Saturday, July 30, 2011

Can an X Change Her Shape?

I’m not exactly what you’d call a fitness fanatic, but I do like to sweat on a fairly regular basis. With the added bonus of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) in my medical history, my reality is that consistent core-strengthening activity is the best way for me to stay pain-free and upright.

Since my spine is in an S-shape with a slight twist, my back muscles work in a constant dance of compensation for misalignment. My right shoulder drops lower than my left shoulder, my right hip sits higher than my left hip, and my waistline is uneven. It sounds worse than it feels. Until, of course, I get lazy and my back muscles get a little soft. So exercise I must. My back will never be straight, but it can be strong.

A few weeks ago I was overjoyed to discover that a new exercise studio was opening in my town. It’s called The Bar Method, and is a regimen of exercise geared toward sculpting and elongating muscles through the use of isometrics and deep stretching. The “bar” comes from the ballet barre, which is used for balance and support during some of the exercises and stretching. The method has its origins in ballet combined with rehabilitative therapy.

Before signing up for classes, I researched online for class reviews since Bar Method studios exist across the country. 99% of the reviews echoed the same sentiment: “My muscles were trembling after the first 5 minutes.”…“serious kicking of my muscles’ asses”…“your whole body feels like someone beat it with a stick.” Ahhh, sounds fun! I promptly signed up for a month’s worth of unlimited classes. I’ll go 5 days per week, I mused to myself.

Today was my first class. We started promptly at 9:30 with 40 standing leg lifts. Then push-ups. Then triceps work with 3-pound weights which were astonishingly heavy after 50 repetitions of the tiniest pulsations. That’s where this method gets you. Every movement is tiny but works the muscles to utter exhaustion (which is when the uncontrollable trembling surfaces).

Every exercise consists of tucking this, squeezing those, tilting this, and pressing that….60 times. Twenty-five minutes into class, I passed out. I felt all the blood drop out of my upper half so I promptly lowered myself to the softly carpeted floor, where I stayed for 10 minutes with a cool towel on my head, sipping juice brought to me by the instructor. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this reaction to intense exercise, so I was able to recognize it immediately and drop safely. I’ve learned the hard way not to ignore lightheadedness.

After I regained bloodflow to my noggin, I rejoined class and carried on through to the end of the longest hour of my life. Jelly-legged and out of breath, I walked to my car and quite literally plopped into it.

When I got home I tried to redo my ponytail, but couldn’t lift my arms high enough to do so. It wasn’t pain and it wasn’t soreness, but a complete lack of any strength.

I inhaled my lunch, and by 3:30 this afternoon I couldn’t fight napping any longer. I laid down on the couch and instantly fell asleep. I slept so hard that I dreamed about sleeping. When I woke up an hour later, my body felt like I had just disembarked from space flight and was still re-acclimating to gravity. Every limb felt like it was tied to the floor.

Now, twelve hours after class, my upper hamstrings are as tight as bowstrings. I cannot wait to go to bed. I am pooped.

I have committed myself to a full month of classes, and I intend to do at least three per week. Periodically I’ll post updates on how I’m doing and what results I’m getting from it. Changing the shape of an X isn’t easy, but I’m fighting middle age with every step.


  1. That is awesome. I need to sweat.

  2. As another Gen-xer who recently started using Bar Method DVDs as part of my workout routine, I agree it's tough, but it works. I'm in decent shape already, but wanted to strengthen and tone. The Bar Method is one of the toughest workouts I've ever done, but the proof is in the results. After doing the workouts faithfully every other day for about five weeks I've dropped half an inch off of my hips and half an inch off my thighs.