Portland Fit Fix: Getting Intense at Firebrand Sports

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Firebrand Sports founder Sara Stimac likes to say her studio’s not just in the business of changing bodies; it’s in the business of changing lives.

One rainy afternoon a few years back, she and her parents, John and Linda, sat down with a white board, a bottle of wine and a dream to do something different in the world of fitness. What resulted is their flagship studio in Portland’s Pearl District, which offers all-in-one workouts that fuse cardio, strength training, flexibility, endurance and core into its signature group fitness classes, Pyrolates and FireBarre.

I recently took Stimac up on an offer to come in and try one of her Pyrolates classes, and…well, this review will be pretty short since I can sum up the experience in just a few sentences…

What I expected: Look! The Victoria’s Secret models are doing it! A) What package can I buy to look like one of them, and B) How hard can this be??

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What I got: (Inaudible whimpering)

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Scared yet?

Nope? Well, then the first thing you need to know is that you’re going to get well-acquainted with the Megaformer, a 10-foot-long, 250-pound Medieval-torture-device-looking contraption that has been described as a traditional Pilates Reformer machine on steroids.

Students are encouraged to wear form-fitting clothing that won’t get caught in the machine. Grippy socks are mandatory — not only for hygiene reasons, but also to give you some traction when you’re strapped into the device and looking for some additional leverage when performing certain moves.

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Next, you’ll also get a crash course in the high-intensity-yet-zero-impact Lagree Fitness method (Firebrand is the first and only studio in Oregon licensed to offer it), which strengthens and elongates the muscles without adding bulk, improves endurance, jump-starts the metabolism, burns fat and increases flexibility.

Lagree was founded on the principle that you don’t need more time to workout; you simply need more intensity in the workout. The method claims to combine up to five hours of traditional exercise into one (very tough!) 50-minute class.

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Finally, expect to get your butt kicked — surely, swiftly and out of your comfort zone. You’ll do some familiar poses, such as planks, pikes, squats and lunges, but in a very controlled manner with the addition of small, yet super-subtle movements using weighted pulleys and/or a spring-loaded board.

Inevitably during each segment, I found myself slumping over, my body involuntarily shaking and crying, “Uncle!” as Stimac cheerily circled around the room making form corrections. And right as I was about to collapse, she’d ask us to start pulsing up and down in one-inch increments. Cue full-body meltdown mode.

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Your brain will be screaming at you to stop, and your muscles will be shuddering from failure. But if you take the recommended three classes per week, Stimac says you can expect a stronger, leaner, tighter frame that’s more flexible and resistant to injury.

For the faint of heart? Maybe not. But if you’re short on time and want a results-based workout, Stimac promises to make your knees buckle and keep you coming back for more!

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Wanna feel the burn? First-timers can take a class for $15, and the regular drop-in rate is $30. For more information, visit FirebrandSports.com.

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