Friday, March 8, 2013

Cross training at the bar

Ok guys, I have a confession to make. Despite what every single fitness blog, magazine, book and article tells me, I have never been an avid cross-trainer. I mean, I know that I'm supposed to do "stuff" to make me stronger, faster, less injured, blah, blah, blah. I know this in my head. I've even told other people that same advice. But, it was with a "do as I say, not as I do" caveat. I knew all the information. I knew the benefits. I knew the danger of injury if I didn't strengthen my muscles and core.

But ... and there's the word you knew was coming. But, I didn't do it.

I had been running for 15 years, and had never found anything I liked remotely as much as I loved running. So, if anything was going to be pushed out of my workout schedule, it was going to be any form of cross training.

I'm not saying I didn't try. I did. I gave lots of things the good ol' college try. Ok, well, honestly, probably more like the surly middle-schooler try. If I wasn't engaged and loving it, well, I quit. Yup, there's my confession. I was a cross-training quitter.

I quit jazzercise. I quit weight training. I quit Jillian Michaels. I quit yoga. Now, this isn't saying that I didn't like any of these. I actually do enjoy yoga, but I just never seem to find a way to fit it in regularly to my workout/life schedule. And, I did see some improvement when I was faithfully doing Jillian Michaels DVDs. But, then I would miss one day, or I would want to run long so I would skip the DVD that day, then I was short on time one day, then another, and well, the next thing I knew, the DVD was simultaneously gathering dust and taunting me.

Stop pointing at me, Jillian! I know I should cross train more. 

(Oops, there's another confession. I really am horrible at dusting. Seriously, don't come to my house with a white glove or you're leaving with a greyish fuzzy one. Isn't there some study about dust helping to prevent kids from developing allergies? I'm sure I read something like that once. Yeah, that's totally why I don't dust that often. It's for the good of the children. I'm very altruistic that way.)

Anyway, I would listen to my friends talking about their boot camps or swimming or circuit training or bike riding, and I would think, "Good for them. That's awesome."  But, I just couldn't find anything for which I wanted to carve out time. I mean, I'd do a couple crunches and maybe some push-ups at the end of a run, but nothing even remotely resembling a cross-training regimen.

Then, back in November, I got a message on FB from a running friend telling me about a Living Social deal for an exercise studio called The Bar Method. She had tried this class before and had really loved it. And, because I know that cross training is good for me, and I know that I'm supposed to do it, I bought the deal.

But, I didn't want to start right before Thanksgiving, because who knows when I would get time to go. And, I didn't really want to start during December because, well, the holidays make everything crazy. And, I didn't want to start at the beginning of January because we were having such good weather, and I was able to run outside.

My friends, who had also bought the deal, and were actually going, kept teasing me. "You're never going to go, are you?" "You know it expires if you don't activate it, right?" "We're going to buy the deal from you if you don't use it."

Finally, after living through a particularly hairy day at home with my children and feeling a little guilty that my money spent on the Living Social deal was going to be wasted, my friend happened to text to see if I wanted to join her for class that night. "Yes," I replied back, surprising both of us.

I was nervous to go in for the first time. I didn't know what to expect, and there's always a bit of trepidation going into a new situation. I didn't want people to yell at me. Despite my Jillian Michaels DVD collection, I don't actually enjoy getting yelled at in order to achieve results. I tend to work harder for positive reinforcement. Apparently, I'm like my 5 year old in that regard. But, I needn't have worried. Everyone there was so incredibly nice and welcoming. I told the teacher it was my first time, and she remembered my name and helped me out whenever I needed it.

See, The Bar Method is a class that uses small, precise movements and stretching to achieve targeted toning. Or, as the website says: "The Bar Method integrates the fat burning format of interval training, the muscle shaping technique of isometrics, the elongating principles of dance conditioning, and the science of physical therapy to create a revolutionary new workout that quickly and safely reshapes your entire body."

You stand at a bar, like a ballet barre, for a large part of the class. Thus the name of the class. I didn't clarify this point to my husband, and for the first few weeks, he imagined me going to a class where I lifted a weight bar all around the room or something. And, because in my former life, I was actually an en pointe ballerina, I kind of felt at home. Yes, it has been 16 years since I danced en pointe, but I spent hours upon hours in a ballet studio growing up. It appears my muscles remembered that, even if just a little. And my muscles, while they love running, it turns out, they actually love this Bar Method, too.

And, don't let the words "small movements" lead you to a false sense of ease. This class is hard. If your legs aren't absolutely shaking like a leaf in a tornado, you aren't doing it right. And, you will be corrected. In a nice and non-yelling way, of course. In fact, my proudest day came a few weeks ago when the instructor said she could tell from my form that I had been a dancer. I mean, seriously, I'm such a cheeseball, but I was beaming for the rest of the class.

I've been doing this class faithfully for about almost two months now. This is the longest I've ever done any type of exercise other than running. And, I've signed up for more. But, don't you for one second think that I'm giving up my running. In fact, I can go to a 5:45am Bar Method class and still get a 4-mile run in before I take my elder daughter to kindergarten. 

And, the cherry on top? I actually think it is improving my running. My posture is straighter, my form is better and my legs feel stronger. And, it actually reinforces (read: forces me to actually do) all the stretching that I need to do to keep my dreaded plantar faciitis at bay.


I guess what all those fitness gurus, magazines, blogs, advice columns and books say IS actually true. Cross training can make you a stronger runner. It only took me 15 years of running and quitting everything else under the sun to actually believe it.

Finishing strong at the Sweetheart Run 4-miler after my first month of bar class. I managed to exactly match my PR from 7 years and two kids ago. 

I guess I just needed to find something that I loved enough to keep doing. To reform my quitting ways. 

I strongly recommend finding a cross-training exercise you can incorporate into your running life. And, now, I can actually say without my previous hypocrisy: "Do as I do."

Plus, let's be honest. How fun is it to say, "I'm headed bar class?" I mean, that statement alone makes it worth going. Or ... maybe that's just me. 


  1. I'm so with you about the positive encouragement. I still use my Denise Austin DVDs over my Jillian Michaels because Denise is so nice. If I do Jillian I put her on mute and crank up broadway tunes on my ipod.
    Is there a bar class when we are there over Easter? I'd love to try one.

    1. Yes, I will find us a class to go to when you are here. We need to figure out when you are coming, then I'll get us in! :)

  2. Love that you love it! One of the times I thought, "Oh, I have gone too far, Amy is mad at me :)", was when I told you I was going to tell Cory you let the deal expire so you would sign up for class ;)

    1. Hahaha! I was never mad. Annoyed, maybe ... ;) Now, I'm so glad you pestered me into going :)

  3. So, I've been running for 2 years (well, longer than 3 miles at a time), so that means I have 13 more years before I have to do cross training on a regular basis?;) When I said something to my husband about a bar class, he was thinking pole dancing, at least your husband had a cleaner version!