It still feels like winter here in New York but eternal weather optimists like myself are hoping that soon I’ll be able to shed my layers. To get ready, I signed up at Equinox Fitness to take advantage of their famous group classes. I’ve spent years at various other gyms, tried out fancy studios and even bootcamp, but I’ve found that Equinox classes are some of the most unique and high energy ones I’ve taken.
Last week, I sweated through an amazing session of willPower & grace, which was literally an hour of almost non-stop action combining heart-rate elevating cardio with some serious yoga inspired balancing poses. I had trouble walking down stairs for a few days after, but was so impressed with my experience that I grabbed a few minutes with the founder Stacey Lei Krauss to learn about her fitness philosophy.
Tired of bicep curls and jumping jacks? Gym classes have long gotten a bad rep for being boring, cookie cutter “1 style fits all.” Not to mention, sometimes it can be dangerous when the instructor doesn’t pay attention to individual needs and alignment. willPower & grace is an open class for all levels but provides variations and modifications for almost every pose that keeps everyone from beginner to advanced safe and engaged throughout the hour. So naturally, we wanted to ask her how she makes her classes accessible for everyone.
Stacey Lei Krauss: It is our philosophy at willPower productions to keep our students “safe, interested and involved.” SAFE means appropriate exercises (and movement speed) so that the workout is efficient and effective. Keeping them INTERESTED incorporates flowing movements, interesting progressions, engaging cues, and a fabulous soundtrack. willPower & grace is a fusion class and incorporates yoga, pilates, dance, martial arts, barefoot conditioning. I wanted to develop something fluid and well rounded and trains the entire system: strength, endurance, cardiovascular conditioning, agility, balance,and flexibility. Having them stay INVOLVED means that we don’t just think of ourselves as a class- but as a program. We help them set goals through working out and help them attain them.
And finally, make sure you have PASSIONATE instructor is what will drive the continued success of any class.
The Daily Obsession: So when it comes to a good instructor, what should one look for?
SLK: No one wants to be “yelled at” and it’s important for instructors to remember that students respond well to:
working to their highest potential
hearing their names out loud
being part of the team
and being inspired
Adults are just little kids in big bodies- we want our great work to be hung on the refrigerator. This is how I want my willPower instructors to make people feel.
We took our session from Christine D’Ercole, a fitness director at Equinox and a Master Teacher Trainer for willPower & grace. She taught us to think very simply about testing our own willpower when it came to exercise. ‘If you HAD to, COULD you?’
In willPower & grace, one minute Krauss will have you jumping up and down and punching an imaginary bag and the next doing standing splits. But class starts with something really scary- plank position..for 5 minutes! After enduring that (and 55 more minutes of work!) we wanted to know exactly what benefits we reaped by maintaining this torturous pose through a really long song.
SLK: Beginners can barely hold plank for 30 seconds… so imagine your progress if you can hold for 5 minutes!!! Plank is one of the best full body stabilization, strength and endurance exercises. The plank physically trains: core muscles: abdominals, full back upper-lower, shoulder girdle, hip girdle (incl. glutes), biceps, triceps, quadriceps AND mental WILLPOWER!! We LOVE the plank!!
willPower & Grace classes are taught at Equinox gyms around New York City and at other gyms throughout the country. Look for one in your area through their class finder.