

Thank you, everyone, for you support this past year.

Happy New Year!

Burr

TAKING THE PULSE OF THE BAR METHOD’S GROWTH

It’s easy to see that The Bar Method is growing as its studios sprout up all around North America. Twenty-five new locations are currently in various stages of development, some opening over the next month or so like Boston, Austin and Washington DC. What’s not as visible, but just as exciting to me, is The Bar Method’s behind-the-scenes growth. In the past year we’ve greatly changed structurally in the way we lead, and that change is playing a major role in bringing to life my dream of a constellation of Bar Method studios, every one of which provides its students with consistently high-quality teaching of the Bar Method technique. To that end, The Bar Method has recently put in place teams of master instructors to evaluate and oversee every Bar Method teacher and to coach them when needed.

JenAlong with this increase in size and complexity in our company comes a growing deficit of time on my part to get everything done. Time was when I’d always show up at a new studio on opening day to admire the space and teach the first few classes. Now months can go by before I get to a new facility. The St. Louis studio opened last October, and it was not until April that I found a few days to make the trip there. And not only is there less time to travel; there’s also more to do when I’m on the road. On this trip, for example, no way was I going to get away with simply teaching a few classes, if Jen, my director of evaluations, had anything to say about it. “Hey, St. Louis is less than 1,000 miles from New Jersey!” she exclaimed when she found out I was traveling. “ As long as you’re out there, please drop by New Jersey and New York (she really said this!) and take care of these six evaluations that I need done.” I’ll do anything for Jen, who’s an amazing evaluation director, as well as teacher and trainer, so I said, “Sure.” It’s no surprise that Jen leapt at the news that I was going in the direction of where some evaluations were due. There are now hundreds of Bar Method teachers throughout North America, and we have only seven evaluators including myself.

Bernardsville:

bernardsville merchandise displayIn the end I was happy I’d accepted this assignment from Jen. Otherwise I never would have witnessed an amazing and inspiration transformation one studio made between my opening visit to it and my return one-year later. This studio is located in Bernardsville, New Jersey, an idyllic, pastoral outer-suburb of New York City. The town has a long-standing YMCA, and that was where most fit-conscious residents got their exercise before The Bar Method arrived in January of 2010. Its opening generated so much excitement in the town that when I walked in the door last year to meet my students, it seemed that the entire membership of the Y had decided to try The Bar Method on its first day of business. The place was packed. The problem was, these students were accustomed to the way they had been exercising at the Y, namely while concurrently catching up with their neighbors and friends, and they were chatting nonstop. If you’ve ever taken a Bar Method class at a studio, you know that we ask our students not to talk to each other during class. We believe that when it comes to the Bar Method students get a better, faster-moving workout when they’re not distracted by their neighbors. That first day in Bernardsville I had to stop each of my classes several times to impress upon my eager but noisy students the ultimate benefits of exercising non-verbally.

On my return visit last month, I barely recognized the place. I could have heard a pin drop in the waiting area. The same students I’d met the year before were still there, but now they were waiting for class to begin quietly and with what seemed to me like reverence. When they saw me, they shook my hand and told me their personal stories of how the Bar Method had changed them outside and in. One student said she had rheumatoid arthritis has been able to cut her medication in half. Others showed me their toned arms and talked about heightened self-confidence and well-being. The new Bernardsville teachers I evaluated had also changed. Last year, their motivation for training and becoming teachers was for something fun to do. Last month it was clear that their approach to teaching had shifted to become a dedicated practice. I credit this shift, in large part, to the leadership of the studio’s two dynamic owners, Gina Williams and Melissa Ramsey. The new teachers’ classes that I evaluated sparkled. I was humbled, amazed and touched by this studio’s exquisite interpretation of the Bar Method’s principles and the positive impact this manifestation was having on its students.

St. Louis:

Jessica in St LouisFrom Bernardsville, I flew to St. Louis and walked into a jewel of a studio. Jessica Prasse, its young owner, had chosen a luscious assortment of creams for the walls, floors and that gave the whole studio the feel of a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie set. I evaluated teachers there too, and was greatly satisfied to find that the Bar Method technique had transferred well to this brand new territory thanks to our fantastic teacher-trainers and Jessica’s relentless attention to detail.

New DVDs!

Last month the Bar Method also became more available via two new home exercise DVDs, “Super Sculpting” and “Super Sculpting II.” A few days after their launch I was delighted to receive many positive comments about the workouts including an email from Switzerland by a user named Daniela that said, “I did both of them and I really love it!”

My thanks, Daniela, and to all of you who wrote in!

WHY TRIATHLETE BEN WINSLOW IS HOOKED ON THE BAR METHOD

Ben Performing Thigh WorkAt the Bar Method, we are dedicated to the proposition that some of our students will be men. We supply our studio rooms with larger weights than women would use and in most facilities provide men’s changing rooms and lockers. We make sure our exercises and stretches are designed to be entirely doable for students with tight hamstrings, and we train our teachers to use instructional cues that are “gender-neutral ( no “ponytail,” “high heels,” “bra-line,” and “ladies” for example) to make sure guys don’t feel as it they’re in a chick flick. Even so – and this is no secret – the overwhelming majority of Bar Method students are women. When you do see a man at the Bar Method, he’s usually the only member of the opposite sex in the class. I was curious to get some insights from a man’s perspective on why more men don’t come, so I asked Ben Winslow, one of our most regular male students, to shed some light on this issue.

Ben is one of the fittest people I know. A graduate of the infantry officer school and a lieutenant in the army, he put himself through college and became a successful litigator. For the past 38 years, he has run his law firm in the San Francisco Marina while pursuing the sporting activities that he loves: biking, swimming, running, golfing, endurance training, and competing in amazingly challenging triathlons. Ben, who turns 68 next month, has completed many “Escape from Alcatraz” triathlons, (a harrowing 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz, followed by an 18-mile bike ride and an 8-mile run), bike races and other competitive events. .

You’d think these activities would be enough to satisfy the most hard-core athlete, but Ben is unusual and not just in his love of physical challenge. He also has an uncommonly open mind. About a year and a half ago when two female lawyers in his firm told him about the Bar Method and asked him, “Why don’t you come with us?” Ben didn’t hesitate. He liked the workout so much that he got his wife to go to the Bar Method studio in Marin County where they live. Over the past year he has made a habit of walking from his office to the studio three-to-five times a week between business appointments to take class.

Here’s what Ben told me about what it’s like to be a male student at the Bar Method:

Ben Performing Armwith with Sharon DemkoWhat first attracted you to the Bar Method?

As you get older, you’re stooped over. Old guys get stiff. I don’t want to be a person who can’t tie my own shoes.

What do you like about the workout?

I like the discipline. I like the routine of knowing what’s going to follow what. I like knowing what we’re going to do next and how many reps so I can do my maximum effort. And the instructors are great, well trained, friendly. They greet you by name. It may help I’m the only guy.

What results have you gotten from the class?

I’ve become a much better golfer. My golfing friends say ‘Wow, you’re really turning your body when you swing!’ I’ve strengthened my core, gotten more limber. Bike riding I don’t have back pain anymore. I used to get an achy low back. In general I have no more low back issues.

I think my body’s changed. I’ve always been very thin and lean. I’m now more muscular with more developed abs and biceps. I like the look you promote which is long and lean, not chunky and muscular. I have more spring in my step. More energy. I always go to guys (touching his toes) and go ‘hey, can you do that?’

Ben Peroforming Round BackDo you ever feel intimidated by what the women in class can do?

It all evens out. I can do more pushups. They can do other things.

Why don’t other guys want to come?

I tell a lot of guys to come and run into the same thing all the time: ‘It’s a chick thing.’ ‘Let me get this right: you get a fabulous workout. You’re around 30 beautiful women. I don’t get it.’ If guys come and try it once or twice, they’d see that it takes a lot of muscular ability, strength, and coordination. If you apply yourself, it’s hard. You’re sore after you do this. These days with more enlightened men, I think they’re missing out on something.

What could guys get out of the Bar Method that they can’t get elsewhere?

Guys will go down to Gorilla Gym and work with a personal trainer, do that. Personal trainers charge a hundred an hour. I look at them and think they’d get much more out of the Bar Method. If you really want to change your life, you go to a class like this.

MAKING THE SUPER SCULPTING II EXERCISE DVD, PART TWO

describe the imageMAKING THE SUPER SCULPTING II EXERCISE DVD, PART TWO

Last week I told you what I enjoyed most, and what was hardest, about making the new Bar Method “Super Sculpting II” DVD. This week my three intrepid fellow “Super Sculpting II” performers, Sharon, Kiesha and Juan, weigh in about their toughest, funniest and most fun moments during the shoot:

What did you find most difficult about performing in the Super Sculpting II DVD shoot?

describe the imageKiesha: Maintaining perfect form throughout the shoot. You don’t realize when you take class how many times you come out of form, simply by tucking your hair behind your ear, scratching your nose, or adjusting your stance.

Juan: Honestly, finding pants. It’s surprising how few examples of yoga clothing actually exist for men.

Sharon: Finding a blue tank top that [Burr] liked!

What did you find most fun?

Juan: The fact that we were going to be watched really brought out a drive in me that I didn’t know was there…at least not to that degree.

Sharon: Shopping for blue tank tops.

What was the funniest moment?

Kiesha: Watching Sharon unload her suitcase of a dozen different blue tops.

describe the imageJuan: My favorite line ever said by Burr during the curl portion of the video: ‘I’ve never heard anyone say their abs were so sore they couldn’t eat.’

What do you think of the workout?

Kiesha: I LOVE it. It’s intense, but within reach for someone to work up to. The choreography is really fun.

Sharon: It was awesome. I still might be a little sore.Hairline SeparatorNote to my readers:

Starting this month, I will be posting my blog on the first Tuesday of every month rather than weekly. This change in schedule has become necessary to an increasing number of new Bar Method ventures that are requiring my time. Among what’s happening are upcoming studios in Boston, Washington, DC, Austin and Houston plus several future Bar Method media projects, the details of which are yet to be made public.

Thank you for your support during this change.

Burr Leonard

THE MAKING OF SUPER SCULPTING 2 EXERCISE DVD PART 1

THE MAKING OF SUPER SCULPTING 2 EXERCISE DVD PART 1

describe the imageThis month I finished shooting two new Bar Method DVD workouts with me as the lead performer, which will be coming out in April. What I enjoyed most about making this set is that they are pegged to be intermediate-to-advanced, so when it came to designing the routines I could pick from just about any exercise in the Bar Method and even create new ones if I wished. I love using the ball in Bar Method classes, so I used it throughout both workouts. Pretzel is one of my favorite exercises, so it went right into the first Super Sculpting routine. Super Sculpting II includes “diagonal seat,” a recently developed Bar Method exercise that never fails to hit me in all the right places. For curl I chose variations that look beautiful when you’re doing them, that are really challenging, and that are different from the ab-work in the other DVDs.

When the choreography was in place and I stood back and looked at both routines as whole, I was pleased to see that they each ended up with a different focus. Super Sculpting concentrates on toning. “SS II” moves faster and is more aerobic. Each DVD includes a set of aerobic exercises mid-point through the workout. SS II takes its fat-burning component one step farther by adding one more set of thigh-work, a second “seat” exercise designed to elevate the heart-rate, and a few “zingers” (Bar Method speak for short, fun, surprising and extra hard moves) during the ab section.

Cast of Super Sculpting 2What did I find hardest about the DVD production process? Rehearsing! I was lucky to have a different group of terrific Bar Method teachers for each DVD to help me get through this stage. Both teams encouraged me as I fumbled through the first few run-throughs and continued to support me all the way through the two back-to-back on-camera performances we finally did for each DVD. In a blog I wrote last summer I described my wonderful Super Sculpting team (See “Making the ‘Super Sculpting’ Exercise DVD.”). Now I’d like to tell you about my amazing Super Sculpting II performers.

Super Sculpting II as I mentioned is a workout that highlights the fat-burning power of the Bar Method. Fittingly as it turned out, the three teachers who signed on to do it with me are all built like racehorses. Sharon Demko has danced most of her life and has the body to show it. She started teaching at my Bar Method studio in the San Francisco Marina eight years ago when she was the mother of a one-year-old son. A few years later she taught through most of her second pregnancy. Now her sons are nine and six, and Sharon is as slender and defined as I’ve ever seen her.

High Curl Sequence in SS2Kiesha Ramey-Presner, also a San Francisco Marina teacher, is the mother of a 15-month-old son named Dylan. Kiesha has one of those spectacular model’s bodies that looks like it’s been long and lean from birth. She started taking the Bar Method five years ago not to change her body but because she was looking for an overall workout she would enjoy as much as she had running. “I was surprised when I ended up dropping one jean size,” she told me. “And I got so much stronger, to a pentacle of strength.”

Juan Barba, a senior teacher at the Burbank, California studio, is quietly charming, “scary-smart,” and a true Bar Method fanatic. In his three years as a Bar Method teacher, he has noticeably buffed up from doing the workout (and nothing else, he says). To me he is living proof that the Bar Method can and does significantly change men’s bodies.

Next week: The Super Sculpting II performers talk about their hardest and funniest moments during the shoot. Stay tuned…

CELEBRATING THE BAR METHOD 3|60 CHALLENGE CONTESTANTS: RYAN SALMA

Last week I shared with you a testimonial written by Karen Dodge, a first-time new mother and one of the three competitors in our San Francisco-Marina studio’s annual “3|60 Challenge.” This contest selects three new students and challenges them to make the most possible positive overall change in their bodies in sixty days. Karen told us about her first sore and shaky week of regular classes and her determination to lose her baby weight during the challenge.

This week Ryan Salma, another of this year’s three competitors, weighs in about his struggles and breakthroughs at around midpoint into the challenge. Before becoming a contestant, Ryan had lost 40 pounds over several years by running and eating a healthy diet. He is a real estate project manager, President of the San Francisco Frontrunners, and a member of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. His motivation for entering the challenge? “Increasing my overall endurance,” he told us. “I have been running in half-marathons for the past three years and it is my goal to break the 1 hour 30 minute mark.” Below is Ryan’s report on his fourth week of classes.

Burr Leonard

SF MARINA 3|60 BLOG: RYAN WEEK #4

3|60 Challenge Contestant Ryan SalmaI don’t know if it was the weather, the time change, or the fact that I ran a half-marathon this week but I have been feeling a little run down. This made getting to the Bar Method seem a lot harder than usual. I decided to take a level one class for the first time so that I would not be pushing my body too hard and as a way to mix things up.

I would not say that a level one class is easy, just different. You don’t do as many reps, but there is a lot more focus on form. You also hold some poses for a longer period of time, which can make the exercises just as hard as a mixed level class, if not even harder. Taking a level one class made me realize that focusing on technique will only help me to work harder and achieve results more quickly.

New Bar Method BEginner's Workout DVDSo, for my third class this week I actually did the beginners workout DVD again. What’s great about the DVD is that there is an instructional video on how to do each Bar Method pose properly. This was extremely helpful because I am a visual learner and it is hard to watch others in class to see what they are doing when I am trying to do a pose myself. Using the DVD in slow motion also helps to see how much or how little movement you should do to benefit from the exercises. Master Instructor Joey Decker leads a fun workout. He demonstrates good form, is energetic, and has just the right amount of enthusiasm to keep the workout entertaining even after multiple viewings. After taking it a little easy this week and focusing on form, I know that I will be able to “bring it “the next two weeks of the challenge.

Fat Free Greek YogurtOh yeah – here is a fun little nutritional tidbit that I have found helpful in keeping the pounds off…if you love ice cream or frozen yogurt try getting a tub of fat free Greek yogurt instead. Greek Yogurt is thicker than normal yogurt but has less sugar and calories than frozen yogurt. To add a little flavor to your Greek Yogurt you could chop up some fresh fruit or use a low glycemic sweetener like agave!

Half way there! Four more weeks to go!

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE BAR METHOD: BEST OF 2010

2010 was a seminal year for The Bar Method. Twelve new studios opened in the U.S. including locations in Manhattan, St. Louis, Dallas and Miami. In October Vancouver became the first international city to have a Bar Method studio, and in that same month The Bar Method released three new exercise DVDs. To celebrate all this growth, I’d like to honor the blog that received the most views and comments over the past 12 months. By a long shot (almost 9000 views more than the runner up) that blog was MAKING THE DANCER’S BODY DVD, the story of how lead performer Marnie Alton and her amazing team of teachers rose to my challenge and delivered a truly advanced Bar Method home workout.

Happy New Year!
Burr Leonard

MAKING THE DANCER’S BODY EXERCISE DVD

marnie altonMarnie Alton not only teaches exercise. She teaches her students to be joyful, to remember that life is magnificent, and to believe wholeheartedly in their own strength and beauty, both outer and inner. This might sound like hyperbole, but it is exactly how she teaches. I can confidently say that — until Marnie moved to England this summer – she was one of the most popular and charismatic teachers not only within the Bar Method but just about anywhere.

Marnie radiates a joyful, no-holds-barred approach to life in her teaching and in everything she does. As an actress, singer, dancer and songwriter, she has lived her dreams. She has acted in around 30 TV shows and movies, played continuing characters in several TV series, and starred in one of them — detective Karen Yamamoto in “Hot Hot Los Angeles.” She has danced professionally, written, published and performed her own songs, and she is happily married to an executive in the entertainment industry. I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to lead one of the advanced DVD workouts we taped in last month.

When I designed the two new advanced DVD routines, I intended to create “killer” workouts that resembled Bar Method “level 2” studio classes and that were also safe for home users. Leave it to Marnie to out-do my wildest expectations. Since the routine I led, “Super-Sculpting,” featured body-sculpting moves you can do with a ball, the more flowing, dance-like Bar Method variations such as arabesque and second position fell to Marnie. I actually hadn’t noticed how beautiful and athletic her routine was when I first designed it, but Marnie did. By the time I named it “Dancer’s Body,” she had already seized on the concept and made it the theme of her workout.

Dancer Body Performers

Marnie’s team of performers were perfectly cast for an advanced workout with “dance” in the title. All of them have long, lean, graceful bodies and are exceptionally focused, accomplished individuals. Katelin Chesna, shown next to Marnie, is a professional actress, acting coach, comedienne and master Bar Method teacher. Marin Van Vleck, to the left of Katelin, in addition to being an actress and singer, is the owner of a new, soon-to-be-built Bar Method studio in Dallas. Michael Lowery is an absolutely gorgeous, dynamic and sweet master Bar Method teacher who has just transferred to Bar Method New York/Soho so that he can attend graduate school at NYU, and Denise Burchard, shown below, is the talented, brainy and beautiful founding owner of the Portland Bar Method studio.

smallDenise full shot 1 resized 600The shoot schedule slotted Marnie’s workout as third in line to be taped. When her team was on stage and ready to go, I sat behind the row of production TV screens with the crew thinking, “just wait til you see this!” and I wasn’t disappointed. From the first words Marnie spoke, it was obvious that she was completely comfortable in front of a camera. She connected to her virtual students casually and cheerfully with a twinkle in her eye. I was particularly amazed that she was able to simultaneously do the workout and continually reel off gracefully phrased pointers on inner resolve such as, “Our muscles are like clay. They’ll sculpt into any shape you choose. Choose long.”

What most blew our minds was that the workout was so HARD. The production crew had already watched two pretty tough routines, but you could have picked everyone’s jaw up off the floor by Marnie’s second set of thigh-work. Then I remembered, “OMG, the last thigh set is the hardest in this workout!,” and the performers launched into the last amazing moments of the toughest thigh-work routine ever put on tape, all the time with Marnie never breaking her relentlessly joyful connection with the camera.

Adding to the overall dramatic effect were the flexible, balletic grace of the performers, their sweat-soaked, shiny, cut muscles, and their brute determination to hang in there.

“I just had to get into this mental zone,” Marin told me. “It was like a ‘do-or-die’ mindset.”
Denise had a similar experience, “The pressure of two back-to-back, challenging classes with a group of exceptional talent really made me push myself that much further. I surprised myself. My body could do more than my mind thought it could.”

Marnie’s “Dancer’s Body” DVD is just what Bar Method students have been lobbying for: a superlatively challenging workout that will continue to inspire them for years to come.

Thank you Marnie!

Click here to find out more why challenging workouts are so important to make you fit.

THE 2010 BAR METHOD CONVENTION AND THE RELEASE OF THE NEW EXERCISE DVDs

Last Friday and Saturday we held our third annual Bar Method franchisee convention at our San Francisco Marina studio. Forty-seven studio owners attended from our 35 Bar Method studios in the U.S. and Canada. In 2011, the number of Bar Method studios will reach around 50. The more of them there are, the more noticeable it becomes that the Bar Method studio owners tend to be cut out of the same cloth. All of them are superb teachers, strong leaders and as one studio owner likes to put it “have drunk the cool aid” and are happily addicted to the Bar Method’s humanistic approach to exercise. In many cases they are close friends with each other.

Exercise classEvery year I like to watch the explosion of excitement when franchisees first walk though the door of our studio and see their friends or meet new fellow studio owners for the first time. Though it was clear to everyone that we’ve grown since last year, the buzz at this convention wasn’t about how big we’re become. People were more interested in another change that’s been taking place. Since last spring, we’ve been working to set up a new organizational framework that will enable the Bar Method to maintain the quality of its classes, and even increase that quality, as it adds new studios. Getting organized might not seem like a particularly electrifying news item, but to me it’s exciting because I know that it will mean you can take a great class in Chicago, then go in Miami and take a class there that will be just a great. Your teachers will have different personalities and styles, but the Bar Method technique will be consistent wherever you go. The exercises will be involving, interesting, fast moving, clearly presented. The music will be dynamic and inspiring, and you will wake up the next day with a stronger, leaner feeling in your muscles.

The driving force behind the idea to build adescribe the image
more effective organizational framework is our dynamic new COO Michael Doud who joined our company last spring. Michael has three decades of experience building successful companies and running operational systems for large corporations. He left his management position at a large corporation to join the Bar Method because he believes in it. He takes three classes a week (all at 6 am), works a 12-hour corporate-style day, and has given wings to the Bar Method’s idea that enhancing its capacity to change bodies and lives for the better, not increasing its size, is ultimately the most satisfying goal we can aim for.

To those of you who have been asking about our new DVDs, “The Bar Method Beginner’s Workout,” “The Bar Method Dancer’s Body,” and “The Bar Method Pregnancy Workout,” they are now available! If you don’t see them on the home page, simply refresh your browser. Our intention in creating these DVDs was to make them as closely as possible resemble the feel, spirit and effectiveness of our studio classes, and I think we succeeded. All three classes are fun and fast-moving and include a bonus section taught by me on how to do the basic exercises in good form. Enjoy!

dvd covers

HOW THE BAR METHOD’S SPECIAL EQUIPMENT KEEPS STUDENTS’ JOINTS SAFE

no impact exerciseThis morning while I was taking the 7 am class, I noticed two students, Raymonde and Rose, who were working across from me. The three of us are regulars at this hour, so I’ve had the pleasure of watching Raymonde and Rose develop from struggling beginners into students with good form. Their improvement has been especially satisfying for me to watch because their height could have interfered with their progress had they not been at the Bar Method. Both are on the petite side, especially Rose, and Raymonde also has delicate shoulders. Here their stature and joint sensitivity are not a problem due to the availability of “riser mats,” a piece of equipment that you can find in every Bar Method studio. Riser mats are two inches thick and filled with dense rubber. Students who are petite or have sensitive shoulders can sit on “risers” so that they can reach up to the bar from below without straining their necks and shoulders. Raymonde as you can see is also using a stretching strap to hold her leg elevated, which helps her do the exercise without running the risk of overworking her hip-flexors.

The idea to make riser mats an essential piece of equipment came from The Bar Method’s long-standing effort to make its workout as safe as possible. When your joints are comfortable, you can concentrate on your muscles, not to mention that you feel intrinsically safer. With this aim in mind The Bar Method has developed not only its risers but a variety of equipment that contributes to its goal of creating a workout that is gentle on its students joints, the better to be challenging to their muscles.

Rubber Underlayment: On first sight a Bar Method studio looks like a normal carpeted room. In fact, the flooring in the room is quite unusual. Under the carpet lies not regular carpet padding but rubber underlayment that is three-fourths-of-an-inch thick. Walk into a Bar Method studio in your socks and you’ll notice that your heels sink down slightly with each step. During class this underlayment gives extra protection to students’ feet, knees, elbows and hips.

Large Mat: Yoga mats are popular in many exercise studios but can feel uncomfortable during strengthening and stretching exercises. The Bar Method’s mats are filled with dense, inch-and-a-half-thick foam that protects students’ spines and hips during ab work.

ab exerciseSmall Mat: During thigh-work students sometimes press The Bar Method’s small mat between their thighs to tone their legs. The main purpose of the small mat however is to protect two particularly boney parts of the body. First, students with sensitivity around the balls of their feet can place it under their feet during thigh-work. Second those with stiff or delicate backs can tuck it under their ribs as shown above during ab work. If you want a small mat to use at home, you’ll be able to buy one on our website in late October along with the new Bar Method DVDs, “Dancer’s Body,” “Beginner’s Workout,” and “Pregnancy Workout,” all of which use this piece of equipment.

Riser Mat: As I mentioned earlier in this blog, riser mats come in handy if you’re petite or have sensitive shoulders and you’re doing “round-back” (shown above) or “flat-back” (similar to round-back but with a straight, vertical back). Its biggest success however has been with students who have hip issues. When these students sit on one or two risers during “flat-back,” their feet drop lower down than their hips. This adjustment makes their legs easier to lift and their hips experience less strain – while still offering plenty of challenge to their abs.

Heather in flat back with strapStretching Strap: The Bar Method’s stretching straps mainly make hamstring stretching more doable. Students with shoulder issues have also found them useful during “flat-back,” which Heather is demonstrating.  By looping two straps over the bar and holding onto their ends, students can perform this challenging exercise while keeping their upper arms lower than their shoulders.

How much of a difference does all this equipment make? One student named Jen who emailed me awhile ago put it this way:  “I have joint problems and arthritis from numerous sports injuries, and this is the ONE workout that actually makes my legs, hip and back feel better. Thanks again.”

Read here how exercise itself helps keep your joints safe: Why People Need Muscle  

Find a Bar Method Exercise Studio near you. 

Sample and buy Bar Method Exercise DVDs.

MAKING THE PREGNANCY EXERCISE DVDS

The Bar Method started offering specially designed pre-natal classes in 2003. Since then, I’ve probably taught more of them than any other teacher. So when it came to putting our pre-natal class on DVD, I assumed I would be the one to lead it. My challenge would be to find a few Bar Method teachers who happened to be pregnant and who would be willing to come to LA to act as my backup performers.

The first person I thought of was Lee Potter. Lee is a tall, beautiful, vivacious lawyer specializing in litigation. She is also the mother of a one-year-old. Lee has been a Bar Method teacher since 2007 and is currently pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl, who are due in September. When I invited Lee to perform in the DVD, she practically jumped for joy.

HANNAH BLUENext I invited Hannah Blue (at left) to join the team. Hannah is one of the co-owners of the Downtown San Francisco studio and is pregnant with her first child, a boy, due to be born in October. One of Hannah’s teachers, Lauren Dunning, is in her second trimester with her second child, a girl, and agreed to be my third back-up. As luck would have it, Hannah and Lauren both look like super-models. The three of them together were going to make pregnancy look like a beauty fix just by standing there.

Even so, something was terribly wrong with my concept for this DVD. Fortunately, the problem dawned on me before it was too late to fix one Saturday morning about six weeks before the shoot. That day, I took a Level 2 class, and the teacher happened to be Lee. As I struggled through Lee’s wickedly challenging moves, I became more and more transfixed by her. First of all, her performance was amazing. She was witty, articulate, regal, and totally at-home in front of everyone. She was wearing a lavender pre-natal exercise top and looked gorgeous. Then it hit me. Lee (shown at center below) should be the lead performer and, the truth is, at age 63 I didn’t exactly look the part.

I could barely wait until the class ended and I could offer Lee thepregnancy workout lead. To say she was glad to accept would be an understatement. She threw herself into the project like there was no tomorrow. She watched exercise DVDs currently on the market by the dozens. She came to the studio every day and practiced. Like a lawyer preparing for a consequential trial, she sculpted every word of her presentation.

The day of the shoot, Lee wore her lavender top, Lauren wore blue, and Hannah wore pink. I heard several members of the crew whisper, “who knew pregnant ladies could look so beautiful?”

As soon as the cameras rolled, Lee commanded the stage as calmly as if she were hosting a party in her home.  I knew for sure at that moment the Pregnancy DVD would be a hit.

prenatal workoutLee’s performance turned out to be the smoothest and wittiest of them all. To spice things up she sprinkled into the workout funny quips about the being pregnant, such as:

Press back with your arms as if you were nudging “those people in the super-marketing who reach out and touch your belly without asking.”

“You’ll soon learn to crave [the burn] like you’re craving pickles and ice cream.”

“This exercise will help you lift your seat, or at least not make it bigger than it is right now.”

“Come on, this is nothing compared to labor!”

In this country there are, at any given time, around four and a half million pregnant women. Thanks to Lee, these women will soon have a wonderful new option both for making their pregnancies a better experience and for helping them bounce back faster.

Thank you, Lee!

Click here to read why pre-natal exercise is so good for Mom and Baby.