About a month ago, my friend Blake told me about a great trial offer at a Pilates/barre studio in the Dallas area – Bodybar. New clients would get a week of unlimited classes for free! A free week would be the perfect way for me to try everything they had to offer (with different classes, instructors, etc to get a good feel for it), so I jumped on the offer. However, I also wanted to pick a week when I would be in Dallas as many days as possible and have as few other fitness events planned, in order to make the most of it. September 9 got marked on my calendar, and I was counting down the days to give it a shot!
I finished the Bozeman Marathon on Sunday morning, which meant I was able to fly to Dallas to arrive late Sunday night. I chose a hotel for the night that was closer to both the airport and to the Plano location of Bodybar, which is normally a bit of a hike from downtown, so that I could experience both studios during the week. The Plano studio turned out to be gorgeous. As with many businesses in the suburbs rather than more centrally located in Dallas, the Plano space was much bigger, and it just felt so light and airy – I loved it!
I usually try to take an evening class as my first when I’m at a new studio – and in this case, for good reason. When I first arrived at the studio at 5:45am for a 6am class, it was completely dark and the door was locked. Was I in the wrong place? Had I forgotten to register and therefore not been notified of a cancelation? It wasn’t until 5:55am that the instructor, Lauren, arrived to unlock the doors – and I was really relieved when she showed up! Lauren was incredibly nice, showing me around the space and explaining how the equipment worked.
First Class: Reformer
For my intro class, I had chosen “Reformer,” which was described as “anything but your traditional Reformer class… a seamless workout combining Pilates, Strength Training and our unique BURST formula.” I have actually never taken a Pilates reformer class, though I once did a private session on a reformer at Equinox in NYC, and I really didn’t like it. It seemed really creaky, like an ancient torture chamber. But when I gamely checked out Bodybar, it was the opposite experience. The Reformers they had were slick and shiny, the “Allegro II” model, and they glided on the tracks with barely a whisper. You could put different coils on to adjust the level of resistance (kind of like at Refine Method), and each one was shiny silver with some fun color coding to let you know which was which. Only one other student was in the 6am class (and she was a regular), which meant that I got a lot of individual attention that helped me to learn the proper form.
In general, I liked the class, and particularly how “bursts” of cardio were interspersed with the more gentle resistance training. I was really sore after the class (surprisingly so – it hadn’t felt that hard when I was doing it!), but to me a class doesn’t feel that productive unless I’m getting super sweaty. In this case, the bursts helped me to get some sweat built up, but I wasn’t really breathing super hard the whole workout – which is really my preference.
Second Class: Reformer Jump
This ended up being my favorite class by far of all the ones that I tried! While the Reformer was a perfect introduction to the Bodybar approach, Reformer Jump took it to the next level – and I got the aforementioned sweaty out-of-breath experience I was craving. In Reformer Jump, you put a “jump board” at the end of the Reformer, then put a lot of resistance on, and the warmup is just you “jumping” as you lie flat on your back horizontally – with the springs providing the resistance that you’d normally get from gravity if you were jumping horizontally. It felt so fluid to glide back and forth, but it was anything but easy – my legs were toast when I was only about 45 seconds in, and I definitely had to take frequent breaks in the warmup alone!
After the initial jumping warmup, the class turned into a more traditional Pilates reformer class – giving me an all-over soreness that had me feeling it so much the next day I wasn’t sure if I could go back! We went back to the jumping twice more before the end of the hour class, and it was a great way to get my heart rate up. This was one thing I loved when I took VBarre classes – in traditional barre/pilates classes, sometimes you’re doing such small movements that your muscle is on fire but you are otherwise calm. Here, you kept getting your heart rate up and feeling like you were getting a great workout in! After my week of trying all different classes was up, this became the one that I looked for on the schedule to work into my regular routine.
Third class: Reformer/Barre
Perhaps it was just because I was so enthralled with Bodybar Jump, but I was not all that impressed with the Reformer/Barre class. It felt a lot slower paced, a lot less sweaty, and the instructor was a lot less dynamic than the amazing Dena who taught classes #2, #4, and #5. I think where Bodybar excels is in the BURST method and their regular Reformer classes, whereas there are plenty of other studios that teach a better barre class. (Stay tuned for a review of the brand new Flybarre in Plano, and soon I’ll also be trying the new Barre Bee Fit in the Design District!)
Fourth class: Bodybar Classics
The description of this one sounded intriguing: “Designed around the classical movement principles of Joseph Pilates, bodybar Classics is perfect for clients that want more traditional reformer exercises. Refine your form and define your body. Strengthen and lengthen without the BURST.” However, when I actually got in to try it, I was rather disappointed. Turns out that I love that cardio burst! But even more than missing that, I learned that the Bodybar Classics class is actually an “intro to Bodybar” that’s meant for brand new clients. We went very slowly in order to learn the proper form for each exercise – and while it would have been awesome to have this as my first class, I felt like I had learned a lot of it by the time I hit Bodybar Classics. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely learned some new things/things I was doing incorrectly before, but it just moved at a slower pace than I would have liked for a really good workout. (Although I should add that by day 4 of Bodybar every day, I was exhausted, so it was actually kind of a welcome respite.) If you’re new to Bodybar or the Pilates Reformer, I’d recommend this class – and if I could give feedback to the studio itself, I’d recommend that they make the slow pace / focus on form part of the class description so that students aren’t surprised.
Fifth class: Power Tower
On my final day of my one week Bodybar trial, I was unfortunately just getting into the throes of that nasty cold that everyone was down with the last few weeks. I was pretty tired, so perhaps my judgment was a bit skewed, but I really liked Power Tower and found it to be a good challenge. This class primarily used the tall tower at the back of the Reformer (and not the sliding part), and while it gave me a really good resistance workout, I missed the gliding part that makes it more fun. I’d put this as my second favorite class (after Reformer Jump).
I really loved Bodybar and am definitely making it part of my regular routine. While it isn’t intense enough cardio to really have me breaking a sweat, I love how sore it gets me after a class – and the minimal sweat actually works pretty nicely for a post-work-pre-dinner-plans workout. The studio doesn’t have a shower, so I just use a Showerpill and some fresh deodorant/perfume and I’m good to go.
Dena is my favorite instructor so far – she seems to really know what she’s doing, and her awesome body is great inspiration to get as toned as she is. I do wish there was more hands on correction, though. The Bodybar Classics session was helpful to improve my form, but since form is so crucial for Pilates/barre workouts, I would like more feedback during the class as to whether I need to shift my positioning a bit.
My biggest downside to Bodybar is the price – it is definitely not cheap. There are some great deals for first timers ($18 for an intro class or $75 for one week unlimited), and I was able to pick up a five class pack on GiltCity for $55. However, once you’ve been and like it, classes are then $30 each or $450 for 25 classes ($18/class, must be used within 6 months). I wish there was an in between option that wasn’t quite so intense – like a 10 class pack for $220! $450 is a lot to lay out all at once, although you do get a great discount for doing so. Bodybar also has unlimited packages – $220/month with a commitment of three months, and then some six month and twelve month options also. However, as I discovered while using a one week unlimited, you can only sign up for one class per day, so it’s a little harder to get your money’s worth when you can’t double up.
One pro tip: Bodybar participates in the Partner’s Card program, where you buy a card and then can use it for a 20% discount at various retailers in Dallas from October 25 to November 2. At $70 for the card, it’s a little bit of savings depending on what package you buy (a 25 class pack would be $360, saving you $90). But my understanding is that Dallasites love Partner’s Card and so many people buy it anyway for other retailers – so that’s huge savings if you were planning to buy one anyway.
Finally, I should add that Bodybar has a really cute in-studio juice bar in both their Dallas and Plano locations. The concoctions looked yummy, but the prices were so prohibitively expensive ($8 for a juice? No, thanks – though I realize this is fairly normal price for raw juices) that I didn’t even give them a try. I didn’t want to start loving something that I wouldn’t then be able to afford on a regular basis! Though perhaps at some point in the future I’ll treat myself 🙂
Note: Bodybar had nothing to do with this review, and in fact, has no idea that I am writing it. I did not receive any free classes or other compensation in exchange for this review.