In my various fitness ventures over the years, I have managed with very little effort and a considerable amount of satisfaction to avoid any endeavors involving the words “boot camp.” And there have been many ventures, from the seven years of kickboxing combined with Pilates starting in high school, to my current dedication (or obsession with, as some friends deem it) to running outdoors, six days a week, rain or shine, in every temperature from 16 degrees up to 95. And also my devotion to Exhale’s Core Fusion classes (introduced to me by our Fashion Market and Accessories Director Karla Martinez), specifically its sweat-inducing Core Sport variety involving weighted rubber kettle balls, resistance bands and a small dose of masochism.
But Tuesday afternoon, I decided to pop my boot camp cherry when I was invited to a special preview of Exhale’s new Core Fusion Boot Camp class, to be co-taught by its creators Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito. Currently available in a DVD form (and in person beginning in May), the latest addition to the Core Fusion family combines vinyasa-paced yoga moves with weights, those lovely core balls and mat abdominal work in an hour of heart acceleration and panting.
Now the main reason I’ve avoided boot camp-style offerings—aside from the obvious concerns about heart failure, fainting and a general inability to function—is that I don’t generally enjoy being yelled at and bullied while attempting to shed pounds. I’m pretty motivated enough already, I’d rather not be verbally punished for showing up.
Core Fusion Boot Camp offered me the burn without the bite. Fred and Elisabeth went around the room, introducing themselves to all of the participants and also presenting the cadre of Exhale instructors there to help monitor the class (including my favorite and regular Core Sport instructor Tyler Ingram). I was more than slightly frightened by the only nine or so girls who had showed up (they were expecting thirty)—this was one of the many instances in which I’d rather forgo personal attention—and quickly grabbed a place in the back.
The class started with Cee-Lo (Gwyneth Paltrow, here I come!) and the familiar Exhale leg lifts warm-up, before a very enthusiastic Fred had us stretching with the core balls, lifting them in lunges and doing lateral moves to warm up our legs. And performing plenty of chair-style positions while swinging the balls that quickly turned from innocuous-looking objects into weapons of mass suffering. Between songs (Lady Gaga was a popular choice, too) Fred be-bopped with surprising fluency.
“I could have a second career in this,” he quipped.
Then Elisabeth took over, taking us through a series of down dogs, up dogs and warrior ones done at such a fast pace and often with a five pound barbell involved (how did I end up with the heaviest possible choice?) that had me dizzy just trying to keep up.
“How are you doing?” she asked, before quickly adding, “No time to think!”
It was on to a slew of jump back series, the hallmark of the session. Think gym class squat thrusts with six-pound core balls, ending in planks, one-armed pushups and interspersed with balancing exercises like leg lifts while holding the ball aloft. Fun times.
The hour-long fiesta ended with some particularly intense ab work, some of it done while holding three-pound dumbbells (as if I needed the extra weight). One girl in front of me just lay down halfway through in resignation as one of the peripheral instructors propped her up from behind.