Here at the Globe, we’ve adhered to Tom Brady’s strict diet (hold the nightshades). We’ve slept wearing his infrared pajamas. We’ve even watched every “Tom vs. Time” Facebook episode in the name of journalism.
There was only one thing left in our never-ending quest to be like the GOAT: Work out like him.
So when representatives for the new TB12 Performance & Recovery Center in the Back Bay invited the Globe to try a workout similar to the one the Patriots quarterback himself does, there was no way we could refuse.
And that is how, at the crack of dawn on a snowy Tuesday morning, I found myself beside several local fitness bloggers and industry pros, diving glute-first into the off-field workout that TB12 himself espouses.
If you follow Brady at all, you probably are already familiar with the term “pliability,” which focuses on elongating and softening muscles. Brady credits his pliability workouts as the reason he can still lead New England to Super Bowl victory in his 40s.
“Pliability, man,” Brady told reporters in October when asked how he avoids injury. “That’s what I work on every day.”
This seems like a good time to note that the workouts Brady touts were developed with his trainer and TB12 cofounder, Alex Guerrero, whose name has been mired in controversy. Guerrero has faced sanctions by federal regulators for falsely presenting himself as a medical doctor and deceptively promoting nutritional supplements, according to government documents, and has been at the center of a rift within the Patriots organization.
In the TB12 building on Boylston Street, however, Guerrero’s name is recited with reverence, not skepticism. The trainers and nutritionists who work in the facility all seem to whole-heartedly embrace the basic tenets of the TB12 Method, and praise the benefits of pliability, multi-planar workouts, and a plant-heavy diet.
“With football workouts, I feel better at 36 than I did at 21,” said class instructor Rob Velasquez, who has a background in teaching college football. “It’s just how my body is moving with these guys.”
Still, I was apprehensive about what I was getting myself into. How exactly does a pliable workout translate in practice for the masses, anyway?
The answer: A lot of resistance bands, very little weight training, and vibrating foam rollers to loosen muscles.
“There’s a huge focus on foam rolling before and after, since that’s where we develop pliable tissue,” said Matt Denning, a TB12 body coach. He also touted functional, dynamic moves that activate core muscles, as well as using resistance bands to help prevent overloading tissue and joints.
Upon entering the dimly-lit room lined with mirrors and words like “Drive” and “Commitment," we headed to our individual stations, which consisted of a tangle of resistance bands attached to a wall-mounted pole.
At the start of class, instructor Rob urged against performing the usual static stretches — touching fingers to toes, stretching out quads — without any cardio warmup beforehand.
And that is when he broke out the bright orange vibrating foam rollers.
My first thought when I saw the foam rollers: “Oh no. No, no no.” As a runner, I’ll be the first to admit that I should probably be foam rolling more, since it helps relieve muscle soreness. I’ll also be the first to admit that I hate it: I look like a dying fish flopping around, and the pressure and discomfort makes a visit to the dentist seem enjoyable by comparison.
But after a few minutes of rolling out our calves, hamstrings, and glutes on those bad boys (which shake harder than a Chihuahua left out in the cold), I found myself pleasantly surprised — thrilled, even — with the results. My legs felt looser; almost as if I had gotten a deep-tissue massage. The soreness from a recent six-mile run all but evaporated.
“Maybe I should buy one of these,” I found myself thinking as we put them aside. (That’s before I saw the price tag: A whopping $160.)
That’s when Velasquez turned up the music — think Vegas nightclub meets tribal ceremony — and told us to step into one of the resistance bands tethered to the wall. With the band as our cage, we did squats; we did lunges; we ran backwards until we couldn’t anymore. We also used bands with handles on the end, yanking them down from the top of the pole to our sides, and bringing them up rapid-fire for bicep curls.
“Finish like the badasses that you are!” Rob the instructor screamed as we slammed medicine balls into the floor, or used foot gliders to execute mountain gliders. (I responded by laying down a towel on the turf for my soft office-job hands.)
The hour-long session ended with more teeth-chattering foam rolling, much to my delight.
So what did I think overall? As a cardio junkie who gets easily bored with stretching and strength training, I was not expecting to like this class. But I came away with a newfound appreciation for the core beliefs that drive the high-intensity workout: helping take away joint pain while building strength; focusing on core and ab muscles; and safely deepening traditional bodyweight exercises. The point of pliability is to help people live an active lifestyle pain-free. And I really did feel like the tension of the resistance bands helped us execute traditional lunges and squats without suffering through the tight, sore feeling normally associated with weight training.
Lounging around in the gorgeous studio doesn’t hurt, either. While the top floor houses the TB12 store and a smoothie bar, the basement level hosts the group fitness room, a personal training facility, and a spa-like locker room equipped with EO shower products, Living Proof hair sprays, and a small flatscreen TV.
The amenities don’t come cheap, though. A single group class costs $30, although the studio also runs specials and class-package deals. One-on-one training sessions can run approximately $240 for 90 minutes, and a sit-down with a TB12 nutritionist runs about $150 per meeting. The TB12 Center is also on ClassPass, where it ranges from between six to 11 credits ($10 to $18 or so) per class.
So will the TB12 brand catch on? Leaders at the top of the company are planning on it: CEO John Burns last month spoke of plans to expand the number of retail outlets from two to four in 2020.
When asked about class sizes at Back Bay, Velasquez the instructor said they generally skew toward a more intimate size — “having five people in the room is good," he said — but he also pointed out that the loyal following is growing.
“My lunch classes have been very consistent in terms of seeing the same people,” he said. “And once January 1st hits, everyone wants to get fit.”