Treasure Valley's trendy fitness classes keep things interesting

amaier@idahostatesman.comMarch 8, 2014 

  • LOOKING FOR A CLASS?

    Many fitness centers in the Valley offer a variety of these options, so ask your favorite fitness professional for advice. And check out the exercise story in the November/December 2013 issue of Living Healthy for a list of some options.

    Click here to read the story in a magazine flipbook format.

  • FITNESS CLASS GLOSSARY

    Still confused? Here’s a breakdown to help you navigate some of today’s fitness class offerings:

    Aerial or anti-gravity yoga: Yoga performed while suspended from the ceiling in a fabric hammock.

    Booty Barre: A blend of Pilates, dance and yoga for cardio as well as strength and flexibility.

    Bokwa: A dance-based fitness class for the rhythmically challenged. The footwork simply follows the shapes of letters and numbers.

    CrossFit: A trend nationwide, the intense workout combines a broad range of exercise techniques — from running and jumping rope to lunges and squats to weightlifting. The idea is to push yourself to your limits for a full-body workout.

    HIIT: Stands for high-intensity interval training and involves alternating between bursts of heavy exercise and brief recovery periods.

    Insanity: If the name isn’t enough of an explanation, a very intense cardio conditioning program that doesn’t involve weights or equipment — just a choreographed set of moves.

    Les Mills programs: Developed by the New Zealand athlete; new choreography and music are released for each program every three months.

    - BodyAttack: High-intensity workout for cardio, strength and sports conditioning.

    - BodyCombat: High-intensity cardio workout incorporating martial arts.

    - BodyFlow: Low-intensity blend of yoga, tai chi and Pilates for strength and flexibility.

    - BodyJam: A cardio workout hinging on pop music and dance trends.

    - BodyPump: A weightlifting class to develop strength and stability while sculpting muscles.

    - BodyStep: A fat-burning exercise involving various movements on and around an adjustable step.

    MOSSA programs (formerly Body Training Systems):

    - Group Active: An assortment of cardio and strength training, incorporating weights.

    - Group Kick: Cardio inspired by martial arts.

    - Group Power: A weight-training workout.

    - Group Ride: An indoor cycling class.

    Nia: A fusion fitness class that has elements of dance, martial arts and yoga, with an aim toward self-healing and understanding signals from your body.

    Oula: An energetic dance workout set to top 40 hits.

    Paddleboard yoga: Yoga performed on a paddleboard in the water, helping to develop balance.

    PiYo: A blend of pilates and yoga, with some dance choreography and pop music thrown into the mix. It aims to burn calories, work your core and build strength and flexibility.

    Pure Barre: A low-impact, full-body workout with particular focus on burning fat and toning areas such as the arms, hips, thighs, abs and glutes. It involves small, repetitive motions with the assistance of a ballet barre.

    TRX: A workout involving suspension equipment — essentially straps hanging from the ceiling — to tone your body and develop core strength.

    Zumba: The official motto is “Ditch the workout, join the party,” and the program combines a range of dance sensibilities and sets them to Latin music and other exotic rhythms.

    - Zumba Gold: Zumba geared toward older participants, with modified moves.

    - Zumba Sentao: Zumba that incorporates a chair into the workout.

If you haven’t glanced at an exercise class lineup since the age of step aerobics and neon scrunchies, if you’ve always stuck to a treadmill in the corner to knock out your cardio for the day, or if you’re one of the many people who is just getting reacquainted with the concept of a gym, the lingo tossed around casually by trainers and sparkly-eyed fitness-trend adherents can quickly become overwhelming.

Should you gear up for BodyPump or BodyJam or are you more of a BodyFlow type of person? Do you want to tag along on this PiYo or Oula or Bokwa class? Have you tried barre yet? Why don’t you just get out on that paddleboard and get into the plank position?

Don’t be intimidated just yet.

Ask virtually any trainer and he or she will insist that there’s something here for everyone — and that many of these recently popular workout programs are designed to cater to a range of ages and ability levels.

They’re also geared to combat the monotony of the traditional workout in an era of limited time and limited attention spans. If there’s a unifying thread among the roster of offerings, it’s the quest to keep things exciting — be it through dance moves, creative blends of multiple types of workouts, or at least some good music.

“I think people are attracted to the dance-based workouts because it doesn’t really feel like working out,” said Kathi MacNaughton, a Zumba instructor who teaches at Body & Soul Fitness on Ustick Road. “It’s not tedious, it’s fun to kind of get lost in the music and you just feel like you’re having a party rather than going and doing calisthenics or feeling like you have to be doing push-ups or really tough stuff in order to burn calories.”

There are many ways to go if you feel that kind of workout is for you. The ever-popular Zumba — set to fast Latin and international rhythms — is going strong in the Valley. Boise Parks and Recreation even offers Zumba classes for wheelchair users on Wednesdays.

“It’s like taking a trip around the world, kind of, doing all the different rhythms from all the different countries,” said MacNaughton, who focuses on Zumba Gold — a variant geared toward older adults.

If you’d like to spend your workout jamming to top 40 hits, consider Oula.

Developed by a University of Montana graduate (the name is inspired by the city of Missoula), it brands itself as “dancemania for the soul” and involves energetic music selections and nearly constant dancing.

But if you’ve never had much rhythm, Bokwa might be a good fit for you. Still relatively new in the Boise area, it’s a form of dance fitness in which participants essentially follow the shapes of letters and numbers with their feet to get moving.

MacNaughton began teaching Bokwa classes last year.

“It’s not hard — you can do it at any level,” she said. “It appeals to all ages and both sexes and I really like that. It’s accessible and fun and it burns a lot of calories.”

Barre classes, growing in number in the Treasure Valley, take their inspiration from ballet — but have a less overt connection to dance.

In fact, Nina Banducci, owner of Pure Barre on Broadway Avenue in Boise, explains that the workout participants will experience at her studio is “not a dance class at all.” It involves a series of small, repetitive movements occasionally aided by the use of a ballet barre for support. It’s aimed at toning the thighs, abs, arms and glutes. Slightly more expensive than the average group fitness class — the attention you get in the studio is more in line with personal training, Banducci said — and instructors say it’s possible to see results after eight classes.

“It does what it promises — it gives you a long, lean, toned body,” Banducci said.

Other businesses in Boise, including The Barre on West State Street and Ophidia Studio at Vista Avenue and Kootenai Street, also bill their classes as targeting areas of particular concern to women — one program, for example, is called Booty Barre.

You will find yet another dance-related opportunity in the series of “Body”-titled fitness classes developed by New Zealand athlete (and former Auckland mayor) Les Mills. BodyJam, available at the Downtown YMCA, is inspired by pop music and its associated dance trends. Though a high-energy cardio workout, it is not as intense as some of Les Mills’ other offerings, such as the sports conditioning-inspired BodyAttack or the martial arts-inspired BodyCombat. Those are available at Axiom locations in the Treasure Valley.

If you like the idea behind the Les Mills programs but think they sound like too much for you, an alternative set developed by a company called MOSSA and available at the West Boise YMCA, on Discovery Place off of Chinden Boulevard, might be more your speed. They include Group Kick, a mix of martial arts and boxing; Group Power, which utilizes barbells; and Group Ride, a spinning class.

If, however, you’re ready to stretch your fitness boundaries, you may find yourself joining the expanding group of people nationwide who have developed a CrossFit addiction. The high-intensity workout involves a variety of conditioning and weight-lifting exercises.

“It pushes your body to the limit,” said Christine Border, who teaches classes in the West Y’s new CrossFit studio, which opened in January. “You will be spent.”

But you’ll do it at your own speed. At a beginners’ CrossFit class one Friday, participants started out in a circle, learning the elements of the day’s shoulder workout before branching out to their own corners of the newly renovated space, making their way through a prescribed set of rotations as Border took note of individual times. This way, she explained, they can each track their own progress.

“You think you’re in good shape until you do a CrossFit class,” she promises.

But perhaps you’re looking to get something different out of your workout. That could be said for many of the women who arrived for a Nia class at a studio called The Dojo tucked on North 10th Street in Boise one Thursday night.

“It’s so much more than just exercise — it really speaks to my soul,” said Jacqueline Kennedy, a Nia instructor in attendance.

Nia has roots back to the 1980s, though it’s never been propelled by the sort of marketing engine other fitness programs have, explains Britta von Tagen, who runs The Dojo and teaches Nia at a variety of locations. She first encountered the fusion of dance, martial arts and self-healing in 1995, initially skeptical that she was walking into a “hippie freak show.” But she was quickly taken by the energy of it.

So was Shannon Courtney, one of von Tagen’s students who only recently discovered Nia and quickly became a convert, arriving day after day for classes. Recovering from a back injury and readjusting to walking and moving, she was drawn to the class because it’s not heavy on impact.

“It works for everyone,” she said.

Yoga and Pilates adherents — and anyone else who wants to improve their strength, flexibility and balance — also have opportunities to upgrade their workout. PiYo classes, for example, blend the two practices, set it all at a rapid pace and, of course, add some energizing music.

Or you can try a change of scenery — taking your yoga routine to yards of fabric hanging from the ceiling or, perhaps, a paddleboard. The latter practice has only been around the past five years or so, gaining traction in the Valley even more recently, says West Y aquatics director Mike Kapuscinski.

Since the start of the year, the Y has partnered with Idaho River Sports to offer paddleboard yoga in the warmth of the gym’s aquatic center on Sunday mornings — a chance for newcomers to give it a go and enthusiasts to get their fix during a time of year when they can’t hit the open waters.

It’s been a soft launch, said YMCA Treasure Valley executive director Shane Riffle, but the gym expects to add more classes.

So how hard is it?

“It was easier than I thought it was going be,” said newcomer Greg Hill.

Allison Maier worked as a reporter in Montana and New York before joining the Idaho Statesman, her hometown newspaper, as a copy editor.

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