Hip & Healthy: Red Velvet’s a Luscious Workout

Crunch Fitness

When I arrived at Crunch for their new Red Velvet workout class, all I could think of was one big slice of Southern cake. Described as “a fluid dance class that incorporates luxurious red silks suspended from the ceiling and gorgeous choreography that inspires grace, strength, and beauty," Red Velvet already felt indulgent as I walked in to the studio: giant red velvet scarves were being hung from the ceiling, and all I wanted to do was dive in and play with the beautiful fabric.

I immediately lost all interest in dessert as we prepared for the workout with a warm-up that fused dance, yoga and strength training. The last section of the warm-up focused on building ab and arm strength. We moved through a painfully slow push-up series, and after each set, Jennifer, our lithe, upbeat instructor, would give us a brief pause and then energetically yell, "Do it again!"

Then it was time to start using the scarves. The scarves were hung hammock-style on a single hinge, so they made the perfect swing. Jennifer showed us how to loop the fabric around a wrist to create a secure knot that would allow us to perform tricks and learn the poses safely. My initial excitement turned into nerves. Was I in over my head? Sure, the class was small and the participants ranged in experience, but a couple of students had been taking the class since its launch eight weeks ago and were bending forward, backwards and upside down in the fabric like experts. Another had taken Crunch’s Anti-Gravity Class, which also utilizes scarves for a unique yoga practice. I was the only true novice.

Sure enough, during our first few moves, I felt slightly lost. I wrapped the scarf around my wrist, but couldn’t figure out how to release my foot to start the spiral motion. Fortunately, Jennifer was very patient and came around to help me understand the move better, and to tackle it confidently. After a few tries, I was twirling around at a rapid pace, suspended from my wrist with one foot on the floor grounding my pivot.

Then, we were on to flying! To fly, I had to hold the scarf with one arm and then leap from the ground using momentum to keep me soaring through the air in the giant circular motion. Jennifer and some of the more advanced students made flying look effortless and graceful, but I found it a bit challenging because of the arm strength it demanded. Once I got the hang of it, though, I felt like Tinkerbelle on her way to Never Never Land.

We started stringing together more and more tricks to create our routine. I couldn’t believe how fast we were progressing -- less than half an hour into the class, I was twirling around and folding in and out of the scarf in ways I never imagined possible. It wasn’t always easy; Jennifer moved through the steps quickly the first time to accommodate the more experienced students. But after each step, she came over and worked with me until I understood how to weave my body in and out of the silks to create motion.

After we had learned the series of tricks, Jennifer incorporated a few dance movements into our routine. She demonstrated different variations and options, climbing and scaling the scarves so naturally I was completely captivated. Watching her was almost as much fun as doing the movements myself.

When we put all the dance moves and poses together, it occurred to me that the combined tricks and choreography resembled a Cirque de Soeil show. The class is sensual and sexy, but also very accessible. A pole-dancing workout might be too provocative for some, but this one was edgy and trendy without being completely over the top.

I definitely didn’t master this class in one hour. There were times where I was confused, a bit dizzy or just didn’t have the strength to fully execute the movements (my biggest challenge was my lack of upper body strength -- the class was very demanding on the arms). But I was surprised by how much I was able to learn in just one session. Jennifer encouraged me to get over my hesitations, and as I began conquering poses or tricks that seemed impossible at first, I was impressed by how quickly I was able to literally learn the ropes. It’s definitely a class unlike anything I've tried before. And while I didn’t feel like I had burned a ton of calories, I know my muscles got a workout.

Red Velvet is currently only offered at the 59th Street and 2nd Avenue location on Saturdays at noon.  However, the class plans to expand both citywide and nationally. Members and non-members are welcome, and Red Velvet is quite affordable at $15 a class or $25 for two classes.

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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.

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