Raising The Bar
Written by POC Staff Writer
A Bar Method Novice finds Core Strength, Lean Curves & Friends
By Magdalena Guillen
WEEK ONE: Is this Right?
As I walked into my Bar Method class in Long Beach on my first day, during the first week of January, I was clueless. I wish I could blame giving birth 7 years ago as the reason I struggle to remember how the abdominal muscles work, but I take my cue from the others on the floor. I noticed that each woman—young, old, tall, short—was lean and muscular, but in a nice feminine form, like a dancer’s body. I spent the next hour contracting and uncontracting muscles I didn’t know I had.
First, leg rises to warm up. Next, upper body free weights and push-ups. Then the real fun began, with leg and seat work at the bar. And just as I begin to believe I might die from thigh pain, we switch to abdominal work at the bar and on the mat. But I can’t feel my ab muscles working. Am I doing this right? Looking for guidance, I noticed that none of the women were moving. What am I missing? Instructor Andrea Davis comes over and, with her elbow, gives my pelvis a push here and my knees a pull there. I immediately feel a difference. Everything seems so simple but is actually quite difficult.
WEEK 5: Ab Normal
After about one month, I recognize that I still have no abdominal strength, yet the studio’s co-owner and instructor, Joanna West, complimented me on my sit-up curls today: “You got it, Magdalena!” Mind you, I can never feel my curls, and they are very difficult for me to do. I am only able to attempt them because, as instructed, I prop pillows under my rib cage.
With my instructors continuously correcting my form with gentle and accurate touches, I am able to be more precise with my posture and feel the form more intensely. When working the final set of pushup’s on the floor, I feel my teeth chatter and my arms shake and I am about to break into tears and quit when instructor Saudia Rashed calls out, “Good job, Magdalena! You are doing it right!”
WEEK 10: Getting It
It’s been two and a half months, but this isn’t getting any easier. I don’t get it. Leigh Ann Rivera, a dedicated Orange County mom of four school-age children, explains that an interesting thing happens through the Bar Method: as you get better, the exercises become even more challenging. “In the beginning I couldn’t break a sweat if I tried,” Leigh said. “Now at the start of the exercise my intensity increases right away and becomes more difficult. It becomes more familiar but never easier. Every day your tuck feels a little better, you engage your muscles that you hadn’t quite hit before or you feel your leg lifting more. Sometimes you are doing your ab workout and you may feel like it is doing nothing for you at all. Then one day it just clicks. All of a sudden you feel your abs engage. It is just about getting in tune with your body.”
WEEK 14: Focus and Therapy
Bar class has been like therapy for me. Being a single mom has challenges in and of its own and can be a tiny bit overwhelming. But hey, exercise is supposed to help relieve stress and find inner clarification, right? Some days I doubt my reasons for being there, especially on the mornings where we start our ballet bar work and I stand at the bar on my left leg, while my right leg is firmly resting on the ballet bar and both of my arms are lifted in the air high above my head. I begin to feel like a graceful ballerina, when all of a sudden I hear, “Magdalena, wrong leg!” and I am brought back to reality. Other mornings I embarrass myself by being the most uncoordinated person in the class.
How is it that I cannot march in place lifting my knees to my chest while holding weights in each of my hands at the same time? Really, Magdalena, really? I learn to laugh and smile, even if it’s just on the inside. So, I stick with it. Every day I begin to hear the dialogue the girls have been repeating for the last three and a half months, “Tuck your tail bone in, lower your waist, lift your head.” The stretches and final moments of meditation have helped me to find an inner clarification.
“You must be in the moment,” says Andrea. “Because as soon as you lose the presence of the moment, then it is really hard to stay at the intensity level that we ask for. In order to stay in these postures it takes the power of the mind. It is mind over matter and good things come out of it.”
WEEK 20: Friends at the Bar
I’ve been going to The Bar Method in Long Beach between three to five days a week for the past five months. My posture and coordination have improved; my spine and core muscles are stronger and toned. It’s due to these changes in my core that my thighs and legs are appearing sculpted, longer and leaner. The best benefit of all? Slowly, a rounder perkier derriere has emerged. And just as my derriere emerges, my abs are definitely becoming flatter, longer and leaner. Because of these results I now look forward to my daily abdominal workout, and, believe it or not, pushups. I have gained inner core strength that turns into outer sexy lean curves. I have also gained friends and inspiration among my Bar-mates.
There is Krista Lee Wolman, 30, a vivacious new mom who not only brought a baby girl into the world 15 months ago, but also just became a certified Bar Method Instructor this past May. She did Bar class three times a week while she was pregnant to “bounce back, post baby.” Sue Chu, 65, is an alluring woman whose improving golf swing is breaking the concentration of her male golf counterparts. The Bar Method has brought her improved physical and mental clarity on the green. Leigh Ann Rivera, another busy mom, is here for some down time. “It is important for a mom to take some time for herself,” Leigh says. “It makes you a better mom.” Evelyn Monat, 67, a modern and youthful educator, who earned her PhD four years ago, has had two knee surgeries in six months yet lives out her fantasy of being a ballerina every morning.
And then there is Andrea, The Long Beach Bar Method Co-Owner and Instructor, who says it’s not only about the fitness, it’s also about new friends. “We have met tons of people that have come to us and told us how Long Beach really needed something like this and are so grateful that we have moved here,” says Andrea. “It’s not a women’s-only club but it turns out that way most of the time. It’s an hour of time just for you: mentally, physically, and spirituality.”
Magdalena Guillen is a SoCal single mom and fitness aficionado whose workouts include Bikram yoga, pole fitness and Zumba. Her new passion is to become a Bar Method instructor.
LOCAL BAR METHOD LOCATIONS
The Bar Method is a one-hour, total body workout. It starts with a warm-up, free-weight exercises and push-ups and moves on to intense leg and seat work at the bar, then abdominal work at the bar and on mats. Every exercise includes active stretching and is followed by additional stretching to elongate the muscles just worked. It is an intense challenging workout with isometric dance conditioning and deep stretches.
Long Beach, CA
6695 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, CA 90803
Owners: Andrea Davis and Joanna West
Newport Beach, CA
7772 E. Coast Hwy
Newport Coast, CA 92657
Owners: Jessica Duwe and Whitney Bania
631 East 1st Street, Tustin, CA 92780
Owners: Jessica Duwe and Whitney Bania