What do you get when you take three people with vastly different exercise MOs, and put them through a three month workout challenge? That’s what our team of fitness editors sought to find out earlier this year, when we committed to a 3×3 SLT challenge: Three editors—Ali Finney, Rachel Lapidos, and Zoë Weiner—took three classes a week over the course of three months to see what would happen to our bodies, minds, and workout routines.
It’s worth noting that if left to their own devices, there’s pretty much a zero percent chance that any of us would wind up in the same workout class. Ali is a marathon runner, Rachel is bootcamp obsessed, and Zoe tries new boutique fitness studios as if they’re going out of style. So what happened? At first, there was a lot of complaining. Every morning for two weeks, the rest of their Well+Good coworkers were subject to our moaning about how freaking hard SLT is, and how badly they all wanted to quit. But as time went on, our outlooks—and our bodies—changed.
SLT is frequently referred to as “the hardest workout in New York City,” and for good reason. It combines cardio, strength training, and toning into one 50-minute megaformer session, and you are moving the entire time. “We use long duration, slow and controlled movements to work all the major (and minor) muscle groups to exhaustion,” says founder Amanda Freeman. “You work muscles you never even knew you had.” The entire workout is form-focused, and even the most microscopic tweaks and movements make a difference, which is why (as we learned over three months) the better you get at the workout, the harder it is. If you’re doing it right, your muscles are working harder—even though some moves only require moving a few inches at a time.
Instead of bulking up your muscles, the way other strength workouts often can, SLT’s method results in long, lean ones—which explains why the moniker stands for “Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone” (get it?). “By working the slow-twitch muscle fibers, tone is maximized,” explains Freeman. “SLT is an endurance workout where you are working without rest for 50-minutes, which also makes it a cardiovascular workout.”
Per the recommendation of the team at SLT, we opted for a three month, three day-a-week challenge. “With that frequency you get the benefits of the workout with rest days built in to allow for muscle repair and recovery from the hard work you do while in class,” explains Freeman, adding that it’s actually the 24-48 hours after an SLT class when real change happens in your body. “It’s an intense full-body workout, but an incredibly intense core focus, thus making it not necessarily a seven-days a week thing.” Over time, we expected a few different things to happen to our body, including increased strength, better endurance, more muscle definition, and better performance in our other activities.
Zoë Weiner, Class Hopper
I joined ClassPass two months after it launched (#tbt to $100 for a month of unlimited classes), and have been a die-hard class hopper ever since. I love mixing it up, trying new things, and challenging my body in different ways on a regular basis. I also happen to get bored easily, which means I’m not necessarily great at sticking with one type of workout for an extended period of time. And so, the thought of doing the same class for three months straight—especially a class that is as impossibly challenging as SLT is—sounded like quite the undertaking.
At first, I’ll admit, I had a hard time getting into it. The workout itself was so difficult that I simply couldn’t do, like, half of the moves (those first 10 classes involved a lot of lying on the megaformer and wondering when the tide would turn). But over time, there was a noticeable shift. The more I went to the classes, the stronger I got, and the better I got at the moves. And slowly but surely, I started spending more time in a plank pose than flat on my face. By the end of the three-month stint, my body was doing things I never thought it would be able to (I also weirdly got taller?), and cranking the spring load on my machine all the way to “advanced” level.
My takeaway from the whole thing is that while there are definite benefits to mixing up your workouts, there’s something to be said about sticking with something for long enough to become a pro. That’s something my current core strength can 100 percent confirm.
Rachel Lapidos, HIIT Devotee
I’m about to sound like a drill instructor, but I truly like my workouts to go hard and go fast. My preferred way to get my sweat in is via sprinting or lifting heavy weights, or basically anything that falls under the HIIT umbrella. So SLT is quite literally the opposite of how I like to spend my time exercising. It’s all about going as slow as you possibly can while doing the tiniest of movements—a far cry from the 30-second incline sprints that I’m used to at Barry’s Bootcamp. Nothing at SLT is a one-and-done kinda thing, where you can knock something out quickly and then it’s over, which is why it was very, very hard for me.
I remember distinctly feeling like the worst person in class for the first couple of weeks, which was a new feeling to get used to. I was using muscles I had never really used before. Because of how often I had to stop and how new the transitions were, I was never sure if I was even getting the full effect of the workout.
After the first week was over, I felt like my butt muscles had been shredded, and I was more sore than I’d ever been in my entire life. But by week three, I kept up with the transitions and actually didn’t feel like dying in the middle of class, which was a huge improvement. I continued to get better at the workout, and got used to the unique soreness that it gave my entire body. The worst part of getting better at the moves, though? It makes SLT even harder—because you’re actually doing it right.
What I did notice, though, was that I felt stronger in my other workouts. My legs felt more fluid and strong in my runs, and it was easier for me to activate my core when I lifted weights in strength training, which were welcome surprises. So while SLT never, ever got easier, I learned to appreciate how strong and accomplished it made me feel—because nothing makes you as proud as learning to master the actual hardest workout machine in the entire world.
Ali Finney, Runner
The day after I graduated high school, I swore off all forms of fitness that didn’t make me happy, which pretty much included everything aside from running and yoga. That was over a decade ago, and it had been exactly that long since I’ve really ventured out and tried something new. I’d take a spin class here or a HIIT class there, but would spend the ride home grumbling about something or another. Because there is an SLT location a stone’s throw from my house, I figured: No ride home/No worries, and signed my name on the dotted line.
And then came the first class: As aforementioned…it’s hard. Quite honestly, I’d liken the experience to learning a new language—both because the pose “Giant Side-Crunch Bear” meant nothing to me on day one, and also because my body hasn’t had to move that way before (ever) so the movement itself was foreign. As a runner, I groan when I see cross-training days pop up on my calendar, because I’d really rather clock the miles, and so a lot of times I skip the strength training—and that’s left me in a place where I can crank out lots and lots of miles, but am actually not that strong.
So for a decent portion of the training, I had to focus on getting strong enough to do the movements correctly. Pacing, tempo, and quite simply learning to live in discomfort became really pivotal mental challenges for me, and while I took them on and tried my hardest, a lot of times I didn’t make every single count of the movement, and I learned along the way that that’s okay. One slow and controlled action often reaps greater gains than many hurried and rushed ones in SLT…and, I suppose in life, too. And I learned a few other things along the way too that I’d love to share.
It’s easy to get stuck in fitness ruts that benefit you in so many ways, but don’t challenge your blindspots. For me, running feels like coming home. It’s a chance to get into a flow state, and I do it just as much for the brain boost as for the way my body feels when I finish. SLT doesn’t do that for me. I have to concentrate. I have to listen for the instructor’s cues. I have to live within discomfort, knowing that the payoff will be longterm and worth it.
Next up, Getting out of your comfort zone can make you better at the thing you’re good at. SLT will make you stronger—plain and simple. As soon as I had more core strength, my running posture got better. Right when the challenge wrapped, I PR’ed a six-mile loop I run all the time. And last of all: Trying something new, can introduce you to something you can’t live without…which I can’t. I’m counting down a 10 pack, and while running is still the Batman in my fitness routine, SLT is the Robin. It’s changed my outlook of cross training and brought balance (in more ways than one) to my life. Super Lunge or bust.
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