Bar Method studio owners are a special breed. They are more than a hundred strong now, and though they are from all sorts of backgrounds, they all dreamed of owning a business that changes people’s lives, and they had the determination and can-do spirit to make it happen.
To that end, they left successful professional careers, told their children they were going back to work, took out SBA loans, and made the bold leap into entrepreneurism.
Get our studio owners into one room, and you will never want more expertise – or entertainment! You will find six former lawyers, eight accountants, four high school teachers, two nurses, two physical therapists, at least 20 sales and marketing executives, several financial analysts, a few actresses, singers, dancers and comediennes, one psychiatrist and two psychologists, a neurophysiologist and two past managers of other barre fitness studios. These people love to get things done, but they also tend to be family-oriented. Thirty-five of them were already mothers of one-to-four kids when they started their studios, and 30 more of them had at least one baby after opening. Two owner partners are sisters, and three owners operate in partnership with their grown daughters.
What our franchisees have less in common is their journey towards studio ownership. The following three stories illustrate the diverse paths our franchisees have taken towards becoming studio owners.
Carrie Smith Ward, owner of the Bar Method studio in Nashville, Tennessee
Carrie took an especially adventurous route to studio ownership and was rewarded with a Hollywood-style happy ending. A native of Hastings-on-Hudson in New York, Carrie moved to San Francisco for a fundraising job and started taking The Bar Method. Soon she began to dream of opening her own studio, but where? She didn’t want to go back to New York. She loved San Francisco but had no commitments tying her down there, and the surrounding territories were taken. So Carrie looked at a map. Not the mid-west, she thought. Too cold. Then her eye gravitated to a sweet little city
where it was warm but not hot, down-home but hip, mellow but dynamic. Perfect!
One month after moving to Nashville, Carrie met John. A year and a half later, they were married, and today they have a one and a half year old son, Jack.
How does Carrie feel about the city she chose? “Nashville is such a warm, friendly city. My husband John grew up in Nashville and has an amazing group of friends who welcomed me into their lives from the start. Many of them are now clients. I have also met wonderful friends through the studio, both instructors and clients. I love having 4 seasons again, and the city just keeps growing and growing!”
Sarah Kuzniar, co-owner of The Bar Method studios in Boston Back Bay, Boston Downtown and Hingham, Massachusetts.
Sarah came by the Bar Method through a work friend and ended up partnering with her. In 2008, she and her husband were recent residents of Boston, where she worked for a large financial services company and ran marathons with her friends. One of her running mates was a work buddy named McKenzie who had started taking the Bar Method in San Francisco where she worked in a branch office. Sarah spoke with McKenzie often on business calls and scoffed at McKenzie’s new exercise regimen. How can you train to run by taking this class called The Bar Method? Then one day during business trip to Boston, McKenzie joined everyone in a marathon and left them all in the dust. Sarah was impressed and started using Bar Method DVDs. Not long after when the two friends were on the phone, McKenzie said, “Let’s open a Bar Method studio!” and agreed to move to Boston to be Sarah’s partner.
Sarah loved the idea. “With my work hours at the time and demanding travel schedule, it didn’t seem feasible to become a mom and also be able to spend time with my child. I was all in.”
Sarah, who is now pregnant with her second child, and McKenzie are now the proud owners of three Bar Method studios in the Boston area and have soon-to-be four kids between them.
Gayle Gallagher, owner of the Bar Method studio in Saint Augustine, Florida
Like many studio owners, Gayle learned about The Bar Method not by taking classes at a studio but by discovering it on her own. A physical therapist for more than 20 years in the Boston area, Gayle moved with her family to Florida to manage the family business, a funeral home. There she started taking barre fitness classes and immediately fell in love with the barre fitness concept. At the same time, her knowledge as a physical therapist cautioned her as to safety of the class she was taking. “I had reservations,” she recalled, “regarding their approach, technique, and the long term health of my back and joints.” Gayle did some research on barre classes and discovered The Bar Method. She bought some DVDs and was impressed with its challenging but safe exercises.
This January, Gayle opened her beautiful studio in the seaside town of Saint Augustine with her daughter Kaitlin, a former ballet dancer, as her fellow teacher and partner. “It has been wonderful to share this experience with my daughter,” Gayle says. I have been pushed way out of my comfort zone which has helped me grow in many ways. It has been important for my kids, especially, my daughters, to see that at any age you can achieve what you want if you are willing to put in the work.”
As for Gayle’s favorite part of being a studio owner, she says, “I love getting to know our clients. I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they reach even the smallest milestones. It makes all the hard work worth it :)”
The allure of “extreme” exercise workouts like “Insanity,” P90X, Cross Fit and Core Fusion Extreme CFX makes sense. Today more than ever, people long for the chance to achieve extraordinary feats and to feel special. What better way to transcend being a cog in the crowded and pushy global gabfest we live in than to have a shot at being exceptional? Extreme workouts offer a straightforward chance to stand out, experience self-discovery, choose a new, excitingly noble community, and be rewarded with recognition, not to mention the possibility of an action hero’s body.
The issue with extreme workouts is, are they good for you? Greg Glassman, Founder and CEO of Cross Fit, says yes. His punishing exercise routines, he believes, enable students to reach their “genetic potential.” The hulk-like female winner of his Cross Fit Games, he says, “was meant to look like that or she would have been eaten.” If you think about Glassman’s statement however, it will occur to you that he has his facts backwards. It was gorillas that got the Cross Fit bodies. Humans evolved to be agile, quick and resilient. The truth is, Glassman’s stiff, slab-like, top-heavy, injured cavewomen is more likely to have made an easy meal for swifter Stone Age predators.
Evidence is growing that our bodies were not meant to endure the heavy pounding of extreme workouts. One study (from The Journal of Strength & Conditioning) found that for every 100 Cross Fit students, 73.5 of them are injured, a 73.5% injury rate! The military has been especially impacted. Enlisted personnel have sustained so many injuries from Cross Fit and P90X, including some deaths, that the Pentagon has convened a panel to issue restrictions on these workouts. To make matters worse, damage to bones and tissues isn’t the only adverse result of these brutalizing workouts. There are dangerous metabolic consequences as well. “Rhabdomyolsis” is a serious condition that can cause kidney failure, permanent disability and even death. It has become so common among Cross Fit and P90X students that it has a nickname, “rhabdo.” Glassman does not seem to be concerned by this problem. Last week on “60 Minutes,” he gleefully boasted that he employs “80 lawyers” to combat the hundreds of lawsuits against Cross Fit.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end with extreme workouts. A similar trend has ridden in on its coattails in the form of after-hours strength contests such as squatting and “planking” held in mainstream gyms and exercise studios. These competitions might not cause “rhabdo,” but they are injuring unsuspecting students.
One casualty was Lisa Brinkworth. Lisa is a resident of Buckinghamshire, England and the mother of three small sons. Last year, she started taking Pilates at a local studio and was inspired by a fellow student to sign up for a twice weekly “planking” competition. Initially she was excited by the planking event and did her best to hold the pose longer and longer.
Around Christmas, Lisa began suffering what she describes as an “excruciating pain in the left side of my chest.” The pain was so bad that she feared she was having a heart attack or had developed breast cancer. Doctors finally diagnosed her condition as “costochondritis,” an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the breastbone. “How many of us,” she wondered, “are putting ourselves at risk of such a painful unnecessary injury?”
The answer is lots of us, including men who considered themselves plenty fit to jump right in. Two years ago, Matt Lombardi, a young, athletic web entrepreneur, landed in the hospital for five days with rhabdo after taking his first P90X class.
The foolhardiness of this injury pileup is that extreme workouts don’t provide students with many basic components of fitness including posture, flexibility, agility, and balance (This last ability could possibly lend itself to some competitive challenges that would be fun and safe).
The appeal of these ultra-tough, he-man workouts and contests is that they promise instant results and a super-hero’s physique. Actually, they are destructive to the human body. The best way to transform your body remains training under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher and committing yourself to regular, focused practice.
A new malady is sweeping the world, one that mainly targets children and teenagers but does not spare any age group. If you become afflicted, you can suffer disc herniation, pinched nerves, metabolic problems, reduced lung capacity, vascular disease, gastrointestinal issues, chronic headaches, poor emotional health, and chronic pain, not to mention reduced good looks. In 2008, the medical community named this new disorder “text neck.”
“Text neck” occurs when you allow your head, a ten-pound weight, to fall significantly forward of your body as you gaze down at an electronic device for long periods of time. This posture becomes more stressful on your spine as your head tilts progressively downwards. According to experts, every inch your head moves forward puts ten more pounds of weight on your spine. If for example you hold your head six inches forward, you are putting a crushing 60 pounds of weight on your back and shoulders. Worst of all, this posture eventually becomes engrained in your body. What our mothers told us, it turns out, is true: Slump, and you will get stuck that way! No wonder that we have an epidemic of young people with neck and back pain!
How do you treat “text neck?” Some doctors tell their patients to text less and try calling people. Others suggest lying backwards on an exercise ball. Chiropractors, who are all over this issue, recommend neck stretches and adjustments, and the cosmetic industry has come out with lotions to smooth neck wrinkles caused by texting.
These treatments might provide short term relief, but they fall short when it comes to providing a long term solution, one that would guard against getting “text neck” in the first place. Such a remedy could reset people’s posture physically and mentally so that they maintain relatively good posture throughout the day, even when they text. In my view, this solution would need to address “text neck” on three fronts: 1. Strengthen weak back and core muscles, 2. Increase poor body awareness and 3. Train in habitual good posture. You probably have already guessed where I’m going with this: the remedy is exercise.
Now that we’ve gotten this far, we still need to determine what kind of exercise best accomplishes these goals. For back strengthening, I’d like to suggest that barre workouts are an excellent choice. All barre classes, whether dance or exercise, compel your back muscles to work harder than usual over gravity as your muscles contract and extend, and many barre workouts include intense back strengthening intervals as well. In contrast, some ways of working out such as doing Nautilus circuits have you leaning on equipment much of the time. Second, an exercise-based remedy must teach you good posture, and last but not least it must increase body awareness by keeping you aware of your body alignment throughout the class. Without these last two features, a barre class could allow you to do the workout with your shoulders slumped, your back arched, and your head dropped forward, putting the 60 pounds on your spine that you’re trying to avoid!
All this considered, my recommendation for a long term solution to “text neck” is a barre workout that puts special emphasis on both improving posture and increasing body awareness. I know from personal experience that one such workout is The Bar Method. In a Bar Method class, teachers mention the posture benefit of each exercise, then help you as you work on your individual posture goals. If your shoulders go up, they will remind you by name to draw them down. If your head drops forward, they will encourage you to keep it lifted. They may also give you gentle hands-on adjustments to give you a deep awareness of your alignment.
Over the past decade, countless students have told me that The Bar Method’s focus on body awareness has transformed their posture. Hear it from a student named Amy, who wrote us this testimonial after one month of classes:
“I am becoming convinced that improved posture is now within my reach. I still have a ways to go, but that daily awareness is there, which is huge. An additional benefit is that in “standing tall” (versus slumping) I feel more energized and balanced. I’m sure I’m breathing deeper too. As I learn how to integrate all my muscles into good posture, I have a picture in my mind of what that looks and feels like now. I don’t want to go back!”
One last word on posture (see below): As the saying goes, if you don’t stand up straight, you could get stuck that way…forever