I have to admit I am a little biased when it comes to Core Fusion. While I’ve tried quite a few barre classes since, this is the one I've taken religiously for the last year and a half at Exhale Spa.
Full disclosure: I was extended an opportunity to do a Core Fusion Challenge in January 2010. In exchange for the complimentary month, I had to take classes at Exhale Spa four to five times a week, documenting the experience on my website, Dori’s Shiny Blog, and tracking my results.
I loved that month so much that it turned into two. And after those two free months were complete, I loved the changes so much, both physical and mental, that I joined as a member myself.
Core Fusion is a full-body strengthening and toning class at Exhale locations nationwide. They use small isometric movements to work multiple muscle groups. Aside from the upper-body section, which uses light dumbbells, the only resistance you use in Core Fusion is your own body weight.
The class generally starts with push-ups and planks before diving into the weights section – bicep curls, lat pull-downs, tricep kickbacks and many more. From there is the most intense portion (read: It hurts. A lot.): the thighs section, which involves low pulsing plies, chair positions and squats. Glutes includes tiny lifts of the leg which is extended behind you in varying positions to target the behind, and then there is a long abdominal portion. This consists of flat back and round back exercises under the barre, and then dives into Core Fusion’s signature curl section. Imagine holding the top of a crunch for a very, very long time.
I know there are so many barre classes in our city these days. Core Fusion is different for a few reasons, most notably the following:
- Focus on form: Exercises are not performed to get in as many reps as possible, but rather to stress proper alignment. Regulars to Core Fusion classes and DVDs will be familiar with the phrase “Ears over shoulders over hips over knees.” The teachers, who all experience an extensive 16-week training program, offer hands-on correction throughout class. I've been able to bring the knowledge on form I learned here to other workouts.
- Strength in stillness: This is another phrase you will often hear in class. Part of what makes Core Fusion so challenging is holding positions at their most difficult point, the idea being that you gain strength -- physical and mental -- from holding still when it is uncomfortable. And it works. Not only will your thighs get strong and toned from holding that plie an extra five seconds, but you gain a stamina that holds you up in difficult situations you encounter in your personal life. Holding that pose when all you want to do is stand up and stop your legs from shaking is a mental exercise as much as a physical one; it only makes sense that you improve in both aspects of your life as a result. Additionally, focusing all my resources on this one task frees my mind from its constant chatter, and I lay in savasana at the end of class with a clear head, without the stress I felt at the beginning of the hour.
After each section is complete, you stretch that body part, which Exhale co-founders, husband and wife Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Halfpapp, say helps to lengthen muscles and prevent bulkiness.
If you take Core Fusion regularly, you see improvement and results quickly. When I started Core Fusion, I would collapse during the plank exercise, but within just two weeks, I was holding the plank for the entire 90 seconds. At first I was unable to do a single full-form push-up; now, I would never consider doing push-ups on my knees. I started with light weights and now use heavier weights. Being strong encompasses so much more than a toned body -- you will get both from Core Fusion.
Some people prefer competitor barre classes because they incorporate more of a cardio element. I find that for Exhale's price (the monthly rate is less than other similar classes in New York City), taking Core Fusion along with some of their faster-paced classes is a great balance. And I saw drastic changes even before I incorporated most of their other classes. When I finished my first month of the challenge to phenomenal results, Core Fusion Cardio hadn’t even been invented yet!
There are five Exhale locations in New York City and one in the Hamptons, but if you aren’t near one or find the price too high, there are wonderful at-home options, including a slew of Core Fusion DVDs as well as live streaming full-length classes on YogaVibes (I even appear in one!). And there is an incredible newcomer deal: you can get an unlimited week of classes at Exhale -- including all Core Fusion and yoga varieties -- for $40. This offer is outstanding considering a single class is typically $35 (which goes down in packages and monthly memberships).
I credit this class with teaching me to love exercise. And while my own fitness routine has evolved since that fateful Core Fusion Challenge, I continue to incorporate Core Fusion into my life because I crave that intensity and I crave that peace.
Dori Manela is a writer, content manager and social media consultant. Raised in Queens, Dori now lives in Manhattan, taking as many exercise classes in NYC as possible in search of the perfect workout. She started Dori's Shiny Blog in November 2007. As her passion for fitness grew, DSB turned into a health & fitness blog. With the help of her favorite social networking site Twitter, Dori has connected with other bloggers, boutique fitness studios, companies and readers to share her love of working out.