Wednesday, December 26, 2012

BarreAmped- An Honest Review

That's me in the front, doing fold-over.
I've decided to come out of my blogging hiatus in order to fairly review something new that I happen to love.

About 3 months ago, while in my "trying random workouts because I'm in a rut" phase, I ran across a Groupon for BarreAmped.  I was looking for something better than pole dance fitness (which was fun, and tough, but didn't feel like a long-term sustainable workout to me), so I didn't hesitate to click "Get Groupon."  Since BarreAmped is relatively new on the fitness scene, it was rather difficult to find reviews- especially from women who had enough experience with group fitness to allow for comparison.

That being said, here goes my rather lengthy, no-holds-barred (ha ha, get it?  Fine.  I'm a nerd.  Whatever.) review.

What is BarreAmped?

According to their official website, which can be found here,
"BarreAmped is the ultra results oriented fitness regime based on modern and classical dance, Pilates,   yoga and deep stretching created by fitness DVD star Suzanne Bowen."

My take?  Let's break that statement down:

"Ultra results oriented?"  
Oh yeah.  After completing a 6 week BarreAmped bootcamp recently, I swear you could use my obliques as a razor blade.  Well, ok, it helps if I stand a certain way and suck in, but still.  I can tell a big difference in my core strength and tone, and others have noticed it as well.  I can't help it- I appreciate the results in the spirit of self-betterment, but as females, we all know that there's nothing like appealing to our vanity to keep up the motivation.

"Based on modern and classical dance, Pilates, yoga, and deep stretching..."
Hmmm- yes, but loosely.  Having a relatively strong background in classical ballet, and some background in modern dance, I can say that although you use the ballet barre in this class, BarreAmped isn't a "dance-y" workout.  If you are looking for Zumba, go elsewhere (not that I don't like Zumba- I do- but this is very different).  As far as yoga, I've found that some instructors incorporate more yoga into their classes than others.  All instructors will take you through deep stretches during and after the workout, which is good, because your muscles will be on fire!

Here's my take on defining BarreAmped:  It is an incredibly results-based toning workout, focusing on repeating small, isometric movements with perfect form.  This workout has a very mental component, which is great for me now that I have a super-stressful job.  I feel like I get an hour of therapy and an hour of arse-kicking all at once- what could be better for today's busy lifestyle?  :)

Do I need dance/ workout experience to try BarreAmped?

No to dance experience, probably yes to workout experience.  Here's why.

Dance experience:
Dancers and former dancers will have a "leg up" (ahaha- I kill me!) on others in that they will be used to correcting and perfecting form,  although I imagine that those experienced with yoga or pilates with no dance experience would be fine as well.  Otherwise, there is no dancing in this class.  Whether or not you have prior dance/ yoga/ pilates experience, expect to have your form corrected more than once, particularly in the beginning.  It doesn't mean that you are "bad" at BarreAmped- it just means that in order to get the best results (after all, that's why you're there), you need to be working in perfect contractions/holds.  One note for dancers:  You do not use turn-out in this class.  That's a tough cycle to break when turn-out is so deeply ingrained in your muscle memory, so expect gentle corrections in some postures until you get the hang of it (fold-over, which is shown in the pic above, was the hardest for me to master.   I still have to really concentrate on my body to get it right).

Workout experience:
This workout is tough- even for experienced gym buffs- and it is going to require some pretty serious core and thigh strength.  I personally think that in order to get the mind/ body connection right, you are going to need to have at least some reserve of strength.  If you are brand new to working out, this probably isn't the place to start (although they will still accept you into class).  I would suggest starting with DVDs, yoga, or mat-based pilates classes.  One note for all BarreAmped newbies- most classes are not cardio-based.  Expect to sweat some while toning, but intense cardiovascular stamina is not required.

Does BarreAmped work?  Is it hard?
Heck yeah it does, heck yes it is!  But in a good way.  One thing I really like about it is that instead of the class getting easier the more you go, it gets harder.  That's because once you have mastered form and are really telling your muscles where and how to move, it doesn't let up on them.

What should I wear?
I had a hard time finding the answer to this initially, so I'll make it easy- wear a sports bra and fitted shirt (you'll be bending over a lot, especially in plank), fitted pants or leggings (no shorts) and removable shoes.  Some people work out in those toe-sock things, but most go barefooted.  As far as leggings/ pants, wearing something fitted allows the instructor to easily see and correct your form.  Me?  I generally wear a sports bra, tank top, 3/4 length leggings, and flip-flops.

Bottom line?
BarreAmped is all about the bottom line!  Just look at the butt of any instructor.  If that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what will.

Really, though- I love this workout, and I haven't done much else (with the exception of some cardio) since I stumbled upon it.  BarreAmped isn't a gimmick- you'll work hard, and you'll see results quickly.  Their motto is "Shake to Change," and they mean it.  Your muscles will shake like mad.  They will also change- and  faster than you would probably think.

I've also noticed that many BarreAmped instructors and junkies are into whole-body health and not just fitness or how their butts look in skinny jeans.  My guess is that's because of the emphasis on mind-body connection.  I find myself wanting to take better care of my body, which is great (if I could only give up Coke Zero, my beloved 'teacher juice'...)

So, if you are still thinking of trying BarreAmped, I say DO IT!  Feel free to leave comments on your experience below.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Your Kid Annoys the Crap Out of Me. Heck, My Kid Annoys the Crap Out of Me.

Toddler Death Match- Vacuum Attachment Edition

Toddlers are weird little people. 

One minute, they are amazing you with some new piece of profound knowledge- a keen observation of the great big world around them.  However, before you can finish gushing with the pride that you feel at that moment, the toddler-person begins doing something incredibly inappropriate and/ or horrifically mortifying.  The older they get, the more exasperated you become, because it becomes increasingly clear that they know better and they are doing (insert weird/ bad thing here) on purpose.  I wouldn't go as far as to say that parenting a toddler is a love/ hate relationship, but there are definitely times that the overwhelming love takes a back seat to the feeling of, "If someone doesn't get over here to take this kid and give me a chardonnay break in the next 5 minutes I'm going to be rocking back in forth in a corner, probably permanently."  Or maybe it's just me.

Because my boyfriend is apparently missing the FBTA (Frazzled By Toddler Antics) gene.  Maybe it's only passed down to mommies on the X chromosome- I dunno. Maybe it's because he shares 50/50 custody with his ex, and approximately half his time is spent being an actual autonomous human being, rather than a toddler-wrangler.  Or maybe he's superhuman. 

All I know is that with two little toddler-people running amuck, it would be nice to have someone on my side to share in both the joys and the exasperation.  But noooooo.  When my admittedly mostly-brilliant kid insists that he reallypromiseshedoesn'thavetogopotty as Operation Code Brown commences in his pants, The Boyfriend gives me stern lectures and points me to yahoo! advice on potty training *rolling eyes*  Meanwhile, his kid is off humping things indiscriminately (although admittedly less now that he's about to turn 4).  Of course I am not allowed to point that out though, because anything his kid does wrong is simply "age appropriate," and "I'll see one day."

So here's my point- wait, I really didn't have one.  I guess my point is that sometimes, kids suck.  They all do.  Yours, mine.  Every. Single.  One.  Of.  Them.  Sometimes, we all have those moments when we feel like failures as parents.  Fortunately, those other moments when the kids are being sweet, adorable, brilliant, hilarious and loving make it all worthwhile.  Otherwise, no sane person would ever reproduce.

It's not just me, right?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Holy Smokes! Church-hopping review #2

Church Name: Kairos (hosted at Brentwood Baptist Church)

Brand of Jesus: Their website says they are a "non-denominational worship experience" that meets at a Baptist church, and is led by a Baptist minister.  It's hard to escape the Baptists around here (unless, of course, you are at a Church of Christ).

The Pros: 
  •  The coffee was significantly better than that at Woodmont Hills family of God.  Yes, I know this is not the criteria on which one should choose a religious experience, but hey- it's the first thing I noticed.  Plus, I really needed the caffeine that night if there was to be any taking in of the Good Word.
  • I actually really liked the message, led that night by the assistant pastor.
  • No weird shenanigans in the name of the Lord (as mentioned previously, defined by me as laying-on of hands, speaking in tongues, handling snakes, etc.)
  • Attention to detail- they actually had a life-size replica built of the Ark of the Covenant, carried out by 2 scruffy youngsters.
  • The preacher was pretty funny, for a preacher.
  • It was dark, which hid my rather condescending glances around during the concert/ praise/ singing/ what-have-you.
 The Cons: 
  • Luckily, I happened to be wearing flip-flops, or I wouldn't have fit in.
  • The music was seriously over the top (and, in my opinion, lasted way too long).  The drummer was behind a screen (with extra mics), they had full concert lighting and backdrops (including the big side screens with rotating colors and backdrops), and a freaking smoke machine.  I mean, really?  REALLY?  I think they might have taken the phrase "Jesus rocks" a little too literally.
  • Diversity?  Nope.  Unless you consider the fact that I counted at least 1/2 a dozen different Hollister shirts diversity.  The guy sitting next to me was probably 40, and I felt a little awkard for him, seeing as how he was probably the oldest dude there and all.
  • It was LONG.  From 7:00- 8:30 on a Tuesday night?  I guess that's why they have good coffee.
  • There was this one couple that was all over each other pretty much the whole time (at least during the worship songs).  Quite frankly, it was gross.  I seriously thought they were about to "know" each other Biblically- right there in the floor seating (oh yeah- as any good concert should have, there was both stadium and floor seating.  My friend and I lucked out with like 5th row seats!).  Ironically, the song that was playing when I first noticed this creepiness had lyrics saying something like "There is no greater love than Jesus."  Maybe this couple was trying to prove them wrong?
  • Speaking of the music, there was way too much of the forced, awkward "rhyming" typically found in so much modern praise music.  Blech. 
    Bottom Line: 

    When I first saw the "Kairos" link on the Brentwood Baptist website, I assumed it was some kind of African mission ministry.  Turns out that it's pretty much just Southern Baptist catering to today's (white) youth.  This was definitely a "Rocker Jesus" crowd.  I thought someone should be passing around a beach ball in the floor seating, especially with all those raised praise hands.  Interestingly, though, the message didn't sell out (it was on the Fear of God).  I would go back, but I think I'll go late next time and skip the rock concert.

    More info about Kairos can be found on their website:

    Church-Hopping: Review #1

    Church Name: Cross Point Church

    Brand of Jesus: Jury is still out on this one.  I think they are technically non-denominational,  but it felt a little Baptist-y to me.  I believe they label themselves as a "community church."

    The Pros: 
    •  I didn't burst into flames (as previously mentioned here-
    • They have a 20 minute interactive children's church thingy before regular services (which I didn't know beforehand, and therefore didn't personally experience)
    • Good message
    • Aesthetically pleasing backdrop
    • No one did anything weird (defined by me as laying-on of hands, speaking in tongues, handling snakes, etc.)
    • Nice multi-media experience, which appeals to the younger generation, but also to my inner teacher, who strives to deliver lessons geared towards different learning styles (visual learners, auditory learners, etc.)
    • When I went to the nursery to pick up my kid, he was smiling and unscathed
     The Cons: 
    • The pastor flat-irons his hair and was wearing skinny jeans
    • I felt super-overdressed in a black skirt
    • Pretty much complete lack of diversity- the auditorium was chock-full of trendy 20somethings
    • Today's message was "something a little different," which consisted of a video interview between the pastor and some former NFL player dude.  This immediately made me feel like I was watching ESPN, which immediately made me zone out.
    • It's one of those mega-churches where it is really easy to be lost in the crowd (actually, I can probably count this as a pro, too...)
    Bottom Line: 

    Not bad, but maybe not entirely for me.  These people definitely cater to Trendy Jesus (I bet this Jesus has an iPad and hangs out at Starbucks, and he wears skinny jeans instead of that white tunic thingy).  I'll probably give it another shot before making a final decision.

    More info about Cross Point Church can be found on their website:

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Weiner Comes Clean

    In recent news, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY, pronounced WEE-ner) has admitted to wrong-doing.  In the name of  journalistic integrity on this blog, I researched by googling "exposed weiner"  (I don't recommend that you do the same).

    During this probe, Weiner's cocky attitude has not won him public favor.  As Weiner continued to be grilled,  he was reluctant to rise to the level of integrity demanded by his constituents. His lies thus far could be indicative that criminal complaints will follow, leaving the distinct possibility that Weiner will face the U.S. penile system.

    Rep. Dick Johnson (R- CA) commented, "Let's be honest- he's been caught. Weiner will have a hard time getting off."  Others disagree, admiring Weiner's forthcoming honesty.  "I don't know why everyone is so hung up on this.  He shouldn't be condemned. In fact, Weiner should have a statue erected in his honor," stated Jimmy Wood, president of the National Foundation for Ethical Behavior.

    Although Representative Weiner may or may not be up for re-erectionelection, preliminary talks have begun for him to become the new face of the Oscar Meyer corporation, which would carry a hefty paycheck.


    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Watersports and Freedom, -or- Things Not to Try When One is Pushing 30

    I think I celebrated Memorial Day in one of the most American ways possible.  In memory of our fallen soldiers, I fell,while celebrating my freedom, and consequently memorialized the official loss of my youth.  Pretty darn patriotic, right?  Here's what really happened:  I tried to learn to water ski and busted my butt (quite literally).  I'm not sure what is more damaged- my ass or my ego.

    The unthinkable happened this weekend:  I actually found myself childless, physically healthy, and responsibility-free, and all on a holiday weekend!  So, in typical me fashion, I took what could have been a perfect weekend of relaxation and turned it into OvercompensationFest 2011.  "I can sleep in!" I thought to myself.  But did I stop there?  No.  Noooooo.

    "I'll have champagne for breakfast!  It's a celebration!" said my internal monologue.
    "An impromptu boat trip?  Great idea!" it soon repeated.
    "I think now would be the PERFECT time to try waterskiing!"  I heard that pesky inner voice say.  Oh wait- no, that was my actual out-loud voice, as spoken to my friend (and boat owner) Bruce, over a few domestic beers.

     Bruce, who is younger than me and childless, decided to humor this obviously ridiculous idea. 

    Someone should have stopped me before the rope was ever thrown out.   I managed to accomplish donning the skis and getting into position with all the grace and aquatic finesse of a 1-flippered manatee with an inner-ear infection.  Bruce informed me that the hardest part was getting up, and that a good strategy was to keep my legs together.  Lord knows I have plenty of practice doing that, so I thought I was in the clear.

    Then came the motor.  Did I manage to keep my legs together?  No, no I did not.  Picture a strong toddler who is determined to see just how far out of socket Barbie's leg will bend.  That should give you a pretty good picture of the resulting movement of my left leg (albeit with a flabbier, less-shapely leg).  I knew I had hurt myself, but my pride hurt more.  So genius me, now stubbornly pissed off, got right back up and did the exact same thing again.  I realized very quickly that it was over.  At least for now.

    Today I went back to work, hobbling around and trying to think of a clever lie to tell people when they ask me why I am limping.  I can't bring myself to say, "I dislocated my butt trying to learn to waterski over the weekend." It's just not dignified.  A least not for a woman my age.

    I officially have item #1 on my "Things I should have attempted over a decade ago" list.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Valentine's Day Cards that Can't Quite Commit

    This is a V-Day card MADE for men.  My "friend" just got this card in the mail:

    "Because You Mean So Much"

    Valentine's Day/ is a day for telling/ those people we care about/ just how much/ they mean to us.../
    So I couldn't/ let this day go by/ without you knowing/ how very much/ I enjoy being with you./
    The times we share/ are very special to me.../ and so are you.
    HAPPY (all caps) Valentine's Day (obligatory scroll-y script).

    Somebody actually got paid to write that.  I read the fine print- yep, it's actually from Hallmark. 

    Now- my translation:

    "Because You are Putting Out on a Semi-Regular Basis"
    Valentine's Day/ is a day/ that I don't give a crap about/ but I know you expect something from me/
    So I couldn't/ let this day go by/ without you thinking/ I acknowledge this/ so I can still get laid./
    The times we share/ are sex/ and therefore I like them.../ and you're ok, too.
    Again with the "HAPPY Valentine's Day."

    Although the quality of their writing has obviously gone down, I will hand it to them: they are tapping into their niche markets. Hallmark:  Not just your grandmother's greeting card.