At some point during last Friday’s class at Physique 57, I imagined how I must look to someone outside the studio. With my leg raised in what I dubbed the “fire-hydrant-dog” pose and my thighs squeezed in perfect preparation for childbirth, I was surely the picture of elegance.
Luckily, the 20 or so other women in the room (including our team of Greatist Girls) probably felt just as ridiculous as they contracted, stretched, bent, and twisted their way from one strengthening move to the next. Instructor Brigitte Mitchell shouted bits of inspiration into the microphone as she guided us effortlessly through a Signature Class at the pristine studio down on Spring Street.
Physique 57, the brand behind the workout DVDs, book, and classes in New York City and Los Angeles, offers a unique style of exercise. The idea is to stretch and strengthen every part of the body, and classes alternate between “cardio sprints” (or overloading the muscles) and “recovery” (stretching them out).
The class started off deceptively easy, using five-pound weights (or more, for the more experienced class-goers) to work our chest, back, and upper-arm muscles. But things got real quickly (burning and shaking is to be expected, Brigitte told us) when we took our places at ballet barres around the room.
There was lots of fancy equipment involved, from the exercise balls we held between our legs to the rubber bands we gripped tight as we raised our legs high in the air for crunches. Rihanna begged us not to stop the music during routines that resembled a cross between isometric exercises and dirty dancing at a junior high school prom.
Throughout the lesson, Brigitte called us out by name (Perfect, Laura! Not quite, Shana…) and it became clear that some of the women in the class were old regulars. And I doubt they return just for the special Physique 57 socks that grip the carpet during plank-time — with each lesson, these students challenge their minds and bodies as they maneuver into all sorts of crazy contortions. At the very least, when they catch a glimpse of themselves struggling to bounce gracefully in a deep squat, they’re bound to get a good laugh.