WHEN THE WEATHER shifts from spring to summer, I tend to throw myself into my favorite outdoor sports. But I’ve had enough rough transitions into summer activities, i.e. days spent grimacing walking down stairs, to know that some conditioning is helpful before taking on my first 10-mile hike.
Over the years, I’ve learned that year-round conditioning is the best choice compared to my previous pattern of halfhearted treadmill or elliptical work while waiting for snow to melt in the mountains.
It helps to find classes to keep us motivated in the offseason, whatever your favorite outdoor activity might be. I hunted around for some options for spring training and landed on the HardCore class at Club Zum in downtown Seattle.
The class, designed by trainer Joe DeShaw, is based on the principles of physical therapy to include full-body strength training, jumping, agility and balance, which all help your body become more resistant to injury. Sounded like the perfect way to get fit for active summer months.
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The class uses basic fitness equipment such as a step bench, hand weights and a yoga mat; there’s very little else that feels traditional about the class, which was packed.
DeShaw started us off swinging light handweights in big circles to warm up our shoulders and engage our core. Once we got the momentum down, he had us shift our weight from foot-to-foot and added in twists. Flowing in and out of the twists felt amazing.
The structure of the class is straightforward: 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off, with additional options to make things more challenging.
DeShaw led us into sliders, moving side to side and hopping on and off the stepper. We got warm fast. Then he had us down on the floor for an intense variation on pushups while he walked around, checking form. He noticed right away that I tend to puff a bit in my front ribs and collapse in my low back, and instructed me on ways to lengthen my lower back during the pushups.
Much of the cardio work required us to work on agility, such as quick steps on and off the stepper; we ramped it up by hopping instead. DeShaw kept reminding us to land lightly. I alternated between quick steps and hops so I could keep going for the full interval.
He mixed up leg work with variations on pushups. Knowing DeShaw was paying attention to my form, I tried harder.
We did exercises with the light handweights, including one called boxer where we used the handweights, shifted our weight from side to side and punched up into the air, working our shoulders. We also did hops straight up and down, with the same instruction to land lightly on our feet.
The hardest exercises, by far, were the balancing ones. For one, we stood on one leg on the stepper and circled our free foot like we were skateboarding, except the free foot couldn’t touch the floor. If we wanted more intensity, we could lift our leg like we were hurdling.
We did it for 45 seconds, paused, then did it again. On the same leg. My glutes and hips were trembling from the effort, and when DeShaw said new people could stop, I took him up on it.
For another, called acrobat, we were on one leg again on the stepper. We bent our standing leg, then stood back up and extended our arms up and over. You could make it more intense by bending into a lunge before coming back up.
We did it for 45 seconds. Then we did it twice on the same leg, again, before swapping. A regular told me after class that you get used to it. Really? I didn’t believe her.
We did some plank holds to cool down — if you call that cooling down.
The class covered a lot of agility footwork and lateral movement that is key to staying healthy. Rather than focusing on one area of the body, the exercises required whole-body engagement.
It was a tough workout, and a fun one. Summer, I’m ready for you.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.