Linda Rosier for The New York Times
PEOPLE have been talking about the supposed body-transforming powers of Tracy Anderson for several years. Sheâs the trainer who has traveled with Madonna, established her roots in Los Angeles and runs a studio there that has become a mainstay for stars like Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow and Courteney Cox. Word spread so quickly about her workouts that Ms. Anderson herself became a celebrity.
These days, however, she rarely teaches classes and doesnât train clients anymore. So the question in my mind was this: How can women in New York try her personalized workouts short of buying a DVD?
It turns out that Ms. Anderson has well-staffed studios in TriBeCa and in Water Mill, on Long Island, that are open to anyone who goes through a consultation. But be warned: her program is not for the meek, the time-pressed or the financially challenged.
For starters, Ms. Anderson recommends working out six days a week, alternating between private sessions and group classes, and committing up to an hour and 45 minutes on each visit. A private session with one of her trainers costs $250; an annual membership, which allows members unlimited access to group classes, averages about $30 a day. The method involves a dance-aerobics section and muscle work.
In a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles, Ms. Anderson said that people with two left feet shouldnât fear the dance portion. She mentioned Ms. Paltrow (by first name) as an example: âGwyneth was super uncoordinated when she started, and it takes a few months to get down the routines. But once you learn them, you can do them for years.â
Her personalized program divides women into four body types: âabcentric,â with thick midsections; âhipcentric,â with larger hips and thighs; âglutecentric,â holding weight in the rear; and âomicentric,â carrying weight in all areas. The workouts are tailored for each group and change every 10 days to keep the body challenged.
For Ms. Anderson, hitting the treadmill, using weight machines and taking private Pilates sessions didnât lead to results. âI was a dancer, and even though I was moving all day, I gained 35 pounds,â she said.
About 13 years ago she said met a rehabilitation doctor who worked on the small muscles in her ex-husbandâs back to help heal it. Ms. Anderson then developed dance and muscle moves using the same philosophy and spent five years testing them on 150 women, eventually developing the program she uses today. Before starting, new clients must be measured, photographed and prescribed a routine based on body type and personal goals. The final piece of her method involves working out in less-than-comfortable conditions. The two workout rooms in her TriBeCa studio are set to 86 degrees and 65 percent humidity. As someone who hates sweating and considers 40 degrees the ideal temperature for exercise, I was initially intimidated by the heated room when I recently visited the TriBeCa studio.
But my instructor, Katy Fraggos, who runs the program on the East Coast, was so enthusiastic and the music so motivating that I forgot about the warmth and focused on the moves.
Our 30-minute session was in the room where most of the muscular work is done. Itâs filled with various tools, including a half-dozen resistance bands hanging from the ceiling and black boxes that are taller and deeper than those used in step-aerobics classes.
Ms. Fraggos led me through a warm-up of arm work that involved pulling down the second-to-lightest band at varying angles. It was a warm-up in name only: my heart was soon pumping and my arms burning.
Then it was on to leg work on a mat with one of those innocuous-looking black boxes. Iâve tried Pilates and ballet bar workouts, but these movements were unlike anything I had experienced. Starting on my hands and knees, I turned the box over and put my right knee inside. I then had to bring the same leg out of the box and kick it backward at a side angle 25 times in a row. After switching to the other leg and repeating the drill, I felt my muscles shaking.
On the mat, I raised my knee to my chest, turned my foot out to face the wall and kicked it straight to the side for the same number of repetitions. These were only two out of six leg exercises â" Ms. Fraggos cheerfully told me that she dropped the number of repetitions because I was a first-timer participating in a demonstration. Meanwhile, the women around me, engaged in their own muscle work, were sweating so much that the floors became slippery.
As a runner, a jump-roper and an interval-workout regular, I didnât expect to be as challenged as I was. But I felt the results of my âdemonstrationâ later that evening and well into the next day. Although I may not be a big star and canât attest to long-term results, I was excited enough to want to give this workout a serious try.