A New Year, a Leaner You
by Josephine Cusumano

Now that the ball has dropped and the calendar pages have turned, it’s time to make good on those New Year’s resolutions. More often than not, fitness and dieting are among the most popular resolutions, as evident by local gyms seeing a spike in memberships.

But before you sign up or choose a new diet, we spoke with several local fitness experts about their most unique class offerings that are more than just a weight-loss plan: they help build a healthier body. We’re talking about better posture, leaner muscles, core stability and increased energy.

Our comprehensive list breaks down what to expect with each class and just what kind of shape you should be in before signing up. Fair warning: these classes aren’t your typical workouts. They’re built for the determined and most importantly, those who want to have fun.

Carrie Felinczak, Co-Owner and Studio Director of Kaya Aerial Yoga

What Is It? This practice takes traditional yoga to new heights—literally—by utilizing an aerial hammock, much like you would use a block, blankets or straps. It’s suspended from the ceiling and aids by relieving about 20-80 percent of body weight to allow for rapid increase in flexibility and balance, in addition to core strengthening.

What are the benefits? “With the support of the hammock, we’re able to get people into more advanced yoga movements and poses that might [have] take them years to obtain in a floor practice. ... It allows you to get a really deep stretch. ... The wraps we use creates a lymphatic massage in parts of the body, [which facilitates in detoxing]. It helps reduce inflammation throughout the body—especially around the joints. The inversions allow the spine to essentially start decompressing, [giving] more space between the vertebral discs and increasing the hydration through the spine.”

What shape do I need to be in? Anybody can do it—even if you’re afraid of heights, since the hammocks in less advanced classes hangs either low to the ground or no higher than your hip height. “We have an intro class where we introduce you to all the wraps and basic poses. If you haven’t worked out for years, we recommend to start with one gentle class or come in for some privates. If you’re in any sort of decent shape, an intro class is perfect.”

Tip: It’s always crucial to let instructors know of pre-existing injuries in order to modify the practice to accommodate your needs, as well as help strengthen the area around the injury.

Kristin McNerney-Posner, Group Exercise Director at Bala Cynwd’s AFC Fitness

What Is It? AFC Fitness’ Aqua Zumba brings the Latin dance workout underwater utilizing the same fitness program as regular Zumba. It features cardio, balance, core workout and toning—not to mention those high kicks—all set against lively Latin music.

What are the benefits? “There is less impact on your joints ... so you can really let loose. Water creates natural resistance, which means every step is more challenging and helps tone your muscles. It’s fun and upbeat.”

What shape do I need to be in? “[It’s] designed to fit all levels. Our instructors will provide modifications for everyone. If a person is new or has an injury, I recommend introducing themselves to the instructor and letting him/her know it is the their first time or that they have an injury.”
Bala Cynwyd

Nicole Artman, Class Coordinator and Personal Trainer at Huntingdon Valley’s Crunch

What Is It? Otherwise known as Crunch’s Step 360-3X, it uses your body weight and a Bosu apparatus, which is a cross between a core board and a stability ball. The signature formula includes three 60-second work efforts grouped in rounds featuring cardio-based movements from burpees, jump overs, step-ups to air squats.

What are the benefits? The class is an integrated balance training program, which gets your heart rate up and burns calories. “It offers great cardiovascular results as well as weight loss for those who are trying to lean out.”

What shape do I need to be in? “Each class is geared toward everyone. We welcome beginners … to experts in every class. Our instructors are trained to make each class difficult, and more importantly fun, for everyone in their own way using modifications. We’ve found having a full range of abilities in each class helps push and motivate everyone.”
Huntingdon Valley

Hilary Ryan, Owner and Instructor of Plank Studio

What Is It? Otherwise known as “Pilates on steroids,” Plank mixes the Pilates practice with cardio and strength training using a MegaFormer—Pennsylvania’s first studio of its kind. The machine features extra straps for hands and feet and a multitude of resistance cables used to work on arms, obliques, abs and core. Each class runs 50 minutes—burning anywhere between 500 and 700 calories—and can be followed by Plank’s new hour-long yoga session.

What are the benefits? “It's low impact and high cardio, which means we’ve taken away all of the pounding on the joints that you’re going to see when you’re going for a run, in CrossFit or in a boot camp. ...We’re just working on trimming muscles and fine-tuning them and that's all done through a series of resistance cables that we have on the machine. ... It’s a great place to really strengthen the center of their body. Most importantly, [improve] your posture and the length of your body … and [increase] mobility and flexibility.”

What shape do I need to be in? “All of our classes cater to all levels. We also offer an intro class free to clients. We take it nice and slow, go through all the traditional exercises, make sure they’re comfortable on the machine, know where everything is in the studio, what they’re expected of during class. ... We’re going to be able to cater to each and every need of a client, even in a 10 person group class.”

Colleen Ferrall, Co-Owner and Studio Manager of Doylestown/Warrington’s Orangetheory Fitness

What Is it? Orangetheory Fitness’ group strength and cardiovascular training class uses body-weight exercises utilizing equipment ranging from treadmills, rowing machines,TRX suspension training to free weights. It’s also a heart rate-monitored training program, which includes a warm up, workout and a cool down led by a skilled personal trainer.

What are the benefits? It’s scientifically designed to achieve max calorie burn, with an average burn of 900 calories including extra calorie burn up to 36 hours post-workout. “You are more likely to get a great workout and better results from the well-rounded movements and pace direction you get in a group setting. The session motivates each other to pick up the pace and reach beyond plateaus. People who workout in groups stick to their goals more consistently than those that workout alone.”

What shape do I need to be in? Each workout can be customized for a particular fitness level and since it’s based on individual heart rates, it’s personalized. “You’ll get the energy of a group workout with the attention of an experienced personal coach. Our coaches are knowledgeable, encouraging and are committed to helping meet your fitness goals. The workout can be customized if you have any injuries.”
Doylestown and Warrington

Photo by Young Pioneers Media

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life Magazine, January, 2017.