Anxiety and the fitness studio: How I pushed through The Dailey Method’s 30-day challenge and not only didn’t die, but came out stronger

TDM barre April 13

I don’t talk about it much because I’m afraid how people react and worry that no one will want to be around me if they know, but I struggle with anxiety a lot, particularly social anxiety. (I’m still not sure I’m going to actually put this out there but if you’re reading this, well I guess I have.) And it’s not just new people and large groups that freak me out (‘tho they do) but even the prospect of getting together with a girlfriend I’ve known for years. I worry that I’m not smart enough, funny enough, interesting enough, thin enough (!) — just enough, period. I avoid more things than I try and fret obsessively in the lead-up to the things I’ve said yes to, and then overanalyze every little perceived misstep afterwards. (If I haven’t cancelled at the last minute. Which brings its own set of worries.) It’s exhausting. And isolating. I’m telling you all this because I know there’s got to be someone reading this post who can relate, someone who feels crippled by anxiety like I do, someone who really has to push themselves to try small things. If it’s you, I want you to know that you’re not alone, that you can do things even if you think you’re going to die. And you might come out the other side better for it. (You might still overthink things ’til you’re a wreck, but you might be proud of yourself too.) What do I know about it? Well I’ve spent the past month doing a 30-day challenge at a local barre and cycle studio, The Dailey Method, and as much as it was physically challenging, it was an exercise in mental and emotional toughness even more so. The Dailey Method comped me a free month in exchange for a post, and I want to share some of the things that helped me not only meet my goal, but exceed it, and come out feeling stronger all-round. As the instructors often reminded us, the mind is ready to quit long before the body. Here are some of the strategies I used to help me push on through. I hope they’ll help you too. 

The Dailey Method sign

Know what you’re getting into Researching something before I do it almost always takes down my anxiety a few notches, so I read nearly everything I could find on The Dailey Method and its 30-day challenges. If you’ve never heard of The Dailey Method, it’s a barre (and more and more, also cycle) fitness studio first opened in San Francisco in 2000 by Jill Dailey, that has expanded to 63 locations including Ottawa’s own in the Glebe.

“The Dailey Method safely, efficiently and effectively increases muscle length, strength tone, and balance, improves cardio strength, posture and motivation, sharpens your mind, reduces the risk of injury and chronic pain and helps you stay healthy, youthful, and active for a lifetime. Specially designed unique and ever evolving low-impact classes (45-60 min done for as little 2-3 times per week) incorporate the best benefits from multiple disciplines (yoga, Pilates, and orthopedic exercises), with hands-on training and education, and an intrinsic focus on alignment and strength all done in a safe, fun and energetic group environment.”

 

There’s a variety of classes to choose from: five all-level barre classes; one gentle class including a self-care connective tissue treatment called MELT Method; one yoga + meditation class and the new cycle classes.

I’d never done a barre class before or been a fitness class person, preferring to do my own thing on the stairclimber or the treadmill at the gym and get to get in and get out without having to actually talk to anyone. And I’ve always been dubious about the effectiveness of classes. I mean, how do you know how many calories you’re burning without a machine to tell you? (I’ve been calorie-obsessed forever, but more on that in another post.) Would a barre class really help lean me out and tone up?  Would it be worth my time? Would the class move too fast for me to keep up?

I’m happy to tell you that even tho I’ve only been going for a month, I feel stronger and my clothes fit better. I’ve been eating healthier too, trying to eat better foods to fuel my workouts and help me get leaner. Besides the physical results, I’m feeling proud of myself for trying something new and sticking with it. I felt like a fish out of water for my first couple of times at the barre, but the instructors always move around the room so they can see when anyone is floundering and help you get on track. And they’ll always stay after to class to help you with any questions you might have. I like that they all take the time to learn your name and say hello — from the first day I felt like I wasn’t just joining a fitness studio but a community. The classes are always different and challenging, the music is awesome and I feel like I’m getting a great workout, all making it a place I really like coming back to.

Set a realistic goal  The Dailey Method’s 30-day challenges are an opportunity to push yourself to do your best. You set your own goal, write it on the the whiteboard and track your progress as you go with a sticker for every class you complete. Members are free to participate if they want to, and skip it if they don’t. The Dailey Method invited me to do the challenge along with bloggers Amy from Amy in 613, Loukia from Loulou’s Views, Marilou from 20 York Street, Chantal from Mode XLusive, Katie from YOW City Style and Jayme from The Pacing Life. I set my challenge at 20 classes in 30 days (a mix of barre and cycle) and secretly hoped I’d be able to knock out a few more than that — maybe even be a rockstar with 30 in 30!

 

tdm stickers

The first two classes were hardest, physically and emotionally. I did barre the first day and cycle the second and tried to wish myself invisible in the back of the room. In the barre class my legs were super shaky (‘tho I’d read that it’s totally normal — at The Dailey Method they like to think of it as your muscles applauding — “embrace the shake!”) and I felt like a bit of a weakling because I couldn’t hold every pose. I’d done spin classes before but the bikes (which are ultra-modern and awesome!) and the pacing were different and it took me a while to figure out how to adjust my resistance and speed to get in sync with the class. Just before a final push at the end they do what’s called a “moving meditation”, turning the lights down and playing a slower song that you’re free to bike to at your own pace. (You can use it to cool down or push yourself harder or both.) That first time biking in the dark with the instrumental track made me want to bawl. Here I was about to finish my second class, two days in a row! I was overcome with emotion realizing that I was actually doing it, that I could actually do it, and would come back for more. And I did, for nine more days in a row before feeling like I needed a break and took a day off. (Breaks are good! Your body needs them!) I continued going regularly before coming down with the flu but got right back on that horse as soon as I was better. 23 classes in 30 days, baby! I feel fitter, fabber, and more than a little proud of myself.

TDM cycle class April 13

Talk to people (or don’t) Some days I feel more confident and make small talk, some days I don’t and barely say a peep. Some days I deliberately arrive just before the class starts so there’s no time for talking anyway, and some days I force myself to arrive a few minutes early and ask the person next to me if they live in the neighbourhood or whether they’ve done a class before. Remember that conversation is a two-way street, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always initiate it. And that some people may be just as anxious as you. You’re not alone, but chances are you won’t feel less alone until you made a connection. So try to try. When the time is right for you.

Remember why you came They say this a lot in the cycle class, particularly when the going gets tough and you have to dig deep to find the resolve to keep going. What did you come for? What do you want out of class? Remember that and resolve to get it. For me, it was a couple of things. First, I hadn’t worked in months and was tired of feeling and looking schlumpy, especially after indulging on the #LetsGoMaple blogger trip to Casino Rama and Ontario’s Lake Country in early March. I wanted to tone up, maybe lose a few el bees and get those feel-good endorphins you get from a great workout. I’d also read about The Dailey Method here and there since Sarah Thompson and her hubby Jamie Rigby opened the Ottawa location just two years ago and was curious to try it. (I’m back and forth to the Glebe several times a week so I’d probably read their sign 52,000 times.) Plus I was reading Get Your Sh*t Together: How To Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need To Do And Start Doing What You Want To Do (which I highly recommend) and felt like it was about damn time I get my sh*t together and make fitness a priority again. In some ways 30 days seems long and in other ways, it’s hardly any time at all. I wanted to make the most of every class and push myself to get stronger. Remember your WHY and make it happen.

Reward yourself  For getting to class, for finishing a class, for booking another class, for every step you take toward meeting your goal. Rewarding yourself will help you keep on keepin’ on. I treated myself to small indulgences along the way — a pair of cute barre socks from The Dailey Method’s highly covetable collection of fitness wear and accessories right in the studio, post-workout snacks and tea at the Whole Foods on my way home, and I might have ordered this cute purse (okay I totally ordered the purse, but I’m calling it my Mother’s Day gift to me as well). And because I’m so happy with how I did and want to keep it up, I’m rewarding myself with another month of barre and cycle with The Dailey Method’s $79 special for new clients. And I can’t wait to get started.

HUGE thanks to Sarah and Jamie for inviting me to participate and (along with all of the other instructors) making me feel so welcome and encouraged and (let’s not forget!) FIT! Sarah says she opened the Ottawa studio to “create a community — a happy place for our students to come, feel comfortable and accepted, while receiving a high quality, safe workout.”

She’s done just that, and so much more. 

TDM Ottawa crew

Middle: Sarah and Jamie and some of their fantastic crew. Photo: The Dailey Method.

For more on The Dailey Method, check out 8 Articles Every New Dailey Method Student Should Read and this great video, What Is The Dailey Method?. I also love Chantal’s post, I Completed A 30 Day Challenge of Cycle and Barre at The Dailey Method Ottawa. And feel free to ask me any questions you might have. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll ask Sarah and get back to you!

Are you doing a fitness challenge this Spring? Have you tried The Dailey Method or other barre or cycle classes?

The Dailey Method gave me a free month at the studio in exchange for a post. All opinions are my own. 

7 thoughts on “Anxiety and the fitness studio: How I pushed through The Dailey Method’s 30-day challenge and not only didn’t die, but came out stronger

  1. Oh, Julie, I think you are fabulous! I can totally relate to your social anxiety. I am you times 10; my biggest problem is my lack of confidence, and I don’t really like myself most days, so why would others. I admire you so much for your honesty and your courage, too. When I think of you, I envision a talented and creative and beautiful, kind and generous person, and I think you are awesome for all that you do!!

  2. Brava! By sharing your vulnerabilities, you have shown your extraordinary strength!!!! There are so many of us who have similar anxieties, fears, doubts. You are not alone. There will be many helped by your courage — perhaps even inspiring them to share as well. XO.

  3. Julie, you are an old soul, a kind soul and now I see a brave soul. There are no rules in this life so go ahead and “Talk to People or Don’t”. Sounds like a novel to me ☺️

  4. You are an inspiration my friend. I am so glad that you not only pushed yourself to go but you also rocked it. You are a powerhouse of a woman in a tiny, petite frame that is so much more than enough. You are everything!

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