Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Refined Morning: My Review of the Refine Method

There are few things that can make me wake up at the crack of dawn of my own volition. The promise of an ass-kicking workout is one of them. That is precisely what Refine Method is capable of doing and is precisely the reason why I hauled myself out of bed bright and early this morning, bleary-eyed, to make the trek a few blocks north to its intimate Upper East side studio.

Refine Method opened its doors in November last year and, in a relatively short period of time, has established itself as an effective, hard-core, and results-driven workout, won New York magazine's best new workout 2011 award, and thus reached a popularity whereby new teachers (there are 8 teachers as of right now) have been acquired and extra classes have been added to its ever-expanding schedule. The creator of the Refine Method is Brynn Jinnett, a former ballerina with the New York City Ballet who has also trained clients in variations of the Lotte Berk method at Physique 57, Core Fusion and Sports Club/LA. Awesome, I thought excitedly, when I first read this, another barre class for me to try! Could not be further from the truth! I should have read the numerous excellent reviews on this class written by other fitness bloggers such as Dori and Jess. This is not your typical barre class. In fact, I would not even call it a barre class. Sure, there is a barre and some classes have utilized moves that I am familiar with from barre classes but this class would best be described as boot-camp style with circuits and a bit of pilates/yoga thrown into the mix. Mark my words, this is a hard class!

Brynn Jinnett, in front of the proprietary Pulley system. Source: Refine Method

The class is essentially a circuit that is repeated three times and in between the circuits there are bursts of cardio designed to raise your heart rate. Refine Method does not use free hand weights, instead employing their proprietary pulley system which works on the principle of progressive elastic resistance, where your resistance increases in proportion to your strength. Other props are also used including weighted medicine balls, sliding discs and resistance bands. The exercises that comprise the circuit vary from class to class and that is one reason I enjoy this class so much-it always keep me guessing. Some days you use the medicine ball, other days you just use the pulley system and the sliding discs, and there are even prop-less days. The class always starts off with a warm up of leg lifts, and some yoga poses. The circuit in today's class included rows using the pulley system, side lunges, side planks, forward lunges using one disk, tricep pushups while snow-angeling your legs and mountain climbers! Phew! This was repeated thrice punctuated by cardio bursts in between the three sets. I was dripping in sweat much before we reached the cardio burst but nevertheless had to do the rapid squats, rapid side-to-side moves and jumpbacks (where you squat, jump into a plank position and them jump back up and then repeat-I hate this exercise but am trying to love it!) in succession.

The cardio bursts are switched up also from class to class. Some days there is skipping in place involved, or jumping with high knees or jumping jacks. Needless to say, this is a very challenging class. Once the circuits are completed there is a mat section which could be pilates-inspired abdominal or outer thigh work. Often, but not always, this is followed by pelvic tucks, moves that go on and on until you cannot feel your gluteal region anymore.

The class ends with a long stretch at which point you can ruminate over what just happened. The one-hour class flies by and you leave feeling energized, your metabolic rate stoked for the rest of the day. While it is a hard class I want to note that there is significant variation in ability levels within a class, so do not be discouraged if you feel you cannot keep up. Everyone works at their own pace with gentle encouragement from the instructors.

The Good:
1. Fast-paced, challenging class that incorporates cardio, strength-training and sculpting moves, efficiently packing them into a one-hour class.
2. Small classes so there is a lot of personal attention. You really cannot slack off because the instructors are diligently watching, encouraging and commending. There is a lot of hands-on correction taking place and this is something I like a lot.

The Not-so-Good:
1. Changing room: Currently there is one bathroom/changing room so there can be a mad rush for this at the end of class.
2. Waiting area: There is a narrow waiting area outside the studio which can get cramped if you are waiting for your class.

Refine Method is a fantastic workout, especially if you are looking to challenge yourself. Definitely try it out-the first class is complimentary. But be warned, it is addictive!


Dori said...

Perfect review! You nailed it all and I could not have said it better myself.

I actually love the jumpbacks! I like that they get my heart rate up without having to go through them insanely fast. I love when we use the tight resistance band during the hip lifts -- they make me feel my butt working even more.

Refine is really a perfect all-encompassing workout. I love that it is do-able at all levels. The class kicks my butt every single time and I have gotten so much stronger since incorporating this class into my routine.

Mom at the Barre said...

The tight resistance band is actually my favorite prop in this workout. It really makes the hip lifts so much harder-I was surprised!

Jess said...

I really want to try Refine and Physique57 so much!! I'm going to be in NYC at the end of June for a wedding and am going to try to sneak in a Physique57 class while there. Jess from FitChick is gonna join me if I do, you should too (and you too, Dori!). It'll be a Physique57 party!

Mom at the Barre said...

Jess: Being a fitness enthusiast, you will love both Physique and Refine! I would love to take class with you so do let me know. I practically live at the Physique studio!

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