The soft, low-pile carpet makes for comfortable sitting and standing, the lighting is soft, the white and neutral colour scheme soothing - the pretty Bar Method studio doesn't seem like a place where I'd be likely to get my butt kicked.
I'm always game for a new workout though, and I've heard it's a good one, so I take a break from my usual yoga or running routine to give it a go. If it's not challenging enough, I can always go for a run after.
I take my place on the carpet, small weights at hand, and prepare to follow the instructor's lead.
Not even 10 minutes later I realize how badly I've underestimated this workout. It's a tough one.
Carolyn Williams, owner of Canada's first Bar Method studios - in Yaletown and now West Vancouver - says she had a similar experience when she first tried a class in her hometown of Walnut Creek in Northern California five years ago. She took it up with her mom, who was recovering from breast cancer. She didn't expect it to be difficult for her.
"A regular workout for me was a 10-mile run," says Williams, "but my legs shook the whole way through the class."
Bar Method exercises are derived from the Lotte Berk Method. Berk was a German dancer who moved to England in the 1930s. After suffering spinal injuries in a car accident she developed a workout that implemented exercises from both her dance background and from her physical therapy. She opened her exercise studio in London in 1959, and gained a following of devotees. They took her method to the U.S. and in turn, several created spin-off workouts; including the Bar Method, created in 1991 by Lotte Berk Method student Burr Leonard. f
Like so many before her, Williams became hooked on the workout and the way it changed her body. When she moved to Vancouver to work for Lululemon she was disappointed to discover there was no Bar Method studio in Vancouver.
Finally, when she couldn't find a suitable alternative in her new hometown she decided to bring it here herself. It was a big decision.
"I sat on it a while. Vancouver is a whole new market, a whole new country. There were a lot of things we had to look into." From the day she opened the Yaletown studio though, business has been booming. The West Vancouver location, which opened late in February, has had a similar response. ?
? "The best part about it, it's become a community.
It feels like a family - there have even been friendships formed through the classes."
It's likely the new friends were commiserating over the intensity of the workout. The non-impact exercises integrate the format of interval training with muscle-shaping the abs, the cor isometrics. The one-hour workout targets all major muscle groups.
"We try to hit muscles multiple times, but there's always a focus on the abs, on keeping the core steady." Because the workout focuses on the largest muscle groups like the abdominal and gluteal muscles, it is possible to lose inches, says Williams. Gaining muscle results in an increased metabolism, "so if you can keep your diet the same you're going to lose weight."
As for me, after multiple reps of multiple arm exercises I was more worried about being able to lift my weights - the two-pounders recommended to me by my instructor. From the free-weight exercises and push-ups we moved on to leg and glute work at the bar, then abdominal work at the bar and on mats.
As promised, my muscles were shaking throughout the workout. The class alternates between exercises that demand intense bursts of energy and deep stretches.
"At the end of a workout, you know you've done something," says Williams.
New clients can try the Bar Method for a month of unlimited classes for $80. After that, there are a number of options for class packs or monthly passes.
The Bar Method West Vancouver is located at 1760 Marine Dr., West Vancouver. For information call 604-925-6199, or visit west-vancouver.barmethod.com.
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