Melissa White and Ashley Watt became friends while both working as instructors at the same exercise studio. Sharing a mutual interest in strength and flexibility techniques, they discovered The Bar Method program and immediately embraced the curriculum, determined to start their own studio together. It’s immediate success proves the value of the adage “do what you love, love what you do.” Clients thrive on the infectious enthusiasm of this dynamic duo.
How did you discover The Bar Method? Were you both dancers?
Melissa: I danced as a child, then cheered until I was about 15, and loved it so much that I ended up coaching competitive cheerleading. I became a speech therapist, but continued to teach exercise classes. I discovered Bar Method through a friend who had recently moved from New Jersey. She knew I loved barre-based classes and because Bar Method has such a strong physical therapy influence, thought I would find it interesting. I did some research on the internet, bought the dvd’s, and never looked back.
Ashley: Melissa and I were both teaching classes at the same exercise studio when she introduced me to Bar Method. Once I took my first class, I was hooked. I loved the mind-body connection that I felt and how much knowledge the instructor had about all of the positions and muscles. I was not a dancer. I played sports my whole life, so flexibility was not a strong suit of mine, but this program has improved that so much.
Tell us how The Bar Method works. What makes this type of workout so different?
Ashley: The Bar Method targets the muscles playing the greatest role in body change, then keeps these muscles working intensely and safely long enough for them to change. It then intensely stretches each muscle worked to make it look and feel longer, and more graceful.
Melissa: Bar Method has a very specific structure to the class. Class sections alternate between working the front and back of the body so students are toning one side while elongating the other. The most aerobic exercises occur in the second half of class when students are fully warmed-up and burning body fat. These design elements provide exceptional results by multiplying the benefits from each exercise. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want every minute of their workout to mean something?
What are the benefits of incorporating The Bar Method into your routine and what changes do you most commonly see in those that become devotees.
Ashley: My whole daily routine is so much better and more productive after I take class. When I leave a Bar Method class, I leave feeling empowered. Any stress that I entered the class with seems to disappear. I know that sounds weird, but it really does! I have what we call “the Bar Method high.”
Melissa: The Bar Method is unique in that it truly changes the shape of your body. You can lift your seat, create shape to your arms, and truly flatten your abs. This in its own right makes Bar Method a “go to” workout for those who want to strengthen and elongate their bodies. In addition to all of those great things, we pride ourselves on offering a place that welcomes everyone, that is full of joy, and leaves you with an overall feeling of well being. It’s just a wonderful lifestyle.
When you decided to open a studio yourselves and what did that process entail?
Ashley: Once we knew we wanted to work together, we tried some classes in Nashville and met their owner Carrie, who was just so amazing and helpful. We then flew to San Francisco for an audition. Once we were approved, the whole training process started! We went back to San Francisco for training, which was super fun but very intense. Once we decided our location, the process kind of flew by. It didn’t feel like it while you were in the middle of it, but looking back, it really just flew! Ha! I guess that is how life is though! It was so much fun though and I wouldn’t want to have gone through it all without Melissa.
Melissa: Ashley and I knew we wanted to go into business together. We had the same vision for the environment we wanted to create for our clients, and how we wanted to reflect our life priorities through our business. When we found Bar Method, and met Burr Leonard and the rest of the headquarter staff, we knew this was the place to cultivate our dream. We thankfully have a warm and supportive corporate staff whom have guided us through the process of opening a small business, and still support us a we grow and learn.
What’s been your best professional advice? Who are your mentors?
Ashley: One of the best has been to remind myself everyday why I am doing this. Everyday has its challenges and some days seem worse than others, but it’s always important to remember what makes you get up each day and keep going. For me, it’s the women that come in every day and leave feeling empowered and strong. It’s those women that come and are seeing and feeling the results. The ones that had injuries and since coming to Bar Method, have become stronger. I’m surrounded by so many people who encourage me — but, my dad, mom, sister, and my fiancé Mike have really been my ideal support team!
Melissa: I think Ashley and I can both say we have been truly blessed with amazing families mentoring us through this adventure. A dear friend of mine, Diane Godby, once offered her father’s wisdom: ‘Anything can be changed. If you don’t like it you can always change it.’ That statement resonates with me, giving me courage to try new things. Life offers many opportunities, why not go for it? My husband, Mark White, is a wealth of knowledge for me and my father has also been instrumental in guiding me towards an understanding of the financial health of a business, and how to nurture that. In addition, we have an incredible family of Bar Method owners across the nation. We communicate frequently and help each other.
What’s the best part of owning the studio?
Ashley: I feel very blessed to have such an amazing business partner as Melissa. Our instructors are such a joy to work with and I learn a lot from them as well. I would have to say though the best part is hearing those success stories from our clients. It may sound cliché, but its like a little community and I love it! One of the things Bar Method prides itself on is knowing each client by name. We know their fitness goals and we strive to help them achieve those goals everyday. Just being there, able to help them with encouragement and guidance, to see them achieve their success and share that with them is just amazing! They encourage us everyday and don’t even know it.
Melissa: One of the most valuable to me is the partnership I have forged with Ashley. She will be a friend for life, and those don’t come along everyday! I love having the freedom to create the working environment Ashley and I want. At the heart of all, I love that we are experiencing this with our clients. We see women come in from a stressful day, and walk out with a smile, a sigh, a laugh with friend they’ve made at the studio. It’s invaluable.
Who would you love to get into your studio and see become a Bar Method groupie?
Ashley: I’m kind of ashamed to admit but I may be a slight movie set stalker. With all of the filming in the Atlanta area, I would love to get some of the actresses or actors into the studio for some classes. However, my dream would be to have either Beyonce or my girl crush, Emma Stone come take class. I probably would freeze and not be able to get through class. I always challenge my clients to channel their inner Beyonce, so it would be pretty crazy and amazing to have her in class. Ha! (I can dream, can’t I?)
Melissa: Well, Bar Method is a not so well kept secret with Hollywood. We have many LA celebrities that are avid Bar Method fans. Since Atlanta is quickly becoming the “go-to” city for film, television, and music, I’d love to see my favorites walk through the door. Who wouldn’t love a little glimpse of Nina Dobrev or Ian Someholder at the bar? And of course, our favorites from The Walking Dead. I mean we all know Michonne and Rick could kick some serious zombie booty with a Bar Method body!
What are your go-to places in Atlanta? Restaurants, shopping, exploring…
Ashley: Definitely the Virginia Highlands/Inman Park area. My perfect day would be to go have breakfast at Belly General Store in Virginia Highlands, go for a run/walk on the beltline (maybe get crazy and do some Bar Method in the park), possibly do some shopping around Little Five Points or Highlands, sit outside and grab lunch at Pure Taqueria (I have an obsession with Mexican food), do some antique browsing at Paris on Ponce, for dinner (I like to eat), either The Optimist, Abattoir, or Antico. To finish the day, I would go get a glass of wine at Krog Bar, Proof and Provision, or go to Ormsbys.
Melissa: Well, I live in East Cobb with my 3 girls and my husband, so most of our time is spent near home. I love Historic Roswell and dining outside at Nine Street Kitchen, and getting dessert at Kelly’s Cakes upstairs from Provisions. Ashley took to me to Two Urban Licks in town … amazing!!! I live vicariously through Ashley in the city! Ha! Mark and I are huge flea market and antique shoppers so most of our shopping is done at Scott’s Antique Mart. We meet incredible furniture makers and craftsmen there whom we now know when we go in. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning. I honestly love sitting out on my back porch, in our porch swing, and watching the girls swim.
If we snuck in your bedroom right now, what might we find on your bedside table?
Ashley: One of my favorite lamps is on my bedside table. It looks like an antique and I have had it by my bed since I was in college. I’m sad to say that you would find 2 alarm clocks because I have the hardest time waking up in the morning – I’m not the loveliest of morning people. You would also find my Bible and devotional book as well as a pic of me and my fiancé, Mike, that he gave me for Christmas this year!
Melissa: Haha … whoa, way more items than should be on there! A lamp, my Bar Method Manual (it’s very extensive), a bottle of water, my eye glasses, TV remotes, and the latest edition of The Knot. Ashley is getting married in May, and I am planning a bridal shower for her. The Knot has been a great resource for me!
Other than faith, family, and friends, what are 3 things without which you couldn’t live?
Ashley : That is a tough question! I would say:
- My dog Bailey! She is my best little friend. I got bailey when I graduated from college. She is a black yorkie poo. She is also known as our “Bar Method mascot.” I am a big dog person. I have been known to make people pull the car over if there is a dog on the side of the road, and I will not stop until I find their owner or I just take them in myself … or give them to my parents!
- Good food and wine. Mike and I both are big foodies. We love trying new places around town.
- Pinterest. Its so addicting and silly, but I love it cause I feel like I can zone out and just create my “dream house” or my “wish list closet.”
- The Beach, more specifically Scenic Route 30A in South Walton, Florida. It is home to Rosemary Beach, Watercolor, Seaside, and several seaside towns. We go down as often as possible!
- Good Wine. Nothing signals fun and good times more than a good, buttery Chardonnay, except maybe a glass of bubbly.
- Laughter. I love having a good belly laugh, or hearing others laugh. My kids laughing, or all of us laughing together. Nothing better, couldn’t live without it!
Thank you Bar Method ladies. Your fresh, fun approach could inspire anyone to give this a try!
And thanks again to our FACES photographer, Cat Maxwell, for the beautiful pictures that capture their spirit. http://catmaxphotography.com