Found in Vancouver, BC: Lagree West
Standing outside, you can hear a beat resonating through the ground. Neighboured by a hip-hop vinyl shop and an English Language school, a sign in the entryway reads, “You have what it takes.” You walk through the front door and down a flight of stairs; the music increases tenfold.
Once you enter, reassuring smiles from the front desk staff put you at ease—briefly—until you see the 10 megaformers. Each resembles a modern version of a medieval torture rack, and they span the length of the monochromatic studio.
Since November 2015, Lagree West has been enticing devotees for 40 minutes of sweat and, yes, some pain. The Lagree Method is a full-body conditioning workout performed on a megaformer, a fitness machine developed in 2010 by celebrity trainer Sebastien Lagree. The workout boasts aficionados including Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Aniston, Kim Kardashian and First Lady Michelle Obama.
While Lagree West owner Barbie Bent was completing her Masters in England, she would head home to Toronto for the holidays where she first discovered Studio Lagree. She was instantly hooked by the intensity of the workout. In November 2014, Bent moved from London to Vancouver to open the city’s first Lagree studio.
“When I was looking for a space my broker urged me not to take this one, but I liked it,” says Bent. “It has really morphed in with the brand and I love it now, but it didn’t look like this when I found it.”
Bent spent nine months gutting the basement location, pulling back drywall to reveal the ceiling’s original wooden beams and transforming it into the carefully curated space with modern detailing you’ll find today.
The workout is most simply described as a souped-up Pilates reformer class, but the major difference is an added cardiovascular element. You push every single muscle in your body as far as you possibly can, just for a moment, then it’s over and you’re onto the next move.
It sounds simple, but when you’re holding plank for a full minute, moving the megaformer’s platform in an inch and out an inch, the temptation to drop to your knees and give up is real. Before you can convince yourself otherwise, the instructor will promptly remind you that you can do anything for 60 seconds.
“It’s great for athletes because you strengthen all of your stabilizing muscles that are really difficult to target. You can do it to become stronger at your other workouts,” says Bent, adding that it opens up high intensity training to all demographics. Also, the ability to adjust the spring tension to modify intensity makes the workout accessible to people with multiple fitness levels in the same class.
“It’s great for people who have had injuries and are rehabbing it because it is low-impact and easy on your joints. And it’s great for guys,” she says, adding that when her boyfriend went skiing for the first time earlier this season, his legs were much stronger and he felt more balanced thanks to Lagree.
Adrienne Watson from our raw materials colour team says practicing Lagree has made her a better surfer and snowboarder. “The first time I went to Lagree I had no idea what I was getting myself into. A megaformer seemed like a transformer to me,” says Watson. “I made the mistake of showering the night before, thinking it’s low-impact and I’ll go straight to work afterwards. I was dripping in sweat by the end of class.”
With a little instruction the megaformer, with all its spring weights, straps, pulleys and moving platforms, isn’t quite as complex as it looks. “At your first class they’re really good at explaining how the machine works so it becomes less scary and, I promise, it becomes fun,” says Watson.
Fun might be an overstatement, but it will have you sweating within minutes and you’ll be continually reminded that if you’re not shaking, it’s not working.
“They play great music and their teachers are so hands-on. They’re constantly coming over and adjusting you, making sure that in those 40 minutes you’re getting the best workout you could possibly get,” says Watson.
“The reason I’m so passionate about Lagree is that it’s one of the exercises I’ve done where I see the biggest changes in my body,” says Bent who is already seeing positive changes in her client's strength. “After a couple of classes you’ll feel stronger, push a bit harder and feel a bit more stable when you come in. The changes happen pretty fast."
Bent recommends taking two to three classes per week, allowing time for your body to recover between workouts to get the full benefits.
“The purpose of the exercise is to push yourself into a zone of of effective muscle stimulation and fatigue. If I did it three times in a row I wouldn’t be able to push myself as hard as I could,” she says. “My mind would quit before I could get to that point of shaking, where you’re pushing yourself, which is where the change happens. There’s ways to cheat, but even if you took all those measures and didn’t push yourself very hard, you’re still going to get a pretty solid workout on your core.”
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t think a workout is effective unless you’re sore the next day, this is for you. The burn in your obliques, inner thighs and glutes is proof that it works.
Next up for Lagree West? “Right now we’re still getting everything in place and building our community. I have lots of little details around the studio that I’m working on everyday, just building the processes and things that will make us who we are,” says Bent who’s hosting her second round of teacher training in April.
Lagree West is open Monday through Sunday with 40 classes per week (keep an eye on the schedule for advanced and basics classes coming soon as well as classes geared towards men on Monday evenings). Sign up here. There are over 100 Lagree Fitness studios worldwide, find one nearby here.
Originally published here on the lululemon blog.