In a previous post I referenced a workout that has become a favorite of mine, willPower & grace. While I generally try to keep my workouts to either 1) short duration with high intensity or 2) long duration with low intensity I make an exception for this class. Its many benefits outweigh any possible problem with intensity and even though it is very heavy on cardio it is only one hour a week for me.
I found the class while perusing the group exercise schedule at the YMCA a few years ago. When I came across the name willPower & grace I thought it was strange and it did not describe what the class would entail the way “Cardio Sculpt” or “Step Aerobics” might. But it was at a convenient time so I decided to give it a try. The workout was very different from other group exercise classes I have taken and I have probably taken them all. First of all, it is a barefoot workout. This seemed odd at the time because it was in the days before I became a big fan of yoga and minimalist shoes. Secondly, the instructor wrote an inspirational “word of the week” on the mirror at the front of the room. This just seemed a bit too “earthy crunchy” for my style at the time and I may have even rolled my eyes a little. I was starting to wonder what I had gotten myself into but remained determined to find out what the class was all about and why so many people (in the extremely crowded room) were there.
The instructor explained the workout would combine yoga, Pilates and boot camp and what followed was quite possibly the most intense full-body workout I had experienced to that point. The instructor’s description was a very accurate one and in fact the creator of willPower & grace®, Stacey Lei Krauss, has explained the workout as having:
The toning benefits of cardio-sculpt; the intensity of boot camp; the self awareness of yoga; the discipline of Pilates; and the uplifting philosophy of a meditation session.
One of the things I liked right away was how the instructor explained the different levels of participation based on individual fitness. The options for levels 1, 2 and 3 were explained for several of the moves allowing new students to ease into it and more advanced students to be challenged. In spite of going for Level 1, I was WIPED OUT the first day. Seriously. Not only did it completely wreck me at the time, I was also super sore for the next couple of days (at least). Of course I am sure that I overdid it trying not to look like a wimp in front of all the toned women who were present. But it is a really challenging cardio workout no matter what your fitness level. When the instructor tells everyone to move into deep and repeated sumo squats as a time to “catch your breath” you know you are in trouble!
While willPower & grace® is sure to burn a ton of calories I am more interested in the other benefits it offers. Stacey Lei Krauss was really ahead of her time in emphasizing the benefits of barefoot workouts. This class really made me aware of how important it is to work your ENTIRE body including the muscles in your feet and ankles – muscles that are often ignored when they are trapped in traditional shoes – including athletic shoes. The workout also emphasizes the importance of balance, functional movements and body-weight exercises. (How very primal!) There are lots of squats, plyometrics, dynamic yoga poses, ballet moves, planks and pushups followed by Pilates style core exercises.
In researching the Paleo lifestyle I have learned the importance of keeping cortisol levels under control. (See previous post) One of the ways to do that is to stay away from overly intense AND lengthy workouts that tax the body too much. In spite of the intensity of the willPower & grace® class it is extremely efficient. In one hour a week I get essentially all the lower-body workout I feel I need. It works muscles I did not even know I had! In addition to a focus on the large muscles of the lower body I work the entire rest of my body, especially my core, my feet and my ankles, challenge my balance, and get a good stretch and cardio workout all at once.
When it comes to fitness I am always on the lookout for the most benefit for the least amount of effort. And I prefer to think it is not laziness on my part but rather an interest in EFFICIENCY that is driving me. Either way, I have found willPower & grace® to be an extremely efficient workout that fits in well with my paleo lifestyle. I have even come to appreciate the underlying philosophy behind that initially off-putting “word of the week”. Stacey Lei Krauss, in an interview with www.realbeauty.com, explained the name of the class in the following way:
“Willpower” is strength. Have you ever tried to stick with a diet or not pick up the phone when an ex calls you? In class, we remind you of your willpower when you have four more push-ups to do. It revolves around the thought, “What if you HAD to?” “Grace” is how we land on our feet. It’s how we handle winning and losing, and it’s exhaling rather than screaming or grunting. Grace is elegance. In my opinion, as women, we need to cultivate both in order to be whole.
I like that.
If you are interested in trying a willPower & grace® workout you can check out the website here to find instructors and locations as well as DVDs.