There are times when I need a kick-butt workout. The day after a long weekend of indulgence is one of those times. However, I wasn’t in the mood for getting whipped into shape in a boot-camp-style workout. Sometimes being yelled at and tortured just isn’t my thing; I like to enjoy the burn of a good workout as much as possible. Enter Core Fusion Cardio.
After sticking to Exhale’s original Core Fusion workout, I was excited to discover that their cardio variation was just as good, maybe better!
My class started out like any other, I entered the soothing, window-lined studio at the Gramercy location and set up my mat in a spot where I could see the mirror to check my form. Then I grabbed a set of 3- and 4-pound weights. This seemed harmless, but the instructor warned that I might want a set of 1- or 2-pounders too! Wow, what would we be doing where one little pound would be a challenge?
The instructor gave an overview of the foundational move of the class; a side-bend sun salutation that moved quickly into a series of mountain climbers. What we would be doing was a lot of mountain climbers! The class structure alternated four rounds of the sun salutation mountain climbers combo with a series of strength exercises targeting a specific muscle group.
Before I could get nervous, the room filled with music and energy, and my nerves turned to excitement. We went through a quick warm-up of shoulder rolls and plie squats before moving into the sun salutation mountain climber combo. By the last round of mountain climbers, my arms were burning and it was all I could do to stay in plank position.
From there we moved into a side plank to push up series, again blending strength and yoga seamlessly. All of the strength exercises had a touch of cardio and always engaged the core. We alternated the mountain climbers with lunges, squats, kickboxing and speed skating combinations, all utilizing the weights to activate the arm muscles. Every time I tried to bump it up to the 3-pound weights, I was soon wishing I hadn’t. The small isometric movements really challenge the arm muscles, especially when the rest of your body is engaged in a lunge or squat.
Our last standing set was leg work, which was very similar to the work we would do at the barre in Core Fusion, but this time we had to use or core and balance to maintain position as we lifted one leg behind us and to the side in Warrior Three.
Finally we sat on the mat to finish with ab work in the curl position -- lying on the mat with the shoulder blades far enough off the ground to challenge the abdominals. This last set took everything I had left. It was where I felt the most intense burn and struggled to stay in V form for the 10 second holds. But after less than 10 minutes of killer core work, we were done. After 55 minutes straight of full body cardio and strength, we finally stopped and stretched. As we finished, I was spent. I knew I had gotten a complete workout and could guiltlessly lie on the couch for the rest of the night if I wanted.
Core Fusion Cardio is a great combination of yoga, cardio and strength. The nonstop pace of the class makes it challenging. Unlike most barre classes, there are no breaks or work on the barre or floor for you to catch your breath. This challenges your balance and your abs as you move through the strength sets in standing, lunge or plank position. The cardio comes into play with not only the mountain climbers, but also in the strength exercises which move quickly and often involve lunging, squatting and pulsing.
As the strength segments are shorter, I never got to the point of fatigue where my muscles were shaking, as I often do in the regular Core Fusion class, but by the end I felt like each muscle group had been sufficiently attacked. Exhale’s cardio class may quickly become my favorite, as it’s very rare to find a class that gives you a full body cardio and strength workout in such an enjoyable, dynamic format.
Core Fusion is offered at Exhale Studios (exhalespa.com) through the city.
Melissa is a NYC resident and workout junkie. She keeps motivated to stay fit and active by trying out new workout classes, signing up for races, and keeping an eye out for a fun fitness challenge. She hopes to complete the New York City Marathon for the second time in 2011. Read more about her healthy adventures in New York City at her blog fitnessnyc.wordpress.com.