The Amazing Riches we can Reap from Regular Practice

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.

What to Expect From Your First Barre Class

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

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

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

Rachael, Summit, New Jersey

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

Mary Ann, Redmond, Washington

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

Grace, Bernardsville, New Jersey

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

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

Happy New Year!


Visiting the New Palos Verdes and Santa Barbara Studios

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting two brand new Bar Method studios, both in Southern California. I’d just finished shooting two new Bar Method DVD workouts, at a production studio just north of LA. The DVDs, “Super Sculpting 1 and 2,” will be released in April. We wrapped the shoot on Friday afternoon, and I walked out of the sound stage into a warm, sunny day and drove down the 405 to Palos Verdes, where the next morning I would teach three classes at the new studio located in that town. Afterwards I’d drive back up the 405 then 100 more miles up the coast to Santa Barbara where on Sunday I’d teach at the new studio there.

Santa Barbra Owners Jodi and QuinnThe two young owners of these studios, Millie Katic and Jodi Conroy, have much in common with each other. They are both pretty and petite. Millie, 33, is the mother of a year and a half year old daughter. Jodi, 28, is expecting her first child, a boy, in May. They opened their first studios in California towns where they lived or grew up – Millie in Hermosa Beach, Jodi in Agoura Hills. Both husbands (Darren Katic and Quinn Conroy) have pitched in to help oversee the build-outs and have even manned the front desk when needed. Last but not least, Millie and Jodi were both drawn to the charm and communal spirit of the two towns they chose for their second locations.

Burr with Palos Verdes owner Millie KaticPalos Verdes, my first destination, is a not-quite-peninsula on the Pacific Ocean about an hour south of Los Angeles. Its residents have a reputation for loving their town so much that they rarely leave. This “PV” predilection for staying put was one of the inspirations for Millie’s wanting to location a studio there. Her Hermosa Beach studio is 12 miles north of Palos Verdes. Her “PV” students would drive to take class there but attend sporadically citing their reluctance to leave home. They begged her to open a studio in their town.

Millie accommodated them and opened her Palos Verdes studio on December 18th of last year. Her “PV” students kept their word to her and started attending class regularly, some of them five or six times a week.

On Saturday morning I walked into Millie’s studio and was knocked out by how beautiful it is. Millie and Darren clearly have a knack for stunning design, and they’ve been technically innovative as well. Instead of being stumped by the seeming impossibility of constructing a load-bearing bar across a series of floor-to-ceiling windows, they got creative. “In this challenge,” Millie says, “was born our ‘glass railing,’ which we have used now in both studios. This railing is an original design and solves the problem of placing a bar on any wall with windows…” The Palos Verdes studio features one of these amazing and beautiful devices on which the bar seems to float in space but is strong enough to support a line of students going all out during water-ski thigh or flat-back.

The Bar Method Santa BarbaraAfter my classes, I drove up the coast to Santa Barbara past scenery that looked like something out a fairytale — green, rolling, sun-soaked hills on my right, the ocean on my left. I got to Santa Barbara after a few hours on the road and found it to be as pretty and quaint as its surrounding countryside.

On Sunday Jodi and Quinn greeted me and gave a tour of the studio. Theirs, just like the one in Palos Verdes, is beautiful, spacious and exquisitely designed. My favorite feature: the huge, ornate windows that let floods of light into its two high-ceilinged studio rooms.

For a moment I thought, are Bar Method studio owners trying to outdo each other? These locations just keep getting more and more beautiful. Then I realized with a smile, these new studios look so good in part due to our growing expertise at building them and in part to the amazing skills of my business partner, Carl Diehl, with whom I’ve been building studios for 20 years. In our partnership I’m the one in charge of the exercise and teaching methods. Carl designs the studios. He’s always had an amazing ability to walk into a raw or broken up site and envision how a studio would fit into it. Now, after doing this at hundreds of potential and eventual Bar Method locations, he’s become almost unbelievably good at it.Co-Founder Carl Diehl

Millie and Jodi both did animated impressions of Carl walking into potential spaces, laser measuring tape in hand, to deem whether or not a studio would fit there. “He goes zap, zap, zap with the laser” they both said almost in the same words. “’This goes here. That goes there. Gotta go.’ And off he flies to another space.” Millie’s studio had been a veterinary clinic that was broken up into 40 or so little cubicles. Carl seemed to see through the partitions and within moments had re-drawn the new walls. “How he can do that, I don’t know,” she said. Jodi’s space was originally three or four contiguous storefronts. “I had no idea it could work,” she said, “until Carl figured it out.” We had a good laugh, though mostly in appreciation for the collective expertise that we’ve acquired over the years and the beautiful results that have come from it.

My compliments, Millie, Darren, Jodi and Quinn, on your fantastic new studios!

Wooing the Guys with Valentines “MAN” Barre Classes


It’s February, and Valentine’s Day is two weeks away. In keeping with the spirit of the day, many Bar Method studios hold special “man” classes to which men can come free either by themselves or with their girlfriends or spouses. My home studio in the San Francisco Marina is holding three of these “man” classes on Saturday, February 12th, and I’m teaching the last one. I love teaching these special men-oriented classes. The Bar Method has the power to “up” a guy’s fitness level above and beyond what he gets from his usual gym routine of weights, abs and cardio, and it’s fun to talk about these benefits as the men make their way through the exercises. Two things I definitely don’t say are that they’re lifting their seats and ripping their arms. Men already have lifted seats, and many have ripped arms. What guys do get from the workout is stronger legs, tighter abs, more flexibility, relief from back pain, stability in their knees, a better functioning core, and – if they’re athletes – amazing sports conditioning.

Bar Method Seattle Owner Luke CurreirWith all these fitness benefits to be had by men, why aren’t Bar Method classes full of guys? One reason, in my estimation is that the classes are full of girls, beautiful ones at that. You’d think this would be a big draw, but no. Guys don’t like thinking they’re being shown up by more flexible, dance-y females. What’s more, they don’t like the idea of standing at a ballet bar wearing socks. The problem with this rational is that, one, we female students are actually in awe of guys who brave the class (but most of them never get this), and, two, the ballet bar and the socks are non-material details that don’t reflect the true machismo-like essence of the workout.

In spite of this general male mind-set, a small group of men do come regularly across the spectrum of Bar Method studios. Who are these unusual male students? Some are athletes who’ve found that the class makes them more competitive at their sport. Others are husbands whose back problems disappeared from the workout. A handful are runners who use it to strengthen, stabilize and increase flexibility their knees and hips, ultimately adding longevity to their running careers. My boyfriend Michael is among the atypical guys who come regularly simply because he likes the workout (see my blog “GUYS AT THE BAR” about his experience.) We studio owners are proud that these men are among our students, but the truth is, most of us could count the number of men who come regularly to each studio on the fingers of one hand.

Luke - Low Curl

But there’s always hope. Every Valentine’s Day lots of men come to our “man” classes; they work hard, they seem to get it, and every year I think excitedly to myself, “this is the year!” Then these guys don’t come back. One student from a “man” class I taught a few years back gave me an insight as to why. “I’d love this, “he said, “if I knew there’d be at least a few other guys in class.” Alas, it seems a chicken and egg type situation. The guys won’t come because their buddies aren’t there.

Maybe on the 12th, things will change…… 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day
Burr Leonard

Calories Burned During a Bar Method Class: Why it’s Not a Zero-Sum Game


One of the most commonly asked questions I get at the Bar Method is how many calories you burn during a workout. No scientific assessments of caloric burn-rate in Bar Method classes have yet been done, but here’s what I can tell you based on burn rates of comparable exercise techniques. A 125-pound woman in good shape burns about 350 calories with the Bar Method DVD workouts (and closer to 400 calories in a beginning/intermediate studio class due to the faster pace). In addition, Bar Method workouts give an approximately 100-calorie additional post-workout burn-off from the build-up of lactic acid.

Advanced classes burn more, as a Bar Method student named Kristen reported a few years ago. “I wore my heart rate monitor for a couple of level two classes, and burned almost 500 calories [per class];” she said. “I burn about 600 on an hour long run.” Another student, a guy who took his first class wearing a heart rate monitor, told me he burned 800 calories. Students in other bar fitness classes who wore calorie counting devices reported burn-offs of between 136 and 701 calories.

Heart Rate MonitorThe variation in these numbers is due to differences in these students’ body size, gender, age, muscle mass, level of fitness, when they last ate, the level of the class, their familiarity with the workout, etc. Another reason for the variation in results is the heart rate monitors themselves. As one researcher wrote, “All caloric expenditure information that you read off of a heart monitor or an exercise machine like a treadmill or indoor bike, are estimates of calories spent and usually not very accurate.”

Nevertheless people are fascinated by the idea that we can make a zero-sum game of calories in/calories out, but in practice, this approach may not live up to all the interest it generates. If we could actually tweak our caloric intake and outtake by measuring it – even if heart rate monitors were 100% accurate — it wouldn’t matter how many extra calories we burned in a particular workout. As long as we burn at least some additional calories, they’d add up, and we’d lose weight sooner or later. The truth is, weight loss doesn’t routinely result from exercise, not because of our inability to measure calories “out,” but because of our inability to control calories “in.” The real culprit is, in a word, food. Our deep attachment to this substance has ways of tricking us into refueling after we work out in spite of our intentions. Consider two of food’s lesser strategies for getting us to eat:

Your Moment Dove commercialFood as pleasure: Many people grow to expect a certain amount of pleasure from food, apart from their need to satisfy their hunger, so that it becomes an entitlement. We ate dessert as children and through sheer habit feel we warrant it indefinitely. TV commercials play to this mindset by showing us beautiful young women eating candy as if it contained the secret of happiness.

StarbucksFood as comfort: The comforting feeling food gives us can serve an emotional sedative. In the new movie “No Strings Attached” Natalie Portman, when upset with her love life, wolfs down three boxes of donut holes. Donut holes are 220 calories each, and let’s say there are six of them per box. That would mean that she’d be consuming almost 4,000 calories, two days worth of fuel, to make herself feel better (great movie by the way – except that it was hard to believe that Natalie Portland’s size zero character ever ate an excess calorie in her life).

If these emotional addictions to food don’t do the trick of seducing us into replacing our calories just burned off, food pulls out its big guns, namely hunger pangs. After an intense workout, hunger will scream at you to replace those calories. Even if you succeed in resisting the Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha (630 calories), you might distractedly go for a second helping at dinner or an extra piece of the birthday cake served at the office, all devoured before you put much thought into doing so.

The good news in this state of affairs is that exercise absolutely will change your body dramatically if you commit to it for the long term. Numerous studies made of people over decades have found that those who lead sedentary lives tend to gain weight from age 30 – 60 while those who exercise stay lean and youthful. Other research found that exercise performed regularly has appetite-suppressing qualities.

I’d like to add that Bar Method workout in particular includes a few additional features that help you lose weight and keep it off.

  • It builds dense muscle mass in our large muscle groups. Dense muscles increase metabolic rate, plus make us feel more energetic and less in need of sweet pick-me-ups throughout the day.
  • It boosts confidence and mental toughness, strengthening our ability to make resolutions and follow through on them.
  • It rewards us for leaning down because the exercises are more doable the lighter you get. Over time, students learn on a visceral level that fewer pounds translate into more ability to get through the workout.
  • It gives us beautiful bodies that become a source of continual positive feedback for staying lean.

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None of these weight-control techniques involve calculating calories but there is plenty of evidence that they work. Thousands of Bar Method students have transformed their bodies, and hundreds have written in to tell us about it.

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.

Ten Non-Exercise New Year’s Resolutions for Exercisers


I don’t care what the skeptics say. I love making New Year’s resolutions. Coming up with a yearly list of life-enhancing projects gives me a fresh look at what I want out of my life going forward. Plus it reminds me that opportunity is always lying on my doorstep waiting if only I would walk over and take it.

Making my resolutions this year made me want to think of some for people who exercise. I decided that all my suggested resolutions would be non-exercise-related. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already exercise and so would not need a resolution to do it. Instead the resolutions would leverage the focus, discipline and fighting spirit you already have developed from sticking with exercise and carry those assets over into other spheres of life. After all, people who exercise know that change is possible. They’ve done it with their bodies, so they’re primed to make it happen elsewhere. With this idea in mind, I came up with the following ten projects that you might think of taking on in the New Year the same way you tackled exercise in past years.


  1. For one day eat only foods with no added sugar. Whether you weigh more or less than you want or are just right, a day free of sugar will get you of the roller coaster of sugar rushes and crashes. You’ll gain extra mental stamina, energy and concentration, plus you’ll sleep more deeply.describe the image
  2. Ask friends, members of your family and your exercise teacher to give you feedback on your posture. The way we stand gets deeply engrained in all of us from early childhood. For this reason our perception of our stance may not reflect the way you truly look. Get a reality check in 2011, and if your posture is found wanting, consider making serious effort to improve it.
  3. On one occasion when you’re walking, sitting or standing for some time, try to keep your abs pulled in for 20 consecutive minutes. You already have strong abs from your workouts. Now train them to perform for you all day. This effort will challenge your concentration.


  1. Banish one bad habit for 24 hours. Whether it’s biting your nails, swearing to yourself at other drivers when you’re driving, watching too much TV – anything – try to do without it for a day.
  2. Set your cellphone stopwatch to 20 minutes; sit in a chair, close your eyes and meditate until you hear the ringtone. Meditating, at least in my experience, is like Bar Method thigh-work for your brain. One session of meditating can clear out the debris in your mind and begin to firm up your cerebral muscles.
  3. Decide on one activity or skill you’d like to do better or learn to do. Mull over the idea of pursuing it. This is a purely mental resolution, so you can choose anything that excites your imagination. File it away in your mind where you can call it up later.


  1. Let someone you have a relationship with win an argument even if you believe you’re right. Your generosity of heart will probably be repaid to you with dividends.
  2. Call up from your mind the skill or activity you picked out for resolution #6 and look on the internet for a class or a coach on that subject. Try one session. If you like the teacher, consider carving out the time to attend regularly.
  3. Starbucks in SausalitoLearn the names of all the café baristas who make your drinks. If you don’t go to cafés, take it upon yourself to learn the names either of the clerks at your bank, the cashiers at your supermarket, or the servers at restaurants you attend. Research has found that people have an amazing capacity to learn names if they work at it. We Bar Method teachers know this is true since we’ve all developed the ability to learn as many as 30 students’ names during the 15 minutes before and after a class begins. If you make a project of collecting names, you’ll find as I did that people are always pleased to know that you remembered them.

And last but not least…

  1. One resolution carried out is definitely worth ten that have fallen by the wayside. To that end, my last suggestion is to pick out one of the nine above – or one you’ve created – and repeat.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Burr Leonard

Student Stories of Their First Bar Method Class

I see them all the time in class: students who are taking the Bar Method for the first time. To look at them, you’d wouldn’t think they are having the greatest time. Their legs shake uncontrollably, their faces signal acute distress, instructors are telling them by name to “tuck more,” “lift your chest,” “make the motion smaller,” and they are being expected to execute moves they had no idea were within the realm of possibility until that moment.

Why, I asked myself, do so many of them come back the next day with a look of excited anticipation on their faces? I’ve always been curious about this phenomenon, so this week I surveyed our California-based students on what they thought of their first class. What I learned is that most students fall in love with the Bar Method on their first day for a few key reasons. Here are the top five answers I got from students who sent in their first-time experiences, ending with one I got more often than all the others combined:

Reason #5: The great bodies of the students who take the class:

Noelle HeadshotNoelle (left): “One of my close friends Ashley…has an amazing body and swears by Bar Method, has been going for 2 years. I am a soccer player, marathon runner so I consider myself in good shape but I never had that tight toned body.”

Kimberly: “I went to the West LA studio and couldn’t believe the strength of some women who were twice my age. It piqued my interest…”

Reason #4: The key muscles that the workout targets:

Michelle: “I’ve always had a very curvy body so my midsection has always been very difficult for me to get in shape…During my first Bar Method class I could actually feel shaking in my abs and I knew that these exercises would help me define my problem area…”

Jilly: “My best friend took me and I couldn’t believe how many people were there so early in the morning. But I soon figured it out. My favorite exercise was and still is THE PRETZEL! Bar Method targets muscles other exercise programs can’t or don’t.”

Reason #3. The great feeling afterwards:

Emily: “What I clearly recall (and what keeps me going back for more) is how great I felt after the class. I always feel completely worked without being wrecked. Plus, I love exercising in my socks.”

Erin: “I huffed and puffed and TREMBLED through that first class, but at the end, I felt….uplifted….That’s NEVER happened to me before when exercising! “

Reason #2. The help and encouragement from the teacher:

Joanna: “The instructor was Tiffany Baldwin, a gorgeous dancer-type, quickly welcomed me and asked if it was my first time. After the warm up, she would come by and correct my form, explain what I needed to adjust in my posture. That was key!”

Aleisha: “I loved the immediate first name basis and the personal attention. It was a welcome change from Yoga and I got the concept from the very beginning.”

Reason #1. The surprising intensity and challenge of the class:

Kelly 1 resized 600Kelly (left): “One of the funniest memories I have was when the instructor told be to grab some 2 and 3 pound weights…’really, how hard can this class be? 2 and 3 pound weights? This will be easy.’ I soon found out how wrong I was as I struggled through the next hour.”

Laura: “Coming from a running/yoga/bootcamp background I thought surely I would breeze my way through a bar method class. Isolating, strengthening and stretching each muscle group was way more challenging than I expected. I still haven’t found another workout that compares.”

getting in shaoeSharon O. (right): “I had a bagel for breakfast, but almost passed out halfway through the thigh exercises! I had to leave to get a drink and clear my head before going back in! That was the first and last time that ever happened to me and it’s been 7 years!”

Melissa: I went with my sister. I’d been doing hot yoga so I was in fairly good shape but wasn’t sure what to expect. My sister struggled, I did too. Legs shaking, butt burning…I was hooked!!! Loved not sweating like I usually did in hot yoga. Loved the studio and loved the instructors!

Sharon W. (below): I had done yoga and pilates before, but I kept thinking during pretzel set-up, is this humanly possible? Lift my leg? Kick back? I remember working out harder than I had in a long time, and by the time we reached final stretch, I was hooked!”

sharon wong

Read how important intensity is in the “up” portion of interval training in order to get the results that The Bar Method gives its students.