Discovering muscles I didn’t know I had? Check. Feeling inexplicably sore everywhere, including my hands and feet? Check. Developing a very new—if not unreasonable—fear of party streamers? Check mate.
The benefits are undeniable, however: after only one hour of Lithe Method, an intense cardiovascular and muscle-sculpting workout, my stomach already looked flatter and my arms leaner.
Lithe Method, which was established in 2005 by former college cheerleader Lauren Boggi, is one of the only up-and-coming workouts originating in Philly. A fusion of various other dance and exercise routines, including elements of weight training, cheerleading technique and Barre, Lithe Method didn’t seem like it would be too difficult. Its website even described it as “fun.”
The website also said it sculpted muscles. For me, that absolutely should’ve been a red flag.
Don’t get me wrong; I love exercise. In my free time, I do yoga, jog and swing dance. I take walks to help me think. If I hear music playing, I will start dancing no matter where I am or how many people are staring. I am a certifiable gym rat.
But when I hear the term “muscle-sculpting workout,” I automatically think of an old man in a toga with a chisel and hammer, carving away until I have abs.
Nevertheless, I was eager to try the Lithe 101 class at its Rittenhouse Square location, 255 S. 17th St. I was ready to get out of my workout rut and try something new. Plus, I’ve been trying to absorb more of this city’s culture, and I felt taking a Philly workout class would be a step in the right direction.
The studio itself is very chic and airy. The first things that grabbed my attention were the brown and blue “streamers” hanging from the ceiling. Don’t be fooled by their playful appearance—these fluttery pieces of décor are actually exercise equipment.
“Take two three-pound weights and a ball,” the instructor told me with a smile.
I nearly laughed. Three-pound weights? The instructor must have very low expectations for us!
Luckily, I kept my composure and took my place on one of the charcoal-colored mats.
Mic’d up and bubbly, our instructor started by explaining breathing and Lithe’s basic principles of alignment. The only notable instruction she gave us was to breathe horizontally and force the air out when we exhaled.
Alright this shouldn’t be too hard, I thought. All I need to do is keep my spine aligned and breathe horizontally—whatever that means. No problem!
The workout is fast-paced, with loud dance beats popping in the background. We began with simple stretches and breathing exercises, but before I knew it, I was on my back, feet off the ground and ball squeezed between my knees as I lifted and lowered the dumbbells in my hands.
Every time I felt like my muscles were going to pop out, or like I couldn’t take any more, the instructor would add a more challenging move or find some other way to increase the heat.
Legs bent? Straighten them every other breath! Lifting the weights with your back on the ground? Awesome, now we’re ready to do sit-ups, too!
I’m not sure whether my legs were raised for twenty minutes or just two, but I was aching to lower them. Unfortunately, as soon as we got the green light to put our feet down, it was time to do planks and half-splits with “stiletto” feet. During this time, I took at least three short breaks.
Our next challenge was doing squats and leg-lifts at the ballet bars. During one of my moments of clarity, I took a look at myself in the mirror and nearly laughed at how silly we all looked, stamping our feet like a sumo wrestlers and jumping up and down like five-year-olds.
Don’t we look sexy? I thought, jokingly.
We finished the routine with the streamers. I was genuinely hoping we’d be suspended from the ceiling, and that these bands were meant to keep us from falling flat on our faces.
In reality, the blue streamer dangling just below my chin was a resistance band. Grabbing one end in each hand, we were to jump, twist and bounce around, allowing the resistance from band to work our biceps.
By the time we got to the last set of moves, I was barely even keeping up with the instructor. It was all I could do to keep pulling the straps and alternately lifting my legs.
The main perk of Lithe is that it helps you sculpt muscle in record-breaking time. If it’s your birthday wish to develop killer abs, Lithe is the workout for you. Lithe is also the workout for you if you love to sweat—over the course of an hour, I’d transformed into a sweaty mass of spaghetti-like limbs.
But if you’re like me, and your main goal is to have fun, I would not recommend making Lithe part of your routine. Lithe 101 was, by far, one of the most intense workout classes I’ve ever taken. This is not to say that intensity alone makes a workout class unpleasant. Rather, it’s the mindset for the exercise that made it a bit of a bummer.
Mindset can really make or break an experience. Yoga, for instance, is meant to bring calm and tranquility to those who practice it. Other workouts are just jolly and playful. In fact, I started swing dancing because spinning and dipping would often induce me into a fit of giggles.
Lithe Method just made me feel sore. In my head, I found myself repeating over and over again, “you need to keep going or you won’t reap the muscle-sculpting benefits.”
Then again, exercise is a personal experience. Just because I came out with this attitude doesn’t mean that’s the norm. In fact, I encourage readers to try Lithe because it is very different from other workouts and, quite frankly, it carries a kick.