If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or even let me talk to you about working out in person, you’ve likely noticed that in the last two months I’ve mentioned Refine Method… a lot. My first instinct was to apologize, but then I realized it’s a good thing – I have a (non-running) workout I’m in love with and I want to tell everyone about it!
I’ve known about Refine for a while. Ever since hearing about it through Dori, Ashley, Abby, and others, I was confident it was a workout I’d enjoy. Unfortunately I didn’t really have the opportunity to try it until I moved to Jersey City; I couldn’t justify an hour long NJ Transit trip (and then a subway ride) just for a workout! Even when I first moved it was on the back-burner since I was marathon training, but we all know how that ended. So when I found myself injured in late October, the series of unfortunate events came together to create a perfect time for me to not only explore new workouts, but to finally give this class that everyone raves about a try.
I took my first class at the end of October with unofficial Refine ambassadors Dori and Ellen. We travelled to their Upper West Side location where I was immediately introduced to the instructor, Laura. She explained their pulley system, asked me what kind of workouts I did regularly, and asked if I had any injuries. I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that at the very least Laura (and my friends!) would make sure everything went smoothly. We started with a brief dynamic warm-up and quickly went to work. Three strength exercises followed by a power-set of heart pumping cardio, three times through. I like to consider myself to be a generally fit person and was able to do the “intermediate” weight suggestions (everything is scalable and modifications are made for injuries) for most of the exercises, but boy was it hard! The great thing about the workout, though, is that you’re constantly moving and not doing any one exercise for more than a minute. So right as I felt like I couldn’t do one more bottoms-up push-up or jump-back, the prescribed exercise would change. It went on like this for an hour. An hour! If you told me I would have been doing a non-running workout for that long and at that intensity level I would have told you I couldn’t… despite being relatively in shape. Thankfully I proved myself wrong. I had constant encouragement and form corrections from Laura, and everyone in the class was so fierce and strong which inspired me to keep pushing. By the time my first class was over I knew I’d be insanely sore the next day. And I was.
The day after my first Refine class, I felt like I had run a marathon and did push-ups along the way. It was rough, but I loved it – I loved feeling sore from working hard! Being a glutton for punishment I couldn’t wait to sign up for my next class… which was encouraged by the awesome new student deal they offer – buy one get one class free! After attending my second class a week later and loving it just as much as the first time, I knew what the next logical step was – their new client 1-month of unlimited classes option. Conveniently after buying the package, they opened a third location in the West Village which meant a short (2-stop) PATH ride and no need for the subway. Talk about extra incentive to get to a workout!
The new studio is gorgeous and the convenient location meant I had no reason not to go as much as possible during the month… which wound up being three (sometimes four) times a week! So with my unlimited month having ended last week, I feel like I’m at a good place to evaluate this new obsession of mine. While I’m hardly a fitness class expert, there are a lot of things that Refine does right, which is why they have such a loyal and enthusiastic following. So what are those things they do right, you ask? Because this post isn’t long enough already, I thought I’d let you know what I think makes Refine one of the very best workouts in NYC – bullet point style.
- Every class is different in terms of the exercises that are done, but they follow the same format. So after going to only two classes I knew what to expect and when. Even though I was by no means a “regular” I didn’t feel lost. Every exercise is demonstrated, and the set-up of the room allows you to watch other students in case you do feel lost.
- The workout props are in great condition and add a little fun to your workout. They have a proprietary pulley system at all three locations and an MIT engineer updated version at the West Village location, along with kettle bells of all different weights, medicine balls, TRX straps, slide boards, boxes, and mini-bands. So in addition to body weight exercises you have a bunch of fun props to keep your muscles guessing!
- The locations provide changing and shower facilities. They’re small, but that’s expected in NYC. They have a rain shower in the new West Village location with awesome smelling Aesop products, and it makes that post-workout shower all the more enjoyable!
- The workout itself is amazing. They call it “NYC’s Smartest Workout” for a reason! Living in the Northeast and especially the New York City metro area, we’re used to (and have come to expect) a fast paced way of life. Everyone is almost always rushing to or from somewhere. So to be able to get a full-body strength and cardio workout (that’s fun!) in 50 minutes is amazing. I’ve tried hour and a half long yoga classes and I just can’t stay interested – I always count down to the end of class! But not in Refine. Even when I feel like I’m about to keel over and drown in my own pool of sweat (I have dramatic thoughts when I workout), I don’t want the class to end.
- And maybe the most important reason is that the hand-picked instructors are top notch. Everyone I’ve met has been so warm and inviting, and they somehow remembered my name after meeting me once! There’s something about being welcomed by name and encouraged by name throughout class. That’s another thing that makes the instructors great – they pay attention to everyone’s form throughout class and aren’t shy about correcting you. I look forward to getting corrections – I want to make sure I’m doing things right and getting the most out of my workout. In fact, there was a class when I first started where we did kettle bell swings (which I thought seemed easy enough) and the instructor, Lonnie, had me stop, reposition myself, and try again during the first set. Then he watched me and gave more corrections during the second, so by the third I felt like I was owning the swings. And now every time I do them I think of what Lonnie told me that day to make sure I’m doing them correctly.
I don’t think I would have stayed sane during this ITBS injury if I hadn’t started Refine. Aside from keeping me active, I know that it’s given me strength I didn’t have before, along with helping to correct some weaknesses and imbalances I have. I’m confident that I can get back to running and — with continued Refine Method classes — stay injury-free and continue to get stronger.
So if you’re in the NYC metro area (living or even just visiting!) do yourself a favor and take a class. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.