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March 23, 2012 / fionarwbl

Refining My Abs (and Arms and Thighs and Glutes)

I’ve mentioned on here a couple of times that my hard won abs have been slowly disappearing. While resources such as ToneItUp are amazing me with immediate “I want to work out right now in my apartment” urges, I need to commit to a class to get real results, because, honestly, I need to get yelled and have financial loss in order to work my abs.

I had heard many positive things about Refine Method, and have been following Brynn’s blog for a while. I have a huge respect for her approach to exercise, and I have to admit, loved her critique of barre classes. I used to love barre classes, and credit them with the fact that it took 6mths of not working out to have my abs actually disappear. They really made my core strong. However, I also had frequent hip pain while taking the classes, and was also concerned about pressure on my knees. It might work for you; it stopped working for me.

Refine Method has also been loudly endorsed by Dori. Dori is really awesome, and like me she used to love barre classes, and now does not. Dori is much fitter and stronger than me though, and she credits the last year of Refine for that. I really trust her opinion on exercise classes. Dori actually organized a free Refine Method class last year which I attended. I remembered liking the class then, but there was only a studio on the Upper East Side, which is pretty much Arizona, as far as I am concerned.

(Come on, a bus and a train? Or 3 transfers? Not going to happen.)

I then heard that Refine had opened a studio in Union Square. At first, this made me mad, because it was about the third cool new yoga or workout studio that has opened in Union Square in the last couple of months that I wanted to go to, and it reminded me that I no longer live a 10 minute walk from it. But then I realized that it is a super quick subway ride, and working out down there would be an excuse to check out my old haunts. Oh, hi Madewell! My credit card hasn’t seen you in a while.

Picture from . It's the studio to be.

I checked the schedule and reserved a class on Saturday morning. I was particularly excited to see Brynn was teaching because I always think the best classes are with the founder. I found the studio (no sign! Like a secret cocktail bar) a couple of minutes early, and walked into a room filled with excited chatter. The previous class had just finished. I’m always intimidated when there are lots of girls hanging out together, because much as I love to work out, I don’t have regular girls I take classes with, so am usually sitting alone on the mat while everyone around me is gossiping. Waaah me.

The studio is still work in progress, and there are discounted prices accordingly. However, it was really beautiful when I was there – all exposed brick and lots of natural light in the waiting are, and then a studio with glass doors so you can still get some of that light. The studio can accommodate about 18 people in a class, so you are guaranteed individual attention. It has a pulley system on the wall for weights, and a mat set up with kettleballs. Brynn greeted me as “you’re my runner” which was sweet that she remembered that I was going to be in her class. Prior to signing up she had responded to an email I sent through her website, which made me really impressed with her dedication to her clients and her clients to be.

We were encouraged to take our socks off to be more comfortable. I was regretting not having had a pedicure. It’s on my mile long to-do list. We then started with a warm up serious with some yoga poses and planks. Then we started the class in earnest. The Refine Method combines large, weight resistance movements such as lunges with a series of circuits that keep your heart rate up. The idea is that you are both building muscle and cardio capability. I personally loved it because you are not doing something for too long, and you can either use the cardio periods to build up your heart rate (me during the first half of the class), or use it to calm yourself down because you are dying (me during the second half of the class). What a surprise – I failed to negative split the class.

Brynn (at the back) demonstrating the pulley system. From

I am a bad blogger in that I didn’t make any notes after the class and it is now a week later. However, I distinctly remember pushups being part of the first part of the class. If you couldn’t do a full push up, you were to do plank. I was pleasantly surprised that I actually had some full pushups hiding inside my badly wasted pecs and arms. I mean, not many, not army marine style, but some. I wasn’t ashamed, let’s put it that way. There were also lots of lunges and jump backs. I am weirdly badly co-ordinated and therefore am scared of breaking my toes or landing onmy face during jump backs, so I do step backs. Throughout the class there were a lot of lunges and lunge variations. We also did some work with the pulleys for our biceps and back, and some work on the mat for our abs. I’m sorry this was a blur; I was hot, sweaty, and working hard so remembering the moves we did became less important than remembering to breath.

One of the things I loved about this class was that Brynn had an assistant who demonstrated the moves while we were working through our cardio sets, so there was no time lost between workouts with setup. Another thing was that with two teachers, there was a lot of attention paid to form and correction, all of which was delivered in a really constructive, supportive way. Delivering corrections while being encouraging is hugely important for me; working out can put you in a very vulnerable position where you are publicly facing your own limitations and frustrations, and teachers need to be to recognize the fine line between constructing and discouraging. Refine was great for this.

The class finished with some glute work on the floor, and then stretches. I came out a sweaty mess, which I think is a good thing. My legs were sore the next day, but I think it was the combination of running 10 miles plus the lunges. I didn’t have as much muscle soreness in my abs and arms as I would have liked though, so next time I need to push myself further. I will definitely be back at Refine over the next couple of months. I’m already booked in for another class on Sunday.

Oh, one final note is that you should definitely check out the pricing models, as there are some good deals, such as discounts for the preview space, and a very interesting model where the price of the class drops the more you work out.



Leave a Comment
  1. Dori / Mar 23 2012 8:33 pm

    LOVE your review! I sent it to Brynn and she loved it too. You did a great job describing the structure of the class and I am really happy you liked it! I can’t wait to take class with you more often again, I miss when we did that.

    Your Arizona comment made me laugh. But I’m so glad the first location was there because I got to walk to it for over a year!

    After I move, I plan to take class in Union Sq a couple times a week, and maybe a weekend day sometimes, so I am sure I’ll be seeing you. ALSO, I’m excited for you to get stronger from it!

  2. sociallyfitblog / Mar 23 2012 8:33 pm

    Contitnue to keep the workouts going! Sounds like you had quite the time with Brynn. Congrats on the pushups as well. You’ll be able to do more and more as time passes.

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