Let your body flow

New multifaceted workout program gains popularity

New multifaceted workout program gains popularity

July 17, 2006|by MEG PARTINGTON

In rooms with dimmed lights, standing atop yoga mats, exercise enthusiasts in the Tri-State area are getting fit from the inside out.

Flowing through moves inspired by tai chi, yoga and Pilates, they are participating in a multifaceted workout created in 1998 in New Zealand and introduced earlier this year at Gold's Gyms in this area.

"This is a proven formula," says Kat Marshalleck, group fitness manager and a personal trainer at Gold's Gym in Hagers-town, in describing Body Flow.

The 55-minute class starts with a tai chi warm-up that Marshalleck says "calms you down, gets you centered and gets you focused."


That is followed by three- to five-minute segments, called tracks, of yoga poses and Pilates moves to strengthen the body's core - the back and abdominal muscles - improve flexibility and balance, followed by 10 minutes of relaxation and meditation.

Marshalleck says the class focuses on the body's foundation, which makes it challenging. And it fits with her philosophy as a trainer.

"I train them from the inside out," she says.

Kathleen Cunningham, group fitness director at Gold's Gym in Martinsburg, W.Va., was introduced to Body Flow last year during a master class and says she fell in love with it, "the way that it allows you to lose the sense of urgency we carry around with us."

The tone is set with dim lighting and soothing music.

"The music is great. You move through it seamlessly," Cunningham says.

Participants are encouraged to take the class barefoot, which "helps you to feel what your body is doing," Marshalleck says.

The use of yoga mats is suggested to cushion class participants' bodies and to prevent slipping on the floor while they hold poses, Marshalleck says. If someone does not like using the mats, as Marshalleck doesn't, that's fine, too.

She says students should wear comfortable clothes - not restrictively tight and not so loose that shirts will fall over a person's head or pants will slide down while doing inverted poses.

The structured, choreographed class can be part of a well-rounded fitness regimen for people of all ages and abilities.

"You work with your own physical capabilities and limitations," Marshalleck says.

Instructors show students how to modify poses and other movements so they can work at easier or harder levels.

Marshalleck has seen significant improvements in class participants' hamstring flexibility and core strength.

Cunningham says she has seen major boosts in participants' balance, watching them progress from barely being able to keep one foot off the floor to holding a one-legged pose for extended periods of time.

"You can improve from one week to the next because you know what's coming," Marshalleck says.

She urges students not to get discouraged if they struggle with moves one day that came easier the week before.

"It so depends on your day," Marshalleck says, explaining that if someone is extremely stressed, he or she might not be able to balance as well as they would on a day when they're feeling more relaxed.

Cunningham says students with back problems have commented that their discomfort was eased after taking the class. One woman was so moved by Body Flow that she brought the instructor flowers from her garden, she says.

A challenge awaits

Hard-core fitness buffs who think the class won't be challenging are in for a surprise.

Marshalleck says she has been in the fitness business for 17 years, lifting weights, doing cardiovascular training, Pilates and yoga, but Body Flow pushes her to new levels.

"I sweat more in a Body Flow class than in anything else," Marshalleck says.

Some area students can attest to Body Flow's ability to push their limits.

Jennifer Merkle, 24, of Waynesboro, Pa., says after class, she aches in places that don't typically bother her after other workouts. She says she is most challenged by the side plank, during which she lies on her side, then lifts her body up on one arm while extending her legs.

Annette East, 26, of Waynesboro, Pa., used to take a class from Marshalleck that combined yoga and Pilates and loved it, she says. She says she likes the strength-building aspects of yoga, something Body Flow also offers.

East says weight training makes her too bulky, but Body Flow keeps her toned.

"I like that it's a set routine," East says. "There's a good transition" from tai chi to yoga to Pilates, she says.

Rachael Melendez, 26, of South Mountain, Pa., likes to try new things.

"I'm pretty much willing to try any of the classes," Melendez says.

"It's all hard," she says with a laugh when asked to describe the most difficult aspect of Body Flow. She struggles with hovering positions in particular, which require her to hold her body up off the floor while balancing on her forearms.

"I think my legs are stronger," Melendez says of improvements she's noticed after taking the class for about two months.

Cunningham also touts the benefits of the meditation portion of Body Flow.

"That's a gift you give yourself," she says of the 10 minutes of quiet reflection.

Fitness history

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