Tagged: lotte berk

Stay classy: Barre Essentials at Pilates Proworks

Barre Pro

Unlike this lady, everyone in my class was wearing pants. [Source: Pilates ProWorks]

Despite my recent moratorium on Lotte Berk-based barre classes, I decided to use the last class of my FITIST 4-pack on a “Barre Essentials” workout at Pilates ProWorks on 14th Street. I’d recently read some enthusiastic reviews of Barre Pro– the PPW version of Lotte Berk– which raved about how different it was from the usual suspects, thus piquing my curiosity. I had been to this studio once before for their Pilates Pro class and enjoyed it, but felt kind of like I was going to fall off and die the whole time…my balance kinda sucks, and I don’t do that well on elevated Reformers even in non-Pilates-on-crack classes, so in Pilates Pro my flailing truly reached new heights. Anyway, I was wary of going all-out with Barre Pro  since I hadn’t taken barre since August. Also, I feel more Amateur than Pro in basically everything fitness-related, so Essentials felt right for me.

Looking back, I definitely made a good choice. There was only a small group of us in the studio, half of whom were attending the class for the first time. The moves were all familiar, and a few felt a tad easy-ish, but overall I got a much needed ass-kicking in a way that eased me back into barre mode.

The teacher, Jackie, did a great job of cueing and explaining the moves, and it felt like I was really under the care of a bona fide Pilates instructor (which she is!) rather than some rando dancer.

My favorite part about the class was the dance-y warmup, which made it feel like I was in a jazz class and got my heart rate up. The warmup was followed by arms, thighs (sometimes WITH arms), glutes/seat (I muddled through the standing seatwork because of a hip injury but relished the extreme side-butt fire during the floor section), and abs with the squishy ball under the small of our back (also had some trouble with abs because of my bum hip, but I did my best). Each section was also punctuated by planks: regular-flavor, spiderman planks, mountain climbers, etc. There was definitely more of a cardio aspect to the class, and I found that both terrifying and delightful. One thing I’m glad that we didn’t do is “round-back” abs under the barre, which have felt gimmicky and potentially injurious in nearly every other Berk-based class I’ve done.

The class as a whole felt like an awesome hybrid of mat Pilates, sports conditioning, and Lotte Berk. This might have been a result of the class being beginner-level, but I also liked the slightly shorter sets…most barre classes I feel like I’m putting myself at risk for an overuse injury from all the reps, but this felt a lot safer.

Verdict: I’ll be back! Excited to try Barre Pro, 30/30, and Barre X (barre + TRX combo, what!!) in the future, too.

Pulsing and shaking at The Bar Method

Playground balls, when can we use you?!

On a sweltering day in late June I made my way over to the sole NYC location of The Bar Method on Spring Street in SoHo. When I got out of the elevator on the second floor and entered the ridiculously gorgeous space, I was immediately and warmly welcomed by the front desk staff and Amy, my instructor and co-owner of the studio, who had one of her staffers show me around. I chose a locker, changed, and carried my key with me into the studio to hang on a hook.

I was the only first-timer in Amy’s class that day, and she watched me like a hawk throughout the hour. She had the special talent of making me feel welcome and noticed, but not unfairly singled out. New students definitely get called out at Bar way more than at Physique 57, where I’d heretofore taken all of my barre classes. In fact, there are way more callouts over the mic than corrections given with the mic off, and after reading others’ reviews it seems to be somewhat of a signature feature of Bar. Some people may be really turned off by that, but I personally like hearing corrections given to others because I can use them to adjust my own positioning. Usually I’m making the exact same mistake, or some variation thereof, of the student getting corrected. I also appreciate corrections given to me. In a dance class, corrections mean that the teacher sees potential in you and knows you can do better, so my inner teacher’s pet loves this shizz.

I was a little nervous about the class because it was labeled Mixed (Bar actually only offers Mixed and Level 2 classes at the NYC studio) and I’m still firmly in Beginner land at P57. I needn’t have worried too much, though, because the class proceeded at a manageable pace and Amy’s verbal instructions were superb. The class was definitely doable, albeit very challenging. Amy was always there to make sure we were working as deep as possible, and her firm, confident adjustments to my form, especially during arms and seatwork, were amazing. At one point she also murmured “nice tuck” in a surprised tone (then proceeded to adjust me even more).

Now, moving on to the class itself.

The class began with standard leg lifts, then we moved into assorted triceps exercises, bicep curls, and did a ton of pushups and some dips. Even though I only used 2 & 3 pound weights, the section felt NUTS and I wanted to cry, especially when Amy came around and correct my form during the isometric triceps extensions. Talk about burning.

The stretch on the barre after the warmup kinda hurt my ankle, but I adjusted my position and it felt better; I liked how ballet-y it was, with the quarter turn and side stretch.

The thigh section was incredibly slow and rough while it lasted, but actually ended pretty fast; I was honestly expecting more, even though I shook and trembled like whoa. I missed having the playground ball to squeeze between my thighs. (I’ve since gone to two more classes and none of the teachers have ever used the basket of playground balls sitting in the corner…what’s up with that? I need a little inner thigh playground ball action in my life!)

Seat work was less varied than at P57; we only did sets at the barre and no floor work, but it was totally killer. My glute medius shriveled up and died. There was more of an emphasis on an aggressive tuck, it seemed. One annoying thing– during seat work, when we were standing with a hip against the bar and our arms crossed in “seatbelt,” my supporting leg and hip started aching and my foot actually got pins and needles. Something was off with my alignment for sure. I wished I had the playground ball wedged between my body and the barre, like some P57 teachers tell us to do, because my alignment felt off. (However, I was able to adjust myself in subsequent classes and it’s since gotten better. I think. We’ll see.)

The abs section was kind of frustrating for me; I couldn’t feel my transverse abdominis connection during flat back or round back, but I know that I need to work on my breathing in order to really turn on the muscles. My neck also ached during curl because I was having trouble supporting my head. (I’ve since started to put extra foam under my back during curl and have been totally fine. Phew.)

We did some back dancing before the final stretch, and it was especially brutal after all the other work we’d done. When we got to stretching at the end I wanted to weep with joy. Speaking of stretching: something I liked way more at Bar vs. P57 was that all of the stretching in the class seemed wayyyy less rushed in this class. At P57, even in Beginner classes, I sometimes feel like I’m just throwing myself from position to position, and I worry that I’ll injure myself with all of the super-fast transitions. I felt like Amy really respected the importance of stretches between sets and didn’t just blow through them in two seconds apiece.

One tiny logistical complaint: While I majorly appreciate not having to bring my own lock, the key system seems clunky. The only possible upgrade to the incredibly lush locker room would be to install programmable combination locks! I say this because a girl walked away with my key by accident, so I was just standing by the board of keys looking dumb as the next class came in until she ran back in to return it. Blerg.

Overall, Bar felt more like a really strict, focused ballet conditioning class to me, whereas P57 kinda feels like a sorostitute workout party. And I actually think I liked both, but my dance nerd self likes anything that feels more ballet-esque. At Bar I loved the heavy emphasis on form, and I was really motivated to go inside myself and find the strength to push through the exercises. I think that because of this, I ended up taking far fewer breaks than I usually do at P57. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I did kinda miss my quasi-cheerleadery P57 instructors’ positive, chatty banter, but I appreciated Amy’s awesome cueing and on-the-beat counting.

Amy also knew everyone and clearly cares about her students. I overheard her asking people about their vacations, talking with a monthly unlimited member about her progress, etc. It definitely seems like they invest a lot of energy in their clients. That stuff gives me the warm fuzzies inside. After class, Amy asked if I’d enjoyed myself and if I could see myself coming back, and then offered me a great deal on the newcomer’s unlimited package. Of COURSE, in my dreamy and self-congratulatory post-workout state, I immediately took her up on the offer.

I took a couple of weeks off after that first class because I was super-busy and bopping in and out of town for the following weeks, but I recently went back and took two classes with Kristin, whose classes I also loved. After tonight’s class, I’m finishing my first week of the package (Wednesday-Tuesday) with three classes under my belt. I hope to hit it 3 times per week for the rest of this trial month. After that, I’ll reevaluate. Right now I can see myself continuing to attend classes at both Bar and P57, depending on whether I’m feeling more disciplined or in more need of cheerleading. But who knows? By that time I could potentially fall even more in love with the lush Bar studios and super-caring teachers, drink the rest of the Kool-Aid, and buy a membership. I’ve increasingly enjoyed myself as I’ve become more accustomed to what’s going on, so that’s definitely a possibility.

How about y’all– has anyone else been pulsing/shaking/sweating/crying lately, too?

Stay Classy: Physique 57, take 3

The evil playground ball

Instruments of a unique kind of torture.

Last night I decided to amp up the pain factor of my workout by hitting up a class at Physique 57. This was my first time at the (um, gorgeous) UWS Physique studio, and only my third Physique class ever. I hadn’t been to a class in a couple of months, and just like the first two times, the Beginner class kicked my ass.

My teacher, Sarah M., was adorable and perky, as Physique instructors are wont to be. She was also wearing those Blake Brody in-studio flats that I’m loath to acknowledge I completely covet even though I think they’re fairly ridiculous and unnecessary. She asked if there were any n00bs to the class, if there were any of us who had taken five or fewer classes, and if there were any injuries– score! She also went around the room and took all of our names.

The class itself proceeded pretty much the way I suppose all P57 Beginner classes do: warmup with arms, followed by thighs, seat work, and abs, with stretches and pushups thrown in the mix. I experienced a minor success when at one point in the warmup Sarah shouted out, “If you feel like you could go for another 30 seconds, you need heavier weights!” I took a quick scan and realized that I did indeed feel like I could keep going…I guess the weakling 4-pounders I picked up weren’t doing it for me anymore. Hooray for getting stronger! Next time I’ll be sure to grab the standard 5-pound dumbbells.

However, moving onto thighs and seat quickly erased any delusions of badassery on my part. My quads achieved the requisite burning effect within 10 seconds of starting the thigh section. I had to take more breaks than I would have liked, and during the “curl” portion of abs the assistant came over a couple of times to encourage me to get lower. Sigh. Still, I definitely need to work on my form, so I appreciated all of the corrections I got during the seat and abs sections.

One gripe I have with P57 is the quickness of the class. I know that that’s kind of a selling point of the class- that it maximizes every second of the 57-minute class and keeps your heart rate up by moving quickly from exercise to exercise– but I’m strangely prone to muscle tweaks/cramps and if I don’t move mindfully I tend to do stupid things and hurt myself. My neck suffered a little from rushing from one position to the next (not sure what exactly I did). And due to either dehydration, a form error, plain old weakness, or some other weird reason, my left triceps muscle spasmed pretty badly during the warmup, and I tweaked it again during the last round of tricep dips. Blerg. I also wish we held stretches for longer; it always feels like we’re only doing each stretch for about 2 seconds before moving on. To be honest, a slower barre class might be better for me (perhaps Core Fusion or Bar Method?), but I’m going to stick with Physique for at least a few more classes and see how it goes.

Despite silently cursing my way through basically the entire workout, I liked the class. I thought Sarah’s verbal descriptions and cueing were strong. She came off as genuinely concerned with our form and performance, so that was far better than the slightly fake-nice instructor I had for my second class back in March. We also had an assistant in the room, and this was a boon for sure as both she and Sarah were able to make their way around the room to watch us like hawks and correct our sad beginner’s form as necessary.

Something unfortunate about tonight, unrelated to the class itself, was that I forgot my damn socks again. This happened for my first class as well. So now I’m the slightly-ashamed owner of two pairs of grippy P57 socks– one black, and one gray. (I have to admit, though, the grip is nice.)

Overpriced grippy socks...

Hard proof of my forgetfulness, times two.

Next week I’m aiming high and going for a double dose of Physique: I’m signed up for another class next Tuesday, and then one that Saturday. With any luck I’ll survive.