Feelin’ Fine with Refine Method

Refine Method is one of those studios that’s been getting a huge amount of buzz of late, and I now understand why. Simply put, it’s an awesome class that leaves you in a sweaty shaky pile of endorphins every time. Refine’s original studio is located on the Upper East Side, and they recently opened a brand-spanking new second location in Union Square, which happens to be a super convenient location for me. (Yay!) Since I just finished my new client intro 8-pack of classes (a sweet little deal that ends up being $16 per class), I thought now would be a great time to write a review from the perspective of a newbie.

Refine’s downtown studio is an intimate spot, with a cozy lounge-like waiting room that doubles as a locker room. There unfortunately are not showers (though the uptown location does have them), but there are 2 private changing rooms for those of us who need to shed our suits and pencil skirts before class. (I always feel so Clark Kent/Superman-like during this change. It’s like a mad dash to get the office off of me and let the inner superhero out so she can kick some ass.) The studio itself has a U-shaped setup, where everyone has a mat that juts out from the wall space. The wall houses Refine’s secret weapon: a pulley system consisting of 2 height adjustable handles that are weighted by bungee cords of various resistances. I think the pulley system is brilliant. Not only does it allow you to target various muscles by customizing weight load and position, but it also lends itself to more fluid, challenging movements since the resistance increases in proportion to your strength, unlike the constant level of resistance that free weights provide.

The 60 minute class is built around a series of circuits that provide both strength training and cardiovascular benefits. While the exercises vary from class to class, the basic format is always the same: stretch, power section, and then multiple sets of circuits punctuated by intervals to keep the heart rate up. Class typically includes zillions of squats (really, zillions), and often uses kettle bells for additional challenges. There are targeted plank-heavy ab routines folded in there, and a deliberate lack of traditional crunches. According to Brynn Jinnett, Refine’s founder, traditional crunches performed with a rounded back are ineffective ab exercises. Her theory is that if you spend your entire day hunched over a desk (which, sadly, I do), then you need to counter that position in order to strengthen core muscles. Makes sense. (On a related note, I wholeheartedly agree with Brynn’s sentiments that abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym. But that’s a different post for a different day.)

Refine Method’s techniques are very different from other boutique fitness studios- and represent a drastic departure from barre method types of classes like Physique 57 or Core Fusion. I personally enjoy both types of workouts, and will continue to spread the love across all. However, there are a few things I really love about Refine that are different from the other studios that I frequent:

  1. Classes are not scheduled back to back each hour. Rather, there’s a zen-tastic 10 minutes or so between classes in which you can stretch, chat with the instructor, and generally ease in/out of the workout mindframe. I love that there isn’t a mad dash in or out of the studio, which is what inevitably happens when classes are scheduled on top of one another. There’s enough harried frenzy in NYC; I’d prefer to leave it out of my workouts.
  2. Refine workouts are bookended by a perfect amount of stretching. Furthermore, foam rollers live at the head of each mat, and are encouraged to be used before and after class. (Side note: I’ve now become obsessed with foam rolling- how has nobody told me about this glorious invention before?!?!)
  3. Class size is capped at 12 people, so you are always guaranteed personal attention and correction from the instructors.
  4. Speaking of instructors, Refine’s are fab. Sweet, energetic, clearly loving what they are doing, and always remember your name. Also, they take the time to personally modify exercises to accommodate injuries or sensitivities, and correct. For example, my lower back apparently has a tendency to wiggle during squats, a point which Brynn noticed during an early circuit and made a point to coach me about throughout class, as well as afterward. I was really grateful for her not letting this go unnoticed, and I’ve been cognizant of correcting my wiggly back during my workouts ever since.
  5. The weight bearing aspect of each class makes me feel so hardcore. I leave class feeling stronger each and every time.

While I love my barre method classes, I also think that variety in workouts keeps me interested, engaged, and challenged. I’m excited to have found Refine, and that its new location in Union Square will allow me to add it into my regular exercise rotation. Refine is now launching a semi-private outdoor class, ReGroup just in time for summer. My thoughts (perhaps unsurprisingly): Yes, please.

Have you tried Refine Method or a similar class?
What are your thoughts on the crunch vs. plank debate? I continue to do both depending on my mood, but am curious as to what others do.

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13 thoughts on “Feelin’ Fine with Refine Method

  1. I LOVE Refine!!! I’m actually not a huge fan of group fitness classes in general (what can I say, I’m an “on my own time runner”) but I absolutely love refine! I love how every exercise is only for 30sec to 1minute and EFFECTIVE. I feel sore after every class. I’m doing the refine regroup because I needed the motivation to commitment — the outdoor classes are great and I feel like more cardio intense as well. I think you can do the outdoor classes without doing regroup though. I used to be a dancer so of course I’m attracted to barre classes too, but I also tend to get really frustrated during them when I feel like I can’t do every exercise perfectly.

    Let me know if you ever go to any AM classes! Or USQ ReGroup classes!

    • I didn’t know that you could do outdoor classes without signing up for the full ReGroup program- interesting! Going to look into that.

      I wish I was the type of person who could exercise in the morning! The pillow just holds me hostage and won’t let me leave. :)

  2. Refine is one of my favorite classes in NYC. Brynn has really created something special. I love how you don’t have to follow a particular teacher-every single teacher is pretty amazing. I am so tempted to do the Regroup.

  3. I love Refine because it’s so intelligent and efficient. Each session feels like time with a personal trainer, but with the benefits of a social, group atmosphere. The instructors are all sensational. And I can’t recommend ReGroup enough! After sitting at a desk all day, it’s fun exercising outside and incorporating sprints and new props into the indoor format.

    I hope to see you in a class downtown soon.

    • You’re right- it really does feel like a personal training workout. That’s exactly how I described it to another friend. Please say hi if you see me in class!!

      ReGroup is kind of calling my name… even though I’m not-so-secretly a little scared of it!

  4. My sister as you know is obsessed and started going to Refine when it first started, she loves it and always talks about how great Bryn is! I think I gotta try it :)

  5. You know how much I love Refine, since we met there! I am so happy you love it too. I can’t even imagine a life without Refine, so much that I have used my free Club H membership in Jersey City (where I both live and work) once in the last two months, because I’d much rather trek to the city for Refine!

    ReGroup is a really hardcore, intense, amazing experience. You will challenge yourself so much more than you know. I definitely recommend it (while simultaneously counting down how many sessions I have left — it is brutal, but fantastic)!

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