Ever since Madonna (or was it Gwyneth?) thrust Tracy Anderson into the spotlight some five odd years ago I have been intrigued. Her claims about changing the genetics of any woman’s body type, her (dubious?) theory about lifting anything over 3 lbs causing women to bulk up and the need to exercise 6 times a week for 2 hours a day have created quite a furor in the fitness industry. Her haters hate her but her believers swear by the method. And there are many many believers. When she opened up her NYC studio a few years back with BFF Gwyneth, women flocked despite the supposed $1500 initiation fee and $900 monthly fee. Classes could not be taken a la carte so when Gilt City opened the studio up I decided this was my chance to see what the hype was all about and promptly bought a 5-pack. Let me break it down my experience for you:
The Studio: Tracy’s studio is located in Tribeca, on a rather quiet street with no signs indicating that there is indeed a fancy studio around. Although if you look up you will see the frenzy of cardio-dancing women through the 3rd floor windows. Nevertheless, I walked past it twice before figuring out that this was the studio. For the hefty price tag I was expecting a glamorous studio. It is not. Stark is the word that comes to mind when describing it. It’s also very white. There’s no real waiting area. Most women wait in the locker area which is quite steamy because of the adjacent showers. There are 2 studios, one for the general classes and the other for semi-privates. The semi-private studio contained the elevated cube that you may have seen Kelly Ripa workout in, along with reformers and other playthings. The main studio is lined by mats, ankle weights, and hand weights and the ceiling has colored resistance bands installed with varying resistance. The first thing that struck me as I entered was the blast of hot air. The studios are purposely kept hot, at 86 degrees and 65% humidity. I’m not a fan of hot yoga at all so I was already uncomfortable before class began.
The People: The front desk people were really nice. They knew I was a Gilt client and did not treat me any differently. And note, I did not take class with Ms Anderson but I did try a selection of her instructors, including Reni Mimura, Chelsea Gentry and Jennifer Jones. All were pretty, tiny and pleasant. Again, I was expecting an “oh you’re here for Restaurant week” attitude but it wasn’t there. All the classes I took were packed. And I was taking classes mid-week at 12pm, 1pm and 2pm. Not really peak time. So the studio definitely has its loyal following. Several privates were taking place at the same time in the same studio.
The Classes: I tried MultiTAsk band, CaTAlyst Cardio, DeTAil Band and ATAin Definition.
CaTAlyst cardio: The class consisted of 60 minutes of dance aerobics. Lots of high-impact moves, lots of jumping, lots of quick turns. The steps were not intuitive and I found it hard to follow. I’m sure the more you take it the easier it gets. But there is little-to-no direction. Cues are entirely visual and no one will be correcting your form so you are on your own. This class is a beginner’s class (I use this term relatively as opposed to the CaTApult Cardio class that is for more advanced clients) so after 30 minutes of non-stop dancing we had a 30-minute segment where the instructor taught a new choreographed dance. There’s a lot of tapping your heel against the ground and the quick turns which were hard on my knee. 45 minutes into class I felt a sharp pang on the outside of my right knee and decided that this was it for me and Tracy’s dance cardio. Did I mention it was high-impact? I can see this being a fun class if you know the steps and can follow along but it didn’t work for me.
DeTAil band: This class was different and definitely more enjoyable. There are a set of red, blue and green bands attached to the ceiling and using a pole we pulled down a set of bands that we are going to hold onto for the workout. I followed the instructor and grabbed the red and green sets while some ladies chose the (lighter) blue bands. The first part of the class was focused on the arm and upper body where we pulled the bands while doing choreographed arm movements. The next part of the class was on the floor where we held onto the band but did various leg lifts wearing ankle weights, while on all fours. This part was tedious. We repeated the same move continuously (maybe 25 or 30 times although felt like 1oo) before moving onto the next move which we repeated. It got boring really fast but I did feel it in my lower body. The last section consisted of ab work with moves that I haven’t really seen anywhere else. Think lying on your back and crossing your legs back and forth. Or inverting your legs so that your knees are touching while raising the legs up and down. Barring the boredom I felt in the middle, this class was more up my alley.
ATAin Definition: Here the focus is entirely on muscular structure. We started out with these arm movements which were more like choreographed flailing after which we grabbed a set of 3 pound weights and did some more arm work, if you can call it that. Not a fan of this part. It felt like a waste of time. The next section was the redeemer and was certainly not a waste of time. This section was done on all fours wearing ankle weights and was geared towards the lower body. Like the DeTAil band class there were lots of repetitive variations on leg lifts. Being a barre gal I am familiar with leg lifts and believe in their power to create results. You are essentially using the weight of your own leg to work the muscles in your behind. But these moves were unlike anything I had done before. At one point we had to kick our leg back at 45 degree upward incline to our body followed by kicking it out to the side after which we twisted our leg back so that we were in a modified back bend and then we would repeat. Many many times. It was challenging but after the umpteenth rep I found myself staring at my watch. But my lower body was fried. The last 10 minutes was ab work where we did varations on crunches. Similar to the DeTAil Band class, I felt and enjoyed this class more than the dance cardio but the high number of reps did keep me from being as engaged.
MultiTAsk band: This class was a hybrid. 30 minutes of dance cardio and 30 minutes of muscular structure work with the resistance bands. Probably the best class to take for those looking to get a “best of” the Tracy Anderson method.
The Verdict: Overall, this workout wasn’t for me. The repetitive nature bored me quickly and the potential for injury looms (at least for me) with the dance cardio portion. I’m not sold. I think Tracy’s whole thing is that she has gotten people to move and that’s commendable. Although, many of her success stories workout up to 2 hours a day and subsist on a low-calorie diet. With that kind of discipline you will see results regardless of whether you’re doing Tracy’s method or pilates or HIT or (insert workout of choice). Anyhow, Tracy’s method is unique and creative and whether you you believe in it or not, it has made a mark, and there is something to be said for that. I, for one, am glad I got to try it but don’t think I’m quite ready to switch over just yet.