An editor at a national fitness magazine contacted our office a few weeks ago to ask if I’d contribute to an upcoming article. Usually, I’m delighted when the press calls, but this time, the subject of the article gave me pause. “Would I write a piece about the benefits of barre fitness workouts?” the editor asked. Her question pre-supposed that barre fitness workouts share the same benefits and that as creator of The Bar Method I would be a good person to speak about them. The truth is, I am not an expert on barre fitness workouts, not having taken more than a few of them, and do not consider myself qualified to talk about their benefits. I understood where the editor was coming from, but I turned her down.
Now if she’d asked me to talk specifically about The Bar Method, I would have felt confident about giving her this list of its benefits:
- The Bar Method adheres to the principles of exercise physiology and was designed under the guidance of physical therapists. It is thereby safe for the joints and highly efficient at changing the body.
- Its workout is mindful. Students experience a heightened mental focus during the class, which helps them to precisely target muscles and gives them increased self-confidence and well-being.
- Its technique places a special emphasis on posture and good alignment.
- Its students are multi-generational. The class gives both 20-year-olds and 70-year olds a challenging, result-oriented workout.
- Its teachers receive among the best training and ongoing guidance in the fitness industry.
- Its teaching is consistent across all of its studios.
- Its studios are beautiful and comfortable environments.
- Its desk and teaching staff are welcoming and supportive.
- Its student communities are closely bonded and passionate about The Bar Method workout.
- Its studio owners are all teachers themselves and serve as mentors and guides for their own teachers, a system that sustains an overall high quality of teaching throughout The Bar Method.
- Its brand continues to introduce new and innovative Bar Method workouts.
Are these Bar Method benefits also “barre fitness” benefits? I have no evidence that they are. Our students rarely mention the bar (or “barre”) when they tell us why they love The Bar Method. They talk about the results, the quality experience and the supportive community. Take, for example, the students’ comments in this three-minute video recently posted by our Seattle studio, which I admired and share with you here:
All considered, barre fitness may not even be the best classification for The Bar Method. It might be a better fit in an upcoming fitness group called “studio workouts,” a collection of service-focused brands that has gained a reputation for giving its students personal attention, community, results, and a well-honed, well delivered experience. But then, where else but from The Bar Method can students achieve supremely sculpted arms, beautiful posture and increased flexibility? With so many benefits to be gained from taking its class, it may simply be the best workout in any category, bar none
Bar Method studios have grown to more than 90 in number, and the quality of our classes, to hear it from our students, remains as high as ever. “I can always count on getting a great workout no matter who is teaching,” Samantha, a DC student, posted on our Facebook page. Fresno student Kristen told us in her post: “I’m in love with the concepts of bar method, also, the high standards that each location and instructor is held to.”
How does The Bar Method manage to keep growing and keep our teachers at the top of their game? We begin with a comprehensive training program, but our focus on quality really kicks in after our teachers begin teaching. That’s when The Bar Method’s unique evaluation and coaching system comes into play.
We developed our evaluation system five years ago when our family of studios was still small. I would travel around to watch classes and noticed something interesting. When left alone, teachers usually got better at some things, such as confidence and “flow.” At the same time, even our talented and dedicated teachers could actually get worse at other things, that is, unless they received regular feedback. One special challenge exercise teachers face is that they must repeat similar instructions class after class. Over time, that good bit of verbiage gets put on automatic, and teachers can stop hearing everything they’re saying. On top of this, they could develop “tics,” phrases unconsciously said over and over such as “that’s it,” “great job” and “good!” Teachers could also develop blind spots in their teaching. One example is getting into the habit of never looking at a certain part of the room. Any student who happened to be standing there was therefore not getting noticed. This slippage is not the teachers’ fault! All of us need guidance in order to stay alert and focused. What’s more, I was happy to see that feedback could play a positive role as well. Constructive guidance helped teachers to deepen their understanding of the technique, hone their flow, sharpen their observation, and become more creative motivators. This last component of growth gave teachers an exciting opportunity to become masters of their craft.
To these ends, every year, The Bar Method now sends a team of national evaluators to every studio to evaluate/coach, and give guidance to each one of our approximately 1000 teachers. Even though I founded The Bar Method, I’m evaluated the same as any teacher (and get just as nervous beforehand!). All of us get a score that is an average of what we receive on a list of skills. Those skills include how well we present the exercises, how well we connect to our students and help them with their form, how motivating and supportive we are, how fun and challenging our choreograph is, and how well we use the music.
As you might think, the evaluation process can be nerve-racking to studio owners, but they love the results. “We find evaluations an integral part of success,” says Atlanta studio owner Melissa White, adding that “We were all nervous. At the same time, as a studio, we came out better teachers.” Sarah Kuzniar, who co-owns three Boston-area studios, values the Bar Method’s evaluation system because it validates the feedback she gives her own teachers. “You guys reinforce what we’ve been telling them,” she says. ”To hear it from the outside is helpful.”
I want to say a last word about our 15 intrepid evaluators led by our VP of Teacher Development Sharon Demko and her team members, Sabrina Porter and Lauren Ford. Sharon and her evaluators go to great lengths to assure that every Bar Method teacher receives a thorough and supportive evaluation. They take red-eyes, fight through snow and traffic to show up at 6 am classes, watch teachers all day, then spend more time writing up their evaluations, coaching and giving guidance. Their work is the secret sauce that keeps our classes top-notch. Thank you, guys!
The Bar Method opened in Honolulu in January 2015, our first studio in Hawaii. I visit every new studio, and I was especially looking forward to this trip. Elaina Olson is like my sister. Her office was next to mine for three years when she was working as our company’s Manager of Franchise Development, always dreaming about opening her own studio as she helped others open theirs. Finally, at the age of 27, she made her dream come true by opening a Bar Method studio in the heart of Honolulu. Besides being thrilled for Elaina, I was secretly thrilled for myself. I’d never been to Hawaii, and this was my chance!
My husband Michael and I saw a further opportunity in my assignment. Every year, we take a vacation in July, and by combining my trip with our vacation, we could see a part of the country we weren’t familiar with.
My first two days in Hawaii were visiting Elaina in Honolulu, and I had a blast. Her studio’s informal, beachy vibe drained the stress out of me, and like Honolulu itself, her students immediately won me over. They placed “leis” around my neck, taught me to give the “shaka” hand greeting, and had me throwing balls in the air with them. I left considering them life-long friends.
Vacation was next! I took a tiny turbo prop to Maui and met my husband at the airport. We got a room with a great view.
Michael turned 65 when we were there, and I took him out to dinner to celebrate.
At the beach, Michael shed his T-shirt to show off his results from his 4-day-a-week Bar Method and Bar Move routine. Meanwhile, I tried to lounge by the pool and learned that it is not my thing. I don’t like to sit still unless I have to, and the time and effort to apply sunscreen on all the places that are usually covered by clothes was, well, not my thing.
Parasailing we loved!
There were surfers all over the place in Maui. Being 68, I opted for splashing in the waves.
The last day I started missing my dog (a pomeranian). Fortunately, there was a swan at the hotel who loves treats and wagged its tail when I offered it some. Ahhh.
Back to San Francisco in first class, a gift from my husband.