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Why McKenzie Howarth Left Corporate Life for The Bar Method

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Welcome to Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage, so that you can start your New Year's resolutions off right.

The Bar Method co-owner and instructor McKenzie Howarth

Women and (yes) men flock to The Bar Method's Clarendon Street and Hingham studios for a workout that promises sculpted muscles like those of a dancer using (as its name suggests) a barre and isometric (small, controlled) movements to torch calories with minimal sweat factor. A pioneer of barre workouts nationwide, co-owners McKenzie Howarth and Sarah Kuzniar brought The Bar Method to Boston just a few years back, attracting a robust client base along the way. We caught up with McKenzie to discuss the challenges of running two studios, creating a studio community, and falling in love with teaching.

Tell us a bit about how The Bar Method Boston came about.
Well we were both working in banking at UBS, which is where we met, though we both lived in different cities but knew each other for almost ten years. I started off in New York and was transferred out to San Francisco in 2006, about when I was introduced to The Bar Method. Much like any of our clients, one of my friends dragged me along to my first class and I went reluctantly but curiously and had my humbling experience like all clients have. I felt I was in really good shape but this class totally kicked my butt. I wanted to learn more. I wasn't yet hooked on it being my only form of exercise for maybe about a year. I was a hard sell.

Once I started seeing the changes in my body, I was shocked and stunned so I decided to put my gym membership on hold, do Bar Method exclusively. It was so transformative for my body and my life. I was happier. The studio owner in San Francisco thought I might enjoy teaching so I started to train, went through about six months of grueling training, and that's when i fell in love with teaching as well. I said I wanted to make this my life. My job was really just my job, and I kind of felt this calling. My husband and I are from the east coast and the fact that there were no studios in Boston was attractive and it was helpful that my partner Sarah was already living here. We both left UBS and opened it together in June of 2011.

How does your background in a more corporate environment shape or influence the style of your teaching and the studio?
We both came from really corporate places, and at the beginning I feel like it was helpful and hurtful. Obviously we understood the finances of the business. I think we came in just as rigid as we were at our old jobs and I think it's been such a great learning experience where over the last two years we've really warmed up a little bit. We've allowed our staff to really be themselves and our clients to participate in our business. We like to be warm, open, and outgoing with everybody. A lot of what we did before helped us, but leaving some of that behind and thinking more about the people we have in our business (clients and staff) lets them know they are valued at all times. We've had no turnover in our teachers in two and a half years.

What do you think The Bar Method contributes to Boston's fitness landscape?
I think it gives a really intimate experience. At a lot of gyms you're more of a face than a person. We really know a lot about what our clients are going through: Where they are in their fitness lifecycle right now, if they've have a baby or an injury… Not just where they are in the classroom but also in their personal journey. It becomes so much more of a community experience that way. You're part of our fitness family. Number two, our teachers are so highly trained to help people through injuries. This is the only barre-based program created under the guidance of a physical therapist. So we stand on safety first. A lot of people trust in that. We didn't just put a bar up last year; this method has been around in its current form for over twenty years.

What for you is the most rewarding part of running the studio?
Coming to work everyday and knowing you're making such a positive, happy impact on people's lives. People can come in in a bad mood, but really nobody leaves The Bar Method in a bad mood. You can give happiness to someone every single day and that's not something I ever did before.

Are there any challenges in juggling the two studios?
I think the challenge is wanting to be in both studios all day, every day. We can't obviously, so making sure that we are around enough. We spend more time in Boston than in Hingham, but it hasn't always been that way. We love both studios and it's like picking which child do you like better. It becomes a balancing act.

Earliest wake up time?
4:30am? It happens often. I have multiple alarm clocks set and I have an espresso machine that was given to me by a client.

Who do you think is the hardest instructor?
My partner Sarah kicks my butt regularly.

Describe your clientele in three words.
Hardworking, dedicated, and kind. Conscientious of others.
· The Bar Method Entices Off the Elliptical, Onto the Barre [Racked Boston]
· Meet Amanda Herman, Bar Method Instructor Extraordinaire [Racked Boston]
· All Fitness Week 2014 posts [Racked Boston]