This post is authored as part of a partnership with Bar Method; however, all statements and opinions are my own.
I go through super obsessive phases with workouts. When I first started running, it's all I did and I did it ALL the time. I'm talking 6-7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. After my knee got too weak for me to run anymore, I switched that obsession over to HIIT workouts to help strengthen my muscles, knee included. Over the past several months, I've started to reevaluate what my fitness goals are. Am I looking for weight loss? Do I want to run long distance again? Will I ever be able to do a pull-up and do I even want to?
Framing my fitness goals has helped me realize that I need to open myself up to different types of workouts. As much as I love my high intensity interval classes, if I focus solely on them, I'm not going to get where I want to.
A couple months ago, I was contacted by a studio called Bar Method asking if I had an interest in partnering with them for a month trial. They have several locations in the Chicagoland area, including one in Gold Coast. Since I live and work in downtown Chicago, this location is so convenient for me! On top of that, I had tried barre classes before and had been interested in trying them again. I actually took a class at this exact Bar Method studio a couple years ago and I had a good time, but at that point the workout just wasn't for me. Or at least that's what I thought. I was used to running long distances and pushing myself to a place where it hurt to breathe and for me, barre didn't seem like something I wanted to do consistently. This time around, I started my month at Bar Method with a different perspective and that was the best decision I have made.
The Bar Method workout is a lower intensity work out but is definitely not easy. It targets all the major muscle groups and alternates between them. Here's my 30 second summary when I explain it to my friends: You intensely work the same muscle for several minutes until you want to die. Then you stretch it and it feels amazing. And then you do it all over again with another muscle.
I incorporated my Bar Method classes into my already intense workout schedule. I was intimidated that I wouldn't be able to stick with it because the classes themselves are hard work, but I found it to work so well together. On days where I was sore from back to back days of HIIT classes, I would find myself picking up a second workout of the day at Bar Method because it felt SO good to use my muscles like that. I would leave with my muscles feeling elongated and less strained over all.
Another aspect I really loved about the Bar Method classes is that it worked some of the same muscles as my other classes but in a way that made the muscle work completely different. We did similar core exercises, but these classes really focused on small movements, activation and form. I would do V-Ups in my high intensity class and then come to Bar Method and have to hold a similar position but crunch in or work a muscle in a completely different way. I would do dozens of squats in class and then come to Bar Method and work on holding position and gradually lowering myself in a slow count. These were all things I wasn't used to and I felt quite odd
After my month at Bar Method, there were changes that I noticed. In physical changes, my arms became a bit more toned and I was able to get lower or straighter in positions. I felt longer overall. Mentally, I became more aware of my posture and self correcting it throughout the day and I found myself holding out longer in positions than I thought I could before breaking form.
Bar Method became a workout that I looked forward to. I enjoyed getting up in the morning and starting my day with a low intensity workout at 7am before going into the office. I craved the midday break to catch a lunch class. The Gold Coast location offered the perfect excuse merely escape the office for a bit or to help stretch muscles that ached from sitting all day.
It's been a few weeks since my last Bar Method class and I'm already eager to get back. I will confess, I have tried alternate classes at other popular barre studios in Chicago. Each one runs itself a bit differently, which gives them all a unique feel, but none of them met the high expectations I had after spending a month at Bar Method. Each instructor was welcoming to their class and they took the time to learn my name. They helped to correct my form as many times as I needed them to, which was pretty frequent. And honestly, I didn't feel embarrassed at all to have them fixing my position in class because they did it in such a polite and helpful manner. I spent all my time at the Gold Coast location, which is a really nice & clean facility, and found them to have a really convenient class schedule to work with.
I've tried dozens (literally) of workouts all over the city of Chicago and while I recommend trying out tons of different studios and class types to see what is going to work for you, there are few studios that I am really passionate about recommending. Up until recently, I never would have though I would include a barre class studio in the midst of that. The list would have been topped with high intensity interval classes, boot camps and the like. Really anything that would make you feel like you might die. But, as I work on my personal fitness goals, I realize the importance of incorporating a workout like Bar Method into my schedule. I may not go as often, but I plan to make a regular appearance at their Gold Coast spot. Maybe one day I'll even venture to their other locations.
PS - if you're a bit nervous for your new class, check out these 7 tips for your First Barre Class!