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I Tried Tracy Anderson's Virtual Workout To Channel My Inner Dancer – The Zoe Report

(Health)
It’s Gwyneth-approved.
When I was 15 years old, I was able to kick myself in the face. Literally. I was a part of a dance academy growing up and in high school I was a member of our award-winning dance team, which meant rigorous practices involving leaps, kicks, splits, and exhaustive choreography for halftime performances and competitions. I loved it. I miss it, honestly. And while I have adopted a yoga/HIIT practice for my fitness needs of late, Tracy Anderson’s virtual workout has been a nostalgic and challenging addition that I didn’t even realize I’d been craving until I recently gave it a go.
As you may or may not know, Anderson’s infamous method has been the preferred fitness practice for celebrities including — but not limited to — Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracee Ellis Ross, who attribute their strong, toned physiques to her techniques. Having attended one of Anderson’s extremely popular in-studio classes before (in a pre-pandemic world, of course), I can tell you that the fitness pioneer’s method can be intimidating: It’s choreography-heavy, (Anderson herself comes from a dance background), can be fact-moving, and is firmly rooted in form. That said, with all of these factors being more familiar to me, her class presented a welcome challenge and a lesson in balance and grace. In other words, it spoke directly to my forgotten inner dancer. So when her team reached out to let me try a month of her online options, I was excited to see if they afforded the same vibe.
Let’s get this out of the way: Anderson’s subscription service is on the pricey side. At $90 per month, it’s most costly than some other popular streaming services that have arguably similar styles. That said, the online studio was designed to offer you more and more unique options. Namely, she wanted it to feel a lot more personal than what she’d seen elsewhere. "In my industry, streaming presented the opportunity to simply stream pre-produced content, and I felt there was a more intimate opportunity," she tells TZR. "I wasn’t interested in continuing the hair, makeup, lighting production side with this product. I have filmed the most fitness DVD content to date in my industry. To me, streaming could make production truly fenceless. Steaming presented the opportunity to fill a need that I have and my customers had. Get them in my actual real time classroom."
Actually, Anderson’s digital offerings allow more flexibility in her classes, too. Every week, she records three new workouts, one for each musculature "lane." There is "start" for beginners, "fundamental" for intermediate levels, and "attain" for more advanced practitioners. It is recommended that you choose and stick to the same level throughout the week, repeating the workout five to seven times. Because of this, you can start slowly and work your way up once you become more familiar with her trademark movements and style. Not only that, but each week subscribers are also given a "breakdown" that explains the moves in each workout, which is especially helpful considering that part of Anderson’s method includes not vocally directing step-by-step during class.
That’s another thing to be aware of: If you’re someone who depends on vocal encouragement and coaching during a class, this probably isn’t the workout for you. However, Anderson explains that it’s her belief that too much chatting distraction, which is why she prefers to teach this way. I’ll be honest, I’ve grown accustom to my trainers talking through class — whether by specifying details of form or offering some motivational fodder — so at first this was a challenge for me. The breakdowns help, but bear in mind you’ve got to tack on an extra 20 minutes or so in addition to the time you set aside to actually work out.
About those workouts. While I fancied myself familiar enough to start at the intermediate level, I began with a week of the beginner class. Also, if I’m being honest, I’ve not been nearly as active in the fitness category over the last several months, plus my inactivity has resulted in a general rustiness of my joints and lower back, so starting at this pace was a nice option. While I believe having the natural inclinations of a dancer (rhythm and grace) is integral to get the most out of Anderson’s classes, it can actually teach you those things, so the beginner class is also a good way to bring out your hidden inner dancer even if you have no experience at all.
All three workouts start off the same way — Anderson’s signature non-stop arm section (if you know, you know) — and they all are quite low-impact, with movements focused on extension (which probably accounts for the long, lean forms you think of with her famous clientele). In fact, all you need in terms of equipment is a pair of 3-pound hand weights, and two sets of light ankle weights (1.5 and 3-pound). Advanced workouts often incorporate a chair for more complicated combinations — which is also pretty fun (channel your inner Britney here). The movements across the board are relatively slow and graceful (think all-fours hydrant into a downward dog with raised leg). Once I mastered the combos (thanks to the breakdown videos, which I found essential, especially in the beginning), I got into the groove, and while it was still absolutely challenging (I landed at the advanced level by the end of the month) after only a week I’d noticed better posture, reduced lower back pain, and that lusted-after feeling of longer, stronger, and more lengthened limbs. In short, a dancer body — even if only in my mind!
The monthly subscription has a few additional perks, too. Workout wise, there are 15-minute focused add-ons, as well as a variety of dance cardio videos, which Anderson believes is a compliment to the weekly workouts, but you can do even just for a few minutes if you like. There’s also a "prescription office" where you can get a virtual consultation and keep track of progress and a "locker room," or community message board where you can chat about anything from athletic gear you’re loving (or in search of) to other members’ experiences.
Is a dance-inspired workout unique? Not really. But a lot of the contemporary examples of this are adapted from Anderson’s methods. So in my opinion, a real selling point here is that you’re getting pretty close, personal access to the GOAT herself. And while she’s pretty strict about following her teachings to the letter, what I enjoyed about the service is that is allows for you to create a plan of your own if you like: Switching up your intensity levels, adding in more or less cardio depending on how you’re feeling that week, etc. And don’t tell her I’m saying this but, after a certain amount of time doing her workouts — and nailing your form, of course — you can kind of freestyle a bit. For example, I crank up the music and kind of have my own dance party during the arm section at the top of class. I watch and follow along, of course, but it’s also nice to let loose a little. Because I think to stick to a habit in these times, you want to make sure you’re having some fun, too.
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