Thursday, August 18, 2011

Physique 57: New UWS Studio + Class Review

This week Physique 57 opened up its fourth New York studio in the historic Ansonia building on the Upper West side, much to the delight of West side barre aficionados. I took a class there this morning to scope out the scene.

The Ansonia building has an old world charm that is striking. It was a former residential hotel that was built in 1899.

There is an entrance on West 73rd Street that allows access to the Physique studios which are located on the second floor.

The lobby set-up is similar to the midtown and downtown Physique studios, with the familiar hardwood floors...

And familiar wall art!

The lockers in the changing room finally have digital locks!

The real treat were the actual studios. There are two studios at this West side location. Currently only one is in use but the second studio will open for classes a little later.

The rooms are spacious and airy, and will allow more clients per class than the original Midtown location.

The studios are flooded with natural light thanks to the beautiful French doors that open right out onto Broadway.

The Midtown location is still the most convenient for me but the West side location is a very well-designed space that is well-suited for a great workout experience.

I am obsessed with this workout, to say the least! 

Physique 57 was co-founded by Jennifer Vaughan Maanavi, a former Wall Street professional, and Tanya Becker, who was one of the more popular instructors at the former Lotte Berk Method studio in New York city. Together they decided to spruce up the principles of the Lotte Berk Method into a unique workout and so in 2006 Physique 57 was born.

I took an Intermediate level class today with Antonietta, one of my favorite instructors.

The class starts off, like most barre classes, with a warm up which consists of leg lifts. We then head on into intense arm work using a set of heavy weights (5lbs or 8lbs) and do variations of biceps curls, shoulder presses, shoulder lifts and triceps extensions. After a set of push-ups, planks and side planks we begin the first of the three thigh sections. These are performed at the barre and are the most intense part of this class. They  are actually more intense and fast-paced than similar series at any other barre class I have taken. The intensity is teacher-dependent but you could be squatting into a flat-back chair, pulsing a few inches off your feet while holding onto the barre, tucking your hips while in a 'waterski' position or pulsing in a wide second plie. The first time I did the thigh series I thought I was going to die. It is that intense. My legs started to quiver, my heart was pounding and sweat was dripping off me like a faucet. It has gotten better since but it never gets any easier and I love that about this method.

After a 'thigh dancing' interval (one of the hardest exercises in the class, in my opinion) we begin the seat section. There are many variations that can be done here from leg lifts performed while folded over the barre to donkey kicks being done while on the floor to the 'pretzel.' Again, the intensity here will contract your seat muscle into a tight ball that will be screaming for mercy by the end of the set!

The abdominal series is divided into three sections: "Flat back" is done lying on the ground, "Round back" is performed seated with the upper back against the wall while holding onto the barre overhead, and the "Curl" is done with a cushion placed underneath the lower back for support while every single muscle in the abdomen is targeted. Hip lifts and back extensor exercises round off the class.

There are many barre classes but what sets Physique 57 apart from its competitors is its fast-pace and the high number of repetitions performed per exercise. This provides a much more intense workout.

The Good:
1. The workout: This class is the hardest barre class I have taken, and is more intense than a lot of other non-barre workouts. It is fun, fast-paced and will get you the results. I have experienced the results myself and have seen the changes in countless others. Interestingly, doing it regularly has done wonders for my endurance and so I can better handle a tough spin class and even a military style bootcamp.

2. The instructor: Antonietta taught this class and she is fabulous. She is very mindful of proper alignment and made hands-on corrections throughout. She is aware of the differences in clients' strengths and abilities and encouraged us to move into a more challenging position if she felt that we were not sufficiently challenged.

3. The music: The music is what fuels the movements in this class. It varies from top 40 to the 80s to hip hop to mash-ups. It is all programmed according the choreography so you will be moving to a beat throughout. Music is so important for me when I work out and so I love this aspect of the class

The Not-So-Good:
1. The locker rooms: This is more a criticism of the locker rooms at the original 57th Street location which are small and cramped for the amount of traffic they get. You also need your own lock for the lockers. This is not the case at the West side location.

2. Injury: The movements here are high-impact and can be injurious if you are not properly aligned. Luckily most instructors do make it a point to check on all the clients.

I love love love this class. I have been doing it most days of the week for the last four years, including throughout my entire pregnancy, and I am still not bored of it. The choreography keeps getting switched up every few months so your muscles are constantly challenged. It's fun, it's challenging, it's addictive and it works!