I got great feedback on those posts (which you can find here, here, and here) and received multiple requests that I do the same here in Boston. Well, because I teach 3-4x/week, it would be impossible for me to make it to 3-4 other studios every month. BUT – as luck would have it, just as I was preparing to leave NYC and wondering where in the world I was going to find affordable studio classes in Boston, the brand new Bar Method Boston ran a promotion on Gilt City. $195 for 10 weeks of unlimited classes – so with a goal of going 2x/week minimum, that was going to be $9.75/class. If only all decisions in life were that easy.
I started my 10 weeks on September 9th. The studio is centrally located in Boston, and if you do the early morning classes like I did, parking on Newbury is a breeze. If you aren’t familiar with a bar-style class, it is a relatively equipment-free strengthening and toning class that follows the same formula each session. The class aims to improve flexibility, elongate muscle, narrow thighs, lift the seat, flatten abdominals, and “extend youthfulness.”
I can attest for all but the last – I did turn 29 during my 10-week trial, so I’m not sure that I was feeling more youthful than when I started. However, I was absolutely feeling stronger, more toned, and more flexible. In fact – I was kind of amazed at how quickly my body reacted and changed.
But let’s back it up a second – a bit more about the “method.”
Every class starts with 50 knee lifts to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing. Consider it the warm-up – the couple minutes you give your body to realize, oh, it’s time to work.
Next up is arms. There are various different arm exercises you might do using hand weights and focusing on shoulders, biceps, or chest. The first sets are standing, the second focus more on the back and are done with the chest parallel to the floor.
This is followed by push-ups. Usually 3 sets of 10, with holds or pulses thrown in.
Next, seated triceps. This is almost always sets of dips.
A quick stretch, weights go away, and you find a spot at the bar.
One of my favorite parts about Bar Method is the fact that stretching is incorporated throughout the workout. This is where I really improved my flexibility. As a rider, my IT bands and inner thighs are constantly tight, and stationary stretching after a ride can only do so much. On the rainy, gray mornings when I didn’t want to get out of bed for 7am class, I reminded myself that I didn’t have a ballet bar at home, and therefore needed to go to class for these amazing stretches.
The first set at the bar is usually calf raises, done in various foot positions (parallel, first position etc). These are followed by thigh work, which is often the most challenging 6-8 minutes of the class. Exercises vary from isolations on raised toes to …oh they are too hard to describe. Here:
And this is where the shaking comes in. Your muscles are literally pushed far enough that your legs start to chatter by the end of these sets.
Seat work follows thigh work, moving the focus to the back of the legs. And while thigh work might have been the “challenge” of the class, seat work is no picnic.
After seat work you do another set of push-ups then the focus moves to the core. First, round-back seated work, followed by flat-back seated work
then the more traditional ab work which they refer to as “curl.”
Final stretch feels good.
After 10-weeks, I not only could do every exercise, but I knew the correct form and could hold the holds for longer and lift my leg higher. When the instructors (who remember your name after day 1, by the way) threw out optional challenges, I was taking them.
The learning curve is steep at first, but manageable if you are there 2-3x/week. It feels good to progress – the fact that they address you by name – “nice height Katie!” – really pushes you to try harder.
A couple things I didn’t love… Concentrated ab work is always at the end of class. I find that abdominal muscles are tough to target and that by the last 5 minutes of class I was usually pretty tired, meaning that targeting those muscles was even more of a challenge. I know this is the “format” but I would love to see abs throughout.
A second challenge – there are people at all different levels in the classes (there is no stratification). This is beneficial if you are new – you can look at other people, see what they are doing, and learn on the fly. But this is challenging if you are coming regularly and are ready to try something a bit more advanced.
Finally there is one other downside…boredom. The formulaic style of the class – which you will find at all Bar and many bar-like studios – would get too monotonous for me 3x/week, every week. My friend Gretchen came with me one morning and on the walk home commented on the fact that I was already halfway to putting my weights away when she was still finishing her last push-up – I knew exactly what was coming next every time. “That must get kind of boring for you, huh?” Hm – it hadn’t yet, but I could see how it might.
In the end, I went to 19 classes in the 10 weeks, which comes out to about $10.25/class. This was obviously a GREAT deal – always scour shopping sites for studio deals! But the reality for someone like me is that as tempting as unlimited packages sound, my schedule is too unpredictable to guarantee that I will make it enough to justify the price-tag. The 1-month unlimited at Bar Method is $225 – way to steep for someone that doesn’t make it on weeks that I pick up extra classes at Recycle. I plan to buy a 10-class package at Bar Method going forward, and aim for 1 class/week.
This was a great 10-weeks for me – 3-4 rides a week paired with 2-3 Bar classes was a fitness ideal. For someone that is sometimes challenged by the pace of yoga, it was great to find another non-impact way to stretch and tone. I literally had 10 weeks without leg pain, which is a rarity for me. However, classes are expensive, and in order to benefit from discount pricing (no student deals) you have to commit to 3-4 classes/week, which wouldn’t work for me. But, unfortunately for my student budget, Bar Method has won a place in my heart, and will be a regular part of my routine going forward.
Bar Method Boston, 234 Clarendon Street, between Newbury and Commonwealth Ave
All pictures sourced from the official Bar Method website.