Yoga on steroids

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PiYo workout helps connect the mind and the body, through profuse sweating

Gazette reporter Amy Crofts is trying a different workout each month in an attempt to inspire people to spice up their fitness routine. If you have a workout idea, email: acrofts@stalbert.greatwest.ca

“Do you have a towel?” fitness instructor and personal trainer Keri Bowzaylo asks me before PiYo class on Friday morning at the Sturgeon Valley Athletic Club.

“No, but I don’t sweat that much,” I say confidently. Looking around, I am the youngest person in the room. This Pilates/yoga fusion workout will be a breeze, I say to myself.

Bowzaylo thrusts a towel in my hand without a word. Don’t kid yourself. You’ll need it, reads her expression.

PiYo, designed by American fitness trainer Charlene Johnson, is part of the Beachbody family of home fitness programs (think P90X and INSANITY). The idea behind it is to combine a muscle-sculpting, core-firming Pilates workout with the strength and flexibility advantages of yoga.

The result is a fast-paced, high-intensity, low-impact workout that keeps you moving for the better part of an hour.

When the upbeat music starts up at the beginning of the class, everyone is standing at the top of their mats just like in a regular yoga class. But that’s where the similarities end.

“The warm-up throws everyone off,” says Bowzaylo.

I had to keep my eyes glued to Bowzaylo the whole time as she rapidly progressed through a series of stretches and standing yoga postures with the grapevine dance step mixed in.

The rest of the class was much the same with double time yoga sun salutations, single leg downward dogs, lots of push-ups and crunches. Then there was me floundering, trying to keep up with the rest of the PiYo ladies who had taken the class for the past three weeks.

I looked at the clock and only 20 minutes had passed. I couldn’t even psyche myself up to do another hip dip. I put my head down on the mat more than once in defeat.

“When we started we weren’t moving that fast,” says Bowzaylo, acknowledging that many of the class’ participants have had injuries and surgeries on their knees and hips, limiting their movements.

“We’ve discussed their issues and we slow it down. Once they understand the connecting movements, then they can do it at a pace they’re comfortable with.”

Connecting the movements – going from a double leg downward dog to plank, then single downward dog to plank and finally a “PiYo Flip” (side plank), for example – are the most challenging, says Bowzaylo.

Transitioning between postures at a fast enough pace to make me sweat was what I found most rewarding about the workout.

“It is a unique program and it’s going to explode,” remarks Bowzaylo.

Both classes – Spin PiYo on Wednesdays and regular PiYo on Fridays – already have waitlists. The Sturgeon Valley Athletic Club began offering the class this September.

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St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.