Behind the Scenes
At The Body Lab clients perform slow and steady movements on the Megaformer The classes combine Pilates strength and cardio Photo courtesy of The Body Lab

At The Body Lab, clients perform slow and steady movements on the Megaformer. The classes combine Pilates, strength and cardio. Photo courtesy of The Body Lab.

The Perks and 'Perils' of My Job Covering the Fitness Industry

At The Body Lab, clients perform slow and steady movements on the Megaformer. The classes combine Pilates, strength and cardio. (Photo courtesy of The Body Lab.)

That headline sounds more dramatic than it should. My job doesn't really involve any true perils like those of a firefighter, police officer or soldier. However, the perks of my job are invitations to participate in exercise classes at various facilities around the country. I can't always accept the invitations, but when it works out, I find the experiences to be rewarding, even though they sometimes lead to the perils—a little muscle soreness and a little embarrassment about my performance in those classes.

This year, I visited several clubs across the country. In Chicago, I stopped in at Midtown Athletic Club and DePaul University's rec center. While in New York, I visited exhale spa, the 92nd Street Y and one of the DavidBartonGyms. During a trip to Colorado, I visited Cherry Creek Athletic Club in Cherry Creek, CO. And while I was at the IDEA conference this summer, I visited Renaissance ClubSport in Aliso Viejo, CA. I didn't get a chance to write about all of these visits, but I hope to share some insights on some of the visits in future stories or blogs.

Recently, I was invited to a club in my own area, the new Body Lab facility in Leawood, KS. The company has two locations in Phoenix, and they are opening this 1,700-square-foot facility in Leawood next week. The sister-in-law of one of the owners lives in Leawood, leading the company to look at this upscale suburb of Kansas City, MO, for expansion. That sister-in-law, Jena Green, is the studio manager and lead instructor at the Leawood location, and she taught the demonstration class that I survived during my visit.

Yes, I said survived. I wasn't sure what to expect from the class, which was a combination of Pilates, cardio and strength training. I strength train three times per week, take boxing and kickboxing classes twice per week, do indoor cycling classes on occasion and about two times per year I sign up for a personal training package at my gym. I wouldn't say I'm ready for the CrossFit Games, but I certainly am in better shape today than I was 10 years ago—even if I am 10 years older. So, I figured I could handle the class, and I did make it all the way through without falling off the Megaformer they use at The Body Lab. (I would call the Megaformer a "re-imagined" reformer.)

I wish I could say that I looked as competent on the Megaformer as the woman in the photo, but alas, I did not. However, to my surprise, Green complimented me on my form, saying it looked like I took a lot of Pilates and yoga classes. (I used to do mat Pilates, but my yoga experience has been limited despite my desire to do it more.) The fact is, many of the moves we did on the Megaformer are moves we do in my boxing classes and my personal training sessions. It's just that we do those while standing on the floor, not on top of a machine that slides and has pins, straps and bars. I didn't listen to see if Green offered the same compliment to everyone in the class for fear it would deflate any sense of competency she had instilled in me.

The technique used in the class is slow and steady, so even though many of the moves were familiar, I performed those moves at a slower pace (and again, often balancing on top of the Megaformer). It made me realize how just changing the speed of your workout can offer you a completely different experience. The class is based on the Lagree Fitness method created by Sebastien Lagree, which "integrates the key elements of resistance and counter-resistance in a sequence that allows for periods of zero gravity at peak muscle contraction. The composition of this fitness model is significant in that it encourages maximum exertion while exerting minimum impact on the body," according to a news release from the company.  

That's a fancy way of saying that you'll be sore the next day, and, of course, I was. And the day after.  But it was one of those "good" sores. I'm recovered now. And I'm looking forward to possibly trying out the class again when the club opens next week. 

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