Btone – Not For Me?

I went to my first Btone class on Tuesday evening. I’ve been meaning to go forever – I was gifted a 3-class pack MONTHS ago, but it expired after 30 days. However, I notice that every month, it reappears in my Mindbody passes, as if the studio is renewing it. That’s super nice of them, so I decided to finally go. I knew it was non-impact but I didn’t realize it was going to be so rough on my hamstring. Had I known that, I probably would’ve waited until I was further along in my healing process. That said, I do want to give them the benefit of the doubt for a number of reasons, including the fact that my hamstring simply can’t handle that intense of a load right now.

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Source: groupon.com

I arrived at the new-ish studio in Chestnut Hill 15 minutes before class started. It’s in The Street – a big outdoor shopping center on Boylston Street, 10 minutes from my apartment. Parking is ample and I was able to get a spot right near the studio. But when I walked up, I realized there was no real lobby. The earlier class was still in session, and if I went inside, I’d be literally in the room where class was taking place. They do have a teeny tiny doorway where everyone leaves their shoes, but standing in there meant being in the way when the earlier class ended, so I sat outside in the freezing cold. Less-than-stellar first impression point #1.

Eventually, two other girls arrived and waited in the doorway, so I decided this was kosher and followed suit to get out of the cold. We awkwardly stood there not speaking or making eye contact (this is Boston, remember – we are not a friendly folk). I slowly took off my boots to kill time. When the first class ended and the first person left the studio room to put on her shoes and leave, I decided to head on in. I hovered next to the check-in desk waiting for the teacher to acknowledge me. It took longer than felt comfortable, and I felt like my presence was bothering her. Finally I just said, “Hi! This is my first time here.” She was nice enough, but not overly so (which I would expect when someone brand new shows up at your place of business). She introduced herself, said she was a sub for the regular Tuesday night instructor, and told me there were a few other first-timers registered for class as well. She pointed to where I could put my stuff and said she’d walk us newbies through the equipment. She really seemed to warm up as others arrived and we all chatted about Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift songs.

Someone from the previous class (or maybe it was someone arriving to my class?) was in the only bathroom for nearly 10 minutes doing a full wardrobe change, and there was literally a line of three of us just dancing around waiting to use the bathroom. Note to self: don’t ever be that person.

Once I finally got to use the bathroom (a must for me before any class), I went over and decided to just sit on one of the pilates reformer machines, unsure what else to do. A few people were stretching.

When class got started, I realized there were only 6 or 7 of us, meaning there were a few empty machines (I believe the class can accommodate 10 people). The instructor had the three of us new people come to the front so she could show us the machine. It seemed like she was thorough, but she spent a lot more time talking about the importance of finding an instructor you like, which I should’ve taken as a red flag. I felt bad for the non-newbies, as we were going on 5+ minutes of explanation in a 45-minute class. I felt like there was no point in arriving early like I was told to, because the overview started when class should’ve started.

We started with tricep dips off the back of the machine, which are SO hard for me. Good hard, but I was thinking that one of the exercises I hate the most was not a good way to start class. Fortunately, we quickly moved into exercises that required the machine and all the straps and bungee cords attached to it. We started with arms, moved into core, then finished with legs. I found the arm exercises incredibly difficult. I found the core work fine but it required too much “head and shoulders off the machine” which resulted in horrible neck pain. I found the leg work far too focused on the backs of the legs, meaning my hamstring was on fire.

At the beginning of class, the instructor did mention being “not nice” and I thought that meant “I’m going to work you hard!” Instead, I found her curt, unhelpful, and completely unmotivating. Several times, I found myself totally confused by the equipment and her way of explaining what we were supposed to be doing. I looked around and saw everyone looking confused, so I do think it was her and not me just being new. Instead of coming over to help me when she clearly saw me struggling with wtf I was supposed to be doing, she would shout general statements into the room. “Come ON guys – this isn’t that hard!” See what I mean about not being motivating?

When it came time for lower body, my hamstring was in so much pain that I faked a bunch of the exercises or even just sat back on my knees and rested. I wasn’t going to set myself back in recovery simply to appease her or anyone else. She never called me out personally, but I felt like whenever I did this, she would take it out on the room.

When the class ended, I wasn’t sweaty at all – which basically never happens to me, ever. I did not feel like I got a good workout at all, and it’s not just because I stopped the lower body stuff that hurt. We had to wipe down the entire machines ourselves. Every little strap and handle and attachment. I think my body touched about 12 surfaces including the platform itself, so wiping down took several minutes and I’m sure it wasn’t even that clean. That’s something I haven’t had to do at ANY studio I’ve gone to in the last year. Barre, spinning, yoga, etc., they clear down all shared equipment for you after each class. That’s a given when paying $25+ for a single class. Adding up everything else, that was probably less-than-stellar first impression point #6 or so.

The music wasn’t loud or exciting and the room was very brightly lit, two environmental factors that felt in conflict with each other.

After class, she asked to no one in particular how we felt. I was near the front desk, so I just smiled and said, “Good. Thanks!” As I put on my boots, the conversation somehow turned to what a better workout this is than barre. Granted, it was one of the other newbies who started it, but I don’t think it’s good form to poo-poo all over another, very different workout – especially here in Boston where the fitness community is so interwoven.

I’m all about mixing it up and trying new things, and I am genuinely glad I tried this class, but I don’t think I’ll be back again. I honestly think I would have had a much better first impression with a different instructor. I firmly believe an instructor can make or break a class experience. It’s why I try to avoid a particular spin class that is otherwise perfect for my schedule, because the instructor bothers me that much (she bothers my co-worker too, so I know it’s not just me). I still have two more free classes to use before next week but I don’t plan to use them. Mostly because the studio itself doesn’t feel like a fit for me, and also because my hamstring simply cannot handle that kind of intensity right now.

*After writing this but before posting it, I got a “thank you for coming” email from the studio. It’s clearly a canned message, but either way I appreciate a nice “thank you” after the first time I visit ANY business. However, this was long. Too long. Their website is pages and pages about how you can’t cancel within 8 hours for any reason. OK OK, we get it. They are obsessed with this and it comes through in the tone of their writing. Then I get an 8-paragraph email which reiterates their entire website. Good grief! So, I decided to reply and let them know I didn’t have a good experience but also ask about classes that might focus less on lower body and more on upper body or core since I failed to mention my hamstring injury to the instructor.

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As soon as I hit send, I got an auto-reply about how busy they are and how it might be 24 hours before some replies but here is our FAQ in the meantime, which is all written in a very condescending tone. Too many words in ALL CAPS. Too much “do it yourself before asking us for help.” Just not a helpful or friendly vibe at all.

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So even though while writing this I basically convinced myself to give it another shot, the tone of these emails and just the vibe I got from the studio

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