My Hawaii Scrapbook

Honolulu Elaina at front desk 2015 edit


The Bar Method opened in Honolulu in January 2015, our first studio in Hawaii. I visit every new studio, and I was especially looking forward to this trip. Elaina Olson is like my sister. Her office was next to mine for three years when she was working as our company’s Manager of Franchise Development, always dreaming about opening her own studio as she helped others open theirs. Finally, at the age of 27, she made her dream come true by opening a Bar Method studio in the heart of Honolulu. Besides being thrilled for Elaina, I was secretly thrilled for myself. I’d never been to Hawaii, and this was my chance!

My husband Michael and I saw a further opportunity in my assignment. Every year, we take a vacation in July, and by combining my trip with our vacation, we could see a part of the country we weren’t familiar with.

My first two days in Hawaii were visiting Elaina in Honolulu, and I had a blast. Her studio’s informal, beachy vibe drained the stress out of me, and like Honolulu itself, her students immediately won me over. They placed “leis” around my neck, taught me to give the “shaka” hand greeting, and had me throwing balls in the air with them. I left considering them life-long friends.

Honolulu Burr teaching July 2015 crop edit

Teaching class in Honolulu

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Leis and “shakas”










Honolulu throwing balls 2015 edit

Throwing balls

Vacation was next! I took a tiny turbo prop to Maui and met my husband at the airport. We got a room with a great view.

Maui view from room 2015 edit

The view from our room

Michael turned 65 when we were there, and I took him out to dinner to celebrate.

Lelanie's Maui July 2015 edit

Wining and dining him again

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Dinner on Michael’s 65th birthday











At the beach, Michael shed his T-shirt to show off his results from his 4-day-a-week Bar Method and Bar Move routine. Meanwhile, I tried to lounge by the pool and learned that it is not my thing. I don’t like to sit still unless I have to, and the time and effort to apply sunscreen on all the places that are usually covered by clothes was, well, not my thing.

Maui Michael six pack 2015 edit

Michael showing off his Bar Method six pack

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Trying unsuccessfully to sit still














Parasailing we loved!

Maui parasailing 1 2015 edit


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Being dunked!










There were surfers all over the place in Maui. Being 68, I opted for splashing in the waves.

Maui Burr in waves 6 2015 edit

Maui Burr in waves 7 edit













The last day I started missing my dog (a pomeranian). Fortunately, there was a swan at the hotel who loves treats and wagged its tail when I offered it some.  Ahhh.

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Back to San Francisco in first class, a gift from my husband.

Michal and Burr on plane from Hawaii 2015 edit











Caitlin at barWhen most of us embark on a new activity that involves practicing on a regular basis, we typically hear a voice inside us saying “I don’t wanna.” Even though we’ve been excitedly thinking about making this change in our lives, actually doing the work towards learning something or changing our habits is not a walk in the park. At the beginning the practice is boring, and it’s tempting to decide instead to have a snack, do our laundry, reorganize our files, or watch the news. How long do most people have to struggle with feeling this discomfort while turning in a new direction? Sports psychologist Gregory Chertok wrote in this week’s San Francisco Chronicle that, “for a behavior to become an ingrained action…it takes four to six weeks of ‘consistent’ action,’” that is, regular practice.

Don’t be discouraged if in the past you’ve been derailed by the tedious process of “engraining” a new behavior and given up! Our brains and muscles are hardwired with a surplus of potential to learn countless skills, and we keep much of this resource for life. You can tap into it any time and acquire a dazzling new piece of yourself, plus a surprising bonus for having stuck with it: a new-found pleasure in doing the very task that was such a drag at first.

My father, who died three years ago this month, knew of these riches. He wrote about them in his book about learning called “Mastery,” and towards the end of his life he personally demonstrated that you don’t have to be young to benefit from practice. To illustrate how someone can use practice to sharpen a skill and find joy, even during his last days, I want to reprint this story about my father that I wrote for this blog shortly before he died:


In the summer of 2003 my father George Burr Leonard had most of his stomach and esophagus removed. He lay in the intensive care unit for three weeks falling in and out post-surgical psychosis as we hopelessly tried to reason with him. We were overjoyed when he came to. We were also relieved to learn that the doctors had gotten out all of the cancer. My father was declared okay to go on with his life.

george leonard masteryAnd what a life he had to go back to. My father is a pioneer in the emerging field of human potentialities, the investigation into just how far we humans can go towards maximizing our inborn potential for growth in mind, body and spirit. He is the founder of three life-enhancing techniques that have touched tens of thousands of people the world, is past-president of Esalen Institute and The Association for Humanistic Psychology, is the author of twelve books on the human potential (my two favorites are “Mastery” and “The Silent Pulse”), is a fifth-degree black belt in aikido, an accomplished jazz pianist, and the writer and lyricist of musical comedies. In person, my father is funny, sweet, enthusiastic and playful. His favorite words are “joy” and “generous.” He, as they say, lights up a room.

Dad never planned to retire, no less to get sick, or even old. After his recovery he leapt right back into his life. The problem was, he had trouble eating. At first we family members figured he wasn’t trying hard enough. We advised him to eat fattening foods, eat more often, drink Ensure, see specialists and healers, take pills and remedies, and he did them all. Nevertheless, in the face of all the wizardry the medical and healing worlds could offer him, he became thinner and weaker.

In 2008 when my father hit his 5-year survival mark, a supposed measure of post-cancer recovery, he was no longer joyful. His disease had seriously affected his body and mind. He couldn’t drive and became house bound except for increasingly frequent visits to the emergency room. He stopped writing and playing the piano. His friends didn’t visit him as much. He became despondent and at times could not be consoled.

Then four months ago, one of Dad’s many doctors prescribed something he had never tried. “He took out his prescription pad,” my father told me, “scribbled something on it, and handed it to me. It said,

‘Practice the piano 15 minutes a day, seven days a week.'”

And that’s exactly what my father has done.

George Burr Leonard and Burr Leonard

I visited my father today. He is still stooped, but his eyes are lit up with his old good humor. He eagerly told me about his piano playing and to my amazement of his enjoyment of being retired. “It’s fun,” he said. “I can stand back, look at the world, and laugh at it.”

What amused me about the prescription that finally healed my father’s spirits is that it was for his own medicine. Most of his books give emphasis to the power of daily practice as the foundation for positive change. In “The Life We Are Given” he writes:

“Any significant long-term change requires long-term practice, whether that change has to do with learning to play the violin or learning to be a more open, loving person.”

As a reader and fan of his books, I took this idea when I was in the process of developing the Bar Method and used it to guide both students and teachers. I discovered that, just as my father prescribed, regular practice – whether it be simply attending class three times a week or, just as important, really practicing the exercises while doing them – changes us inside and out more than we initially believed possible.

Read more on Mastery vs. Fitness Trends.


One-weight liftsI started teaching bar fitness in Greenwich, Connecticut in May of 1992 when my husband and I became licensees of the Lotte Berk Method, the bar fitness pioneer based in nearby New York City. During my first few weeks as a studio owner, my students told me they loved the workout, but some of them mentioned that they were feeling some pain in their knees, backs and shoulders.

I consulted a physical therapist, Rick Stebbins, about these complaints. Rick watched a few classes. Then he gave me the good news and the bad news: The workout was generally terrific. As a physical therapist, he believed everyone should do strength-work to keep their joints healthy, and the Lotte Berk Method did that well. But, he added, some of the positions I was teaching could tweak joints.

reverse pushupsI enlisted Rick to help me find safer ways to teach the exercises, and over the next months, we worked together to rethink them. “One-weight lifts,” for example, an exercise for the back of the shoulder, was taught by the Lotte Berk Method with a rounded back. We repositioned the spine so that it was neutral. Reverse pushups were trickier. The Lotte Berk classes extended students’ bodies forward away from their arms, which Rick said put the shoulder and wrist joints at risk. We almost eliminated reverse pushups entirely, but both of us really loved how it quickly strengthened the triceps. Finally, we agreed that if students pressed their ribcages and upper arms together and maintained vertical arms, the exercise became sufficiently safe, as Amy illustrates at right.

reverse pushupsThe result of our efforts turned out to be better than either of us expected. The workout became safe enough to be rehabilitative for students with pre-existing injuries. What’s more, the class got harder and more targeted, and it was changing students’ bodies faster. One reason is that I could now give more reps with confidence that my students were in good alignment. By 2001, the workout had diverged so much from Lotte Berk’s that our two companies mutually agreed to part ways. We became the Bar Method.

Today, 20 years later, bar fitness is exploding. You can take a bar class at hundreds of studios around the country as well as at gyms and yoga studios. All I can say is, what took them so long to get here? Bar-based routines are fantastic at making bodies beautiful. They use weight loads (students’ own bodies), so they shape students’ muscles, and their strength intervals can last for enough reps to build stamina and burn fat.

These benefits, however, come with a caveat: bar workouts to be safe need to pay special attention to alignment. Take a closer look at what happens in a bar fitness workout, and you’ll see why:

From Strength Training AnatomyBar exercise is strength-work. Unlike purely aerobic exercise it loads a muscle with more weight than it’s comfortable supporting. Unlike classical strength technique however, bar routines require loaded muscles to perform up to 100 reps at a time. Strength training limits its sets to eight to ten reps that are performed with focus and under the guidance of spotters.

Bar classes give their students less weight than strength work does and fewer reps than cardio. But the fact remains: bar classes load muscles for minutes at a time, so they need to bear in mind the alignment of the underlying joints. bernadetteSpeaking for the Bar Method, I can say we do our best to make our bar exercises safe.

Bar Method students tell us that they appreciate this effort. “Bar has been invaluable to me over the past few years,” a student named Bernadette Collins wrote me. “I tore my hamstring a few years ago and it has helped tremendously with rehab and strengthening… I believe there are other ‘similar’ classes out there. However, having tried one or two, they aren’t as well conceived or safe as the Bar Method, in my opinion.”

Why It’s So Important to Exercise As You Age

Burr in Chair for blogNow that I’m 64 and the aging process is noticeably changing my body, I’ve become profoundly grateful to have exercise in my life. I feel especially lucky that the workout I’ve been doing for the last three decades, the Bar Method, seemed to have assumed the role of protector against time. In my 30s and 40s I loved the workout (which was then the Bar Method’s predecessor, the Lotte Berk Method) because it made me look and feel good. Over the past few years I’ve been stunned to find that my workouts, while not exactly reversing time, are turning it back significantly. Now they’re not just making me more buff and toned. They’re also wiping away fatigue, mental cloudiness, grumpiness, aching joints and a host of other symptoms of the aging process. I can go into a class feeling exhausted and walk out of it almost magically energized. My muscles don’t as easily retain the strength gained from my workouts like they used to decades ago, but the classes always leave me calmer, more centered, and in a better humor. I hate to think how different my life would be at this stage if I didn’t have this workout to renew me on an ongoing basis.

Burr in round-backEverything I’ve reported to you in this blog thus far is old news to the medical community. Doctors and economists have been all over this subject for decades, and their research has been sending up flags about the dangers of older adults not being active. A group of several hundred physiologists found that millions of Americans are dying prematurely each year from “Sedentary Death Syndrome,” or lack of physical activity. Meanwhile, economists have determined that the cost of these deaths to our country are somewhere around three trillion dollars a year due to life-style related diabetes, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, strokes, osteoporosis, dementia, accidental falls, and other lifestyle-related illnesses and issues. Atlanta’s Center for Disease Control estimates that if all these physically inactive Americans became active, we’d save “$77 billion in direct annual medical costs, and an estimated $150 billion in direct and indirect medical costs.”

There are signs that more and more of us in this country are beginning to understand the relationship between inactivity and illness. We see an increasing number of older people whose bodies remind us of cars that haven’t been maintenanced for decades, and their downcast, disappointed, and defeated-looking faces can’t but affect us. We might ask ourselves, ”what happened to those people? Could they have been in accidents?”  More likely, they’ve lived the sedentary lifestyle that our society has made the norm.

Bill CunninghamCall me an optimist, but I believe that at some point in our future history, people will figure out a way out of this pitfall. The results have come in from our mass experiment with inactivity. We know that it hurts us, especially now that we’re living longer. Fortunately, as a species we’re ambitious when it comes to our right to enjoy life to the last drop, and we have the drive, ability and adaptability to reinvent ourselves when it serves our purposes. One example from the past is our dental care habits, which have evolved to become unrecognizable from the way they were 200 years ago. “Sedentary Death Syndrome” is actually a pretty recent problem. People started to become inactive in great numbers less than a century ago when enough modern conveniences were invented to relieve them of the necessary of exerting their bodies. We’re really just in the preliminary stages of tackling this challenge.

Already some Americans have been deciding to lead very active lives in their later years. Jack LaLanne lifted weight into his 90s. Cloris Leachman competed in Dancing With The Stars at age 82, and the wonderful 83-year-old photographer Bill Cunningham still spends his days riding his bike around Manhattan with the grace of a dancer shooting street fashion for the New York Times. I’d like to imagine that in a few hundred years these athletic late-lifestyles will no longer be the exception but our new norm.


Carl and Burr in ConnecticutWe opened our first Bar Method studio on a sunny day in Mid-August 2001. Carl Diehl, my business partner, and I were still married to each other. We’d leased a 7,700 square foot two-story building that had once been a health club. Looking back it’s clear that we had no idea what we were doing. The structure was way under code and expensive to renovate. Carl and I used up our savings, borrowed more money, and did a lot of the work ourselves. We were full of optimism anyway. We fitted up the space with three exercise rooms, large locker rooms for men and women, childcare, massage and an office space for each of us. We were the two teachers. On that first day two students showed up.

Since you’re reading this blog, you probably know that the Bar Method has changed since then. During the past decade it’s grown to almost 50 studios and now serves an average around 2,500 students a day, more than 200 of them at our San Francisco Marina studio. This month in celebration of our tenth anniversary our studio manager Mike Najjar has planned some fantastic events including a class that will be streamed worldwide live over the internet taught by me. On a personal level this imminent “big birthday” has made me think back over the decade it took Carl and me to get to where we are. In this blog I’d like to share with you a few of the key moments that determined our path during these years.

How it started:

Lotte and BurrThe story of the Bar Method begins years before our first studio opened, slightly over ten years to be exact, on Valentine’s Day of 1991. Carl and I had been married a few months, and he enjoyed surprising me with gifts. He knew I was addicted to the Lotte Berk Method, the exercise system on which the Bar Method is based, so that day he gave me a card containing a voucher for a free class. What was extraordinary about this gift was that it wasn’t actually for a Lotte Berk Method class. It was for a class with Lotte Berk herself, the originator of bar fitness, in her London studio.

We went to London, saw museums, went to shows, and I took the class. Concurrently during the previous few months, we’d been brainstorming about becoming entrepreneurs. When Carl picked me up from Lotte’s studio and paid her for my class in cash, she became hopelessly confused while trying to count out the proper change. Carl helped her, and as we walked away, he exclaimed, “If Lotte can’t add, the exercise business must be really simple. Let’s do it!” Back in the States we bought a license from the Lotte Berk Method, opened four successful studios in Connecticut, and sold them in 2001 to move to our dream city, San Francisco.

Our First Teachers:

Jen at the front deskFor any studio owner, débuting new teachers is a high. Suddenly, we can take class; we’re not on the schedule 24/7, and when we walk by the studios, we hear the exercises being presented in brand new voices not our own. In late 2001 Carl and I were lucky to graduate an extraordinary and charismatic first group of teachers for our new studio. Amy Duffey is now the co-owner of the Manhattan studio and our sole East Coast teacher trainer. Jen Hertsenberg, a supermom of two beautiful and perfect young children, manages to do an amazing job at being a master teacher, a trainer, an evaluator, and our executive coordinator of training, evaluating and coaching. Emily Feinstein has grown a huge following among our student body with her innovative choreography, crystal-clear instructions and fun music. Each of these talented early teachers, Amy, Jen and Emily, has contributed greatly to the Bar Method’s evolution over the past ten years.

The birth of a Bar Method that can travel:

Amy Burr and EmilyAs the new owners of our San Francisco studio Carl and I did not originally think of franchising. What changed our course had nothing to do with entrepreneurial vision. It was people coming to us seeking their own Bar Method studios. At first I was skeptical about the idea. Could we maintain quality from afar? Carl on the other hand has always found it impossible to say no, especially to anyone proposing some kind of new exciting venture. We went ahead, and by 2009 my concerns about quality had been put to rest. Our out-of-town studio owners turned out to be quality fanatics. With their tireless attention to detail they started to outdo even the SF teachers and inspired me to develop more stringent quality controls for the entire Bar Method. Wow, I thought, we can do this. World, here we come!

Celebrating our birthday:

The next key moment in our history will happen this month on Friday, the 19th when our studio and the Bar Method turn ten. At 2:00 pm that day in addition to the internet class, (which will be available for viewing over the weekend as well), we are giving gifts and discounts to our students and will be donating $5000 to Global Fund for Women in appreciation of women everywhere.

Thank you, all Bar Method students, for your support in helping us grow!


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 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!


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.



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



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…



Dancer's LegsIf you were shown two pairs of legs, one belonging to a runner and the other to a dancer, would you be able to tell which was which? You’ll probably say “no problem.” The runner would have the lean, straight legs with angular quads, lean hips but little definition in their outer glutes, and tight rears but not especially lifted ones. The dancer would have the curvier legs, the defined, lifted glutes, and the more compact, firmer looking muscles.

As straightforward as these differences might seem to us, there isn’t much scientific validation for them. Fitness experts have written that the two types of legs are equally strong, and a Swedish study has added its weight to this speculation by discovering that the legs of dancers and runners have the same amount of “slow-twitch” (stamina enhancing) muscle fibers.

What’s missing in this discussion is the question of how and to what extent the legs of dancers and runners differ from each other. In my view, which is based on 20 years as an exercise teacher, running and dancing do produce legs that look and behave differently from each other, and I’d like to suggest some reasons why.

Runner's LegsFirst of all, I’ve observed that the legs of beginning Bar Method students who are runners usually shake uncontrollably during the thigh-work section, causing them to have a hard time getting through the exercise. I think the reason this happens lies in the mechanics of running. Each step by one leg gives a brief rest to the other. Additionally, the front and back of each leg get a second tiny rest due to each side’s firing separately, first the quads, then the hamstrings. Running is thereby highly efficient at conserving energy, affording leg muscles built-in instants of regenerative rest so that they are never completely exhausted. Put a runner’s quads or hamstrings in a situation that calls for sustained muscle tension – or strength work — and they experience quick fatigue. Dancers on the other hand train to hold sustained positions such as plies, extensions, and balances. Bar Method exercises go a step farther and increase the time spent holding such positions from seconds to minutes. This strengthening technique forces every possible muscle fiber to fire, thereby exhausting the muscles through and through.

Second, running favors some leg muscles over others. When runners use their legs to propel themselves forwards, two muscle groups, their quads and the hamstrings, do most of the work. Their glutes kick in only when they are sprinting full out or jumping, motions that demand a large range of motion through the hips. Serious runners do practice laps composed of wide leaps for this very reason. Those who stick to jogging-sized steps end up not providing their glutes with enough challenge to change their shape.

Tensor Fasciae LataeThird, running tightens the muscles around their hips. This loss of mobility restricts runners’ ability to recruit the muscles that connect their legs to their torsos, causing these muscles to atrophy and their legs to appear less toned. One muscle that can get especially tight on runners is a hip-flexor called the “tensor fasciae latae.” Any gait faster than a walk, if performed frequently, can cause the “tensor fasciae latae” to tighten and restrict the function of other muscles such as the outer glutes. (A tight tensor fasciae latae can also cause a painful condition called IT band syndrome.) Dancers on the other hand develop every muscle at their disposal by extending their legs outwards and upwards in every direction.

Fourth, every step runners take impacts their joints and muscles with a force of 1 ½ to 5 times their body weight. These steps add up (Runners take around 35,000 steps on one 10-mile run.) and eventually shake the muscles and skin a bit loose from their bodies. Dancing rarely involves repetitive pounding, and the Bar Method uses no impact at all. This way, as the leg muscles of Bar Method students develop strength, they wrap tightly around their underlying bones.

Finally, intense running without sufficient fuel sometimes forces runners’ bodies to burn its own muscle. This loss of muscle mass can cause runners’ legs to lose tone and appear flabby. Dancers and Bar Method students share the objective of building dense muscle, though for slightly different reasons — dancers to gain the power to jump, Bar Method students to develop firm, sculpted legs.

Jenni Finley

Don’t get me wrong. Running creates nice looking legs. Dancing and the Bar Method however can take them into the realm of beauty beyond the scope of what running by itself can achieve. Jenni Finley (shown above), currently a Bar Method teacher in Southern California,  noticeably slimmed down her legs during her first year of doing the Bar Method. The shape of her legs — slim, smooth thighs, defined hamstrings and a high, round seat – gives Jenni an appearance that is less like that of a runner and clearly more like that of a dancer.