Fad Fitness: Hooked on Bubbly (Barre, That Is)

Week 2: The annoyingly cheerful instructor turns out to be, in reality, pleasantly optimistic
Staff Writer

There are four on-demand classes that I’ve been instructed to stream for four to five days a week: The Physique 57 Classic Full-Body Workout, Physique F.I.T. (Focused Interval Training), Physique Cardio and the Physique Thigh and Seat Booster. The first class, led by Physique 57 co-founder Tanya Becker, is a full 57 minutes and wallops every muscle. The remaining three classes are just 30 minutes and are more targeted—but I'm required to pair two of them together in a single day.

The videos are so produced that they look almost kitschy—like a throwback to the days of Jane Fonda’s reign. Coordinated outfits (though no leotards), hair that wouldn’t change if a bomb went off and lip gloss that lines the girls’ constant Hollywood smiles accompanies the beat-bumping, hip-hop soundtrack. And the instructors—and their never-ending energy and enthusiasm—complete the impression.

“This is your time of the day—no one else can tell you what to do, so enjoy it!” Tanya announces as we start the warm up. It’s this type of encouragement, paired with the occasional reminder of why you’re supposedly exercising, that persists throughout the series.

As we enter the lower leg portion: “There’s this thing called a cankle. But if you keep up with this move, you won’t have to worry about that!” As we finish up a thigh killer: “Your heart muscle should be pumping; your thigh muscles should be burning; this is your magical formula for losing inches off your body!” And as you’re swearing (or crying) because these core/lower back moves might kill you, she chants: “No muff-in top—that’s what you should be thinking! No muff-in top.”

Initially, this drove me crazy. Sure, she’s right, I don’t want cankles, and I can’t think of any person who does. But believe it or not, I hadn’t really considered my ankles a reason that I was exercising—or my potential muffin top, for that matter. While yes, weight loss is great, it was almost as if she was subtly reminding me that if I didn’t keep up with this routine, I’d be gross or ugly. And what’s more, the never-ending smiling and near complete lack of sweating by the video stars made me a little crazy. I imagine that their competence is supposed to remind me that I, too, could one day be that fit—but instead, it just makes me think that this group does nothing but dance all day, every day…or that they’re robots. Either way, those things aren’t me. 

But here’s the kicker. After actually getting into the swing of these over the weekend and into this week (hey, so I missed a day or two last week—it was Thanksgiving!), the whole feel of the videos—including the, ahem, cheerful encouragement—started to grow on me…to the point where I’m kind of hooked. Yeah, there are some aspects that are annoying, but I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t dismiss these routines at the get-go because of an instructor style that I wasn’t used to. Because ultimately, I’m getting stronger. I feel great when the videos are through (after a solid five minutes of laying on the floor, that is), and every day I’m the kind of sore that isn’t, “Holy crap I’m going to die,” but instead that’s, “Wow, I really can feel how much work my muscles did yesterday, and I can’t wait to make them feel this way again.” And when the routines are so effective (read: so grueling, especially at first), it’s…well, nice to have an instructor who reminds you of how good you’ll feel when it’s through, even if you do wish that she’d sweat—just a little.

About the Project: The Active Times' Fad Fitness Challenge is a six-week-long project in which five hapless writers will immerse themselves in five popular fitness programs—CrossFit, Insanity, Barre, Flywheel and Kettlebell classes—for the dual purposes of getting in shape and evaluating them for our readers. We guinea pigs will bust our butts, burn calories and discover muscles we'd long since mothballed and, if all goes well, emerge into the New Year with a well-rounded perspective of the top fitness fads. Check back every weekday from now until the New Year to come along for the ride without breaking a sweat. Click here to check out the rest of the programs.