Raising the barre with The Dailey Method: The cure for one reformed exercise addict

Exercise in the morning before you drink you're coffee. You'll feel better for it. I swear.

What brings on this burst of earnest fitness fever? Many things, culminating in a nagging internal voice and that slow, steady secretary spread creeping across my backside. Of late, the voice has become a cacophony of shouts and I've decided not to capitulate to an office chair-shaped ass. Really, there is something I can do about it. How did I let it get to this -- voices in my head and a square bum?

Let me give you a bit of background... growing up I was an athlete. Training for several hours a day in a variety of sports until field hockey took hold, waking me up at 6am for 3-mile rollerblades to 4-hour practices. High school glory followed (yes, we were glorious. The record speaks for itself and false modesty would be just as ugly here)... state champs and all that. Lean, mean hockey machines, we were. Thus followed what we had been primed for -- university-level hockey (after a summer as a lifeguard, natch), a huge disappointment for me.

At uni, we were met by M, head raisin (and coach at times), what she most resembled, standing at 5-foot nothing, sun parched and withered to a soft, wrinkly finish from lack of food (the fate of life-long anorexia + binge exercise)) and sunscreen. She had a strange way about her. Mentally, she was your twisted drill sergeant, toying with your mind as if it were a mouse caught between her feline paws; escape was futile. Physically, the team was a bit, well, paunchy and indolent. 5 minutes of jogging pre-practice did not a workout make. Where were the hours spent sprinting? The drills? The not standing around like toddlers in centerfield staring at the clouds? Gone, it was, with the high school glory. I began exercising -- aerobics, running, sprinting, lifting, swimming... whatever -- on my own time, becoming a certified personal trainer for a giggle (no way I was doing that professionally, what with my student debt load. I chose journalism instead. Joke's on me). I digress, but it is purposeful: to show just how much of an exercise rat I had been MY ENTIRE LIFE, to my core... up to moving to London in 2004, when I promptly sat down and haven't risen since.

In an instant, the thing that had defined me throughout my life had disappeared as quickly as my toned abs did. Bam! A few good odd jobs (in front of a computer) were followed by a stint in a dysfunctional work relationship (sat in front of a laptop) for a slatternly, self-styled web guru. Whoosh! Fast forward two years and still glued to that 15-inch screen in the start-up era.

Guess where I am right now? Ja, ja. Same place.

Exercise and I have an intimate, entangled history, even though I've been skillfully and successfully giving it the cold shoulder for years, giving my laptop undivided attention instead. Sure, there were and are micro fits and starts of fitness in my life. I did climb Kilimanjaro (although that was a one off)... usually, it's 30 minutes on the recumbent bicycle checking my emails or a set of sit-ups while watching House once every few weeks. Or, if I'm feeling particularly sporty, a rogue and breathless dash to a Pilates studio, arriving 5 minutes after the start of class. None of it habit-forming, like a good addictive substance is meant to be.

The short of my almost phobia for fitness it is that I was burnt out, plain and simple, after so many years of forcing it upon myself. I still cringe at the thought of going for a jog and think I'll go crazy 3 minutes into the weights. The sheer inanity of such repetitious behaviour just terrorises me. I cannot glance in the direction of a treadmill anymore without narrowed eyes.

However, thought of re-entering the world of the non-flabulous has again crossed my mind.

How many women out there must workout every day, loathing every single minute of it but doing it out of obligation or fear of what will happen if they, god forbid, don't!? I did it for years and the backlash was an all-out boycott of the thing I used to do daily, without fail... the single thing that defined me, the thing I was best at.

What could bring on such a stirring after so many years of vehement abstinence? No doubt the years off the wagon helped. Looking back, it was the sort of thing someone like me had to do cold turkey. My relationship with sports and exercise was simply all-encompassing and, frankly, it was always going to be a messy breakup. There was no asking exercise to be friends, happily if somewhat cautiously co-existing in the same realm. No trial separation. I fled and didn't call, didn't leave a note, hoping it would just forget me... Several years later after my first trip to The Dailey Method studio in Chicago's Bucktown and I think we can find a friendly middle ground on which to co-exist, this time without the guilt and self-flagellation.

The Dailey Method is one of those barre classes that's become popular in America and probably at places like Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden, London. It's a hybrid of ballet, Pilates and yoga. After meeting with the Chicago branch owner today, getting a feel for the place and watching a class, I know it's exactly the sort of gentle yet heart-pumping, mind-engaging, muscle-quivering exercise I'm ready to do. It's a different kettle of fish from the sprinting, kicking, punching, passing of yore. Going back to that's just not an option; I'm truly burnt out on it forever. But starting this review with The Dailey Method, I've come to realise that I'm not burnt out on exercise all together -- it's just certain forms of exercise my body will resist with all its force forever more. Thank god we figured that out now and not 40 pounds and many inches down the road!

And with that, I start my month-long trial of The Dailey Method. Two days a week, for an hour each day, I'll make my way to the studio to pulse, plié and pump my way back into an exercise habit. It takes approximately 21 days to form a habit, so I should be good to go -- steady with resolve -- after 30.

The Dailey Method, 1714 North Damen Avenue, Second Floor, Chicago, IL 60622 (773.904.8913).

Watch this space for the rest of the review series for The Dailey Method. PS: They're also opening a small spa. More news on that soon!