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Is The Bar Method “Barre Fitness?”

Fitness-June-Cover-242x334An editor at a national fitness magazine contacted our office a few weeks ago to ask if I’d contribute to an upcoming article. Usually, I’m delighted when the press calls, but this time, the subject of the article gave me pause. “Would I write a piece about the benefits of barre fitness workouts?” the editor asked. Her question presupposed that barre fitness workouts share the same benefits and that as creator of The Bar Method I would be a good person to speak about them. The truth is, I am not an expert on barre fitness workouts, not having taken more than a few of them, and do not consider myself qualified to talk about their benefits. I understood where the editor was coming from, but I turned her down.

Now if she’d asked me to talk specifically about The Bar Method, I would have felt confident about giving her this list of its benefits:

  • The Bar Method adheres to the principles of exercise physiology and was designed under the guidance of physical therapists. It is thereby safe for the joints and highly efficient at changing the body.
  • Blog on barre fitness 4 editIts workout is mindful. Students experience a heightened mental focus during the class, which helps them to precisely target muscles and gives them increased self-confidence and well-being.
  • Its technique places a special emphasis on posture and good alignment.
  • Its students are multi-generational. The class gives both 20-year-olds and 70-year olds a challenging, result-oriented workout.
  • Its teachers receive among the best training and ongoing guidance in the fitness industry.
  • Its teaching is consistent across all of its studios.
  • Blog on barre fitness 3 editIts studios are beautiful and comfortable environments.
  • Its desk and teaching staff are welcoming and supportive.
  • Its student communities are closely bonded and passionate about The Bar Method workout.
  • Its studio owners are all teachers themselves and serve as mentors and guides for their own teachers, a system that sustains an overall high quality of teaching throughout The Bar Method.
  • Its brand continues to introduce new and innovative Bar Method workouts.

Are these Bar Method benefits also “barre fitness” benefits? I have no evidence that they are. Our students rarely mention the bar (or “barre”) when they tell us why they love The Bar Method. They talk about the results, the quality experience and the supportive community. Take, for example, the students’ comments in this three-minute video recently posted by our Seattle studio, which I admired and share with you here:Seattle video shot edit

All considered, barre fitness may not even be the best classification for The Bar Method. It might be a better fit in an upcoming fitness group called “studio workouts,” a collection of service-focused brands that has gained a reputation for giving its students personal attention, community, results, and a well-honed, well delivered experience. But then, where else but from The Bar Method can students achieve supremely sculpted arms, beautiful posture and increased flexibility? With so many benefits to be gained from taking its class, it may simply be the best workout in any category, bar none 🙂

If the thought of helping people change their lives from the outside in resonates with you and the thought of creating a community where people feel welcomed and encouraged inspires you, then you might be just who we are looking for.   Email us at franchising@barmethodhq.com or fill out our online inquiry form to find out just what it takes to be a Bar Method studio owner!

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The Bar Method’s Addicting Blend of Structure and Novelty

P90X photo 2 edit smallThere are two opposing theories about how best to design an exercise routine. One group of experts says you need to stick with a consistent program. The other side says doing a new and different set of exercises every week or so will give you better results. This debate has heated up within the weight lifting world ever since “P90X,” a home workout program sold by a company called Beachbody, came out in 2003. P90X’s central premise challenged a core tenet of the muscling building world: that you’ve got to repeat the same move over and over again to get results. Beachbody proposed a different theory. Mixing it up is better because, that way “your body will never get used to the routines,” it says. Beachbody named its technique “the science of muscle confusion” and made it the foundation of P90X.

The claim that confusing your muscles works better than plain old repetition threw the hard-core muscle guys into combat mode. Some of their comments were:

Brandon Morrison“You can’t just overload your muscles for a week and then shift the base to other muscles for the next week.” Fitness writer Abhijit Naikand. 

“Muscles cannot be confused, perplexed, bewildered or even a little befuddled,” Brandon Morrison, founder of a fitness company and the website Lift Big Eat Big.  

dr steve young small text 23“Muscle Confusion goes against everything I learned in physiology.” Physiologist Steve Young.

jay cutler photo small text2My favorite tirade against muscle confusion (see http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/muscle-confusion/) is by Jay Cutler, super-pumped four-time winner of the title Mr. Olympia. His witty rant sums up the fury of the body-building world over the suggestion that to buff up you don’t have to work your tail off doing upteen repetitions of an excruciating move.

Does this clash among muscle builders have anything to do with barre fitness? Obviously the goal of barre workouts isn’t to pump your muscles. Nonetheless, both types of exercise are essentially strength-work, and this process, no matter what shape you’re aiming to end up with, demands, in my view, a consistent routine. First of all, I’ve found that you simply have hit a muscle on a regular basis to get it to change. You can’t work your thighs on Thursday and your glutes on Friday. Shaping muscles requires lots of repetition!

learning to target the glutes1And that’s not all I’ve noticed about the benefits of consistency. It also helps you learn to work the right muscles. Any kind of strength work, whether it’s sculpting a dancer’s body or pumping yourself into a Goliath, involves learning how to catch the muscles you want to reshape. This process is not like aerobics, the goal of which is simply to keep your heart rate elevated. Working a muscle requires you to contract the right one, and that’s not easy at first. You might not really be “in” the muscle you want to shape until maybe your 30th workout. If you switch up your routine too often, you may never find it.

Therefore I agree with the muscle guys when it comes to the importance of a consistent routine, whether you want it to look huge, bulky and tough or long, lean and graceful.

learning good formIn a barre fitness class, a structured format gives you even more benefits. It enables you to work on coordination, alignment and posture (more about that later). It gives your teacher a window within each exercise to guide and coach you, and a set sequence when it’s well-designed, doubles the effectiveness of each exercise. (see my blog WHY THE BAR METHOD WORKS SO WELL).

But wait! There’s a significant difference between barre fitness and bodybuilding, one that opens up the debate about consistency vs. variety all over again. Barre fitness, unlike bodybuilding, is a form of “functional exercise.” It not only sculpts your muscles. It gives you an array of other physical benefits: increased flexibility, straighter alignment, better posture, improved patterns of motion, and enhanced coordination, grace and athleticism in everything you do.

Due to this difference variety does play a role in enhancing results when you’re doing functional exercise. When you’re working on enhancing your patterns of motion and general athleticism, you’re effectively simulating real life. Not knowing what comes next in this kind of class trains your mind and body to work together as a more tightly knit team. So by not being able to anticipate the next tempo or direction, you can systemically learn to meet the unexpected with improved coordination, alignment, posture and precision.

Mix up a barre fitness class too much however, and you lose its structure along with its many benefits. Like the muscle guys said, you really don’t want to confuse your muscles. You want to keep them as informed as possible. Novelty is not for your muscles anyway. It’s for your mind and your mind-body connection. So if a barre class regularly changes the sequence of the workout, the added interest this switch might initially give you could comes at the expense of results. This particular change in sequence, for example, not allow your back muscles to warm up enough to do your best crunches.

In my view, the ideal barre fitness workout weaves novelty into its structure so that you reap the benefits of both sculpting and body-training. The Bar Method, like a ballet class, uses an overlying structure within which it inserts novelty with rhythmic, ever-changing choreography and a rich palate of exercise variations.

rubyann curl small1This technique makes it unlikely that you’ll know which exercise variations you’ll get in a particular class. Then once you’re moving, you’re compelled to stay alert to catch the next tempo, direction and choreographic turn. In this way you mentally stay on the edge of your seat as you fight you way through the inevitable intensity your body will encounter.

Ballet classes are a great example of this formula. For hundreds of years, these classes have adhered to the same basic sequence of exercises. Ballet students often begin this routine as young children and perform it until the end of their careers as dancers. The combination of specialized muscle tone and ability this routine gives them is what dramatically changes their bodies into dancers’ bodies. Like a classic ballet barre sequence, the Bar Method’s blend of structure and novelty provides its students with the amazing changes that regular practice can work on their bodies, while it keeps their minds engaged enough to focus on finding the right muscles and improving form – an addicting formula.

Why Interactive Exercise Classes Give You Better Results

Old lecture hallDo you get a better workout in a class that uses a “see and do” or “Simon says Simon does” format, or in a class that includes teacher-student interaction? Competitive athletes routinely get lots of feedback from their coaches during their practice sessions. But when you’re simply working out, do you get any extra value from your exercise instructors interacting with you about your form and focus?

I decided to get an educated answer to this question by researching what regular teachers think about interactive teaching. It turns out that the world of teaching is in the midst of a major tectonic shift in its approach to this issue. Overwhelming evidence that the old-style lecture format doesn’t work very well is inspiring teachers to switch en mass to “active learning.” “Active learning may overthrow the style of teaching that has ruled universities for 600 years,” declared a Harvard professor last year. “Thousands of studies indicate that active learning,” explained another Harvard expert, ‘is the most effect thing,” One of these these studies took place at the University of British Columbia in 2011. A research team held two week-long classes on identical subject matter that were attended by two groups of students as closely matched as possible. The only difference was that one of the classes was in a lecture format, and the other in an interactive format, which engaged students in discussions and active problem solving. The results? After the course, the interactive class participants scored twice as high as those in the lecture-style class.

Eric MazurWhat’s more, women are turning out to benefit more from the interactive teaching style than men. Eric Mazur, a Harvard physiology professor, noticed this when he switched to an “active learning” technique, and his women students quickly closed the gap between themselves and their male counterparts. “The verbal and collaborative/collegial nature of peer interactions,” Mazur speculates, “may enhance the learning environment for women students.”

Can these discoveries about interactive learning be applied to exercise, especially to exercise favored by women? In my experience, absolutely! I give you that simple aerobics workouts, during which you just want to keep your heart rate elevated for a time can pay off without much focused concentration. Getting good results from a strength-work however depends on your level of mental alertness; how attentive you are to your form, how precise your movements are, and how well you gauge your exhaustion point. Without coaching, it’s hard not to lose focus on the challenge and allow your body to take the easy route and shift away from the effort. Competitive athletes for this reason use coaches to maximize their focus, and the Bar Method gives its students the same caliber of feedback and guidance. Teachers verbally coach individual students on their form, alignment, mental focus and individually acknowledge them when they improve. By means of this guidance, students continue to advance their skills and get the results they want.

The experience of being in a class where interacting teaching is going on is, at least for me, fun, exhilarating and collegial. My body reflexively responds to the verbal adjustments I hear my teacher give my fellow students. For example, when I hear “Sally, lengthen your back.” My back lengthens. “Gina, square your shoulders.” My shoulders square. “Nicole, come up less.” I come up less. These cues thereby become a conversation among all of us. The teacher talks to a student. The student responds by adjusting how she’s working. The rest of us get in on the tips by adjusting our own bodies accordingly. This back-and-forth not only gets me involved and “in the moment.” It gives me a deeper connection to my body and to the athleticism and power of the exercises.

Active learning in Bar Method workouts doesn’t stop at verbal interaction. Students are of course learning with their bodies, so Bar Method teachers are trained to interact with them on a physical level too. This “hands-on” guidance is essential in order for most students to get good workout, without which, try as they might, they would be unable to recruit difficult-to-reach muscles or to work safely. Here are a few examples of how students learn better form with interactive teaching.

blog matrix

The students in these photos are, from top to bottom:

1. Slumping due to habitual posture,

2. Leaning weight into the joints of shoulders and wrists instead of the triceps muscles, and

3. Bending at the lower back and neck rather than engaging the glutes.

By receiving this ongoing supportive feedback from their teachers, students develop better body awareness and alignment, as well as learn to target muscles instead of joints.

There’s simply no turning back the clock once innovations like “acting learning” demonstrate their power to enhance our lives. It’s left up to each of us to take full advantage of the benefits.

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

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 Bar Method as a Path to Mastery

“I have grown bored at The Bar Method,” a student named Gabrielle wrote me a few months ago. “The Method has become too repetitive, too predictable, and I’ve lost most of the fun.”

Gabrielle started attending the Bar Method in the early 2000’s, lost inches around her hips and waist, and fell in love with the class. Gabrielle and I exchanged a few emails on the subject of her dissatisfaction with class, and I learned that her work schedule had limited her to taking classes at times where there were a lot of beginners.

Burr leg lifts PasadenaEven so, I wondered if Gabrielle was missing out on what to me is most fun about taking the Bar Method whether or not beginners are present in the class: working towards mastery. This mind-set can mean one thing to you – possibly learning how to pull in your abs as you breathe – and something else to another student — maybe achieving a dancer’s posture. Whatever your goals, if you perform the exercises with the objective of mastering them, the Bar Method’s consistent structure becomes anything but boring. It becomes the very thing that empowers you to push the limits of your potential for coordination, strength, beauty and mental toughness. Repetition + focus = practice, and focused practice, experts on learning tell us, is the ultimate key to achieving significant, long term change, in other words to gaining mastery.

The Bar Method is especially suited to the pursuit of mastery in the physical realm. Its tight structure, precise positions and small muscle isolations give you a chance to overcome movement habits such as tensing your neck when you raise your arms. The mirrors in the classrooms allow you to check your alignment and performance, and – most fun of all – the ever-present possibility of going “deeper,” “higher,” “lower,” or “farther” keep the door open for new change. Have you been reluctant to work lower in thigh-work because you’re not strong enough yet? Or are you really holding back because you’re afraid of the burn? If you stay focused, eking out the answer to this question in the heat of the moment can strengthen not only to your muscles but your mental toughness as well.

Focusing on mastery pays off as well by giving you a second wave of dramatic body changes well after the initial sculpting and slimming down have been achieved. Take posture for example. I often wonder why some advanced students who regularly take Level 2 classes don’t take advantage of the opportunity to work on theirs. If they would just focus on that one change, they could radically change their appearance. In the same way, students who hunch their shoulders whenever they lift their arms, who lean forward during thigh exercises, or who have trouble pulling in their abs could transform their bodies by using the hour to focus on their weak areas.

Next time you go to class, try taking it with your own customized set of challenges in mind. You might find that the class can feel as exciting as a triathlon. The almost 30 years that I’ve taken this method of exercise has taught me to love the the classes that I struggle through most or want to do better at than before. Here are some private goals I set for myself during the class:–During one-weight lifts trying to keep my arm parallel to the floor,–During push-ups, getting my chest down to elbow height while staying in good form,–During thigh-work maintaining a more intense burn than the last time I took class,–During standing seat-work keeping my back absolutely vertical,–During arabesque looking in the mirror and seeing my working foot above my shoulder,–During round-back keeping my working leg absolutely “ballet” straight, and–During flat-back, lifting my feet up towards the height of my knees (pretty impossible!)

If you’ve been bored by class lately, make a no-holds-barred list of every conceivable way the Bar Method could change your body and spirit for the better. Then see how close you come to making them happen!

Read about the Seattle Bar Method’s fitness challenge and all the different ways people changed after taking The Bar Method for four months!

Diet, Exercise, and Hunger

Exercise makes many people less hungry. Men as a group have been found to be largely immune from increased appetite after exercise, and may even become temporarily “anorexic” according to a 1994 study conducted in the U.K. by Leeds University. Previous studies at Leeds found that this suppression of appetite can last for up to two days.

Some women also experience the same appetite-suppressing effects from working out. Sara Giller, a comedienne, Bar Method teacher and desk manager at the Los Angeles studios, was heard to say recently, “Days when I exercise, I never want to eat. When I’m just working at the desk, though, I’m noshing all day.”

At the same time, many women exercisers are made somewhat more hungry by their workouts. An experiment conducted in 2007 by the U.K.-based Journal of Endrocrinology that included female subjects found that the subjects did feel hungrier after exercising, but, if left alone with food, consumed about a third fewer of the extra calories than their workout burned for them, thus achieving a caloric deficit overall.

At the other end of the spectrum there are those people whom exercise makes ravenous. This month I got an email from a Bar Method student named Andrea describing her struggle with this issue:

“I’ve been in love with the Bar Method for over a year,” Andrea wrote, “and have seen great changes in my body.…however, I feel as though my diet is all that is holding me back from seeing results… Is it normal that I feel hungrier than usual all day after doing a class? If yes, what is the best food to satisfy my post-workout hunger?…What does your daily diet look like? I would really appreciate any feedback.”

Muscle building exerciseFirst of all, for Andrea and others who run into this road-block to body-change, there is good news on the horizon. Past Bar Method students with this issue have reported to us that their appetites revert to normal after about six months of classes. It is likely that their initial hunger was being caused by rapidly increasing muscle mass, an essential component in body reshaping. (Here’s a blog I did on how the Bar Method builds and sculpts muscles.) During those first six months or so, students’ bodies also burn away a significant amount of intramuscular fat, which thereafter no longer needs to be fed. After that time, their leaner bodies are feeding muscle not fat, and their appetites revert to normal or even become a bit suppressed. Men probably don’t fall prey to exercise hunger, unless they are body-builders, because their bodies are genetically predisposed to have leaner, denser muscles than women, even without exercise.

Okay, but how do students cope with the raging hunger in the meantime? I thought about what to advise Andrea. I knew that people can learn to be okay with feeling a little hungry, but they can’t cope with feeling ravenous. Minimizing her risk of feeling famished by keeping her blood sugar level steady would be foremost. I included elements of my own eating habits and sent Andrea these tips:

• Avoid eating sweets during the first six months that you take the Bar Method. Staying away from sweetened foods will help your body burn away fat more quickly.

• Avoid eating after dinner.

• Don’t eat muffins or cookies.

• Drink water slowly. It will relax your stomach.

• When you go to bed, feel just a bit hungry but not starving.

• And of course eat reasonably healthy food.

I pressed “send” and immediately remembered that I had right at my fingertips a wealth of fantastic advice on dieting that I hadn’t included. For eight years The Bar Method has handed out an article by Consumer Reports called “The Truth About Dieting,” which is mind blowing, especially for those who’ve  gotten caught up in all the hype in the media about losing weight.  “The Truth About Dieting” is packed with eye-opening – and entertaining — scientific information on how simple changes in diet – with the help of exercise – can cause you to eat less and lose weight. Wow, I thought! This is MUST reading not just for Andrea but for anyone who’s ever wanted to take off a few pounds. The article is not available in its entirety online, so I will describe its highlights – including six tips for losing weight and keeping it off in next week’s blog.

Find a Bar Method Exercise Studio near you.

Sample and buy Bar Method Exercise DVDs.

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.

Making the “Super Sculpting” Exercise DVD

Mike Najjar was the first teacher I invited to perform in the DVD workout that I would be leading during our four-DVD shoot this month. Mike has been teaching at both San Francisco studios since 2007. When he’s not wearing his Bar Method Instructor hat, he is also an institutional sales representative in the financial sector. I wanted Mike as a performer because he projects great personal warmth, takes class five times a week, and loves the Bar Method. He turned out to be not only a good performer, but very helpful to our team. During the rehearsals, each of us took turns watching the run-throughs and giving us notes regarding how well we were representing the correct form of the exercises and were in sync with each other.

Mike was both supportive and honest with his feedback.

“You have a tic,” he told me after one run-through. “You’re saying ‘and then’ a lot.”

A “tic” is an unnecessary word or phrase that Bar Method teachers say unconsciously again and again like “go ahead and,” “I want you to,” and “good.” I certainly didn’t want to have tics in my DVD!

“Really?” I responded. “I don’t hear myself saying it.”

We ran through the workout again, and there it was. I WAS constantly saying “and then.” Thanks to Mike, I will not subject the users of my DVDs with a cascade of “and then”’s.

The other members of my group had similarly sweet personalities.Super sculpting rehearsal photo resized 600 Tera Roth, a teacher at the Downtown San Francisco studio, is studying for her doctorate in physical therapy and is on the left of Mike. Keryun Su, one of my teachers at the SF Marina studio, is an IT project manager whose husband Duke was the subject of one of my previous blogs. She is on the right in this picture. Chelsea Glavinovich, in the picture below, is an amazing, high-energy studio owner who is always cheerful and smiling even though she runs two East San Francisco Bay studios, leads training groups all over the country, bikes competitively, and as of late finds the time to plan her upcoming wedding in early October.

workout dvdThis DVD workout is one of the advanced routines. I named it “Super-Sculpting” because it is an especially targeted workouts, even for a Bar Method class. For example, we not only do “pretzel, which is already a highly effective seat exercise. We give it an extra kick with the use of a ball. Similarly we used our balls to add challenge in thigh-work, abs and “back-dancing.”“Super-Sculpting” had its intended effect on our bodies.

“I was more sore after each DVD practice,” Chelsea told me, “than I have been in recent memory.”

I myself noticed that our “Super-Sculpting” rehearsals added definition to my seat and arms.

On July 7th, the day of our shoot, the five of us met up in the make-up room of the sound-stage in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles. This is where Mike met his biggest challenge as a performer: make-up!

“I never wore makeup before,” he confessed. “I kept smearing itdescribe the image when I touched my face. Also got a bad taste in my mouth from the lip stuff.”

His discomfort got him a certain amount of ribbing from his fellow performers.

“It was pretty funny,” Tera told me.

The shoot itself went smoother those I’d done in the past. I attribute this improvement to our super-organized new production team.

“I thought it was very efficient and well run,” Mike told me after he’d removed his make-up. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

I hope users of “Super-Sculpting” will have as much fun – and get the same great results – as my performers and I did making it.

Next week: Joey Decker and his beginner’s workout.