The Method

Kick My Butt Please! The Addiction Factor

May 9, 2009

The previous sections have revealed the truth of old adage “no pain, no gain.”  You burn more fat, for example, when you struggle through your workout than when you breeze through it.  You also gain more stamina and strength, nourish your organs, keep yourself youthful and even lift your buns.  There is yet one more benefit to be added to this list, one that turns out to be the most significant of them all.  Butt-kicking exercise is habit-forming.
Believe it or not, the benefit Bar Method students mention most often – even more than its body-changing powers – is its addictive hold on them, and rightly so.  In the end, what matters most in the realm of exercise is that you stick with it, and what better way to succeed than by getting hopelessly hooked?

Why exactly are highly challenging workouts such as long distance running and the Bar Method (which has been called “worse than childbirth” and “ooooow! but in a good way”) so addictive?  For one, we human beings love challenge.  We instinctively seek tests that push us to the farthest end point of our endurance.  This end point  – we sometimes call it “the edge” — is a place we humans uniquely find interesting, sometimes even enlightening.  It’s that moment before we’re afraid we’ll cry out “no more” when we witness a showdown between our courage and our cowardice.  How will we handle a moment that seems to be lasting an eternity?  How close to the edge do we dare to play it today?  Has our courage grown since last time?  We become immersed in this plot more passionately than we do in an exciting movie or elaborate puzzle.    If we’re lucky, our inner action figure – the guy or girl who leads us to this very personal edge – not only comes through but then keeps fighting for us for the rest of the day, empowering us to deal with problems that formerly seemed insurmountable.

Your fighting spirit isn’t the only part of you that gets swept into the fray during those burning last moments in an intense workout.  Your mind is also taken captive.   The final push is too demanding for you to be simultaneously thinking about that unanswered email or what you’ll eat for lunch.  You’re compelled to give the situation your total attention.  In this way, a heightened mental focus becomes part of the exercise.   Corporate executives, mothers of multiple small children and others with high stress lives appreciate the Bar Method’s power to temporarily shut down their gridlocked brains, allowing them to re-set their interior monologues.  Other less stressed students enjoy the intellectual appeal of having their minds directed so sharply.

Then of course as we already know, there are all those endorphins.  What’s especially great about the high that you get post-workout is that it lasts.   Soothing massage stimulates endorphins mostly as you’re being worked on.  Physical challenge cooks up a pot of endorphins that are still bubbling hours later.  As a Jane Magazine reporter wrote after taking her first Bar Method class: “Endorphin Quotient: Magnificent.”

What’s better, the Bar Method keeps delivering, even after students make gains.   Hard core endorphin junkies are delighted to find that the Bar Method can always be relied on to give them a butt-kicking workout followed by a hormonal all-day high.  To be sure, the Bar Method is only one within a vast field of endorphin-generating pursuits. Other choices include mountain climbing and biking, running marathons and triathalons, body-building, boot camp, pole dancing, gymnastics…the list goes on and on.  All of these sports will change your body and bolster your spirit.

Chart the pros and cons of these choices, however, and you’ll find three checks in the Bar Method’s pro column that are missing in most of the others.  First, the Bar Method class supplies the thrill without the taped-up knees.  Its moves are safe and gentle on the joints while still able to deliver something akin to a runner’s high.  Second, the Bar Method’s burn hits you squarely in the solar plexus.  Gym routines may be tough, but they usually leave some part of you uninvolved.  A Bar Method strength set rams itself inescapably against your gut and doesn’t disengage until the final “release!”

Last and not least, a Bar Method class leaves you feeling de-stressed and peaceful.  Other hard-hitting choices will energize you, but they’re also likely to beat you up a bit.  For this reason, many athletes whose injuries bar them from full participation in their sport consider the Bar Method a god-send.   Don’t get me wrong.  Peaceful, undemanding exercise has a huge role to play of its own.  Walking on the beach with your dog, going to a yoga class, playing Frisbee with your kids, dancing: these pastimes create the texture of our lives.  But when your goal is to make positive changes in your body and spirit, bear in mind that your body not only benefits from challenge but also craves it.