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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's it like to workout with Tracy?

I know we all love Tracy Anderson and her Method. We do it at home. We sometimes curse and cuss and stare at the TV and think WTF is she doing? Other times, like when we step on the scale and the number has dropped or we fit beautifully into that new dress, we sing her praises.

But what's it really like to sweat with the lady herself? Well here today to tell you are my girls Sophie and Laura. TAM devotees and MTM readers who were both lucky enough to have been able to participate in Tracy's Vitality Week at the Watermill Studio in the Hamptons.

They were generous to take the time to table their thoughts and share them with us here today. Get ready to be inspired and maybe even a little intimidated as they take you through what it's really like to spend four whole days with The Muffin Top Slayer, badass fitness guru Tracy Anderson!

It's a long one, so grab a snack or a cup of tea, snuggle up and enjoy. Please pardon the formatting as it got a little wonky on me and I was unable to fix it.

Ok, so Hamptons WaterMill studio, lets start with that.
It's clean, bright, great music ( think Katy Perry, Rhianna etc,) bands hanging from the ceiling.
The floor is like a gym floor – not super springy like Brentwood, but certainly a lot easier on the joints than my kitchen floor.
The team who run WaterMill, also oversee Tribeca, so for the most part sit on reception emailing the world – at least that’s how it seems!
There are no showers at WaterMill, but I can see how that’s fine – as for the most part its used by New Yorkers who are lucky enough to have holiday homes in the Hamptons (this studio is only Open May to September for that very reason).

Studio Space
Warm room – Room is kept at 86 degrees and 65% humidity
Mirrors – Need them, helps with accountability 
 Music – Loud, happy, motivational and current! She (Tracy) was often shifting to another song to bring more out of the moves. 

So, day one.
I think we were all a little ‘oh my god… there she is’ when Tracy walked in.
What can I tell you … she really is teeny, weeny, itsy bitsy.
Not only in height – shes only 5’ tall, but in build – her arms are like twigs.- defined twigs, but twigs none the less!
Size is no demonstration of strength or endurance though – she is so strong and lean.
What you notice is just how in tune, and connected she is to her own body – and I don’t mean in a sound-byte, hippie kind of way. She’s just able to access her muscles instantaneously, her mind and body work as one. Which of course mean she is an amazing mover.
I’d like to tell you, that she sat down with us, had a good ol chat, etc before starting… but oh no. It was straight into it. (oh you know what? She did say a few things – she said that these weeks were her ‘Favourite things to do’ she relished the opportunity it gave her to connect and help those who couldn’t make it to the studios.
THEN it was straight to it
We did an hour of MS, followed by and hour of cardio.
Shan – you would have loved the MS – no hoops, balls, poles – just classic TAM moves which make your arms and legs burn.

You know me – not a slacker in the reps department, but there was def more than one move of which I couldn’t complete the reps, and there was some reassurance when looking at Tracy herself – as you can see some of them are really killing her too.

IN fact several moves – which were losing the class on say rep 20, she would stop and say something like ‘don’t make me do this on my own, I don’t want to do it either!’
Oh,you know what? I forgot to mention the heat/humidity element to the studio!
Its not CRAZY hot – but very very humid – 85 degrees and 65% humidity. I must say I have never sweat so much in my life. Between the MS and cardio sessions they have to mop the floor!

Energy & Intensity:
 This was the most striking take away and has already changed how I work out at home – there is no “dialing it in” – full engagement is required and completely magnifies the workout.  If you think you are reaching – reach farther and through your core; if you think you are light on your feet – get lighter and dance taller; all moves are big and demonstrative
 There is no way to properly describe the energy and intensity she puts into her classes, and thus brings out of her classes – she often refers to being an “athlete in the method” – it is about constantly challenging yourself and improving your strength and endurance that will bring continued physical results.
  Getting this re-charge has brought life back to my home practice, made it more fun and challenging
 Really, really, involving the whole body, everything emanates from the core
  “Become an athlete at the method.”
  Be able to access muscles when you need them, reaction time.
 Mat Workout – Different each day, but familiar pattern
§  The free arms were very active, involving the whole body, really tied in with the music
§  The weighted arms often involved  active jumping/hopping/dancing
§  The legs used 1lb weights automatically, adding 2.5lb more at times on the working leg, also incorporated the a band on one of the days
§  Floor abs at the end – leaving on the weights
  Dance Cardio
§  Different each day, but repeats of a new dance we learned on the first day and some routines from “Unleash Your Inner Pop Star.”
§  Even with my daily 30 minutes of dance cardio in my hot garage, this was intense.  I can’t describe the amount of sweat of I had pouring off of me.  My shoes were literally water logged.  This week inspired me to go after the more choreographed routines and now I know I can learn and do them.
  Weights – use them if she is using, they have a purpose in the movement (e.g., balancing, creating tension, cross vectors).  You need them to continue to progress and will help with skin tone as we get older. She takes as us as far as she can before adding resistance or other obstacles to get the angles/resistance she needs.
 Muscle pain (not injury pain, but fatigue) is a sign of weakness, something out of balance, keep going to correct.
 Pinning the hips


We always began with standing arms – no weights, usually for about 7 min.The most similar I have ever seen to what we did in the studio is the Youtube video of GP’s Iron man arm work out.
You know when she goes on about using all your force, reaching through your hand – as if trying to grab something, or push someone? Well she really does that, and even if you think (as I always did) that you are doing that at home. I can almost guarantee that you are not using enough force – or extending your arm straight enough, or far enough back/up. In just the four days I noticed an amazing difference in my arms (and abs).
After free arms, we grabbed the 3lb weights – and started jumping with them whilst punching arms in the air, to the side, out in front….. by now the sweat is pouring off us all – and we’re only ten minutes in!
Arms finished with, it’s onto legs – and we strap on the 1lb ankle weights and start the gruelling kicks, sweeps and lifts. These last about 10min, then ….wait for it.. we add another 2lb to the working leg! Funnily enough this wasn’t as tragic as it sounds – but certainly effective – you can really feel it in your glutes when lifting that in the air!
Of course you then have to endure the whole sequence on the left side, and Its certainly a relief when we move onto floor abs!
Speaking of abs, I think I should mention a point she made several times.
You know that part of Unleash, when she talks about pretending someone has punched you in the stomach? Well this appears to be her favourite new move. Contracting your abs inwards, and rocking the pelvis backwards and forwards.
She said this is just a great way to access the lower abs. It’s a tricky thing to learn – apparently GP really struggled with this, but it’s a key thing to try to master.
During the whole of the right leg section, the trainer is taking notes, writing down the moves, so that when it comes to the left side, Tracy can't remember what she has done – she literally makes it up on the spot you see, and most days have different moves.

Resting after an intense session. Sophie is in the hot pink leggings at the back y'all!
Okaaay, soooo moving onto the cardio…!
Tracy didn’t ever take the full hour dance session, the trainer does the whole thing, and Tracy dips in and out of it.
However on day one, she did more than any consecutive days.
Usually we start with one of the more simple routines from older DVDs. I say this, but apart from ‘Push’ I didn’t know any of them – as have not put in the time to learn them.
However most of the foot work was relatively simple, so could sort of follow along as best as possible. Then it was onto the more choreographed (insert complicated) routines.

Some of these were from Unleash, and even though I had only watched the 1st ten min of that, it was useful to have even the most basic knowledge.
The other routine she tried to teach us was brand new.
Personally I struggled with this, as much mentally as physically. It a real battle to silence the ‘I can’t do this. Everyone else is better than me’ voice in ones head and not judge yourself. Plus to be honest, as much as I love Tracy, I don’t think she is that great at teaching the dances. She doesn’t seem to be able to break them down into a step by step formula. It all comes at you at once. Plus what with all the twist and turns, there is a lot of torque put onto your ankles and knees – and after 30mins my ankles were killing me.
One of the women from the Hamptons studio said that when she first started she attended several of the breakdown sessions – where they step you through the routines, and this was invaluable. I can see it’s a tricky balance for Tracy on these vitality weeks though – as there are high expectations amongst attendees to lose weight – and this requires high levels of cardio, so she can’t lose too much workout time to walking through routines – she pretty much said this herself.
If there is just one thing that I take away from this week is that I need to learn to dance better.  That’s not only the way to enjoy it more, but it also increases calorie burn, but also reduces the chances of injury – as when you are doing the routines correctly, they incorporate your whole  body, not just your legs.
I’m going to buy a mirror as well – as seeing yourself really helps to hold you to account, and not just plop through the steps.

Once cardio is done, we have 10min the clear up, possibly change our tops, grab some water and sit down for the lecture. 

 Balance – If something is out of balance (like an aspect isn’t engaged or clicking – food, MS, cardio), you won’t see the full benefits; food is huge – possibly 90% of the equation.

Fruit stand next to the Studio. Yummy peaches.

 Food & Nutrition
 Artificial Sweeteners – She would rather we have real sugar than anything artificial.  Noted studies that show that the body doesn’t know what to do with artificial sweeteners, the body is still expecting something sweet and will still want the real thing. 
 Food Sensitivity Blood Test - Talked about this throughout the week and in consult – another way to get leaner.  She specifically notes her results revealing coconut and avocado sensitivities – you could be eating what you think is good, but it may not be good for you. 
 Hormones and their relationship to weight loss
 Opti-Zinc – Helps with hormone regulation post workout, cuts back on associated cystic acne (blocks testosterone formation?)
  How she designs Continuity
  How she maps out Continuity – She has a chart of the body and moves through the muscles she wants to target through each series, hitting them in different ways throughout the 3 month cycles.
 Don’t go backward – even moving backward in another centric – to keep your body progress you have to keep moving forward and challenging yourself.  Even though centrics are different, they target the same rotation of muscles.
 Regrets about Continuity 2.1 – this was when she had her miscarriage and she would redo it if she could – but she is a perfectionist and wouldn’t want to mess up everyone that has already gone through it before.   Oddly, this is the section that burned me out – I am finding Continuity 2.2 very challenging, but without the burnout factor.
  Continuity in the future…
 She plans on always doing Continuity, even if she has to Skype everyone
 She truly believes in the program and doesn’t want to let her clients down – this is her life’s work, she really lives it
 Year 4 won’t go over 45 minutes on muscular structure


Its hard to write about the lectures day by day, as they were more like q&a sessions, so instead I’ll make a sort of bullet list of points I’ve not yet mentioned, most of which came up during these sessions:

·      Use your whole body -  so when your arm loves to the left, your hip is pulling to the right – hard to explain, but when you see her do this again and again you can picture the muscles and why she stresses its importance.
·      Core is key – engage it in every exercise.
·      Do not compartmentalise – this sort of works along side the first point. She never moves anything in isolation, to create balance , you have to engage mentally to every move, then you will naturally find that your body using its whole.
·      Performance is key – be engaged, like a warrior, put everything you have into each move.
·      Really, really learn the dances – not until you know the dances, and can perform  them, will you get the true results. While you are still learning the dances, then you must watch your intake of calories. Do not stop- keep moving for at least 30min.
·      I did ask ‘Does it matter if you do the same dance again and again, or do we have to learn the new dances? She said she really didn’t care – you can do the same one again and again she said, but you just might get bored.
·      Whenever you see her use weights you must use them she was very insistent about this. You can begin with smaller number of reps but do not reduce the heaviness of the weight.
·      If you are now in year three, get used to the longer Matt sessions as they are here to stay – but they won’t ever go over 50min – I would take that with a pinch of salt though, as by her own admission Tracy is very changeable.
·      You will never have the same dramatic results that you saw in the first 90 days again. The results keep coming but they are more subtle. I asked if it was ok to add in other dvds of hers – for example her Precision toning. She said it was all the same thing but  it wouldn’t move you forward, as that DVD and the meta workouts are not linked together. She said that when she records continuity she has a massive wipe board so she can see how shes’ linking the workouts together, rotating the muscles, making sure that she hits everything.
·      On a similar note, she advises do NOT mix the Xbox mat work with Meta – they are different programs, not designed to work together.
·      Accept this – if you want the results…. You have to workout six days a week. Period, that’s it, no excuses – if you want what the method is capable of delivering. Gwyneth actually works out 5-6 days a week, but does 2 hours at a time. Tracy herself does 1.5 hours 6 days a week. This was an interesting point I thought – as I’ve read elsewhere that she now only does 30min. This and a few other things she said made me think that we shouldn’t pay any attention to the hundreds of clippings, and sound-bytes out there about here method.
In fact one of the women mentioned a workout Tracy had in Cosmo…. And Tracy was like ‘Oh my god, take no notice of what they put in Cosmo, they are crazy’.
Onto that point I would like to add this – that there are several Tam crazies on the forum, whom everyone seems to direct their questions to as if they worked for Tracy, or were qualified in some way. Personally, having done these 4 days I would disregard any of the stuff on the forum, and just stick to the DVD’s exactly as they are. The only things you can up or add in are extra abs or arms if you feel you need them – you can grab any of the millions of youtube webisode things, or past workouts to do this.
The women are the forum are not qualified to answer questions, all they can do is offer an opinion based on their own experience – that’s all!
For example, there is much on the forum about what sort of bands to use. This sort of came up in an indirect way during one of the Q&A’s.
She replied with ‘well what colour band am I using in the workout’…..’that’s the colour, the only colour you should use – as the exercises are designed to match the level of resistance’. I had asked if, being tall, I needed to extend the length of the band – based on using Therabands – and she looked at me as if I was crazy – in other words, why was I using any other band but hers.
·      At the moment she weighs 94lbs (5’) tall. She said that if she stopped training today, that within three weeks she would be up to about 110lbs. Honestly, she really puts the work in, there are no quick fixes, no excuses, you just have to do the work.
·      IF for some reason, you HAVE to miss part of your workout, miss the cardio not the MS, but then make sure that’s a day during which you eat very cleanly, and reduce your calories.
·      Ref food – Tracy eats a whole large bar of Green & Blacks milk chocolate everyday.  She has, by her own admission got a real sugar addiction, but by eating the chocolate it's kept in check – like she already gave herself what she craved, so then she didn’t need to eat brownies etc.
·      Another food note – if you are looking to lose weight and own it then you have to accept you are going to put some back one once you relax the eating. So in order to find a maintainable weight, decide how much you would like to lose – say for example you want to lose 5lbs and maintain that loss. Then in reality you need to lose 10 – on order own the 5.
·      Most people who want to lose weight, should not have more than one portion of carbs a day – so if you have quinoa for lunch, don’t have rice for dinner.
·      Do not snack – even if its on nuts or fruit, stick to your meal times.
·      Fat is fat is fat – good or bad fat it makes no difference – I have to say I don’t agree with her on this point. As personally I follow a low carb, high veggie, high protein, good fat diet and its great.
·      Most calorie, monitors are inaccurate and not to be trusted. She mentioned that she had done that promotion for the Samsung one, but then proceeded to say that in all the tests the results, when comparing the calories burnt from person to person – doing the same physical activity, varied so much, she concluded that you should never trust them to ‘eat against’.
·      If you do want to get an accurate knowledge of how many calories you personally need everyday to maintain your goal, or indeed lose weight, then the safest way is to get your resting metabolic rate tested.
·      She’s a BIG fan of food testing – in order to discover what sensitivities are. She herself is highly sensitive to gluten, avocados and coconut. Of course your body still functions if you consume foods you are sensitive (rather than allergic) to, but it’s a bit like driving a car which has one tyre a little flat – you will never be at your optimum. Sensitive foods cause inflammation in the body, which can we another reason why you are struggling to lose weight.
·      The trampoline is the least effective form of cardio – from most to least it goes like this – 1st Dance Cardio, 2nd Cardio using the bands (as in the studios), then the trampoline. She said that the ideal way to use the trampoline would be on day 6 – when you are feeling quite tired, and thus more likely to be heavy on your joints. You are not going to achieve optimum results just using the trampoline.
·      Dancing with the bands was GREAT!!! – Shan I think you would have loved this! Basically you hold the bands down by your sides, and uses them as resistance to bounce around. It takes a bit or getting used to, but its much easier on your joints, and the foot movements are far simpler, so you really get into it.
·      The other thing which really has stuck in my mind, is the reality that to get the optimum GP type results, you have to have the custom program. Its hard for me to admit to that, as obviously this is a method I have invested a lot of time, money and faith into, but I do consider it to be the truth. Gwyneth has Tracy as her own personal trainer – really try and take that on board, as it took me a few minutes to comprehend what an incredible empowerment that is. Tracy is on call to her whenever she is needed. She customs designs her workouts to change every ten days. If there is anything that GP is worried or unhappy with Tracy can change it. This is not to take away from the fact that Gwyneth still has to work her ass off to maintain those results, but the worry of ‘doing the right thing’ is not one she is burdened with – as long as she does what Tracy says then she will continue to look amazing.
·      The other reason I believe the dvds to be less effective than the studios is simply the length of time – I don’t see how it's possible to achieve the same results in 30 +30mins, when Tracy herself does, and recommends 60 +30….?! Certainly it sounds as if year 3 is much closer to the optimum time that all those preceding it.
·      None of the TAM trainers I have ever seen – either here in London, or in the Hamptons, look as lean as Tracy. They are all work in progress it seems. Though of course I’ve never seen Stacy or Maria!


 Private consult –
  Wow! She was so engaged and so positive – so real
  Need to work on my cardio endurance – she’s going to send a treadmill video to help
 Food tips – I don’t really have weight to lose, but I could get a bit leaner with these changes: TA Shake for breakfast (change from Greek yogurt & berries), lean protein & veggies/salads for lunch and dinner (same); chop salad very small – almost pre-digested (change);  if I need it have fruit after dinner (change from a Think Thin bar – she recommends against those now, haven’t changed with science  - soy); if you drink wine, limit it to two glasses, preferably red or rose.
 Food sensitivity test – Her team is supposed to send out the exact test name/info – I’m going to follow up on this. 
 This (my) body isn’t going anywhere, enjoy it. Eat basically clean, but if I want something, have it. I know what I am doing, just pull back when necessary, and possibly sub in a shake for lunch to get back on track.
 Definitely glutecentric, will e-mail me with exactly where I should be, wants to move me forward


So how to surmise?
Would I go again? Definitely – but only if Tracy was teaching herself, otherwise I would just take myself to the Hamptons for ten days and take 2 x 1hr classes a day.
What you get from having Tracy teach you is indisputable is the quality of results.
I have to admit that I get a little down to think about what is available to studio members vs DVD members. Given that we both put in the same amount of time, the results are incomparable.
The most positive thing I have taken from these four days, is the shot in the arm – ie you may think you are working hard at home, but let me tell you, compared with GP, JLow,  et all – whom we openly covet…. Meta is the easy ride.
Tracy is VERY changeable, and the reason I mention this is because forums, articles, google searches etc can give quite old info.
She changes tactic if she felt that the info she is giving out is not to the best of her ‘audience’.
For example – the Food Programme.. she finally knocked it on the head when one of the suppliers could not guarantee the consistency of the supply – she feels that strongly about organic produce.
On the same note – but different topic, she is always  researching, researching, researching new patterns, nutritional info etc.
That’s why it takes so long to release a new product – an on the flip side retract a new product if she feels she cannot fully endorse it.

  Overall, I come away from this week believing even more in her and her Method.  One of the rare occasions in life where the reality exceeds the expectations.  Since coming home I have moved myself back to where I should be at Omni Continuity 2.2 while I await my Glute Continuity 2.2 (I had through Omni Continuity 2.1, and then went back to Glute Continuity Year 1).  I am also doing the “dancier” Year 2.1 Dance Cardio.  Let me tell you, I am feeling that familiar not quite ache in my legs and sweating like crazy through the DC.  I have a familiar sense of leanness that I haven’t felt in a while – so I think this whole, energy/athlete/moving forward thing has been eye-opening.  I continue to reflect and will have more to share, but these are the highlights!!!

How brilliant was that. It was almost as good as being there, right? Maybe we'll get to go next time she's in Hawaii or something. 
Thanks again ladies for the amazing review of your experience. I feel incredibly motivated to get on the mat and sweat my butt off!