TORONTO — Maintaining a consistent exercise regimen is undoubtedly beneficial for your body, but pounding through the same routine week after week will likely leave some feeling stuck in a workout rut.
Individuals looking to seize a new challenge don’t need to feel confined to trying one type of new exercise at a time — provided they don’t mind a little multi-tasking.
Fitness fusion is at the heart of two separate and distinctive homegrown fitness programs, which combine one or more exercise elements or disciplines into the workout mix.
And in the case of Spynga and Bellyfit, each is centred around a holistic approach to the fitness experience developed to strengthen all aspects of the body — physical, mental and spiritual.
Childhood friends Sari Nisker and Casey Soer are co-founders of Spynga, a Toronto cycling and yoga studio.
Soer, a cyclist, said she and Nisker, a yogi, started to see a lot of ways cycling and yoga could balance each other, mentally and physically, after trying their respective practices. The pair eventually put theory into practice with the creation of their signature Spynga Flow class.
The distinction of cycling in Spynga Flow from standard spinning fare is evident as soon as the hour-long class gets underway.
With hands clasped and eyes closed, participants take a moment to get centred as they channel their inner energy and soak in a moment of calm while slowly pedalling their stationary bikes.
“It’s about coming into the body in terms of how you’re feeling in the body — how the breath is, how the heart rate is —and encompassing different things in the ride so you can start to feel the heart be more in touch with the mind and the body together,” Soer said.
Not long after the respite, the pace of the pulsating, rhythmic music and the pedal power starts to pick up. Participants navigate through a series of intervals from more gradual speeds to faster-paced high-intensity movement, adjusting resistance upward and downward on the instructor’s direction.
The remaining 30 minutes consists of yoga focused on connecting breath with movement, flowing through a series of sequences and poses designed to help lengthen and stretch muscles while integrating balanced, counteracting movements.
Soer said what’s been “a dream come true” for both her and Nisker is seeing how they’ve been able to convert many yoga and cycling enthusiasts into embracing each other’s disciplines.
“Merging the two practices together is giving them more fulfilment in engaging in exercise.”
Bellyfit offers a blend of elements spanning the globe, combining a variety of international dance movements with Eastern spiritual philosophies and practices and Western fitness routines.
The first half of the class offers heart-pumping, sweat-inducing activity weaving together diverse dance elements, including African dance, bhangra, Bollywood and bellydance.
The latter half focuses on core work inspired by Pilates as well as channelling the mind and spirit with yoga-inspired stretching and meditation, all while sculpting, toning and tightening the body.
The program is specifically created for women and classes are run across Canada. Bellyfit founder and CEO Alice Bracegirdle said being in an all-female environment removes a huge intimidation factor for women who may feel self-conscious, and also creates a safe space and a comfortable vibe for them to work out in.
“Bellyfit offers a way to move that allows them to feel feminine and sensual and graceful but also powerful at the same time,” she said in a phone interview from Victoria. “They’re feeling good in their bodies, but they’re also getting a great workout.”
Bracegirdle said she believes a lot of women would love to attend different types of dance classes but don’t have the time, or aren’t specifically interested in being dancers but want to explore that kind of movement for fun in a way that’s accessible to them. She believes Bellyfit offers that alternative.
“It’s almost like we’ve taken these ancient art forms and translated them into a simplified form that women can really relate to and experience on a more simplified level,” she said. “Then it becomes for fun and it’s a great workout and they’re moving their bodies in a new way.”
“If they’re going to any one of these dance classes, they’re going to get into technique and maybe even into performance and costumes and that kind of thing, whereas with the Bellyfit class, it’s simply for fun and to connect to the movement in a different kind of way.”
Soer said she believes the popularity of fitness fusion programs stems from people wanting more interesting things to do when they exercise, as well as the ability to encompass the mental, emotional and physical into one workout.
Bracegirdle believes the time savings and the ability to combine multiple elements into one class has also been part of the draw.
“Women these days are really, really busy, so for them to be able to come to one class and get their cardio, their strength, their stretch and their relaxation all in one is a real selling point.”
Both Spynga and Bellyfit are in the midst of expanding their respective reach within and beyond Canada’s borders.
Two women in Cleveland who did the teacher training program are now teaching Spynga classes in their studio, she noted.
In the meantime, they are licensing the Spynga Flow class to boutique gyms in the Toronto area, are working on fine-tuning their DVD, and have podcasts in the works.
As for Bellyfit, a DVD is already available and Bracegirdle said they are negotiating contracts in the U.S. and Japan, with India and Europe next in their sights as future markets.
On the Net: