Celebrating The Bar Method 3/60 Challenge Winner: Lianne Zhang

Bar Method 3|60 Challenge Winner Lianne ZhangMy last two blogs featured testimonials by two of the three contestants in our San Francisco Marina studio’s annual 3|60 Challenge, Karen Dodge and Ryan Salma. To fill you in if you didn’t read last week’s post, the Challenge pits three beginning Bar Method students against each other for sixty days of class taking and testimonial writing. The contestant who turns out to be best overall new student in terms of attendance, enthusiasm and gains in health wins a month of free classes. The winner this time: the third contestant in the Challenge, Lianne Zhang. “The other two did well,” studio manager Mike Najjar told me. “Lianne won because she was here quite often, and she was so enthusiastic.”

Lianne, 26, is a brand promotion and event strategist who recently moved to San Francisco from New York City. She had worked 70-hour weeks during her four years in New York. Now that she was a San Francisco resident, she was determined to create a more livable pace for herself. “I wanted to embark on a new lifestyle,” she told us, “one ensuring me a good work/life balance – a concept foreign to New Yorkers.”

After a month of classes, Lianne noticed that the Bar Method was doing more than improving her appearance. It was also having a positive impact on the way she was experiencing her new, adventurous life in San Francisco. This is how she describes the differences she felt in her body during her travels around San Francisco week four into the Challenge:


Lianne ZhangI can’t believe four weeks have flown by. As I notice differences not only in my lifestyle choices but my body- I’m also noticing how useful Bar Method technique is to my everyday life.

Here’s a little guide to how Bar Method has improved this recent transplant’s daily life in SF:

1) It absolutely trains you for crowded places where hanging off various street fixtures is a necessity in order to gain full view of the event.

For example, I went to the Giants Parade and in the madness, the only available space that offered a decent view of the players’ float was to hang off of these metal gates. Because of the Bar Method, I was able to hang on for a full thirty minutes- it was all the Posey, Lincecum, Huff and Cain I needed to bring myself closer to being a San Franciscan!

2) It helps provide better balance on MUNI buses.

SF MUNIAs a former New Yorker, I tend to ride subways better than buses. In fact I am not a fan of buses. Since I live in lower Pac Heights, I’m forced to take buses anywhere that I can’t walk to. I tend to tumble all over the place as I’m not used to standing on lurching vehicles above ground. However, ever since I started doing Bar Method, I found myself able to use my core muscles to stable myself much better. It sounds silly but it’s been extremely helpful. As for the lady that likes to booty shake at the front aisle of the 22,…no amount of Bar Method will remedy.

3) It strengthens my muscles, allowing me to have the confidence and capabilities to try things I never could try before.

I’ve always wanted to try rock climbing but because I have an embarrassingly low amount of upper body strength, I always put it off for fear of making a fool of myself. However, since I started doing Bar Method, I’ve realized that my arm strength has increased significantly and tonight I am going for my first session! Wish me luck! (Especially after five straight days of Bar Method!)

Congratulations, Lianne, for being our 2010 3|60 Challenge winner!

Burr Leonard

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


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!

Celebrating The Bar Method 3|60 Challenge Contestants: Karen Dodge


Bar Method 3|60 ContestantsLast fall our flagship studio in the San Francisco Marina held its second “3|60 Challenge” (we held our first of these events in 2009). Three neophyte Bar Method students were chosen by our staff to take class free for 60 days and write about their experience. We asked the contestants to submit a 300 word statement about why they thought they would benefit from The Bar Method. The prize: an additional month of free classes, to be awarded based on a combination of overall results and enthusiasm. Our three finalists were Lianne, Karen and Ryan. What impressed me most about their stories is that each of the 3|60 contestants gained something unique and personal from their 60-day regime. In  my view  Karen’s, Lianne’s and Ryan’s very different experiences  are testaments to the power of exercise to change not just people’s bodies in general ways but also the unique fabric of their lives.

Karen Dodge, 37, became a 3|60 contestant because she had just given birth to her first child, a daughter, just six weeks earlier and felt that the Bar Method was her best option for getting back in shape. “I used to be a competitive runner and swimmer, and the two classes I took at the Bar Method kicked my butt”, she wrote us. “I was sore with the shakes and never felt better about getting in shape.” Here is her blog about her first week into the challenge:

Bar Method SF Marina 3|60 Challenge: Karen Week #1

The Bar Method proved to be a challenge this week due to juggling both physical fitness and my daily routine. For the last six weeks I have been adjusting to motherhood and keeping my daily routine pretty simple. I have incorporated a hike or shopping trip when the baby sleeps, but I had not tried to schedule my day outside of her routine. Luckily, baby Kate is getting into more of a routine this week just in time for my Bar Method classes. The challenge was in coordinating childcare and getting out the door on time. As a new mom, all things breastfeeding are still awkward and time consuming, so getting out the door will require some practice and good planning. I think it will become easier in the coming week or two and I am excited to challenge myself in this way because The Bar Method is a great reward.

Karen DodgeThe Bar Method has been physically challenging this week for sure. My first class, I experienced cramping which made me panic a little. The second class, I did not cramp at all which is a small success. I read on the website that the thighs and glutes are the largest muscle groups and if I work them, I will burn more fat and thus loose the belly. I try to keep this in mind when my muscles begin to burn and shake. I remember when I was in labor and was eight centimeters going on ten centimeters and I began to shake uncontrollably. The nurse told me that trembling was “good” for the upcoming birth. I keep this in mind when I become uncomfortable or embarrassed that I am shaking.

I am so excited to have the Bar Method Beginner’s workout DVD! This way I can work on my form at home when baby Kate sleeps. The teachers have been very kind to correct my form in class and I want to do my own homework so I can get the most out of class. This DVD is very informative and fun to do at home.

Fitness Challenge Before and After Stories

Fitness challenges are becoming popular at Bar Method studios around the country because the workout makes such noticeable changes in students’ bodies. The challenges are contests held over three to four months for various prizes.  Recently, the Bar Method studio in Redmond just East of Seattle, Washington held a Fitness Challenge that inspired many students to work a little harder than usual.  The testimonials that the contestants wrote are inspirational, and I found them fun to read.

Bar Method Redmond has been open less than a year. In early 2009,  two Bay Area Bar Method teachers moved back home to the Seattle, Washington area to open their own studio near where they grew up. Bev Currier had been teaching in Walnut Creek, California for years. Maika Manring was a newer teacher in that same studio.  The two women were joined by Bev’s husband Luke Currier, who although not a teacher, is integrally involved in every other aspect of the studio.

Bev, Luke and Maika opened Bar Method Redmond, Seattle-Eastside in August, 2009 and less than a year later, it is a vibrant, jam packed exercise center that has touched thousands of people’s lives. The 2010 Fitness Challenge, which was launched in January, excited the entire studio and many participants reached their goals, which varied from weight loss to injury prevention, better posture, greater flexibility, overcoming depression, and simply getting some “me time.”

Studio co-owner Maika explains that “we did not choose the winner of the transformation challenge by the person who changed their body the most.  The transformation could be how Bar Method changed their life for the better, be it a physical change, a mental/emotional change, or both. All fitness challengers submitted testimonials to describe these changes and the person that won showed a transformation that embodied Bar Method body, mind and spirit.”

Here is one of the stories that I particularly love from Cynthia and her before and after pictures.

cynthia before resized 600 “I joined the fitness challenge with the goal of attending Bar 5 times per week.  In reality I made it on average 3-4 times.  My overall goals consisted of getting in shape for a looming 10-year high school reunion this summer and fitting into a pair of jeans I have hung on to for way too long!

I was so excited to join this challenge and see it through just as quickly as I had committed to it.  Over the course of the challenge I overcame many obstacles along my fitness journey to achieve success:  sprained ankle, sickness, family illness the loss of my beloved grandpa.  Through each of these obstacles I rededicated myself to my goals by making positive life long changes.  I did this by focusing on balancing my diet and eating habits, especially when it was not possible to attend Bar.   These obstacles also gave me a better understanding that eating healthy in addition to Bar Method workouts was also a key component to achieving the results I set out for myself.  Each obstacle I overcame allowed me to achieve small successes every week and every month I participated in the challenge.

My overall method for reaching my goals was to attain them by balanced, realistic and sustainable means.  In short, my recipe for success has been largely based on attending Bar Method classes regularly, drinking more water, getting more sleep, limited alcohol consumption, less soda, less overall calorie intake and generally paying greater attention to what I am putting into my body.

The more classes I attended, the more I came to the conclusion that I love Bar Method!  There has not been a single day that I did not experience the sensations of burning, shaking and quivering in nearly every muscle in my body.  The combination of pilates, yoga with isometric movements has been the best compliment to my typically cardio-heavy workout regimen.  I have never had the muscle definition and dense muscle composition that I have now.

My battle with weight has been a recent struggle of mine.  It was not until I entered my late 20’s that I ever had any difficulty managing my weight and staying toned. Bar Method has not on transformed my body but also the way I approach my ongoing fitness goals.  Now at 28, I’m committed and dedicated to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes Bar Method regularly!  Along this journey I have gained confidence, my clothes fit better (I now fit into that pair of jeans I have hung on to!!!), I stand taller and I have more energy and motivation.

After 4 months I have lost: 1.5 inches off my arms, 2 inches off my chest, 3.5 inches off my waist, 3 inches off my hips, 3 inches off my thighs, and 1.25 inches off my calves!

cynthia resized 600Sometimes it has felt like life interrupted my fitness plans on my fitness journey but like everything else in life some things do not go as planned, we take a detour along the way, but amazingly we can still arrive at our destination.  I have felt this many times over during the course of this challenge.   I am definitely a stronger individual because of these experiences and obstacles.  Even though I was able to meet most of my fitness goals for this challenge I plan on establishing new goals to continue to strive to meet and stay motivated.

I continue to look forward to my daily dose of Bar Method and warm greetings and smiles from Bev, Luke and Maika.  Their smiles encouragement helped get me out of bed, even on the coldest and darkest of winter mornings at 6am and that is what continues to bring me back for more… I love Bar Method!”

Allison, the winner of the 2010 Fitness Challenge, sums up the supportive spirit of the Redmond studio at the close of her interview:

“So, it is obvious I feel a connection both in body and spirit to The Bar Method and am thrilled at the results I am seeing. The icing on the cake is the camaraderie, support and love I feel for the group of people I take with, and for my incredible teachers Bev and Maika.”

Read all incredible results in all twenty testimonials from Bar Method Redmond.

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How to Achieve Good Posture

I’m eating dinner alone in a little Italian restaurant in Portland after teaching at the brand new Portland Bar Method studio. I notice a young, blond waitress serving some other tables. She’s tall, slender and pretty, only she has a noticeable slump that mars her looks. My usual rant about people’s posture starts to kick in inside my brain, which goes something like “How can people in our country spend billions every year on cosmetics and so little effort on such a major beauty issue?” but I stop myself.

The truth, I realize, is that changing the way you stand and walk gets hardwired into your body from an early age, and changing it is easier said than done. Most of the students I teach understand that their posture is a big factor is how they look and feel, and they’d love to improve it. Many of you, for example, wrote me in response to last week’s blog on posture asking for tips on how to make yours better. Thanks for asking! If you decide to set your mind to making this change, the benefits are huge. You’ll look prettier of course. You’ll also suffer fewer joint issues in your neck, back, hips, knees and ankles, all of which are adversely affected by poor posture. Here are three steps you can take to get started on this project.

The first step is to develop strong “posture” muscles, which is the only way you’ll have a fighting chance of holding onto your new alignment. The Bar Method  – or another well-designed bar class that uses mirrors and focuses on good alignment – is an excellent workout for developing stronger postural muscles because it requires you to stand up straight while you’re working your limbs, which mimics how you move throughout your day. Where are these “posture” muscles? They mainly reside in three places, in your back, in your abdominals and in your rear. Your back muscles, of course, hold your ribs upright. Your abs and glutes work as a team to hold your pelvis in good alignment. Make sure the workout you chose is safe and methodical enough to enable you to concentrate on how you’re standing and moving during the class.

POSTURE CORRECTIONSThe second step is to consciously work on your posture while you’re working out. Your perception of how you stand and the reality of how you really stand can be very different. For that reason, check your form in the mirror often during the standing bar work. Don’t assume that you’re standing up straight. Really look at the lines of your body. Is your head over your shoulders, or do you just assume that it is? Is your rib cage really upright, or does it sag backwards? At the same time, pay attention to any adjustments your teacher gives you. One adjustment you may get is what we teachers call “the shark bite,” which sounds scary but actually feels great, like a little massage. The teacher will place her or his on your upper back and press fingers and thumb inwards. The result is that your upper back will suddenly become straighter.

Your final step is to work on your posture during the day. This part of the process is the most challenging and usually requires that something or someone light a fire under you. The story of one person I know who successfully transformed her posture shows how hard this stage is even when you’re highly motivated. Becky Crabtree is currently a superb Bar Method teacher in Boulder, Colorado. As a teacher trainee, she proved herself to be uncompromisingly good humored and hard working.  Becky was the kind of trainee who went home after every training session and spent hours practicing a skill until she got it right. The one drawback in her teaching was that she tended to carry her head forward of her spine. I’d mentioned this problem to her more than once, as had other Bar Method teachers. Nevertheless, Becky showed little improvement on this front. Then last month, I visited the Boulder studio and took Becky’s class. “Your class was terrific,” I told her afterwards, “but your posture is unacceptable.” Knowing Becky, I wasn’t surprised when she came in the next morning with perfect posture and has held onto it from then on.

good postureLast week Becky emailed me this story about how the transformation in her posture has become an inspiration to her students: “Posture…is a hard thing to correct over night but it can be done,” she wrote. “I wanted to tell you that the other day a student came in after being gone in Africa for a month and she told me after class that she was inspired by my improved posture. She has always had bad posture and to see the difference in me meant she could do it too.” Becky added that she appreciated my feedback. “I guess I wanted to say that you not only affected me but our students as well.”

Read more from Burr on transforming your posture.

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Getting in Shape: A Body Sculpting Transformation Story

Before becoming a Bar Method student, Marilyn Catis never thought of herself as athletic. “I tended to be on the normal-to-thinner side, so I didn’t need to exercise,” she told me. Marilyn grew up one of three children within a warm, tight-knit family in a New Jersey community about 50 miles from New York City. She married at age 28 and two years later, in 2000, started trying to have a child. Her plans did not bear fruit. In six years, Marilyn miscarried all of her pregnancies, six in all. “I was very stressed out,” she recalls. “I would gain weight, lose weight, gain weight, lose weight. I wasn’t exercising at all.” Needless to say, her weight was the least of her concerns at this point in her life. In 2006, Marilyn and her husband Demetri underwent two IVF cycles that both failed. “That’s when I said to myself, “‘Forget it,’” Marilyn remembers.

In spite of her disappointment, her dreams for a child did not die. That year the couple started to fill out the paperwork for adoption. So now with her sights on another route to motherhood – and after so many miscarriages — Marilyn was not overjoyed to discover that she was soon pregnant again. To make it worse, she was spotting, a sign that she would yet again miscarry. Marilyn wondered if at this juncture she should have a hysterectomy. “I can’t have another miscarriage,” she told the nurse at her fertility clinic.

Luckily Marilyn didn’t have a hysterectomy. No one knows why, but this time her pregnancy hung on, and in March of 2007 she joyfully gave birth to a healthy son, Elias. During the months when she carried her child, Marilyn had been thrilled to finally experience pregnancy. “I gained 40 pounds and felt like a goddess.”

before storyHer reality check came seven months after delivering her baby. She was still carrying 25 pounds of baby weight on her petite 5-foot 3 ½-inch frame. On her 37th birthday, her sister Chrissy decided her sister needed some tough love. “You’re the fattest you’ve ever been,” she told Marilyn. “Why are you cutting yourself that big piece of cake?”

before story twoMarilyn took Chrissy’s remarks to heart.  She cried, did not eat the cake, and joined a gym, where she took aerobics classes. Her body became more fit but at a cost. “I had to pop two Advil every day,” she told me. “My knees were clicking. My calf muscles were knotted up.”

Marilyn was able to stick with her new fitness route only a short time. She soon became pregnant again naturally and delivered a second healthy son, Chris, in August 2008. She had weighed 117 pounds before Chris’ birth. She weighed 142 after having him.

This time Marilyn had a new option for getting in shape after her baby. The Bar Method had just opened in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, a few minutes from her home.  Even better, this Bar Method studio happened to be co-owned by her sister Chrissy, the same sister who had confronted her at her birthday. Shortly after the Bar Method’s October 2008 opening, Marilyn began taking two classes a week. “I was a spaz,” she admits. “I was struggling with the form. Chrissy kept correcting me.” After about six classes, however, Marilyn said she “got it.” Her form fell into place, but her two-class-a-week schedule proved not to be sufficient to jump-start any significant body change. (To read more about “form,” click on the secret ingredient of body sculpting exercise.)

In January Marilyn saw the light.  Her body didn’t look much different, but those of her fellow students who had been coming three or more times a week were changing. “Everybody else was looking fantastic,” she remembers. “They were very inspirational, these women in their 30s and 40s. They got these beautiful lean bodies. And to see Chrissy with her shape and knowing that she had two C sections!”

after storyInspired by her fellow students, Marilyn decided to try coming to class five times a week. “Once I upped it, I saw my body completely transforming. The weight was just melting away.” Over the next nine months Marilyn lost her 25 pounds and then a few more. “I’m now at around 113, but it’s not just that I’m lighter. I was flabby before and now I’m not. My upper body is defined, and my back is getting toned, things I didn’t experience at the gym. And I’m getting the results without the pain.”

Marilyn is so impressed by her experience at the Bar Method that she decided to become a teacher. “The Bar Method has changed my perspective on how to work your body without jarring it,” she told me. “You have the best of all worlds just wrapped up in this methodology. I’m excited to be on this path.”

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