Sept. 30, 2010— -- Jane Fonda, fitness queen of the '70s, invited exercisers to "feel the burn." Now, 21st-century shape-up guru Tracy Anderson urges her followers to get to their "teeniest, tiniest point ever."
Is this progress?
Depends on whom you ask.
To her legion of fans -- nearly 12,000 on Facebook alone -- Anderson is a workout genius who gets results. She's best known for turning big stars into small ones; high profile A-listers like Shakira, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston rave in the press about how she's slimmed and sculpted their bodies to perfection. Gwyneth Paltrow thinks so much of her that she's financed her studios in New York, Los Angeles and London.
"Her method is completely different from anything you've ever tried at the gym or in other classes," says Emily Dunkin, a 24-year-old Anderson devotee from California. "It feels kind of dancer-y and makes you feel strong -- plus it challenges your brain."
Dunkin says the best thing about the "Anderson Method" DVD series is that she doesn't dread the workouts. That's good, because the program requires a lot of time and dedication: at least 90 minutes a day, six days a week, and another 1-2 hours daily for meal prep.
"The commitment is one of the big reasons why it works," Dunkin says. "You can't get into shape by doing 20 minutes of cardio, three times a week. You have to put in the effort to see the changes."
Since she started using the DVDs a year ago, Dunkin says she has lost 15 pounds and now has the flat stomach and defined legs she's always dreamed of.
She also suffered from a shoulder injury that sidelined her for more than two weeks. And, in fact, injuries seem to be epidemic among Anderson's followers. Mixed among the praise and success stories on her Facebook page are questions about Achilles tendon ruptures, muscle soreness and back pain.
Sandra M., a professional in her thirties, joined Anderson's New York studio, but chronic shin splints plagued her from the start. Despite the pain, many of Anderson's instructors encouraged her to push through and keep going.
"There was a lot of incentive to continue because you can't freeze your membership or get your money back," she says.