Be forewarned, the “extreme” in Exhale Spa’s new fitness class Core Fusion Extreme is not hyperbole. The program, offered exclusively at their newly opened Flatiron outpost, is modeled after high-intensity interval training programs that combine series of explosive movements with active recovery periods, and incorporates the fitness studio’s signature focus on form, alignment and core strength.
On a recent evening, I entered the brightly lit wooden studio (wearing sneakers, a requirement) and was confronted with five stations, each of which entailed two sets of two different exercises, meaning you do a circuit of 20 exercises altogether—and then you repeat it! The class was led by Bergen Wheeler, one of Exhale’s master teachers and a co-creator of Extreme, who with infectious enthusiasm and a panther-like grace led our group in a series of warm-ups before dividing us into teams of five to rotate through the stations. A TRX-focused station required slanted pull-ups and one-legged sitting squats, while another demanded standing twisting moves and extended Russian twists, all conducted with a six-pound ball. Another, a personal favorite (do you detect a note of sarcasm?), involved sliding padded discs used, alternatively, for running planks and criss-cross straight-leg push-ups. We did each exercise for an excruciating 40 seconds straight in two alternating sets and were give ten whole seconds to drag ourselves to the next station.
Halfway through my first rotation, I was gasping for air and my legs and arms felt like they had entered a fugue state. Wheeler and her assistant teachers managed to push us along in a way that felt encouraging rather than militant. And they were constantly correcting our form, to prevent any chance of injury.
The last fifteen minutes or so were spent on the floor, doing a rigorous abs series—this class is not for the faint of core—and then a stretching segment, at which point Wheeler offered, “Sweat is the river that runs through your soul.” Be that the case, then my soul runneth over.
Exhale Flatiron, 19 West 21st Street, New York; exhalespa.com