Friday, December 12, 2008

The Bar Method: Taking a Bite Out of My Butt (and Bad Moods)

I smile as I walk through the swinging glass doors of the West Los Angeles studio.

"Hi Milo!" I say with enthusiasm, genuinely pleased to see my favorite Bar Method receptionist sitting at the front desk. It's been a rough week both romance and work wise, and my head is filled with neurotic rumblings about the guy who didn't call, and the economy's potential impact upon my future employment. Despite the rapidly approaching Christmas holiday, I'm not feeling particularly jovial.

Milo returns my greeting, his face spreading into a wide grin as he asks me about my day. I fill him in on my work woes, he fills me in on his Thanksgiving with the family back east, and ten minutes later, I am prancing off to the locker room to change for the 6:15 pm Bar Method class with Jenny Lind.

I'm excited as usual -- happy to be there and happy to be away from the mess of LA traffic, the chaos of the season, and the worries that pick away at my nerves throughout the rest of the day. While I started attending classes at the Bar Method because I was bored with my gym sessions and jogs at a local park, 18 months later, it has become so much more than just a way to slim my thighs and tone my rear end. It has become vital to my sanity and sense of well-being.

The two sessions of the popular one-hour "targeted body-shaping workout" class that I take a week are the only two hours that I am truly able to escape myself. Because the class requires so much focus to get through the various exercises that work "every major muscle group," there is no conceivable way that I could think about anything other than "ow," "ow," "almost done," "keep breathing," "ow, " "ow, "ow," "phew." I lose myself in the small, precise motions, and become completely in tune with my body. For a girl whose mind is constantly popping from one thing to the next like a bag of microwave Jiffy Popcorn, this is revolutionary.

Of course, that's not the only reason that I keep paying for those $22 classes (cheaper if bought in packages) week after week.

People often look at the pictures of brownies, cookies, cupcakes, cheesy pizza and omelets, and stacks of French toast on my blog and ask, "How do you eat all that and stay thin?" From all outside appearances, it would seem as though I whittle my days away eating cookies and highly caloric treats without any regard to my health or hip size. While I am loathe to give the "I just have a high metabolism" response like those stick-figure Hollywood actresses who claim to eat burgers and pints of ice cream on a daily basis, that is part of the equation. But only part. I do eat what I want, but in moderation -- balanced out by healthy homemade meals, brown sack lunches, oatmeal breakfasts, and lots of fruits and vegetables. And, I have Bar Method.

When I started regularly attending Bar Method classes in June 2007, I was already in good shape, but lacked tone, flexibility and a shapely derriere. The 45-50 hours a week I spent chained to an office chair had given me a bad case of flat butt, and I was not pleased by its droopy appearance in my "Honey" Joe's Jeans. After just a few weeks of supplementing my 30-40 minute jogs and gym cardio sessions with two classes of Bar Method a week, I began noticing a difference. 18-months later, it, and the rest of my figure has been transformed.

My posture is better, my arms are toned, my waist and stomach are trimmed from the killer ab sessions near the end of the class, and my flexibility has improved dramatically. I have never been stronger in my life -- including the eight years I spent running competitively in both high school and college.

Aside from the first ten minutes when the 15 or so participants complete arm work with small (typically, 2-4 lb.) weights, most of the Bar Method exercises, which are a more intense form of Yoga/Pilates, use just the body's own weight (and/or the assistance of a ballet bar). The encouraging instructors, who make a point to learn each student's name, guide the class through arm work, thigh work, butt work, core work, ab work, and elongating stretches, and provide individual feedback and encouragement throughout the entire hour. It is hard --really really hard, but the personable instructors find a way to make it fun, and many students, myself included, claim to be "addicted" after just a few sessions.

With new studio locations popping up all over the country -- most notably in San Diego and Chicago, the Bar Method is quickly becoming the hot workout. According to People Magazine, even Drew Barrymore is a fan.

But that's all meaningless to me. I'd still faithfully attend my two classes a week even if the only person who thought it was cool was my mother. To say "hi" to Milo, Jenny and my other Bar Method friends, to clear my mind of the clutter from the day, to get that firm butt that probably only turns my head, and to justify eating that extra big bowl of Soy Creamy Cherry Chip Ice Cream later that night.

Tip for Interested Parties: Bar Method is currently holding their once-yearly Holiday Sale -- for every five classes you buy, you can get one free. Buy classes here.


Esi said...

My friend swears by this class! Now you recommend it too. I may have to check it out next year although my goal for now is waaaaaaaaaay (I mean A LOT) more cardio.

Heather said...

wow! those classes sound great! glad you're happier with your denim butt! always important!!

Katherine said...

Ive been trying to lose weight and I am VERY out in the gym 5-6x a week, but love to eat (albeit, healthy). I just started taking the Bar Method and find it hard to go back to the gym. Do you think if I do the Bar Method 4x a week (and walk a lot - I live in NYC), this is enough for toning/weight loss?

Diana said...

Hi Katherine,

I do Bar Method twice a week and cardio 5 times a week to supplement, but living in LA, I don't do much walking! I think that as long as you are doing something like walking, going to Bar Method 3-4 times a week would be a great way to stay in shape. If you are working hard the whole time, you can torch tons of calories! Especially when working the big muscle groups in thigh and seat. Good luck and please let me know if you have any other questions! Feel free to drop me an email!

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