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Hip & Healthy: Strengthen, Lengthen and Tone

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Hip & Healthy: Strengthen, Lengthen and Tone

New York prides itself on having it all and having it all first. However, Amanda Freeman wondered why the Megaformer classes that are all the rage in LA were completely missing from the NYC fitness scene.

The solution was to open a studio herself, SLT: Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone. The name denotes the results: a strong, long, toned body. The machine-based class combines Pilates and cardio for a workout that strengthens the body without adding bulk.

I was intrigued by a new workout that promised to deliver the same results as my favorite barre classes in a different way.  I still love barre workouts, but I never shy away from workout variety.

The studio is no frills, just a mirror-lined room with several Megaformer machines, a small curtained-off changing area and some cubbies. While the décor was sparse, the conversation made the studio cozy.  Chatting filled the air and notes on the weekend were exchanged as everyone shed their winter layers and got ready for class to begin. Amanda gets to know all of her clients, making the studio feel intimate and personal.

Before class began, I got a quick overview of the Megaformer, a machine similar to a Pilates reformer. The 90-second explanation left my head spinning a bit -- the machine had two stationary platforms, a moving platform, several pulleys with handles, straps, a spring box and two rotating bars.

I was worried that the class could end like my first and only Pilates reformer class: with me leaving 15 minutes in after the teacher refused to help me operate the machine. Fortunately, that was not the case -- while the Megaformer can be configured in seemingly hundreds of ways, it’s actually pretty intuitive and easy to maneuver and with a little help from Amanda, I was all set.

As soon as the class starts, chatting is over and it’s time for business. From the first minute, the class was hard.  We began lying on our backs with the pulleys in each hand, head elevated, working our abs through several rounds of scissor kicks, bicycles and low ab crunches. I was happy when we moved into plank position with our forearms on the base and our bodies on the moving platform as the new position relieved the tension in my neck. In plank, the ab work continued until my body was shaking and burning — in a good way.

Next we moved to standing for leg work. Doing lunges with one leg on the moving platform was pretty terrifying at first. I was pretty sure I was going to slip, the platform would go flying backward and I would face plant on the floor. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. In fact, it only took a few reps to get completely comfortable on the standing on the moving platform.

From standing we moved to a kneeling position and began the most intense inner thigh work I have ever done. Each rep is done to a count of eight and the slow movements really work every muscle fiber to the max in a way that’s both agonizing and rewarding. The next series was a combination of arm work and squats was done from back of the machine using the pulleys and then we finished up with a final set of ab exercises.

The end of the class really came as a surprise to me. Before I knew it, we were stretching. Despite the slow pace of the exercises themselves, the class moved quickly through the various muscle groups, challenging my endurance, balance and flexibility throughout the entire workout.  The small class size meant I got plenty of individual attention and correction throughout the workout — and plenty of encouragement from the instructor, which kept me motivated to push through the hardest parts.  SLT was definitely one of the most challenging workouts I have tried in a long time. 

SLT surprised me in many ways. I was surprised by how hard the exercises were and by how quickly I was able to master the initially intimidating Megaformer. While I expected the class to be a fast-paced, high energy workout with blaring, heart-pumping music, I actually found it to draw more from its Pilates foundation and was slow, flowing and focused.  In only 50 minutes, SLT worked my entire body to fatigue and exposed me to a whole new way of achieving the lean, strong dancer’s body.  At $40 a class, the price is steep, but the first-time discounts and class package options provide ways to make the class more affordable.

Melissa is a NYC resident and workout junkie. She keeps motivated to stay fit and active by trying out new workout classes, signing up for races, and keeping an eye out for a fun fitness challenge. She hopes to complete the New York City Marathon for the second time in 2011. Read more about her healthy adventures in New York City at her blog fitnessnyc.wordpress.com.

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