Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Article: Tracy Anderson Detox Week Review

Me and Maria, one of Tracy's master trainers. Yes, I really
was that red - from working out in the heat for two hours.
I was never the kind of kid who was into sports, or even dance, when I was young. So as I grew older and my youthful metabolism slowed, I needed to find a new way to exercise that I enjoyed. After trying dozens of different programs, from personal training at gyms to fitness classes, dance classes, and DVDs, there was only been one program that I stuck with consistently over the past few years: the Tracy Anderson Method.

After using the same few DVDs in rotation, I was thrilled when Tracy announced the Metamorphosis program and the Continuity DVDs. She was producing new video workouts for fans like me at a rate that few other fitness gurus even hope to achieve. For these and many other reasons, it was a dream of mine to work out with Tracy in person. Recently, when she announced a Detox Week event in her new Brentwood studio (in Los Angeles), I knew it was the opportunity I'd been waiting for.

What I loved:
  • Working out with Tracy herself. Aside from the fan factor, I wanted to see if I could pick up anything new from seeing her in person. We did get to work out with Tracy, though most of the dance cardio portions were led by master trainers Stacey and Maria. The most valuable information for me actually came from the other trainers' corrections and tips, but it was also very inspiring to see just how amazing Tracy and her trainers looked - in real life. Setting that as a goal made me realize that I can push myself farther than I have in the past.
  • Receiving corrections that I could apply at home. After taking several dance classes from a multitude of instructors, I realized that I tend to learn best when I am corrected. Given the crowded workout studio, it wasn't always possible to get several corrections, but I did get a few throughout the muscular structure portions. In particular, I had two issues. First, I didn't always get the angles down properly for leg kicks/lifts (as in, I was kicking straight back when I was supposed to be angled diagonally or vice versa). Second, I tend not to straighten my knee enough, which was fascinating considering I get the same correction in ballet. It was also great to hear, at the end of the session, that the trainers had been paying attention to me personally so they could provide me with feedback.
  • Personalized advice from Tracy's team. This goal is similar to the one above, but I also wanted a chance to ask the team specific questions, especially related to my body and the method. It was a relief to be able to get clarity on the order (muscular structure before cardio), hear what types of accommodations to make since I'm using the lower-impact mini trampoline (rebounder) option (do it 30-50% longer than dance cardio for the same results), and find out my true body type (glutecentric, not hipcentric).
  • The official TAM studio experience. The studio itself is gorgeous. The design is full of whites and clean lines. The locker room is compact but still feels luxurious. The studio has sprung floors and there was cucumber water at the desk. For someone like me, who wouldn't normally have access to a monthly membership (for both geographical and financial reasons), it was a lot of fun to get a taste of the studio.
  • An opportunity to connect with other Tracy devotees. After years of working out by myself with no one to see me but my guy and my cats, it was a lot of fun to meet other women who were passionate about this method of fitness. I've had some sense of community though Tracy's metamorphosis forums, but I built a more personal connection by meeting other women in person. I was one of the younger ladies attending, and it was inspiring to meet people from all ages and states who were as excited as I was to attend.
  • Fresh, healthy food options. This was one of the first vacations I've been on recently that didn't require extensive thought as to when and where I was going to eat next. Although I enjoy scouting out fun new places to eat, it was also liberating to have food provided for me. I chose the vegetarian option, which ended up being mostly vegan, fortunately, so I could eat most of it. The food was very fresh and appeared to avoid ingredients like soy and gluten, which inspired me to take a new look at my diet upon my return.
The studio manager encouraged me and a fellow detoxer to
jump using the studio's bands for a souvenir photo.
What I didn't love:
  • The combination of intensive workouts and a restricted diet were too extreme for me. While I didn't feel hungry eating the food plan foods, I had a major blood sugar crash after the third of four days. I was extremely lucky to be with my mother at the time (she is a registered nurse), but it took me 45 minutes to stop shaking, and almost 12 hours to feel normal again. This meant that I had to skip the final day's workout. The trainers described my reaction as "extreme," so I'm guessing it was not a common occurrence. It was scary for me at the time, as I'd never experienced that before, even when I've exercised up to four hours per day. My guess is the combination of extreme temperatures, excitement, high-calorie burning workouts, and a restricted diet were more than I could take at once. Possibly adding any one of those things to my normal routine would have been okay, but in combination, it was too extreme for me.
  • We weren't told that we would be exercising in a hot, humid room. I knew before I went that I have more trouble than other people exercising in hot temperatures (which is what we did during the TAM studio workouts), and I noted this on my health disclosure. Unfortunately, I only found out that we would be doing heated workouts because I took the initiative to ask ahead of time. While I was at the studio, I received some great tips for dealing with the heat (such as wearing a cool, wet towel around my neck). I wasn't the only one who was feeling the effects of the heat, and I would've liked to have at least been informed ahead of time. Ideally, I would prefer to be given an option to exercise at a cooler temperature, or at least to gradually work up to two hours in the heat.
  • The itinerary was only 2-3 hours each day. Given that the program was priced comparable to a professional conference, I expected a little more content from the program. The workouts, which were the main focus, were what I was hoping for (one hour each). The lectures were only about half an hour, and sometimes amounted to less. I would've enjoyed more seminars, lectures, or even optional group events to help connect with other attendees. I wouldn't have minded if it wasn't necessarily new information; it would just be nice to have a bit more time with Tracy's team since we were all there to learn more about the method. Tracy herself was very inspiring, but her trainers also seemed to have a wealth of information that they could've shared, had they been given the opportunity.
Before I even stepped on the plane to California, I knew that some of my goals for the detox week were different than the goals Tracy and her team had for us. While the chance to work out with Tracy and her trainers was enough of a draw for me, she wanted to make it more of a full service experience with the detox element, to help shed toxins and excess weight. I'm pretty close to what I want to weigh, so tend to prefer to lose a few pounds gradually, instead of pushing myself through extreme detoxes.

In other notes, I had considered one of Tracy's earlier detox weeks in the Hamptons, but had to rule it out due to the complexity of getting there, renting a car, finding a hotel, etc. Then they announced the Brentwood detox only a few short weeks before it was scheduled to begin. The Brentwood studio was a 15-minute walk from the reasonably-priced Brentwood Inn, so I was able to get by without a car. I had also lived in LA previously, and knew about great nearby resources such as the The Big Blue Bus, which runs through Brentwood to Santa Monica and other nice parts of the area.

As for the experience itself, I really enjoyed participating in Tracy's method with the woman herself, her master trainers, and other enthusiastic fans. It was really fun to be able to exercise with a community of women who really wanted to be there, and to share the specialized workout I'm so passionate about with someone other than my cats. However, despite the high price tag and limited attendance, the room was still a little more crowded than I'd like. There was more than one occasion where I was positioned behind a neighbor who would "migrate" closer and closer with each rep. Some of those reps involved kicking near my head, but I didn't have a lot of places to move to without putting my own foot in kicking range of someone else's head. Regardless, I was really glad Tracy wasn't just a tiny spec at the front of a huge gym.

Tracy mentioned at the start of the program that she's really passionate about bringing her method to people, and she wanted to get to know each of us. While the time she had for us didn't really afford that opportunity, she still made an effort to try to help us with our goals, if mainly through her other trainers. I felt like I had a more personal connection with her trainer Maria, who took the time to ask me how I was doing during morning weigh-ins and patiently answered a lot of my questions. Maria also gave me a great one-on-one session at the end of my four days, helping me understand what I needed to work on and how I could best utilize the DVDs to get there. I really appreciated having an opportunity to ask her anything, and to get that type of personalized advice from a program that can seem distant if you only interact with it online. After talking with Maria, I felt like I had the tools to succeed on my own, using the method in a way that works for me.

Given the expense and intensity of the detox events, I'm not sure I'll be signing up for another one soon, even if I could afford it. However, I felt like I learned a lot of really great lessons and came back inspired. I hope that Tracy continues to create opportunities for others to meet her and work out with her, as my experience with her was an event I will never forget.

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